Profitability is a big deal for all real estate offices. But perhaps nowhere is it more critical than in the launch phase. Start-up costs are inevitably high, validity in the marketplace is still largely undetermined and people question whether the business is going to take off. These were all challenges The Fairfax Capital Properties market center faced when launched in 2011.
From the beginning, the market center fit the bill of underdog. During the pre-launch phase, they underwent ownership changes, lost some of its original agents and saw two different team leaders come and go. Then came a ninth-inning rally in the form of Matthew Sutter, an unlikely savior since he had never been within a thousand miles of Fairfax, Va., prior to interviewing for the team leader job. Once he landed the gig, he left Austin, Texas, and arrived in Virginia just in time to turn things around for the market center.
“My first day in the role was the day we opened our front doors,” Sutter says. “Being the third team leader, our ALC (Associate Leadership Council) was concerned about whether they could trust me to stay. The pre-launch phase had also worn out some of our initial agents and they left, discouraged that we would never actually open.”
From those inauspicious beginnings, Sutter and his team emerged months later as the runner-up for the Keller Williams Realty Home Run Launch Market Center Award, thanks to the market center’s $115,865 in total profits for 2011. In addition to reaching profitability right out of the gate, Fairfax-Capital Properties also saw its team grow from an initial 27 agents to 120 in just 21 months. Sutter credits the success to the market center’s staff, Associate Leadership Council (ALC), original investor Tony Brodie and Operating Principal Bo Menkiti.
So what did it take to launch a real estate office on the heels of a massive real estate downturn? Here is Sutter’s advice:
3 Steps to Launch a Successful Real Estate Office
Step 1: Come From Curiosity
Sutter’s biggest challenges during the launch phase came mostly from being a Texan in Old Dominion’s court.
“Agents from other companies weren’t exactly jumping up and down to sit one-on-one with me. Which was a challenge, because validity in the marketplace is built on relationships with really influential icons.”
A former mega agent with a team, Sutter had a genuine interest in helping other agents reach their potential. So he began sharing the education and training that is characteristic of all Keller Williams market centers. From social events, to core Keller Williams courses and regular meetings to discuss business strategy with top producers, Sutter’s curiosity in other agents’ success drew people to him …. and the market center.
Step 2: Lead with Revenue
Adhering to the Keller Williams launch phase model was the second pillar under Sutter’s launch plan. “Profitability in the beginning stages is about never deviating from the model,” Sutter says. “It’s about leading with revenue and keeping expenses as lean as possible. If there wasn’t a direct indication that an expense was going to lead to immediate revenue, chances are it was getting cut. We also stayed away from trying to be creative. I’ve always loved the idea that you have to ‘earn the right’ to add creativity to the model. No one that is in the launch phase has earned that right.”
Step 3: Make it about others
There’s a quote from John Maxwell, best-selling author on leadership that sums up another key element to the Fairfax, Va. market center’s success: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“I was very fortunate to have a highly-engaged ALC who, along with Bo and Tony, committed to the vision of becoming the Home Run Launch market center,” Sutter says. “Their enthusiasm and determination carried over to our staff, our agents and even our core service partners. It became contagious, and everyone embraced a whatever-it-takes attitude.”
Committed to either making the launch a success or burning out in every capacity, Sutter let go of old habits in favor of new ones. “Being so new, I needed to ensure I was supporting my ALC and staff, because they were the ones that could add the real value to our growth. The idea of ‘success through others’ was far different than how I ran my previous sales team, but it was a concept I loved. The less I made it about me, the better we did, and I quickly learned that leadership isn’t about knowing all the answers or being able to do everything yourself. It’s more about knowing who can provide what resources and then making sure that those individuals are nurtured and provided for. To me, that’s the ultimate win-win.”