What to look for when you’re choosing a brokerage

Two industry leaders on why they joined an established network

One of the biggest decisions agents make in their career is deciding which brokerage to join. As Chief Operating Officer and Team Leader, respectively, our backgrounds saw us running successful independent brokerages and outselling the competition.

One of the biggest decisions agents make in their career is deciding which brokerage to join. As Chief Operating Officer and Team Leader, respectively, our backgrounds saw us running successful independent brokerages and outselling the competition. So why did we choose to team up with an established brokerage?

To help guide your search for the best fit, we’re answering questions about what brought us to Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty — and why we decided stay.

What prompted your search for a brokerage?

Wes Madden: At the time, I was running my own independent, team-based real estate brokerage. We were the top-selling team in all of Alaska: over a 10 year period, we saw 5,000 transactions and over a billion dollars in sales. Franchises would come and attempt to get us to join, and I’d ask the question, “With 25% market share, what could you do for us branding-wise that we haven’t already done for ourselves?”

It wasn’t until I spoke with Sotheby’s International Realty that I found a brand that had unified standards across the entire organization, and that really appealed to me.

Jonathan Spears: I was looking to affiliate with a luxury brand that would have a presence not only here in my second-home market, but also in the primary market where many of my customers are located.

When Sotheby’s International Realty approached me, I was immediately attracted to the culture and global reach of the brand; I realized that it was a great mutual fit for my business. They instigated the search originally, but in the recruiting process, I recognized very quickly that my business would grow by affiliating with such a widespread network. Since joining the firm at the age of 23, I’ve doubled my annual sales volume year over year, closing over $375,000,000 in individual sales in the last four years.

How did you weigh the pros and cons of joining a brokerage rather than running your own?

Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty

JS: I looked at the independence of being on my own and building a name. As I was working through that opportunity in my head, I started to think, “Why do I need to reinvent the wheel?”

It became apparent that affiliating myself with a brand that had been serving the entire world for quite a while was a strong choice: it allowed me to not only gain the independence that I wanted but to come under a brand that offers an exceptional global marketing reach and prestige.

WM: Like Jonathan, I’m not a big advocate of recreating the wheel. I also believe that aligning yourself with other people that challenge and push you creates a synergistic effect that produces amazing results. I wanted to associate myself with elite agents.

When you began your search for a firm, what were some of your top criteria?

JS: I was looking for a company with seasoned managing partners — not somebody who had just opened a brokerage and was simply an investor looking to turn a profit. I wanted to work with folks who cared about our community and were passionate about the people that we serve. My must-haves were market presence, brand awareness, seasoned managing partners, and community impact.

WM: I was on the hunt for a consistent and exclusive brand, whether local, regional, or global. A brand that moves the needle with discerning luxury clients. Contrary to some, I don’t believe you can buy or fake this. It must be earned, and to me that’s valuable.

What should agents look for when scouting a brokerage?

Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty

WM: Be sure to look for culture, leadership, brand marketing, and value. Do not chase splits– instead, seek value and a track record of success. Look for the companies that are offering to take something off your plate from a support standpoint, so that you can focus on dollar-productive activities and leverage your talents in your business. You’re going to make more money when you do that.

And lastly, I would say that tech is not enough. I think, far too often, we throw around technology as the silver bullet to fix everything in this business — and it can be an alluring recruiting pitch. When you look at the successful, long-standing real estate companies, very rarely do their agents mention their success is because of technology. It’s usually because of the culture, the leadership, and because they’re well-appreciated, they’re well-supported, and they feel like leadership cares about their success. They feel like their broker is their partner in their business and is just as committed to their success as they are in their own business.

JS: You can quickly tell the dynamics of people when you work with them. When I’m in the trenches, I have people around me to pull me up, problem solve and be there as a family. That’s key, and something people might overlook.

What do you think keeps agents from making the leap?

JS: Sometimes people don’t think they need a brokerage; they’re content to run their own. You can end up isolated. But a healthy mindset often comes from interaction with other top producers: there’s that old adage, “iron sharpens iron”. And I am a firm believer that I have surrounded myself with the best in the business.

WM: Being scared that making a move creates too much friction in your business. Yet the smooth onboarding process and boost to the agent’s businesses when they announce they’ve joined our firm is so overwhelming, everyone says “I can’t believe I delayed this as long as I did.” They should have done it sooner. Don’t be afraid of change: we are change agents.

Wes Madden

Wes Madden is the Chief Operating Officer and Associate Broker of Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty. Madden joined the brokerage in 2017 after establishing and selling a successful independent real estate company in Alaska that was a Top 50 team in the U.S. for seven consecutive years and awarded Business of the Year by the AK Chamber of Commerce. Prior to his real estate career, he served in the Army as a BlackHawk helicopter pilot.


Jonathan Spears

Jonathan Spears is a Sales Associate and Team Leader for the Spears Group, Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty. Spears obtained his real estate license at 18 and graduated at 19 from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He joined the Sotheby’s International Realty team in 2015, and is the #1 Realtor in NW Florida. He ranks among the Top 100 Realtors in the U.S. by sales volume as reported by Real Trends and the Wall Street Journal.


About Sotheby’s International Realty

Founded in 1976 to provide independent brokerages with a powerful marketing and referral program for luxury listings, the Sotheby’s International Realty® network was designed to connect the finest independent real estate companies to the most prestigious clientele in the world. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. The Sotheby’s International Realty network currently has more than 22,000 affiliated independent sales associates located in over 960 offices in 72 countries and territories worldwide. In 2017, the brand achieved a record global sales volume of $108 billion USD. Sotheby’s International Realty listings are marketed on the sothebysrealty.com global website. In addition to the referral opportunities and widened exposure generated from this source, each brokerage firm and its clients benefit from an association with the Sotheby’s auction house and worldwide Sotheby’s International Realty marketing programs. Each office is independently owned and operated.