It’s never been a more interesting or exacting time to be an indie broker. In November, Inman celebrates the indie by narrowing in on what growth tactics are working best and what tech is emerging that offers the best competitive advantage.

This is the time of year when most brokers sit down with their agents and help them plan out the next year’s goals. Business planning should be central to all brokerages, but planning works best after you’ve mapped out your strategy. 

Think of strategic planning as the thousand-foot view of your company. Who are we? Are we on the right road? Where are we going? What are our strengths and weaknesses? Once you have your strategy, you can sit down and map out the detailed plan on how to get there. Here are five things to think about as you look forward to 2021.

1. What worked well in 2020? 

You might have had a great year, or business might be off. I know brokers who rocked it this year, despite the pandemic. Others lost agents and market share. No matter where you stand in numbers, what did you do right?

Look at all your divisions and departments: advertising and marketing, recruiting, training, administrative staff. Itemize your tech stack, and break out the pieces. What are you pleased with? Which elements have a positive ROI or helped you get through this challenging year? 

2. What didn’t work so well? 

Be brutally honest here. In our office, we track the source of every closing. Are you spending money on lead gen products that are not producing closed sales? I was tempted to cut my ad spend on one product last year until I ran the numbers and realized that it accounted for 25 percent of our buyers closed. Conversely, we had spent $2,500 a year on something that I thought helped build our market share that produced zero tangible results. 

When you track lead sources, you might be surprised at what you find. Spend more time and money on sources that produce solid ROI, and cut back on others. If the market takes a downturn, you’ll want to know where you can shave costs and which ones should not be touched.

3. Where do we excel? 

You might say your office handles everything — rentals and sales, residential and commercial, investment properties and luxury homes. However, it’s pretty unlikely that you excel in all things real estate related. 

Does your brokerage have a sweet spot or niche that you truly rock? Perhaps it’s a specific price point or geographic location. Maybe it’s a target homebuyer or seller (military clients, downtown condos, or serving investors and all their needs). 

4. Where do we fall short? 

One brokerage I worked with handled several rentals and dabbled in property management to meet its investor clients’ needs. However, the time and effort spent each month on handling the properties and bookkeeping were not worth the amount of money the division brought into the company. There also was a level of risk involved with which the broker felt uncomfortable.  

The broker decided to partner with a property management company rather than handle the rentals in-house. The investors were served better by the professional management firm, and the broker freed up time and money better spent elsewhere.

5. What makes us unique? 

After answering the above four questions, you should have a solid idea of what differentiates you from your competition. What is your “secret sauce”? The thing you do better than anyone? This answer should form the core strategy that drives your business plan. Your marketing and branding, recruitment, training and staffing all follow from here. 

These are just five quick questions to start you on your strategic planning. Done correctly, answering the questions should take some time. Set aside a half-day or even a full day to map this out. Involve key stakeholders in your company — agents and staff alike.

You could take your group on an off-site retreat to get their input or pull people aside one at a time to quiz them informally. Ask them for their point of view, and you might be surprised at what they see differently from you.

Most importantly, approach it with an open mind. If you go into this thinking you know all the answers, the exercise becomes pointless. Strategic planning should not be a once-a-year event. It should be a regular process to evaluate and reevaluate where you are and if you are on target to hit the company’s goals. 

If 2020 showed us anything, it was that many things are out of our control and unpredictable. Take time to look at the big picture of your business to be better prepared for next year.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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