Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the April issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine.
Name something, anything, that’s of top concern to a broker operating in today’s market, and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® has it covered. Competitive differentiation? On it. Consumer analysis? Got it. Cloud technology? Check. Global reach and luxury expertise? Done.
As the network transitions to its new, highly-skilled leadership team headed by President/CEO Paul Boomsma, LeadingRE has never been better positioned to champion independent brokers and solidify their place in a rapidly changing real estate environment. Whether it’s competition from traditional franchise brands or the new class of real estate disruptors, LeadingRE has stepped up its offerings on every level to enable its members to keep growing and succeeding.
And this was exactly the vision recently-retired President/CEO Pam O’Connor set in motion. “Succession planning was an obligation I took seriously, so I worked for some time to put the right people in place,” explains O’Connor. “They were clicking on all cylinders, the company was operating very successfully and the timing was perfect to pass the baton. LeadingRE has been very good to me. I wanted to leave it in a good place, and I believe I’ve done just that.”
LeadingRE Chairman of the Board Joe Horning, president of Shorewest REALTORS®, will work with the leadership team to take the network to the next level. “Growing our network with quality independent firms around the globe remains a priority—as does expanding the services and tools we offer to help them thrive in their marketplaces and retain their competitive positions,” says Horning. “Paul’s track record and skill in technology and marketing make him the ideal leader to continue accelerating what we offer our members.”
But First, the Members
There are many factors that have been responsible for LeadingRE’s success—and many more that will be critical for its next phase—but none more important than its members. Built by brokers and run by brokers, the network’s cadre of invitation-only member firms serves as a unique competitive advantage on today’s often homogenous real estate playing field.
“Our network was created because brokers wanted to do something different, something better than what was out there,” explains Boomsma, who was formerly chief operating officer of the network, as well as president of the company’s Luxury Portfolio International® division. “We are a hybrid—not a franchise, not an old-school referral network, but rather, a combination of the best qualities of both.”
This distinction defines the members that comprise the LeadingRE network. “We look for top-ranked brokerages in their respective markets because those companies are characterized by great leaders,” says Boomsma.
LeadingRE serves as a hub to 565 independent firms in 70 countries around the world, representing 130,000 sales associates. LeadingRE’s model supports members in doing what they do best—deploying their talent in the local real estate market—while LeadingRE takes care of delivering complimentary services that enhance their business and a powerful global network connecting them to buyers and sellers around the world.
“At the top end of the market, having global reach is particularly critical,” says Stephanie Anton, the new president of the Luxury Portfolio International® division. “The wealthy are wealthier than ever, and they typically own multiple homes in many locations. They want to know that their properties will have global exposure when being marketed. And they want to work with real estate professionals who are globally-aware, sophisticated, and, perhaps most importantly, connected.”
“The depth and breadth of LeadingRE’s reach is incomparable and differentiates us from our competition,” says Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Halstead Real Estate Diane Ramirez. “Our LeadingRE colleagues are best-in-class and truly the most established, notable brokerages in their respective markets.”
“In real estate, as in so many areas of life, your network is essential,” says Lulu Egerton, senior director and head of International Strategy for the United Kingdom’s 100-office Strutt & Parker. “Our affiliation with LeadingRE and Luxury Portfolio places us alongside the leading lights of our sector, opening doors and beckoning in mutually beneficial business relationships with our peers from around the world.”
What Today’s Consumers Want
“Independent brands are sought-after these days,” explains Boomsma. “Over the last decade, corporate brands lost some of their luster in the wake of the global economic crisis. A lot of people prefer the connectivity and authenticity of the local broker and the trust that comes with knowing who owns the firm and what they’re doing for the community.”
This preference was clear in the results of a LeadingRE-commissioned survey of more than 3,000 U.S. homeowners, conducted by McKee Wallwork + Co. and Decision Analyst, with more than 88 percent of respondents saying they preferred working with an agent from a “well-known, local real estate company,” while just 12 percent preferred those affiliated with a national franchise.
Ramirez explains, “One of the biggest advantages of being an independent brokerage is that our brand can be unique to us as a firm. We have the ability to define and differentiate who we are and truly own it. Our independence also empowers us to move on a dime and make nimble, autonomous decisions that will enhance our business.”
Local Powerhouses With Global Reach
A critical strategy woven into LeadingRE’s DNA is the continuous development of its strong global network. Today, the network boasts members in 70 countries around the globe, including the recent additions of Monaco, Ghana, Vietnam, India, Japan and Thailand.
“We have a passion for connecting like-minded, local market leaders and have extended that reach to six continents. We are the global brand behind the successful local brand,” says Chris Dietz, executive vice president of LeadingRE’s global operations.
LeadingRE members are automatically given powerful worldwide exposure and the distinction that comes from co-branding with LeadingRE.
And the need for being part of something international is becoming increasingly evident, explains Dietz. “Foreign investment in many markets is exploding. Being widely connected is not optional anymore—it’s a must—and we are the leaders in global expansion. We facilitate 40,000 client introductions annually between members and place referrals in over 100 countries.”
To truly succeed in the global marketplace, Dietz emphasizes the need for members to become immersed in the customs and cultures of colleagues in other countries. “Real estate professionals have to be more globally aware in order to turn these connections into profitable business transactions. You have to know the nuances and how to work with them in their market. That’s why participation in events like our Global Symposium in Barcelona and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Immersion Conference in Kuala Lumpur is so important.”
When it comes to selecting firms to invite to the LeadingRE global network, Dietz looks for both culture and high performance. “We prefer people with a vision. We want to add great people to our network who share our philosophy.”
Linking to Luxury Throughout
To become a competitive global network, having a powerful presence in the high-end market is essential. Luxury Portfolio International® is a vital pillar of the LeadingRE model, with strategic channels for reaching affluent consumers, including its award-winning website, luxuryportfolio.com, which last year marketed over 50,000 $1 million-plus properties around the world.
In order to help members stay competitive in the luxury arena, Luxury Portfolio carefully monitors trends.
“We keep a really close pulse on affluent consumer trends,” says Anton. “We’re always looking through the consumer lens: What are their priorities? How are they spending money? How can we best connect with them? We know that luxury is a lifestyle—a 360-degree approach to how they live.”
To that end, Luxury Portfolio recently released a groundbreaking trend report, “The Rise of the New Aristocracy,” which tracks a critical shift in this elusive demographic.
“In the last 12 years, we knew the affluent consumer was a boomer who was born ‘middle-class’ and whose wealth was self-generated rather than inherited. They were really approaching purchasing with practical decision-making, but we’re now at a unique moment in time when affluence is flipping from the wealthy boomers to the wealthy younger buyers who grew up in affluent households.”
Anton says, “They may want a traditional Tudor on the outside, but they want contemporary spaces inside—three to four bedrooms, dedicated space for exercise, wine rooms and theaters. It’s a fun and exciting time in the high-end—there’s a whole new group of people coming into the space.”
Next-Level Technology and Training
Whether it’s the Luxury Portfolio division or the global growth of the network, LeadingRE continues to keep the network a step ahead by providing a menu of cutting-edge tools, training and resources, all designed to help members deliver the best possible value proposition to agents and consumers.
“I’ve never seen a market where an excellent agent does not add value to a transaction,” says Boomsma. “We want to make sure brokers have all the best tools to support and articulate that value.”
LeadingRE also believes strongly in offering programs à la carte. “We have so many resources members can use,” adds Boomsma. “They can be strategic in choosing what’s right for them, and they don’t have to spend money wastefully. We are the antithesis of ‘cookie-cutter.'”
LeadingRE also sees itself as a learning organization committed to elevating performance through educational resources for its members, both at the agent level and for leadership. This is evidenced by its No. 1 ranking on Training magazine’s 2018 Training Top 125 list for organizational learning and development excellence across all industries worldwide. The network’s Institute, an online learning program with more than 350 proprietary courses, its world-class conferences and its MAESTRO Leadership Program played key roles in achieving this high honor.
Horning agrees that the education LeadingRE provides is essential to the ability of its members to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace. “Strengthening the leadership bench and growing second-tier leaders is a critical challenge for many of our brokerages,” says Horning. “LeadingRE’s MAESTRO Leadership Program addresses this need unlike anything in the industry, with an interactive curriculum that develops all facets of these next-generation leaders.”
Of course, remaining competitive also means staying ahead of the curve in the tech realm. To that end, LeadingRE recently announced the LeadingRE Cloud to empower members to connect with the most innovative technology as efficiently as possible.
“We’re taking an aggressive stance to simplify access to the latest technology and integration among different systems,” says Boomsma. “Sometimes people get chained to their technology because it’s just easier to stay with what they have versus change, which can be painful and expensive. We want them to be able to embrace the very best technology, affordably and seamlessly.”
“Brokers face the challenge of competing in a world of ever-changing technology, where everyone touts their latest platform,” agrees Horning. “The LeadingRE Cloud is our answer to this issue—making it easier for independents to deploy the latest innovations, but allowing them to choose the tools that work best for their company and their agents. While a large regional broker may have different needs than a boutique firm, all of our members will benefit from the efficiencies of the LeadingRE Cloud and the competitive edge it will bring them on the technology front.”
To ensure that edge, LeadingRE is also investing in Moderne Ventures, an investment fund focused on early-stage technology companies in the real estate space, so that its members have firsthand exposure to the next, best tools for clients and agents.
Making the Best Brokerages Better
No matter what level of success LeadingRE members have achieved, an openness and willingness to share is pervasive. “When you come to our events, there’s always someone you strive to be more like, and you’re humbled,” says Boomsma. “Our people find great value in learning from one another—and it doesn’t matter who you are: a broker leading a 25-agent boutique that outsells others in an affluent bedroom community, or a CEO of a company with thousands of agents whose brokerage ranks in the top 10 in the country. There’s always someone else who’s doing something different and is willing to share.”
It is these relationships that set LeadingRE apart. “The aspect of our affiliation that I value most highly,” says CIR Realty partner Ron Stader from Calgary, Canada, “is the strong relationships with premier brokers who have supported our company’s growth with idea-sharing and advice that have sparked innovation and higher levels of performance. The connections are invaluable on many levels—from referrals to best practices—and by helping one another, we all get better.”
According to Boomsma, LeadingRE’s mantra, “Making the Best Brokerages Better,” is centered on giving its market-leading brokerages a forum for collaboration and shared business opportunities, as well as access to extensive business resources that might be cost-prohibitive on their own. “At our core, we are a community of quality-focused, highly-productive firms—and that’s by design. From there, we provide the global capabilities that help them become even stronger in their local markets. As we enter this next stage in our history, we are excited to build on our successes and chart new territory to support member growth in ways that are uniquely ‘LeadingRE.'”