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How Healthy Competition Helps Build a Solid Company

Learn how a Rhode Island Century 21 brokerage is enhancing team camaraderie and company culture by giving agents the tools and respect they need to succeed.

August 6, 2021

In the real estate industry, brokers consistently look for new ways to drive growth, both from the standpoint of market share and in the number of agents affiliated with their company. Bottom line: It’s competitive.

At CENTURY 21 Topsail Realty, we have genuine respect for everyone we partner with, from sales professionals to homebuying and selling clients to transactional service providers. We’ve found that using the competitive spirit our agents have is a terrific way to accomplish growth goals while also building camaraderie and enhancing our culture of “family first.” That genuine respect, empathy, and focus on being competitive has transformed us. In 12 short years, we have turned the company we bought that was going out of business into the number one brokerage Rhode Island with three offices and 64 agents today.

Our story began in 2009 with Michael and Lisa Fonseca, local entrepreneurs who built more than 1,100 houses and 400 commercial buildings and had a competitive drive that continues today. After hearing that their son Ryan, who was slated to work on Wall Street, wanted to take his business degree from the University of Rhode Island and run a real estate company, they decided to buy a local CENTURY 21® franchise. On the surface, the timing was terrible (the Great Recession), and we knew the Fonsecas had a battle to fight. But we also knew that they would win.

As an office manager, trainer, and associate broker, I appreciated when the Fonsecas told us that we are now part of the “Fonseca family.” They are unlike any other broker-owners. They never made it about themselves—it was always about us, their agents. The best part: Michael and Lisa are extremely competitive, and they knew to grow the business, they had to show us know that we could go to them for anything we needed. It’s that kind of flexibility and respect a group of dedicated real estate professionals needs to build a top-ranked company. And, that’s exactly what we set out to do.

The office in Bristol, R.I., itself was priority number one. It was falling apart and looked as bad as the financial shape of the company. We sat down and shared with Michael and Lisa what we needed from the residential sales side, and they took care of the construction side. In six weeks, the office was completely transformed.

Our next step was to equip the office with technology and spaces where agents would feel free to work as teams and individuals. When finished, we had an amazing office package to flaunt to current and prospective agents. To gain an immediate market foothold, the Fonsecas knew they had to be fiercely loyal to our agents, but that required the same commitment in return. Our challenge was to bring in new people, but we didn’t want to take just anybody. We sought professionals who not only wanted to grow but earn as part of a collaborative family. Word spread and agents came to us. You couldn’t ask for a better recruitment strategy.

After gaining market momentum inside the industry and with the public, it was time to investigate buying another company. Despite failing with one purchase, we struck gold in buying out a prominent broker in Tiverton, R.I., who shared our mindset, family culture, and focus on competition. In fact, she’s still a top producer with us today.

The decision to close our Newport, R.I., office and move to Portsmouth, R.I., helped us build a profitable office with the entire team of agents moving with us to the new location. That’s loyalty we cherish, and our leadership team makes certain we give back in spades.

Reputation is everything and we are winning on that front. It feeds from the top down: to the agents, to the community, to transaction partners, to vendors, and to our clients—and back up again. It provides our agents with privileges, access, and tools they need to deliver extraordinary service to their clients and customers.

We want our agents—and their clients—for life. We want people who care about the people they work with. Finding that quality in sales professionals with a competitive mindset and a collaborative spirit is hard, but we’re in this business to win. Being competitive is intentional.


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Christine Farley

Since 2008, Christine Farley has been helping buyers and sellers navigate the complex nature of the real estate market. She is a licensed associate broker, office manager, and a Certified Relocation Specialist with CENTURY 21 Topsail Realty in Bristol, R.I., who helps military and corporate clients in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Her goal is to counsel buyers and sellers to make the best real estate decisions while building long-lasting relationships—all while having some fun along the way. As a former military spouse, Christine understands the stress military personnel experience when moving between duty stations and transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Her motto is: “I Make Suggestions, You Make Decisions.”

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