The Art of Reinvention

Broker-owner John Plocher isn't afraid to take chances. By diversifying his business, his southern California-based firm has grown during tough market times.

February 1, 2010

California broker John Plocher has managed to stay on top of a shifting real estate market by diversifying his business. His team of sales associates, property managers, and maintenance workers has grown during some of the industry’s roughest days.

John Plocher

President & CEO

WSR Sales & Management, Riverside, Calif.

Years in Business: 27

2008 Gross Revenue (all divisions): $5.5 million

2009 Gross Revenue (all divisions): $7.2 million

Number of Offices: 2

Number of Employees, Sales Associates, and other Independent Contractors: 150

Guided by Family

My dad was in the Air Force, so we didn’t stay anywhere for more than two or three years, which forced me to make friends quickly. In 1977, I graduated from Brigham Young University with a psychology degree. I was starting to pursue a master’s in public administration, but I also had one child and another on the way. I told my dad, who had become a real estate broker, and his friend Sam Armstrong, who was with one of the largest offices in southern California, that I wanted to get into the business.

At first they discouraged me because they knew I was on a master’s track. But I persisted until Sam took me on. I started out in single-family home sales and I loved working with people. After five years with Sam, I cofounded Western Security Realty Inc., which later became WSR Sales & Management. At that time, interest rates were 16 percent to 18 percent, the highest they’d ever been. Similar to today, it was a poor real estate environment.

The Gospel of Diversification

I’ve made it through three major recessions. I’ve seen thousands of people come and go. It seems that practitioners who overspecialize are left out in the cold during market downturns. In good times, niche markets can be profitable, but in the long run they don’t make financial sense.

Early on I diversified my company. We added a property management division and today we manage between 3,000 and 4,000 condominiums, single-family homes, and apartment buildings in southern California. The natural evolution was to maintain these properties. So in the early 1990s, I became a general contractor and we formed WSR Maintenance.

We also do outside construction work. We don’t build houses, but we take on roofing and drywall repairs, carpeting, and painting. With a solid base of property management, sales, and maintenance, we generate congruent business and referrals between divisions.

Adapting to Market Needs

In 2005, I developed the preservation division of WSR. We previously offered those services, but discontinued them in 2001 because conventional sales were so good. The need to work with foreclosures came roaring back. We work for about 40 or 50 banks doing all the debris removal and cleanup of REO homes. Not only do we restore properties but we also help the bank sell them. We have 80 people working in preservation and are filling 50 to 100 work orders a day for banks all over the state.

Persistence is Key

My success is due to persistence. I’m certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed. I know my limitations. But I’m a firm believer that if you press forward and pursue your dream, no matter how lofty, doors will open. Yes, I tried business ventures that failed. And I have doubted myself and questioned whether I have what it takes. But I never stopped. It doesn’t really matter what business environment you’re in. Our company was born in one of the worst real estate climates we’ve seen. If you’re persistent and you want that dream, you can have it.

What's on the Horizon?

I’m the guy who is climbing a ladder that reaches over the tree line; it’s like I’m looking out over the big canopy of the jungle and getting an idea of where we need to go. Business is a jungle and my guys on the ground are the ones cutting through, but they need a leader who looks to where we go next. I’ve tried to be forward-thinking to deter-mine where I want to lead my company.

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