Wendy Cole is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
Keeping Standards High
Before bringing team members aboard, broker-owner Chris Lombardi requires them to have a college education and a deep understanding of the financial aspects of real estate.
March 1, 2011
Broker-owner, Velocity Real Estate and Investments
Ft. Collins, Colorado, www.velocityrei.com
A brief history: Licensed as a broker in 2007, opened brokerage in 2008
2010 gross sales: $9.1 million on 42 transaction sides
2009 gross sales: $5.1 million on 24 transaction sides
Number of offices: 1
Number of sales associates: 5
A Background in Business
After I received my undergraduate degree in business from Colorado State University, I worked for a year as a credit representative at a meatpacking company. Then I worked for two years at my father’s construction company in Las Vegas that specialized in interior finishes for commercial clients. I went back to Colorado and worked for eight years as a financial analyst at IBM before I left to get my master’s in business administration. I decided to make the switch to real estate and began to work with a friend who had started a property management firm. I concentrated on real estate sales there for about a year before I started my company.
Education Isn’t Optional
I’m a strong believer in education. I’m currently working to get my Ph.D. in organizational performance and change. I’m learning about the ways companies adjust to structural changes in their industries. With what’s been happening in real estate, it’s useful to be able to manage change. I require all salespeople to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and I expect them to have studied either finance or real estate. Two of the five are working on their master’s degree—one in computer information systems, the other in construction management. I regularly have interns in the office and I’ve hired three as associate brokers. Down the road, I may want to teach at the college level.
‘Real’ Social Networking
I’m not impressed with Internet lead systems. We get business from the relationships we build. About 90 percent of our business comes from people we know or socialize with. I sponsor regular parties, wine tastings, and other events to keep in touch with our network. I’ll spend $600 to host a tailgate party at the Colorado State football games. I like to get people together socially rather than spend time ramrodding them with phone calls or other methods that have no value added. I’ll have dinners specifically for people who have done business with us before to keep that relationship going.
Focused on the Financials
When I started my own business, I knew I would focus on solving financial problems for clients, not simply selling properties. Our business is about half residential and half investment sales. We often have a role in portfolio management to offer analytical and problem-solving skills that allow us to maximize the experience and exceed the customer’s expectations. We ask a lot of questions to find out if an investor is more interested in capital appreciation or boosting cash flow. In addition we find out what their investment time frame is, as well as their motivation for the purchase. We all understand the financial ramifications because of our backgrounds. Sometimes we end up talking clients out of sales when it doesn’t make sense.
I spend a lot of time doing one-on-one training with agents. Because we’re small, I can zero in on the talents of each team member and determine what they need to learn. I encourage agents to use a checklist system as they develop relationships with customers and clients. I want them to find the motivations for their clients’ move and the specifics about what they’re seeking in a new place. We want them to understand the buyers’ financial picture and know that buyers have the means to go forward.
Embracing the Youth Factor
We’re a young and cohesive team. For fun, we have quarterly group outings—we may go golfing or kayaking or skiing. Three of my five associates are under 26, and only one is older than 40. But because of the knowledge and skills that they bring to the plate, any concerns about their youth are eliminated. A lot of young people are interested in joining this company, but the education requirements have meant I’ve had to turn some away.
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