Mark McLaughlin, CEO of San Francisco’s Pacific Union International, celebrated his 10th year in residential real estate this past September. The Bay Area native started Morgan Lane, a small brokerage business in Marin County, in 2006, and in August 2009, acquired Pacific Union and has seen sales rise from $2.2 billion to more than $7.8 billion.
“I love the people in this industry. I was a competitive athlete in college and played team sports all my life, and that’s what this is—a team sport,” says McLaughlin. “I tell my team all the time that if we don’t get the people right, the rest doesn’t matter.”
That’s why McLaughlin puts a great deal of stock into bringing in top talent and training them to remain the best.
“One of the greatest mistakes I have made in my career is hiring B players. When you hire a B player, it detracts from the culture of the company. I look for three things from new employees: a competitive streak, instinct, and the confidence to take advantage of both.”
To deliver training that keeps real estate professionals at the top of their game, Pacific Union offers a Professional Staff Elite Service, which provides agents a platform for improving both their interpersonal communication skills and technology skills, and coaching to make sure they remain expert in both areas.
“It’s the culture of our people that sets us apart. Our most strategic assets are teamwork, trust and innovation,” McLaughlin says. “These are the three cores that are integral to one another.”
With 2016 more than halfway over, McLaughlin has seen units off about 6 percent year-over-year, driven by the Bay Area’s supply-constraint environment and consumer fears about higher tax bills.
“That has impacted average sales prices of homes,” he says. “We continue to have amazing appreciation on the housing stock.”
Pacific Union sees opportunity for growth by reaching into the Silicon Valley and down to Santa Cruz. McLaughlin expects $8 billion in volume in 2016, but believes expanding into these two areas can add an additional $4 billion in the years ahead.
“We’re looking to continue to grow share in our markets and we do that by recruiting additional real estate professionals and making our current professionals more productive,” he says. “We’re also looking at geographic growth on the West Coast as well—other markets reflective of the quality of the Bay Area.”
Looking ahead, McLaughlin feels it’s important to invest in the phenomenon of combining the “cloud” way of doing things with the “street-level” approach.
“Deals are done based on relationships and the trust in a REALTOR®. We have an app that just launched that provides analytics and offers the ability to communicate rapidly in real-time with our clients. No one has successfully connected the cloud with the street yet, so we’re investing over $1 million a year in technology to make sure if someone comes along with the bright, shiny nickel, that we also have that bright, shiny nickel.”
Vitals: Pacific Union International
Years in business: 40
Size: 28 offices, 684 agents
2015 sales volume: $7.63 billion
2015 transactions: 5,799
Region served: San Francisco Bay Area