With the financial crisis behind us and interest rates static, it is time to focus on innovation and small “wins” to strengthen our firms. Nowhere was the spirit of innovation on display more than at the RISMedia CEO Exchange, where the overall theme was, “If we want to improve our businesses, we cannot count on external forces: We need to make changes within.”, or in the words of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate’s philosophy, “#BeBetter.”
BHGRE® is proud to take part in events like this one and share insights with the industry. While we may compete with some in a few markets, as you will see below, knowledge sharing is an important first step in building a better industry from which we can all benefit. Below are the lessons we took away from the industry leaders that attended.
Day 1: Tuesday, September 9
Gino Blefari, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, gave an insightful keynote presentation on how seemingly small improvements in performance can make a big difference to your bottom line. His strategy stresses setting specific, achievable goals for managers that require their buy-in and then measuring progress regularly. He showed the audience his own process for maintaining accountability and then provided the math to prove that small improvements in splits and recruitment can hugely impact profitability.
Blefari’s session was followed by a roundtable on the future of affiliated business. While Ed Krafchow, CEO and chairman of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate Mason-McDuffie, described his anecdotes as “RUI” (“Really Useless Information”), we did not agree. We were compelled by the statistic that “80 percent of your buyers will say they will work with you again, but only 17 percent do.” Embracing affiliated business is a great way to retain a relationship with customers between sales.
After a break, the focus turned to learning from your mistakes. David Romero, president & CEO of Century 21, made a compelling argument to fight through your fears and not delay important decisions. Romero told the audience how he delayed firing a poor manager for seven years so as to not risk agent departures. When he finally fired the manager, not a single agent left, leaving Romero to realize that he had lost years of improved productivity due to unfounded fear.
Joe Rand, managing partner and general counsel at Better Homes and Gardens® Rand Realty, built on Romeo’s point, giving the audience three specific tips for decision-making:
- Make sure to look for the risks when making a big decision;
- Only look forward and ignore the sunk costs;
- After looking for risks and ignoring sunk costs, don’t be afraid to make the decision and move forward. Not making a decision can be as destructive as making a decision that does not go your way.
Day 2: Wednesday, September 10
The second day began with a discussion on how use your marketing efforts to help you stand out. Ken Baris, president of Jordan Baris, implored the audience to move away from advertising houses and to instead have fun with their marketing. Thad Wong, co-founder of @properties, echoed his approach, showcasing a unique marketing approach that was personal, local and emotional.
Jennifer Marchetti, SVP marketing & communications for Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, detailed the approach to marketing for a more complex organization. The key, she said, is to define your value imperative: “Build your core and then build out. You need the sizzle and the steak.”
Surprisingly, everyone who spoke was a believer in print and direct marketing, bucking the current digital trend. Print-focused marketing is a clear way to differentiate your brand and proves to be an increasingly competitive advantage for those willing to make the investment.
The day continued with an inspirational conversation with Dave Liniger, founder and chairman of RE/Max. He inspired the audience by relating the importance of personal conviction: your firm, regardless of its size, will reflect your values. To be better, you need to start with yourself.
The rest of the event featured tips on recruiting, retaining and motivating the “must haves.” Anthony Hitt, CEO of Engel & Volkers North America, talked about the importance of finding people who buy in to your policies. Kevin Levent, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate Metro Brokers, offered a more flexible perspective about managing agents. The key, he insisted, is to have a plan consistent with your principles and your brand.
Overall, the main lesson from RISMedia’s CEO Exchange was to look internally to find ways to #BeBetter and maximize profitability. Now, more than ever, remember to let your values define your brand from top down and bottom up. Let that difference shine through in your marketing as well as your day-to-day operations.
We’d like to say one final “thank you” to RISMedia president and CEO John Featherston, as well as everyone at RISMedia for a great show. We cannot wait for next year.