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Launching Change in a Brokerage

By Rick Ellis | September 25, 2023

Standing on the ocean’s edge just after dark in New Smyrna Beach, Florida earlier this year, I witnessed an amazing event as SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center 40-miles to the south. The three engines, with thrust equaling eighteen 747 aircraft, propelled the huge ball of fire through the night sky at more than 11,000 miles per hour. Suddenly there was a brilliant and dramatic explosion of light as the side boosters separated, falling to earth and the second stage roared to life propelling the massive craft into space.

Rocket takes off into the sky. Lots of smoke and gas. The elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Shortly afterward, I was speaking with a successful broker about changes within her brokerage and the local market when the similarities struck me. Just as the two massive boosters successfully launched the rocket toward orbit only to be dropped once they had served their purpose, change in a brokerage follows the same path. To launch effective change, there comes a time when a broker finds they must jettison things which have historically served them well if they want to rise to the next level.

In the dynamic world of real estate, the cliché “change remains the only constant” really does ring true. As the market landscape evolves, real estate brokerages and the brokers themselves are facing unprecedented challenges. Factors such as technological advancements, rapid consolidation, shifting investment trends, rising interest rates, reduced company dollar and a dwindling inventory of homes have ushered in a new era. Many brokers recognize their world is rapidly changing and they are altering their businesses to take advantage of opportunities.

In talking with brokers, I often find “legacy” can be one of the stumbling blocks to effectively managing change. I understand, it’s hard to change something that has historically served the brokerage well. I often hear emotional comments like: 

  • My agents will never…
  • Everyone knows the color of my signs…
  • No one would recognize me without my logo… 
  • I’ve gotten by over the years without…
  • We’ve always done it this way…

Interestingly, it is often the “look”-- signage, logos and colors-- that brokers resist changing the most. Apple, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Amazon, Google, Subway, Domino’s and countless other highly-successful companies have changed their logos, colors, slogans and the consumer-facing look as part of launching their strategic growth. Each found they didn’t drive away their customer base, employees and vendors because of a “new look or direction.” (However, when a certain Atlanta soft drink company who decided to change their legacy formula and taste along with the look… well, that’s a different story.)

There are three “C's” of effective change leadership:

  • Collaborate- Bring people with expertise and prepare needed resources early to plan and execute according to that plan to reach the goals.
  • Communicate- Focus on the “why” change is needed and the outcome. Struggling leaders often become focused on the “what” that is behind the change and weaken the “buy-in” from their team.
  • Commit- In 1519, while leading the Spanish expedition in the new world, Cortez burned his ships so that there was no turning back. Successful leaders make sure their plan is followed and that their beliefs and behaviors, as well as those around them, support change.

The most important factor when considering change is trust. Generally, the agents have a high degree of trust that their broker has the agents’ best interests at heart. In fact, in most brokerages, the agents’ loyalty is to their broker and not the firm.

When considering change options, making certain that as the broker you have fully done your research and evaluation to determine the best course for the future of the brokerage as well as your agents is paramount.

And sometimes, change means letting go of aspects of the business that got you launched. Yes, they have served you well, but often it’s time to move upward. Brokers who are good at this generally have the most relevant firms that are continuously evolving and profitable.

About Rick EllisWith 30+ years of real estate brokerage ownership, mergers & acquisitions and franchising, Rick understands the industry. As VP with The Corcoran Group, Anywhere Real Estate's premium brand, he directs real estate firms with their growth strategies and increasing their market share, profits, business value and exit strategies. Contact Rick today: [email protected].

Rick Ellis is a 30+ year veteran of real estate brokerage ownership, mergers & acquisitions, and franchising, As VP with The Corcoran Group, he directs real estate firms with their growth strategies and increasing their market share, profits, business value and exit strategies.
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