Three years ago, we were at a crossroads with our company. I was selling over $25 million in real estate, and we had a team of 12 agents. I was working my ass off with my transactions. I wanted to grow the brokerage, but I had little time for recruiting, and I honestly was not paying attention to my agents.
I would lose one here and there because they wanted more support. I felt a little lost on how to scale our brokerage and what direction I wanted to go in.
At the time, I was serving on the board of directors for the Austin Board of Realtors, and we had a two-day strategic planning session with the board to outline what the next several years were going to look like. It was a fantastic exercise, and I found it very rewarding.
The consultant that was doing the planning for us was a man named Cameron Paine. He’s a great guy, and I enjoyed how he took the board through the different exercises to see what our visions for the future would be.
Having sold so much real estate the previous year, you would have thought that I was bleeding money. But the truth is, we were putting so much of it back into the company that I like to say that I “looked good on paper.” But if that paper you were looking at was our tax return, that’s not exactly true. Don’t get me wrong, we still made money, but our tax return wasn’t reflecting near the number of earnings that a $20 million-plus producer should be earning.
So I reached out to Paine, and he agreed to come and do strategic planning with my leadership team. Myself, my office manager, my sales manager and my wife comprised our leadership team at the time.
We began two-days of mapping out where we wanted our company to go in the next one, three, five and 10 years.
It was a grueling process to examine everything you do in your company and honestly figure out not only where you want your growth to be but also what you’re going to do to get there.
When we looked at one year, the goal was to have 30 agents. Now keep in mind that I was working full time as a listing agent, and we had 12 agents who needed attention as well. I was working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then when my son went to bed, I would work an additional couple of hours.
When my wife saw the 30-agent mark, she started sobbing — literally crying at our meeting. And my wife is a tough cookie. She doesn’t cry at the drop of a hat. You’re much more likely to see me tear up during a movie than her.
We had to stop the meeting. Emotions were high, and I had to bring her outside to talk. I asked her what’s going on.
She said, “Ryan, you are working so much right now. There are so many distractions when you’re off work, and you are dealing with so much stress. I can’t imagine what that will be like when you have 30 agents, and then in three years 100?”
I got it. But I had a vision, and I needed to explain that vision. I told her that I wanted to get to 30 agents so that I wouldn’t have to work as much. I told her that we needed to “scale to freedom” and that if we bring in enough producing agents who are doing enough business, I wouldn’t have to be in production, and instead of having three jobs, I can have one — being a real broker.
We went back in, and I explained that to everyone. We had some revelations within our leadership team. A personal one: Where I was in my career wasn’t just the fun times, as seen on social media. And I also got a significant buy-in from the leadership team to help me achieve these goals.
Sometimes your team doesn’t know where you want to go or why you need to get there, so these vulnerable moments are helpful when you’re trying to grow your company.
For me, the 30-agent mark was what I felt I needed to accomplish my goal of getting out of production. This works for my business model. We are a full-service brokerage, and we don’t provide caps. We could never provide the level of service for our agents with caps, and I’m very upfront about that with anyone that interviews with us.
If you’re trying to scale to freedom, you will have to decide what works best for you with your business model. If you provide caps, 30 agents probably won’t cut it. We also are cautious about bringing on new agents.
No more than one a quarter, unless there’s something exceptional about the new agent. And mind you, this 30-agent mark was just the start for me to get my life back. It wasn’t what I wanted or needed to have the ideal lifestyle, but it was the one-year mark and what I needed to do to get out of production.
I’ll also say that I have seen a couple of real estate “gurus” say that a team or brokerage should be under seven agents. That agents aren’t happy with more than that because it’s too much to manage. I would only partially agree with that.
Yes, over seven can be a lot to handle if you’re in production. But if your goal is to have your business work for you rather than working for your business, I believe that scaling is the only way to achieve this.
Fast forward 2.5 years to the present day: I now have 40 agents, and we’re on track to recruit five more producing agents by the end of the year. I will sell six homes this year, but those are just the ones that fall into my lap because they are past clients or referrals from past clients. I won’t take the listing unless it’s within 3 miles of my house.
I got my life back.
We won “Best Places to Work” in 2019 and 2020, and we placed in the Austin Business Journal “Fast 50 Companies.” We will find out this week where we place among the 50.
The Best Places to Work award from the Austin Business Journal is based on anonymous surveys to the team. It proves we’ve built a great company culture. I’ve noticed that some companies have won but don’t do that much production per agent and don’t have a lot of revenue.
The Fast 50 is based on increased revenue. I’m incredibly proud of these achievements. It means that we have a great company culture and one that has a focus on growth and revenue. I’m not writing about these achievements to brag; I’m writing about them to inspire those readers who have a similar vision to mine.
To get to where I am now has been extremely hard for myself, my family and my leadership team. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not at the level where I’m summering in the Hamptons. We still have a ways to go to reach the full achievement of my goal. But my family is happy, I’m happy and so is my organization, and that is worthy of bragging.
Whatever your journey is, I wish you the best of luck.