Independent brokerage owners Thad Wong, Vanessa Bergmark and Kofi Nartey share how three months of social distancing made them and their businesses better.

If you’d like to catch a video replay of this Connect Now session, and access the other 25+ hours of video content from Connect Now, tickets are still available. Click here to access.

For many real estate agents and brokers, 2020 was filled with promise. Record sales, transaction volume and expansions were on the way as low-interest rates and other market factors brought buyers out of hiding. But the coronavirus hit the real estate industry like a speeding train as political leaders enacted shelter-in-place measures.

In the midst of disruption, independent broker-owners Vanessa Bergmark, Thad Wong and Kofi Nartey told the Connect Now digital audience that agents and brokers have an important decision to make: sink or swim.

“With calm waters, it’s easy to get in and get out,” said @properties CEO Thad Wong. “You’ll see who was working when they were at home, and you’ll see who was afraid.”

“With indies, we have no lifeline,” Wong added. “Over the last 60 days, I’ve probably never worked harder in my life.”

Bergmark and Nartey echoed Wong’s sentiments, while noting they’ve used their time in quarantine to reevaluate their businesses, streamline their budgets and rethink what tools will be necessary to serve clients.

“In trying times you always come back to the numbers and what’s necessary,” Nartey, who launched his brokerage in May, said. “You have to trim the fat.”

Outside of saving time and resources through his partnership with Side, Nartey said he’s reevaluated his print and digital marketing budgets and has been careful about not overspending on office space for his agents.

Much like Nartey, Bergmark has adjusted her budget to prioritize her lease commitments and her staff.

“I bought my company right after the Great Recession,” she said of her ability to quickly pivot during the coronavirus. “I was raised in that depressive mindset so I had to work with what I had.”

“You also look at your P and L and ask, ‘Why did I ever have this?’” she added. “We can’t wait for anyone to tell us what to do next.”

Looking forward, Wong, Bergmark and Nartey said 2020 should push everyone in the industry to innovate inside and outside of the office.

“The shiny stuff that’s coming up will be really cool,” Wong said of the proprietary technology brokerages will develop to meet clients’ needs for a 100-percent digital transaction, similar to what’s been happening during COVID-19.

Nartey and Bergmark agreed, noting the plethora of free and low-cost tools such as Zoom, allows agents to create a bigger platform than ever before without needing backing from venture capitalists.

“Agents are going to remain relevant,” Bergmark said. “I’m excited about what the digital playground gives us.”

“You don’t have to be anything other than who you are,” she added, while noting digital tools will even the playing field for smaller brokerages and companies.

Beyond business, each broker said the events of the year have pushed them to look within and identify how they can become better people.

“I think in times where we’re stressed, we learn a lot more about ourselves,” Wong said. “I am far stronger, better and healthier with the more people I collaborate with. That piece of humanity is something I’ve felt better about over the last 60 days.”

“Who are we going to be on the other side of this? This is a great opportunity to bring different people to the table,” Nartey followed.  “Those unique experiences and dynamic backgrounds make the conversation richer.”

Lastly, Bergmark asked everyone to examine the power of their mind and learn how to harness their thoughts.

“It’s incredible what you can get through,” she concluded. “It’s not always about our physical experiences, it’s about what’s in our minds.”

Email Marian McPherson

If you’d like to catch a video replay of this Connect Now session, and access the other 25+ hours of video content from Connect Now, tickets are still available. Click here to access.

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