Great Managers: Minnetonka Music Man
July 1, 2001
Brian Meagher’s upbeat attitude strikes right note in real estate boom.
Bottom line: Minnetonka Realty owner Brian Meagher (pronounced MAY-har) didn’t create the Minnetonka area real estate boom, but he did create the plan to expand his company in a hurry from four sales associates to 40, and had fun doing it. His sales volume has increased by more than 700 percent in the past two years, and he projects $120 million in sales for 2001.
Market: Minnetonka, Minn., a western suburb of Minneapolis, has become a magnet for relocating homeowners and companies. Luxury homes and upscale middle-income housing are proliferating.
Business plan: There was a real estate need for something between the mom-and-pop offices and megacompanies. “There was nothing in the middle, but I saw a niche,” Meagher says. “A company in the middle might successfully enjoy both the cost-effective advantages of the larger companies and the personal appeal of the smaller office.” That meant he had to expand his four-person office fast. He recruited his new sales force, mostly by word of mouth, from competitors bought out by real estate corporations.
Management style: Sales associates have the freedom to manage their own business. “We’re in an entrepreneurial phase here, and it’s exciting. You can see a twinkle in the salespeople’s eyes.” Meagher believes that the function of management is “to support our salespeople, providing them with the environment to create long-term relationships with their customers. That makes them feel part of the company and thus free to create and to contribute.”
Testimony: Cathryn Andrews, sales associate: “Because of the caliber and vision of Brian, I left a large real estate corporation to come to a small company with few salespeople. His philosophy is ‘Let me get to know who you are so that I can give you what you need.’ His sheer will to do it better inspires us all. ‘To better serve you’ is not just a slogan around here; it’s what we do.”
What’s different: Meagher’s upbeat and unconventional attitude attracts and inspires. “I try to think out of the box,” he says. For example, Meagher hired an 82-year-old advertising guru, who was not at all interested in retiring, to design his advertising campaign. He made his company business manager available to his sales staff to help them run their own business. “If we help them with their business, they’ll be more productive for the company.” Then there’s the piano in the lobby.
Environment: The black baby grand is a player piano and the first thing you see when you enter the Inspiration Lounge. “We’ve got good music on CDs playing all the time,” he says. Billy Joel’s hits are very popular. “Some of the customers who come in sit down and play songs.” The piano sets off the office’s cherry wood and nautical tones crafted for their calming effect. There’s also a conference room with a 46-inch TV and a VCR; sales associates use them to search the MLS, and customers can view homes on the big TV screen. Even the rest rooms are special, offering cologne, hair spray, shoe polishing equipment, and lint rollers, along with embroidered towels.
Services: The company provides title, mortgage, and property leasing management services, as well as weekly computer training. Meagher also has an on-site computer engineer who oversees all the technology.
PIANOMAN BRIAN MEAGHER
Minnetonka Realty Inc.
YEARS AS MANAGER: 15
YEARS IN REAL ESTATE: 17
EDUCATION: Attended University of Minnesota
COMMUNITY: Active in Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce; member of “Wheel Estate Pedalers,” who will ride bikes 160 miles from Duluth to Minneapolis this summer to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
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