Harold Crye: A Model of Regional Leadership

Jun 9, 2019 by

Vitals: Crye-Leike REALTORS®
Years in Business: 42
Size: 117 residential offices, 3,183 sales associates
Regions Served: Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Little Rock, NW Arkansas (Bentonville-Walmart country); Huntsville, Jackson, Miss.; Atlanta
2018 Sales Volume: $ 6.5 billion
2018 Transactions: 30,550

Harold Crye and Dick Leike joined forces in 1977 to start Crye-Leike REALTORS® (No. 8 in closed residential transactions in RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Report) in Memphis, Tenn. Over the last 40 years, they have grown the firm to one of the top in the nation, with more than 3,100 agents and 139 offices serving markets in Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. Here, Crye, the firm’s president, explains how the firm has created a sustainable success plan for the long term.

What sets your firm apart most in the marketplace?
Harold Crye: As a major regional company, we have all the tools that agents need to be successful, but still have the family feel that agents desire. We have strong brand recognition, and we provide thousands of leads to our associates through our membership in Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® and through our award-winning website. National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) surveys indicate that most buyers prefer a company that has all the services needed in the transaction, and Crye-Leike is a one-stop shop for all these services. We own a very successful mortgage company, title company and insurance agency. We also have commercial sales and property management. In these changing times, our residential property management has been very successful.

How did your market fare last year, and what factors contributed to this?
HC: 2018 was a challenging year. Sales in most of our markets were either flat or down, while company-wide sales volume was up just slightly at $ 6.5 billion. A serious shortage of inventory, especially new houses, will continue to slow sales in 2019.

Are you planning to grow your firm this year?
HC: Crye-Leike has been growing for over 40 years and we will continue to grow in 2019. In addition to opening new offices in the Atlanta region (Buford, Peachtree City, Douglasville, Lawrenceville, etc.), we’re also opening two new offices in the Northwest Arkansas region (Fayetteville and Rogers).

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?
HC: Not only is the industry in transition, but technology is quickly changing the way we operate. Therefore, our challenge is to transition to the new world while making sure we don’t move so fast that we lose great sales associates who are still operating a traditional model, but have great people skills and many happy past customers in their sphere of influence (SOI).

What are the biggest opportunities for increasing business right now?
HC: Successful agents should be focused on working with builders who can provide them with houses to sell. These are mostly the small-volume builders who don’t have their own salesforce. They should also be focused on their raving fans from their SOI. Many Crye-Leike agents are using our new CRM program, MoxiWorks, to maintain contact with their past customers.

What do you look for in someone new coming into the company?
HC: Energy and passion are great attributes, but I learned many years ago that you cannot always see what may be driving a person to achieve great success. Not all great agents look like they just came out of central casting.

How are you preparing your salesforce to meet the expectations of today’s consumer, especially first-time homebuyers and millennials?
HC: We’re now hiring many millennial sales associates. Crye-Leike, through its real estate school, has access to millennials that are getting their real estate license. We’ve hired a social media director and additional staff to help with training all our associates on the latest tech tools.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Flipping the Model to Put Agents on Top: Realty Group Inc.

Jul 21, 2018 by

(L to R) Long Doan, Broker/CEO, and Mike Bernier, President/Co-owner, Realty Group Inc.

Realty_Group_Cover_300x420For Long Doan, broker and CEO of Minnesota’s fast-growing Realty Group Inc., success is measured by the achievement of his partner-agents. “Every one of our agents is the CEO of their own business,” he says. “They don’t work for me. I work for them.” Doan and company President and Co-owner Mike Bernier are committed to providing a business platform designed to help their agents excel—and the strategy is working, driving the company’s net growth by more than 3,000 percent in the four years since they started growing Realty Group. But an out-of-the-box approach and a commitment to excellence are just the beginning of the story. In this exclusive interview, Doan and Bernier discuss the unique culture at the core of their company’s success and the changing role of agents and brokerages in today’s competitive environment.

Barbara Pronin: Let’s begin with a little personal background, and a brief description of your firm’s history and positioning in the marketplace.
Long Doan:
I have been in the industry for over 25 years, although the first 15 years were spent on the mortgage side. I started Realty Group in 2009 and closed more than 1,000 transactions in our first four years. Mike, who was a top producer ranking in the top 1 percent of Minnesota real estate agents, joined me in 2011. In 2014, when the real estate landscape changed and the market began recovering, we decided to partner and launch Realty Group 2.0 with a grand total of eight agents and some very definite ideas about the way we wanted to run our brokerage.

Mike Bernier: We are grateful to have had remarkable success in these first four years, doubling our net growth year-over-year and expanding from our original eight agents to 250-plus real estate professionals and growing. We currently operate out of three Twin Cities-area offices, and we expect to open two more offices within the next 18 months.

BP: So what approach have you been taking to fuel this kind of growth?
To start with, we recruit very carefully. There is a lot of buzz in the real estate community here because we are ranked as one of the state’s fastest-growing companies with the sixth most-recognized brand—so we get a fair number of inquiries. But most of the agents we take on board are referred by our current agents, so our growth has been both organic and controlled.

LD: In effect, we have 250-plus recruiters, and the reason our agents do the recruiting for us is that we attract, promote, develop and support them in ways that encourage and foster their success as business owners. We provide them with cutting-edge technology and marketing support, coaching and training at every level, and one of the most competitive commission payouts in the industry. It’s a partnership model that works, and it benefits everyone, including consumers, who are getting industry-best service from the most qualified agents in the business.

BP: How would you describe the state of your market? What are the challenges and opportunities?
There is still an inventory shortage in Minneapolis-St. Paul and surrounding areas, but we maintain a proactive and collaborative environment with a high success rate in winning listings and multiple offers in this hyper-competitive market. Our greatest challenge, I think—which is also our greatest opportunity—is keeping up our forward-thinking approach and improving on our own growth rate.


BP: What is it that you do differently to set your firm and its agents apart from the competition?
In a word, it’s our partnership model. Each agent is truly the CEO of his or her own company. We flip the traditional real estate model so that instead of our agents working for us, we work for them. Our job is to bring value to them, which we do by providing a 100-percent commission with a flat fee. Our core purpose is to help them grow their business, which we do via leadership, marketing tools, leads, facilities and, most of all, the culture of success that defines us. We understand that this is a people business—that there is more than one path to success and that one size doesn’t fit all. And we take the time to encourage every one of our agents to find the best path for them.

MB: There are no layers here between us and the agents. We take a family approach to the business and are directly available to our agents when they need us. Taken together, our agents are given everything they need to succeed in running their own business. We must be doing something right because here in Minnesota, the average number of sales per agent is between four and five per year. Our agents are, for the most part, closing between 10 and 11 transactions a year, and our core of top agents will sell hundreds of homes this year.

BP: You’ve mentioned your strategy for attracting and recruiting agents. What’s your retention rate like?
The fact is that Realty Group becomes home to our agents. People retire, but they rarely leave for any reason other than that.

LD: Again, we believe that our central purpose is to help each of our 250 CEOs to grow their business. We provide so much value to them that they don’t unplug and leave us—so we typically don’t lose people, especially the people we don’t want to lose. There is always some friendly competition, of course, but there’s also a lot of mentorship. Our mandate is to help other people achieve their dreams, and in doing so, we achieve our own.


BP: I would imagine that kind of giving philosophy spills over into the larger community. What are your charitable efforts like?
All of our agents are active in the community, from serving on local boards and in our state real estate association to raising funds and volunteering for various local causes—mostly centered around the needs of housing, children and veterans.

MB: Specifically, we support Toys for Joy, a local holiday gift-giving program, Eagles Healing Nest for homeless veterans and Habitat for Humanity, among others. They are all programs that are dear to our hearts and give us lots of opportunity to contribute in many ways.

BP: What are some of your most innovative marketing strategies, and how are they helping you to connect with today’s consumers?
Branding is important. Our obligation is to market our people, and we are gratified to know that our brand is so recognized and well-respected throughout the state. That said, we expect—and train—our agents to market themselves in innovative ways. The fact is that the landscape continues to change, and consumers don’t care what flag you are flying. They only want the best buy or sell experience they can get. Statistics tell us only 4 percent choose the brand over the individual agent—so it’s up to that individual agent, using technology, reputation and personal interaction, to become the agent of choice.

Doan_PQ_p90MB: We do some direct mail, but realistically, our aim is to help our agents brand themselves via effective networking and the innovative use of social media—letting people know who you are, what you stand for, and why you do what you do. It’s the best way to build relationships that matter in the digital world we live in.

BP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
We are very focused on customer relationship management, and we have invested heavily in the effort to help our agents market themselves. For example, we have organized a full-scale production studio, where agents can film videos and other audio-visual marketing aids they can use on social media and elsewhere.

LD: At the same time, we never lose sight of the fact that we are first and foremost a people business. Our objective is to use technology to enhance customer relationships, not replace the personal connection.

Bernier_PQ_p91BP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
We surprise ourselves constantly with the rate at which the firm is growing. The road ahead is clear, and I can see us having 1,000 agents on board in the not-too-distant future. I think it’s mainly because we know who we are and what we stand for, and we are scaling organically with passionate real estate professionals who have the same kind of goals and commitment.

LD: Beyond that, we will continue to maximize opportunities in Minnesota to expand both our team and our footprint—and we’ll continue to work to raise the standards of real estate professionalism, one agent at a time. With so many real estate companies out there, both big box and independent, I think our growth will be driven by one overriding fact: We add more value for our agent-partners than any other brand in the industry.

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Family Teams: The New Succession Planning Model?

Jun 17, 2018 by

This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable discusses family teaming and succession planning.

Pappas_Christina_60x60Christina Pappas
, District Sales Manager, The Keyes Company, Miami, Fla.; Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, NAR

Jacobi_OB_70x70OB Jacobi
, Co-President, Windemere Real Estate, Seattle, Wash.

Jason Waugh, President/CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Properties, Portland, Ore.

Debbie_Lupole_70x70Debbie Lupole, Team Leader, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Jacksonville, Fla.

Christina Pappas: I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I grew up in the real estate business, the third generation following my grandfather, who gained control of the company from Ken Keyes who founded our organization in 1926, and my father, who ultimately purchased the company in the ’90s with his brother. While my four siblings followed different paths, l believe there is nothing more challenging or rewarding than a career in this ever-changing business—and while the subject of succession planning comes up regularly for me and my one cousin in the business, there are many ways and many strategies for taking care of business—for us and our producers considering their exit strategies.

Today we’ll be hearing from a few very successful family real estate dynasties to learn how they make it work for them. OB, you are co-president of your family company along with your sister, am I right?

OB Jacobi: Yes, the second generation—and also with Jill [Wood’s] husband [Geoff Wood], our CEO, as the third co-president of the company our dad established. Like you and many real estate kids, Jill and I worked our way up, from sweeping the sidewalks and answering phones as teenagers to sales and then into management. Our dad wanted to be very sure we could walk before we ran, but his goal was always to ensure the longevity of the company and maintain the family asset through succession.

CP: How have you made the succession possible, if you don’t mind sharing?

OBJ: Not at all. Several years before he was ready to retire, Dad sold the franchise company to us on a five-year contract, which is working out well for all of us—and the interesting thing is that 60 of our 325 offices have family teams working in their second generation, as well.

Jason Waugh: My dad, who’s still in the office most days, felt much the same way. We did meet with a third-party consultant to work out the dynamics of succession, but Dad was very clear the business would be mine one day if I earned it. I literally worked my way from the ground up—but once I proved to him that I was up to the job, and that we share a similar vision for the company even though our styles are different, he was very pleased to let me take control.

CP: How does this work in practice, Debbie, when an agent operating under a franchise umbrella develops a family team?

Debbie Lupole: For me, after 35 years as an agent, I had a pretty extensive book of business—and when I began to think about retiring one day, I hoped I could make succession work. My oldest daughter worked with me for a while, but she gave it up when she married and began to raise a family. Fortunately for all of us, her husband—my son-in-law—and my younger daughter love the industry as much as I do. Our company leaders have been very supportive, and it’s wonderful to be working with my family. There’s such a comforting trust level. Also, they are far more tech-savvy than I am, and that’s been a terrific plus.

CP: Are you okay with sharing how you handle the financial details?

DL: We keep it simple. Every transaction is split three ways. They get the benefit of having an instant business, and I know I’ll continue to have an income even after I retire. It’s a win-win for all of us.

OBJ: That’s great—and not uncommon. In our company, we have so much interest in family teaming, in fact, that we created an internship program for the high school and college kids of our agents. They get familiarized with every aspect of real estate, including title and escrow. My son and several of my nieces and nephews have participated in the program, so we have great hopes for the future of the company—but also, it’s been a great way to foster and support the kind of family legacy Debbie is creating.

JW: We, too, see more family teaming in our company. In most cases, these are some of our most highly productive people, and we are glad to provide information and a lot of support to help them transition in the most appropriate way for them, whether it’s bringing in the family or selling their book of business or whatever.

CP: I think that’s the key, actually—transitioning in the most appropriate way for them. As parents, or as the children of successful real estate entrepreneurs, keeping the business in the family is a desirable and understandable objective, and NAR has information available on succession planning for brokers. We’re all going to retire someday; what’s important, I think I hear all of us saying, is that we understand the alternatives for doing so, and don’t put off making the proper and necessary arrangements.

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