One of Christy Budnick’s favorite Warren Buffett quotes is, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”
Earlier this year at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the CEO shared the quote with the audience of more than 5,000 real estate professionals who had traveled from around the world to collaborate, learn and celebrate the network’s staggering $179.9 billion in sales volume in 2021.
She went on to share with the audience that she was looking forward to seeing the market turn just a little bit, to reveal those who would be swimming naked.
As we have recently seen, the market has indeed shifted “just a little bit,” and we now know who is swimming naked. As Budnick predicted, it’s not us.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a company committed to doing business the right way. We are the only real estate company entrusted as the steward of the Berkshire Hathaway name. For decades, the brand has stood strong on its morals and values, and has been unwavering in its commitment to success, not just for today, but forever. One of the greatest sayings—there is always a tomorrow in business—rings ever so true for our company’s ethos. And it’s upon this ideal and our four core pillars—trust, integrity, stability and longevity—that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices real estate professionals, its leadership team and every single staff member conduct their business each day.
“We are the forever brand,” Budnick told the audience at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention.
Forever is a concept that we constantly have in our minds at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—forever learning, forever creating, forever connecting, forever investing, forever forward and for everyone. Every member of our network has adopted the forever notion, and agents are proudly distinguished as Forever Agents.
The Forever Agent Movement began when Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Chairman Gino Blefari first appeared on RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine cover. He shared with the magazine that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices would position itself as “The Forever Brand”—echoing Buffett’s statement that Berkshire Hathaway is a forever brand. Consequently, Blefari, an industry icon, concluded that this commitment to longevity should also be a core value of our real estate brand. Since then, the network’s MVPs have become known as Forever Agents.
Each year, sports leagues or teams award just one MVP to a single individual considered to be the most valuable player in that sports league or particular team. Conversely, our MVPs will be awarded to a global, network-wide cross-section of Motivation, Vision and Purpose. How we classify our MVPs is judged not merely upon how they are better than their competitors, but how they represent the vivid embodiment of being the very best professionals they can be for their clients.
The adoption and significance of what it means to be a Forever Agent has exponentially grown under Budnick’s leadership. She is the perfect CEO for these times and beyond, and has strategically employed her significant leadership skills, deep brokerage experience and demand for collaboration in creating and coordinating, along with her task-proficient teams and consultants, the proportional convergence of technology, innovation, coaching, education, social media, marketing and client-centric services. Her continuing and unrelenting efforts have gained profound respect and admiration within the entire global network.
Budnick’s criteria surrounding the importance of being valuable resides deep within her real estate DNA. Her Louisville theme, “InvalYOUable,” is revealing. As CEO, she is cognizant that network agents will remain viable in the age of increasing artificial intelligence, proptech, fee unbundling and discount offerings galore, by highlighting what truly matters the most to people as they embark on making the biggest financial and personal decisions of their lives: relationships.
In order for Forever Agents and MVPs to become one and the same, the term “Forever Agent” must mean exponentially more than a mere slogan or statement. Drawing a dramatic distinction between all other real estate agents and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Forever Agents requires that the Forever Agent professional pedigree be supported by distinct services, systems, solutions, education and coaching, all customized in order to meet the needs of communities, consumers, clients and, of course, network Forever Agents.
To convert Forever Agent aspiration into inspiration, implementation and impact, Budnick brought together divisional leaders from IT, marketing, global network training, and research and development, with her directive to develop the following: a fully comprehensive and interactive digital Forever Agent coaching and training program; one which would include a deep immersive experience, with a focus on countless intangibles, where the education is geared toward developing a Forever Agent mindset.
The Forever Agent then moves on to the pledging ceremony. When inducted, Forever Agents pledge to the brand’s four foundational pillars. Moving forward, the commitment to excellence continues via the Forever Agent Coaching System. This program is a year-long educational initiative that is devoted to further refining the skills for Forever Agents to best serve their clients.
Network CEOs whose companies have embraced the Forever Agent movement readily embrace the concept.
According to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Toronto Realty CEO Mark Wadden, for example, the Forever Agent mindset, marketing and movement is “the best concept I have ever seen in real estate.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty CEO Rei Mesa says, “In all my years and with several brands, I have never seen a program, either from within or without of a brand, that is even close to providing such value to network agents as the Forever Agent marketing system, implementation workbook, pledge ceremony and action plan. We had approximately 400 agents register for Allan Dalton’s two-hour Zoom orientation, and not one left early. That is unprecedented here in beautiful Florida.”
To be an MVP, or as Budnick would say, “to be truly invaluable,” also requires “Forever education.” Not just education, which is forever connected to all aspects of a real estate transaction, but also a focus on developing a real estate practice, not just a business. Doctors, attorneys and medical professionals can often sell their businesses because they view what they own as a practice with clients versus a business of customers and past clients. Forever Agents become MVPs to their communities as well by learning the significant difference between serving and representing the real estate needs of the community.
Another differentiator that distinguishes Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Forever Agents is their willingness and openness to share not only best practices, but “next practices.” This sharing of information is encouraged by Budnick, who has established global mastermind groups. An additional platform for idea-sharing is the REthink Council, a corporate initiative formed to connect and inspire top-producing leaders in the network, established and led by Senior Vice President Rosalie Warner and co-hosted by Vince Leisey and Jimmy Burgess, two revered and forward-planning CEOs within the global network.
Blefari and Budnick reinforce the message that as one of the world’s most trusted and aspirational brands, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will serve the real estate needs of all markets, all consumers and all clients. Exemplary examples of how Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is one of the world’s premier “For Everyone” brands are reflected in its rapid global growth led by Executive Vice President of Global Business Development Michael Jalbert, and its unwavering commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion led by Chief Diversity Officer Teresa Palacios Smith.
For now, the general consensus of Budnick’s leadership team, her mastermind groups and the brand’s network of leading brokerages is that the best way to continue to recognize MVPs within the entire industry is to continue to elevate the value and relevance of Forever Agents by helping these professionals leverage working with a brand that is the real estate leader in trust and innovation.
Allan Dalton is the senior vice president of research and development for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. For more information, visit https://www.bhhs.com/.