Top 100 Companies: Fastest Growing

Growth spurt: OK, now what? Rising star says coaching, marketing, and technology will maintain momentum.

July 1, 2002

Coldwell Banker Legacy, REALTORS®, made a flying leap in 2001, moving in one year from No. 75 to No. 47 on REALTOR® Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Companies. The jump represents a 43 percent increase in transaction sides and makes Coldwell Banker Legacy the fastest-growing company on the list.

How’d the Albuquerque, N.M., company do it? Since 1996, Legacy has been in serious M&A mode, says CEO Joe Gilmore, who manages the company with partners Peter Parnegg and Mike Carter. In June 2001 alone, Legacy acquired two local offices with 150 salespeople.

Moving forward, the partners say they’ll concentrate less on acquisitions and more on assimilating acquired companies and meeting the ever-increasing expectations of consumers. “Our overall strategy is to manifest ourselves into the ultimate homeselling and homeownership company,” says Gilmore.

Legacy’s short-term goal: to increase sales by another 10 percent in 2002 by focusing on salesperson coaching, property marketing, and technological innovation.

The company invested nearly $10,000 to put its 10 managers through coaching training, and Gilmore says he expects that investment to generate hefty returns for Legacy’s salespeople. “Some salespeople spend $10,000 to $15,000 on personal coaching,” says Gilmore, “Others won’t spend that kind of money but could benefit—so we’ve decided to make the coaching available free.”

There’s an important one-on-one aspect to coaching: One salesperson might want to increase absolute earnings, and another might aim to increase per-hour earnings in order to spend less time working. “Our managers will work with each salesperson to develop specific actions for achieving those goals,” says Gilmore.

Consumer-friendly marketing is Legacy’s second focus. “We believe marketing matters,” says Gilmore, “so we’ve positioned ourselves as the company that will market listings to more buyers than any of our competitors.”

The commitment involves advertising every listing until it’s sold. And Legacy has dispensed with what Gilmore calls the old-school approach to advertising that omits key pieces of information in order to generate calls. The company’s four-color magazine, with a monthly distribution of 25,000 to 30,000, includes every company listing and all the information consumers want. Legacy also promotes 40 listings per week on its own twice-weekly cable TV show. “Sellers like seeing their homes on TV,” says Gilmore. “We’ve been doing it for several years, and it differentiates us from others in the marketplace.”

The marketing emphasis is tied to Legacy’s third focus: using new technology to turn the company’s intranet into a powerful marketing tool. One recent addition to the intranet is a program that lets salespeople produce postcards and flyers in seconds. In one month, 29,000 postcards left the office. “Staff used to spend hours creating these things,” Gilmore says. “Now they can concentrate on activities that are more dollar-productive.”

One challenge the company has faced is in its ability to put one-stop shopping to work for its customers. “We’ve discovered it’s not a simple task,” says Gilmore.

Legacy is part of the Coldwell Banker Concierge program, which aims to provide not only all the buying and selling services but also all the post-occupancy services customers need. The strategy: The more often customers interact with you, the more likely they are to refer you to friends and family.

Coldwell’s alliances with major service providers have been useful, but the little details—finding local handymen to do small jobs like install a dimmer switch, for example—have proved daunting. The company is working to build relationships that will improve that aspect of the program, Gilmore says.

Certainly, Legacy has a full plate of priorities, but Gilmore says his main concern will be winning the loyalty of his expanded sales force. “People like the things we have to offer—tools, technology, training, and management,” he says, but dramatic growth can bring feelings of uncertainty, particularly among salespeople whose companies are acquired. “Earning salespeople’s trust,” says Gilmore, “is the most important thing we can do right now.”

Coldwell Banker Legacy Top 100 ranking: 47
Top officers Mike Carter, Joe Gilmore, Peter Parnegg
2001 transaction sides closed 8,670
Percent change from 2000 43
2001 sales volume $1.31 billion
Percent change from 2000 36.4
Number of salespeople 444
Sides per salesperson 19.5
Sales volume per salesperson $3 million

Elyse Umlauf-Garneau is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine.

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