By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me first in Pittsburgh at the PPG Paints Arena, celebrating the acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty by Northwood Realty Services. Effective now, the merged company will operate as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwood Realty Services.
When the official celebration of two real estate giants coming together began, the energy in the arena—also home to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins—was infectious. You couldn’t help but feel inspired to be among hundreds of passionate, excited Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network agents. The crowd was addressed that evening by Ron Croushore, previous CEO and owner of The Preferred Realty, who remains active in the company as the board’s vice chair, followed by James Saxon, co-president and COO, then me, and finally, Tom Hosack, co-president and CEO of the newly merged brokerage.
The union creates a brokerage superpower of more than 1,800 agents and 50 offices serving 22 counties in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. The Preferred Realty and its family of companies are now the No. 1 residential real estate brokerage in greater Pittsburgh for sales volume, units and listings based on West-Penn MLS data. It is the No. 20 company across the entire industry for units based on 2017 REALTrends data; and No. 10 in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network for gross commission income.
From Pittsburgh it was off to Michigan for the Managers Retreat with managers and leadership from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northern Indiana Real Estate and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tomie Raines REALTORS®. I was joined at the event by brokerage leaders Steve Fase, broker/owner and CEO of Michigan Real Estate; Steve Fase II, regional manager of the Eastern Michigan region at Michigan Real Estate; Craig West, co-owner/CEO of Indiana Realty; Andrew Braun, co-owner and CFO of Indiana Realty to deliver two days of presentations to managers who truly care.
If you’ll stick with me, I’d like to highlight a few sessions from the retreat because the flow of the meeting closely mirrored how any well-organized, effective and value-add-focused manager conference should be structured …
First, the retreat kicked off with a small leadership breakfast for the regional managers and executives. After breakfast, we all participated in two, one and one-half hour sessions. In the first 90-minute session, I spoke about my own career story, the West Coast Offense for real estate, which includes the 4DX system all managers at the retreat now follow, and leadership best practices as well as the need to develop a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices business coaching strategy that includes a 4DX system, Monday WIG call, Wednesday night mastermind, Friday wrap up call (wins for the week/lessons learned), a contest (ongoing/year-round), accountability partners, top 7, monthly commitments—“What am I doing to improve so I’m better this week than I was last week?”—and a book club.
Second, the next session focused on recruiting. We spoke about having an awesome onboarding process and how to properly welcome new agents, then launched into script practice with NLP scripts and role-playing. Throughout the exercises, we discussed specific messages you can convey to prospective agents that will help motivate and inspire them to join your team.
The morning sessions were followed by a 60-minute afternoon session that was conducted in person and via phone with me, Chris Stuart, COO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Allan Dalton, SVP of Research and Development at HSF Affiliates. We conducted a thorough Q&A with attendees.
Today, I had breakfast with the management team and spoke about the measurements that can be used to gauge success. It’s important for managers to have systems in place. For instance, I recommend that managers rate their performance against a fixed performance standard based on statistical achievements. I also talked about office efficiencies and how to visually measure office performance, which simplifies the planning and goal-setting process. Additionally, I provided the managers with my daily tracking sheet—as I say, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”—that measures important milestones like new agents hired, listings taken, recruiting calls, weekend open house visits, handwritten notes, outgoing referrals and other key areas that contribute to the healthy production of an office.
When asked about his overall thoughts on the retreat, Steve Fase said, “We so appreciate the time and energy that Gino gave the last day and a half and his visit we believe will set us on a continuous path to better management.” He also added, in a humbling comparison, the experience reminded him of that famous 49ers play by my late pal, Dwight Clark. “Yesterday after the breakout session, instead of people with their hands folded, unhappy, I saw people being so engaged and excited. If I had a picture of Gino to describe the scene, he’d have his arms outstretched at the back of the end zone and I’d say Gino made the catch as far as our company is concerned. The event was just that good.”
So, what’s the message? It’s clear and simple: What you don’t know in the real estate business will hurt you. What you don’t measure in real estate doesn’t get done.