(left to right): Amanda DeLong, Ashley Dietch-Schaefe, Rachael Veldkamp

© Erica Christoffer / REALTOR MAGAZINE®

The broker-owners (left to right): Amanda DeLong | Broker-owner: 11 months | Licensed: 5 years | Number of agents: 1 | Evermark Realty, Grand Rapids, Mich. | evermarkrealty.com Ashley Dietch-Schaefer | Broker-owner: 2 years | Licensed: 8 years | Number of agents: 6 | Hello Homes GR, Grand Rapids, Mich. | hellohomesgr.com Rachael Veldkamp | Broker-owner: 4 years | Licensed: 14 years | Number of agents: 97 | RE/MAX of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Mich. | remax-grandrapidsmi.com

3 Brokers: Championing Each Other

Working in a mid-size market with a great spirit of cooperation suits these brokers just fine.

November - December

Grand Rapids, Mich., is home to about 200,000, but the sprawling metro area boasts more than a million residents. That’s large enough for Amanda DeLong, Ashley Dietch-Schaefer, and Rachael Veldkamp—three broker-owners who started or purchased companies in the last five years—to each make a distinctive mark.

Building Businesses

Rachael: I bought my company [with husband Dave] in 2015. It had agents who didn’t know me—some earning more than $1 million in commissions every year. For me to say, “Hi, I’m your new broker”—there were challenges. I spent the first year taking people out to lunch, getting to know them, and establishing trust with them. We didn’t lose a single agent.

Ashley: I have an all-female brokerage and I love
giving other women the opportunity to build a life that they want. I help women gain confidence through their careers.

Amanda: You’d be a good coach.

Ashley: I’m an open book. I give people everything that I’ve found to be successful. And every person in my office is family to me.

Amanda: My brokerage is a little different; I don’t have agents to manage. I still love selling. I made my own CRM system, but I also rely on association tools and networking opportunities. Since I went on my own, my past clients now refer more people to me.

Time Management and Delegation

Rachael: It had always been a goal of mine to grow a brokerage. We have 97 agents in three offices.

Amanda: And you manage all of those?

Rachael: Yes. I have four agents on my sales team, and one full-time and one part-time staff member.

Ashley: How do you balance that?

Rachael: One day at a time. I hire people who are smarter than me and I give them authority and allow them to make decisions—sometimes to a fault. But they appreciate it, and I think that’s why they thrive.

Amanda: I struggle with delegation. I have to learn how to unload some responsibilities. I just hired a part-time admin who has her broker’s license, too.

A Juggling Act

Ashley: Some days I only have one hour with my kid before he goes to bed. It kills me. Everyone says you can make your own hours in real estate—that’s a lie. I’m grateful for this life, but it’s hard to juggle.

Amanda: Even on days off, I can be distracted and not present. Sometimes it’s a mental exercise to keep work and family separate.

Rachael: I regret missing so much of my kids’
childhood. There was a moment when I said, “No more.” I’m not the Pinterest mom, and it’s OK if I buy the birthday cake instead of making it myself.

Ashley: I opened my brokerage three days before I had my son. It wasn’t planned; that’s just how it worked out. But the sky didn’t fall. What you said, Rachael, about hiring the right people resonates with me. I use the DISC personality assessment for hiring and recruiting. When I went on maternity leave, my assistant said, “We got it. Don’t call us.”

Social Media Pressure

Ashley: Facebook and Instagram make it look like every agent you know is closing houses every day. But it’s not what’s happening. There’s so much myth.

Amanda: Or when you see posts that say, “Sold in one day with multiple offers over asking price.”

Ashley: The weird dichotomy is, I feel like I can’t say, “Today sucked. I had a really bad day.” The reality is deals fall apart, and even after being established for 10 years, I’ll go a week or a month without a closing.

Rachael: I post, on a good month, once or twice—and only about personal stuff, nothing sales-y. On my team Facebook page, we post listings. But on your personal page, people want to know who you are.

Strong Cooperation

Amanda: We have good broker-to-broker cooperation here. I called you, Ashley, for help when I was starting my own brokerage, and I so appreciate that. One of the benefits of a smaller market is that we know who does a good job.

Rachael: The best thing I’ve done in my career is create relationships with other people in the industry.

Ashley: That’s why I’m involved in Women’s Council of REALTORS®. Talking with other people who do the same things I do has advanced my career.

Rachael: I completely agree. I’ve had offers accepted that weren’t the highest because the other agent knows I’m going to conduct the transaction in a way that’s professional and I’m going to communicate through the process.

Amanda: I don’t think clients realize how much an agent’s reputation plays a factor in their homebuying journey.

Erica Christoffer
Product Manager

Erica Christoffer is the product manager for REALTOR® Magazine, driving growth and helping make data-driven decisions for the editorial products and programs that fall under the publication's umbrella. Erica also co-manages the magazine's 30 Under 30 program. During her tenure as an editor, she wrote and edited hundreds of articles for the magazine and launched the Broker to Broker section. Connect with Erica via email: echristoffer@nar.realtor.