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Anyone who’s been paying attention to what The Agency has been doing this year knows that the boutique luxury brokerage has been incredibly busy.
The company has been launching new franchise offices left and right (68 and counting), it announced the acquisition of New York-based brokerage Triplemint in May along with a $35 million funding round, it unveiled mortgage and other ancillary services in November and released a Netflix show with agents as cast members that same month.
So when does The Agency’s founder and CEO, Mauricio Umansky, stop to take a breath? He doesn’t really. But he does prioritize exercise and spending time with his family, so it’s a good thing he happens to work with a number of them at his brokerage.
In advance of his appearance at Inman Connect New York this month, alongside his daughters Farrah Brittany and Alexia Umansky, Inman caught up with the luxury brokerage CEO to discuss everything on his plate. Here’s what he had to say.
Inman: How are you today?
Umansky: Fantastic. I’m a happy man this morning.
That sounds exciting.
Something exciting happens every time I wake up in the morning. I’m one of those people that wakes up and can’t wait to get out of bed, versus someone who’s groggy and hitting the snooze button like 20 times. I never put on an alarm — I never have in my life, and I just get excited about waking up.
Well, I appreciate you speaking with me today. I wanted to start by asking — you’ve been doing so much in the last few years, launching dozens of new franchises, mortgage and other ancillary services and now you’ve got a reality TV show on Netflix, Buying Beverly Hills: What comes next?
You forgot about my book, “The Real Deal: How to Succeed in Business and Life Through Dedication, Determination and Disruption,” which is coming out on April 11, 2023, which is super exciting. I just signed off on the final edits yesterday.
Excuse me: Congratulations!
It’s a little bit of a memoir, stories with a bunch of different teaching moments — trying to entertain, but also give back and hopefully teach not only people in our industry but people outside of our industry in terms of life stories and relationship stories but also business and selling and coaching and all that fun stuff. Hopefully, it’s well received and it’s a way to share and give back. I feel like I have lots to share throughout my life and through all of my experiences and what we’ve done, so that’s what that looks like.
From the perspective of The Agency right now, it’s kind of a continuation of more of the same if you will, just continuing to build the global network through franchising, just continuing to build a global network of franchisees. We look at franchising very differently — our franchise partners are really global partners. I don’t even like to use the word ‘franchise.’ I consider them a partner, part of the family. We don’t even treat the divisions very differently — they are part of our one global sales meeting. We don’t have a corporate sales meeting and then a global partners sales meeting — we have one, period, end-of-story for everybody. So I think that’s a really important distinction.
It’s all about finding great people. Great people are everything to us. And that’s how we choose where we open, versus geographically. We find great people and then we look at the geography and see if we like it. But it’s always people first, always, it’s super important.
I think supporting all of our global partners and corporate offices with more of the same ancillary services is critical today, particularly as we’re starting to have a housing crunch, regression, or whatever we want to call it — we don’t want to call it a recession yet, it’s a regression — so I think that it’s really important to do some really good business planning for The Agency and control our costs or expenses. It’s going to be tough, so obviously, from our perspective, we need to increase revenue and control expenses and find the right balance that allows us to continue to deliver great services, good marketing to all of our global partners and our corporate partners, but at the same time get smart about spending.
I feel there are going to be some good opportunities coming up, potentially, in the near-term future for some acquisitions, as we did in New York [the acquisition of Triplemint]. And there might be some good opportunity, particularly as things kind of ‘go on sale,’ if you will.
Interesting, we’ll definitely be watching out for that news. Is there any specific ultimate end goal for The Agency when you think about building your business into the best thing that it can be?
The ultimate end goal is to build the best global luxury [brokerage] and stay boutique.
That’s probably one of the things that gives me the biggest headache is, how do you grow — become large, become global — but just stay boutique? So that to me is what I work on the most, but that is the end goal. And just build a global network that is so well intertwined with the sharing of information. And particularly starting in luxury and with the ultra-high-net-worth individuals, providing an amazing not only real estate brokerage experience, but also lifestyle experiences. Being able to help our clients with curating vacations and trips and events, whatever that looks like — the house in Turks and Caicos with the yacht and the sailboat and the chef — all of that stuff. We can curate the entire experience that will become a really important part of our clients’ lives.
Even though things have been going great in your business, what anxieties still keep you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is, again, being able to stay our true selves which is to continue to be a small boutique and a family and that we don’t lose that culture. We don’t lose the high level of customer service, the family culture that we’ve been so lucky to build.
And obviously today, with the housing regression that we’re having, it’s planning for that. That’s stuff that we’ve got to plan for in order to stay in business, stay alive, be smart. I think that’s part of the critical thing, and by the same token that’s what I perceive as potential opportunities, so be opportunistic in that as well.
Speaking of the housing regression, how are you combating the current shifts in the market?
It’s hard. It’s just really good business planning, really good budgets, just redoing our budgets for 2023. Looking at the combination of revenue through growth, but at the same time decreasing expenses. And if we find that right balance, then we will be successful. It’s about riding it out and just growing the business. You don’t need to make money every single year. Sometimes you just need to sustain, and I feel like potentially 2023 going into 2024 are sustainable years where we can just continue to experience market growth and then hang in there and reap the benefits coming out of this regression and into the next growth cycle.
During these tough times, do you ever wish you had gone into a different business?
No. There are challenges in every business. I mean, look at what’s happening in tech right now. Every sector has challenges. The energy sectors right now are starting to do well, but they were doing really shitty like four years ago. So it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in, you’re always going to have cycles. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a business owner. And real estate agents, at the end of the day, are also business owners. It’s just part of the cycle of life. Enjoy it, don’t fight it. Be prepared for it, plan for it. It’s simple. I’ve lived through four recessions now. This is my fourth in my business that I’ve been in. This shit happens.
As we’ve said, you’re obviously incredibly busy right now, but if you’re ever not working, what are you doing?
Well, I’m never not working. But what I do is, I find a lot of time to have balance and be able to relax. I love to exercise. That’s what I do, whether that’s hiking — I love hiking, I love golf, I love cycling, I love snow skiing. I play a lot of pickleball, I host a lot of pickleball games here at my house in Los Angeles. I do that as a social thing, but also for exercise.
My happy place is Aspen … I can tell you that I definitely switch off at night when I’m with the family and my kids. We are very good at that. Despite the fact that I work with my daughters and my wife, we’ve got the two reality TV shows at the same time. That’s kind of crazy when you’ve got the Real Housewives’ and Buying Beverly Hills’ cameras all over the place. It’s fun and crazy, but I can tell you when they leave, one of the great things about our family that I’m very proud of is, we switch it off. We’re very real. Nobody is too caught up in themselves in my family, which is really nice.
Speaking of Buying Beverly Hills, how do you feel that the show impacted both The Agency, as well as your daughters, Farrah and Alexia, who are continuing to grow in their businesses?
I think it’s impacting us in a very positive way. I think the show is fantastic. It came out exactly the way we wanted it to come out. Netflix has been a great partner to us. I get a lot of beautiful comments. I know it has helped both The Agency as a brand and with recognition, but I also feel like we just put out a show that was very entertaining.
The best comment I’ve heard, and my favorite part is when I get stopped in the street and somebody says, ‘I really learned something from your show.’ Or, I get a comment on social media and somebody says, ‘I really learned from your show.’ And when I know that I’ve touched somebody that has learned that took away something that just makes me feel so good because that’s really what it’s all about.
You can’t always do everything with the hope of payback. You’ve got to give back to the planet, you’ve got to give back to the world, and if you can, just teach people something and inspire them and motivate them that’s everything to me. That’s when I get all mushy and I’ll spend like 20 minutes with a person who does that to me.
How rewarding — so will there be a second season of Buying Beverly Hills?
We don’t know yet. We hope so. I don’t think we’ll know anything on that until probably [later this month], but I really hope so. We’re excited to have a second season and I feel like it did good enough where we deserve one.
I guess we’ll wait and see then. Here at Inman, we’re getting ready for our Inman Connect New York event Jan. 23-26, and I know you’ll be speaking there. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to at the event? Any plans while in New York City?
No, not yet. I haven’t gotten that far in my organizational life. I know there’s going to be a huge contingency from all our different Agency offices coming to New York for Inman, and I’m excited to see all of our global partners, our work family. And I’m excited to be on stage with my two daughters. I think that will be fun, I can’t wait for that.
Now that we have The Agency New York, I’ll probably be there all week working, doing what I need to do. I love New York and it’ll be fun to be working there. I don’t know where I’m eating dinner yet, haha.