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A Brokerage Can’t Do for You What You Can

November 28 2013

Guest contributor Graham Wood of REALTOR®Mag says:

realtormag brokerage cant doBy the end of his first year in real estate, Curt Whitesell quit his job.

It wasn't because he didn't like being an agent or that he wasn't good at it. It was that the prevailing business model of real estate brokerages just didn't work for him. He needed to break off and become a broker himself — and build an office that runs things totally differently.

"I truly believe that the broker-owner plays little, if any, role in the business success of an agent today," says Whitesell, who started his real estate career in 2007 at the age of 30, working as an agent for a brokerage in Indianapolis. "I bought into the old theory that brokers were a truly marketable brand."

What he discovered was that the brokerage wasn't giving him the tools he really needed to succeed. "I listened to them tell me about all the great marketing initiatives, training, and tools available to agents that were going to help make my business a success," Whitesell says. "Frankly, it was all junk."

The Web site he was supplied was difficult to use and inflexible, and the print marketing materials he was given were outdated and overpriced, he says.

"No leads, no cool new tools — just an expensive cubicle in a big building," Whitesell laments.

He decided to use his time at that firm more wisely: He started tuning out what the brokerage was telling him to do and went with his heart.

"Quickly, I learned that real estate is more than ever a relationship- and service-driven business," he says. "So I spent my first year building my own business."

He found a niche in helping families in their real estate quests, and he focused on creating what he wanted clients to see as the value of working with him: his desire to go the extra mile.

"I expressly do more than 'put the sign in the ground and pray' by being present and refreshing my listings," Whitesell says. "I use social media 100 percent as my marketing, and I am highly responsive to inquiries."

One pertinent bit of advice from a mentor finally convinced him that he needed to leave his brokerage: "No one is going to look out for your success like you are."

"Agents create leads and business. The brokerage is an office-leasing business for itself," Whitesell says. He left his firm and started his own brokerage, WKRP Indy Real Estate, in 2009 on the principle that the brokerage doesn't run the agent — the agent runs the agent.

"I recruit only people willing to adapt to technology and modern communication," Whitesell affirms. "I check to see how active they are, and I give them relevant content if they need it. The new model calls for self-branded mobile agents. Full-time, very successful agents oftentimes do not rely on the old-fashioned services that brokers offer."

Starting his own firm wasn't easy, he admits. He started with a focus on a small geographical area in Indianapolis, using the professional network he created and social media to find new business. Today, his firm has four agents and is currently recruiting more.

"I used Twitter, read books, and spent lots of time riding around with mentors," he says. "I learned how to drum up a deal or how to turn what looked like nothing into a solution to two parties. It has all been about knowing what I want to sell and who I want to work with. Then, where I want to work, and, finally, relaying that message over and over again. No large brokerage or amount of paid-for advertisement can get me this."

Whitesell doesn't totally swear off the experience of working for an established, "old-school" brokerage for new agents, though. Some of the resources a brokerage can provide are useful, he says.

"Join a brokerage, but do it for back-office services. Find the most convenient active office. Find a mentor. Ride along with good agents. List properties. Discover and use social media to market," he says. "But do not split commissions with a broker after five years. Hire support staff and work independently."

To view the original article, visit REALTOR®MagREALTOR®Mag.