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Growing a Successful, Locally Focused Brokerage

Expanding your brokerage's market reach requires more than just acquiring or merging with other brokerages. Opt for smart, calculated growth to ensure the health and success of your business.

June 29, 2022

In today’s market, brokers and managers are spending more time on the ever-changing day-to-day, which means they have less time to think about the future. Planning their exit strategy sits on the back burner as they pivot to accommodate rising interest rates, agent woes, and the ongoing inventory shortage. Likewise, agents are entrenched in helping their clients, without a second to breathe. In a market in such a state of flux, most brokerages don’t have the time to think about the future, and yet, expanding market presence is as important as ever.

As CEO, I also have the responsibility to expand the brokerage’s market presence. To do so, our strategy is to connect with and engage brokers and companies who are looking to sell or retire from the business. We also connect with those who may have questions on where and when to start planning. This enables us to grow our market presence consistently over time.

Consistent Outreach

We've been a locally owned company that's been in business in our marketplaces for over 40 years. Currently, we are about six months in with the new Century 21 Epic name, and our team has welcomed the new name and new focus. A challenge for us is to get back out there into the market.

We are not a shiny new object to come through. Rather, we are a proven staple that has endured through the good times and the challenging times. The leadership team lives and works in the 14 cities where we hang our signs, which is a big incentive for agents and their buyers. When it comes to outreach, we home in on these points, positioning ourselves as leader in our field and our communities.

We reach out to our agents to make sure that they are fully educated on the tools and programs that we and the Century 21 brand offer. We offer more tools than any other company.

We also reach out to agents outside our company to let them know that they're welcome here and that we are a company that can help agents grow their business.

There’s also outreach to our local community, which means being present with the people, businesses and community leaders that surround us. One of our strongest driving factors for how we show up is by focusing on giving back to the communities where we live and work—something that is baked into our culture.

Listening and Educating

When we reach out to brokers, we focus first on listening. Right now, a lot of brokerages are finding themselves in the weeds, and managers and broker-owners are not able to focus on their exit strategies, especially if the market happens to turn. Our first role is to sit down with them and listen because there are myriad reasons behind their decisions, and they have just as many questions.

Some brokers were top producers and have decided the day-to-day management of a brokerage is keeping them from producing. Others are looking to retire. Some talk about a change in their family dynamics that needs their presence, so they want to take more of a back seat in their business. And for still others, their succession plans have changed.

Many brokers who are interested in a merger or acquisition have questions about what will happen to their employees and agents, and they want to know about the terms of the agreement.

The stories and concerns we hear run the gamut, and in order for us to understand the best way to move forward, we have to make sure we offer the best solution for the brokerage and its individual needs.

After we listen to all of the concerns and questions a broker might have, we spend time answering their questions as best we can. Then, we educate them on what we offer—a hands-on, community-connected environment with access to leadership and a host of services like tech upgrades, training and education.

Determining the Right Fit

Growing market presence while remaining true to the culture of the brand is important, which means making an astute determination about whether or not merging with or acquiring a brokerage is the right move. This is a symbiotic relationship, in which both parties benefit.

Now that we’ve listened to the concerns of the brokerages and had conversations with interested agents, it’s important we take a step back and determine whether or not this person or brokerage is the right fit for us.

When we contact brokerages within our footprint, we gather as much information as we can so that we can make an informed decision on whether or not they are a good fit for us. We are looking for smart growth. We then sit down and ask ourselves important questions.

After a careful consideration of their business, we look for which solutions are present:

  • Is this an entire “walk over” of the business, where they roll into one of our current offices, or is this a multi-office situation, where there are leases involved? 
  • Is the brokerage profitable? Many brokerages are not—however, if the fit is good from a culture perspective and we have an already established location, we can make it profitable. 
  • Is the broker’s debt too costly for us to assume?
  • Is the brokerage’s culture in line with ours? We lead with a team spirit, education, training and giving back to the communities we live in. Is this brokerage on the same page?
If we can’t in good conscience determine that the brokerage is the right fit culturally and financially, we walk away. We don’t bring on agents that don’t fit culturally, either. If we’re to continue our legacy as a connected and community-committed brokerage, we have to expand in a way that aligns with that mission.
Headshot of Lauralee Ensign, white woman with curly brown hair
CEO, CENTURY 21 Epic

Lauralee Ensign started her real estate career in 1986 after spending several years in upper management for a large retailer. While juggling a husband and two small children, she sold real estate when interest rates stood at around 13.5% and while everyone was complaining about “how tough” it was to find sellers. Giving 121% and a laser-like focus on the fundamentals, she worked expireds and withdrawns, and became a top producer despite the market and the support of her brokerage at the time.

Wanting to provide the best learning, products and tools to agents so they in turn can offer the highest quality services and deliver extraordinary experiences to their clients, Lauralee decided to get into management with a laser focus on real estate law. After a decade as broker and partner for an independent company, she then invested in her first CENTURY 21 franchise. As a growth-oriented professional, she merged with another CENTURY 21 affiliate with operations throughout Solano, Napa and Yolo counties. She is currently the CEO of CENTURY 21 Epic.

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