Richard Branson changed the entire airline industry with Virgin Airlines. He did what every other airline did, fly people from point A to point B. But he changed the experience for the consumer and the culture of the company. He changed the lighting, the mood, the safety video, basically everything he could do within the airline experience. This increased customer satisfaction and employee happiness.
The Wall Street Journal named Mauricio Umansky the No. 1 Realtor in California and No. 7 in the United States when he founded The Agency. For the past two years, he has claimed the No. 3 spot in the U.S.
The Agency's brand is recognized everywhere, from rural America to the middle of China, not only because of its presence in the media, on the internet, and on TV shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, but also because of the success of The Agency's partnerships, marketing, and events. With only three offices, in Southern California, the firm created a top brand. How did it do it?
A little less than a decade ago, real estate firms hit a point where they became transaction focused--their main goal became the bottom line. Instead of providing top-tier service to the consumer, real estate brokers became sales volume focused.
On top of that, the barrier for entry became so low that all an aspiring agent had to do was take a test. It was as easy as getting a driver's license. This encouraged a lot of people who weren't necessarily service oriented to come into the industry. The buyer experience became commoditized.
Management at every single real estate firm started thinking like business people. They would rent a place, add up the expenses and desk fees, and then figure out how much it cost each month to operate. The philosophy changed from scouting out talent to figuring out how many agents would fit into the office. From there, the managers would think, if I hire x amount of agents, I would only need to earn y per agent to break even. They would then charge a fee for the agents (whether trained or not) to make money, but ultimately both the consumer and the agents suffered.
Do things differently
The same way Richard Branson set out to disrupt the airline industry, Mauricio and his partners had goals to disrupt the real estate industry. Mauricio knew he wanted to change how consumers purchase a home.
Here are eight things The Agency did to redefine the real estate industry:
1. Increase the barrier of entry
The Agency isn't about volume, nor is it about numbers. If you make it into The Agency and are able to wear its hat or pins or "carry The Agency flag," it means you are someone the firm has chosen to invest in. You don't have to be the best, but you have to be talented, knowledgeable, and great at what you do.
2. Offer services
Some real estate firms offer 90-10 splits. A few even offer 95, some even as high as 97, and there is speculation of a few groups offering 100 percent payouts. The Agency has a policy of capping its offerings at 80. By paying out anything more than 80, The Agency would not be able to have the services that make the agent better. By offering a lower split, The Agency is able to attract Realtors who understand the team mentality, and that they need tools such as research and marketing collateral and systems to do their jobs better--rather than people who are trying to maximize the deals they have.
3. Use exceptional marketing
The Agency looks for Realtors who are great at sales and account management. It doesn't need them to be copywriters, graphic designers, or event marketers. By owning an in-house full-spectrum creative agency called The Agency Creative, the firm allows each of its team members to focus on one core duty: to be an adviser who looks out for the client's best interests.
4. Be an adviser, not an agent
The real estate industry generally has a reputation for being very commission focused. Oftentimes, agents are not perceived to have the consumer's best interests at heart. At The Agency, the advisers are in it for the long run. They know the market--and if a property is a great deal or bad buy. Plus, they have the research to back their claims. This inside knowledge helps The Agency's advisers handpick the properties most suitable for their clientele.
5. Define the culture
The Agency stays away from hiring anyone who's a jerk. When you first start, you have to read Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh's story of how he built Zappos. Once you start working, you can make mistakes. You can be stupid. You can be smart. But you can't be a jerk. If you don't make mistakes, you don't move forward and grow. Mauricio understands that people can't work all the time, so the firm makes a point of having fun. Otherwise, why spend so much time working? The Agency's philosophy is to keep everything simple, from its systems to its self-made CRMs to its message.
6. Be transparent
Mauricio loves competition, and he wants to make the industry better. He feels that if other people elevate, he will too. He knows people copy him, and he thinks that's OK. Mauricio is excited to have been able to make such an impact on the real estate industry--and plans to continue to have the industry progress.
7. Run your company like a tech company
Tech companies work in open floor environments and are known for splitting equity with their key partners. The Agency runs the same way. Mauricio's office is always open, his best advisers staff the biggest offices, and most advisers work on an open floor plan. When an office finds a talented individual who has made a name for him- or herself, it offers up equity into the parent company. This gives partners mutual interest in making the overall company succeed.
8. Partner with successful people
The Agency is growing, with goals to open another six offices this year and 12 more across the country by the end of 2017. The firm plans to do this by partnering with real estate agents and brokers who have cultivated success in their home market, whether it be Austin or Denver. If you have had success with your real estate career, then The Agency wants to hear from you.
Have you seen any other companies disrupt an industry? I'd love to learn more! Comment below.