Above: Christy Budnick, CEO, on stage during her Keynote Speech at Sales Convention 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Berkshire Hathaway ranks as one of the world’s most trusted brands. Such exalted brand status and trust can create what is known as the “halo effect.” This effect extends a consumer’s trust in Berkshire Hathaway to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, its prestigious brokerages and its network of accomplished global real estate professionals. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ CEO Christy Budnick understands that while network value begins with the brand name, it certainly does not end there. Budnick’s expanded definition of network value was the basis for both her keynote address at the recent Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention 2022, and its theme. The theme and her mission were captured in one compelling word: invaluable.
Budnick made her message clear to the enthusiastic, several thousand-member audience, that ultimate value, or invaluability, was under their control. Invaluability beyond the brand must also be associated with the deliverance of network member knowledge, skill, professional integrity, personal service and preferred partner home services. Invaluablity for Budnick also extends to her service teams and business consultants, providing the network with best-in-class marketing, training, coaching and the never-ending development of relevant real estate-related technology within an ever-changing technological environment.
Budnick spoke passionately about the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. The audience was also inspired by their network CEO to donate to a Ukraine relief effort spearheaded by network member Keith Crow, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Santa Fe Real Estate. Crow recently flew to Poland, rented a car and started driving refugees out of Ukraine to safer ground at the Polish border.
Transitioning from larger societal issues back to the business realm and the need for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices to continue striving to be the leader in issues surrounding real estate competency, culture and cause, Budnick outlined several key initiatives. Her announcements represented a series of programs, products and services, as well as the brand’s 2022 media campaign.
Forever on the forefront of innovative marketing and social conversations, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ new campaign reflects a series of different and distinctive real estate journeys. Led by SVP of Global Marketing Wendy Durand, the initiative comprises a video series that not only represents the commitment to network members as Forever Agents, but also the network’s commitment as a “For Everyone” brand.
Also introduced was a new coaching program spearheaded by the global network training team of Bob Watson and Dohn Bower. The coaching program will be distinct from generic and industry-wide coaching programs. Network members were also reminded of the importance of both their Forever Brand and their opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition as Forever Agents. A testament to the real and perceived value of Forever Agent status was reflected in the standing-room-only attendance at sessions that were devoted to the Forever Agent Marketing System and the opportunity to make a “Forever Agent Pledge.” Chairman Gino Blefari proudly posted his Forever Agent pledge sticker on his lapel.
“Our sophisticated network of real estate professionals realizes that in order to serve their forever clients requires that they be viewed and accepted by such clients as forever agents,” Budnick said. “If we keep calling consumers past clients, we will be referred to as past agents. In order to have forever clients, it will require that you not just be valuable, but truly invaluable.”
Budnick believes that the age of proptech, artificial intelligence, attempts at listing-side disruption, discount brokerages and many external efforts to seize top-of-mind share with consumers, and specifically home sellers, will require our network to continue to evolve well beyond value to invaluable.
Sharing one of her favorite Warren Buffett quotes, Budnick said, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out. In some ways, I am looking forward to the market changing a bit…there will be a lot of naked swimmers out there. It won’t be pretty, but it will not be us.”
Budnick is also adamant that the evolution of the brand must progress with integrity, as constantly reinforced by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Teresa Palacios Smith.
Making the conference a global affair, thanks to the efforts of Executive VP of Global Business Development Michael Jalbert, many global leaders and university class contributors joined from around the world.
This successful and most memorable convention was also defined by its best-in-class exhibiting partners, the 73 university classes created by Senior Vice President Rosalie Warner. Further reinforcing Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ distinctive culture were gatherings honoring the importance of the LGBTQ+ community, diversity, luxury, commercial, global and the REthink network, a brand-based society for young and upcoming superstars.
Exemplifying this heightened sense of network bonding was an evening at the venerated Churchill Downs Racetrack. Countless network members rose to the occasion, and in the tradition of the Kentucky Derby, adorned colorful and ostentatious hats. This funfest included watching a series of races exclusively arranged by convention planning and organizing expert Denise Doyle, vice president, Conference and Meeting Services, for the benefit of our network. This event guaranteed memories for a lifetime, as the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network fully commandeered all of Churchill Downs, for the whole enjoyment of network professionals, their friends and family members. Adding spectacular spice to the conference, in addition to transcendent main-stage keynoters Jade Simmons and Magi Cook, was the electrifying and turbo-charged performance and showmanship of Lenny Kravitz and his band, benefiting The Sunshine Kids Foundation, all beautifully orchestrated by Doyle and her incredible team.
As an author and admittedly subjective “deputized” inside reporter by RISMedia for this specific article, I wish to end on this following note. This is my personal message to the real estate industry at large. The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices global convention, like most other real estate brands and brokerage conferences, was attended by some of the finest, hardest working, caring, community-centric and invaluable professionals. Other than doctors, teachers and first responders, I am hard-pressed to think of other global professions that are represented by such a high level of humanity, entrepreneurship and invaluability.