There have been many approaches to agent recruiting over the years, but an actual test of a brand isn’t how well it reels in agents; it’s how they retain them.
That could prove truer in the coming months and years as the housing market continues to transition to what some experts have already begun calling a “housing recession.”
That’s seemingly a non-issue at Realty ONE Group, as executives are looking toward the horizon for the Nevada-based brokerage, which has leaned on its company culture—known as “coolture”—to keep its current agents engaged but reel in new ones to boot.
We recently spoke with CEO Kuba Jewgieniew and President Vinnie Tracey to discuss how they’re positioning Realty ONE Group for continued growth despite recent shifts in the housing market.
Jordan Grice: What makes Realty ONE Group so unique is its ‘coolture’ and collaborative work environment. How have you maintained this culture in the advent of hybrid and remote work?
Kuba Jewgieniew: The philosophy from day one has been that everyone has a voice. We want everyone to feel not only that they are accepted and belong, but also that they can share truly and openly their personality as long as they lead with respect.
Respect is always No.1, and if respect breaks, relationships break. And you can’t go backwards, so always lead with respect. Then it’s the transparency.
There are a couple of things that all of us learned during quarantine. One is a combination of wanting less BS in our personal and business lives. Another thing we learned is that life is short, so let’s be transparent. If it fits, it works, and if it doesn’t, maybe it’s the timing or something else, but let’s talk openly and always lead with respect and not play poker with each other.
The special part of this culture is that we’ve evolved from colleagues and have become family and friends. In our industry, I read reports asking how companies can boost their agent retention rates or how the industry can extend that agent lifecycle. It’s not a science or formula. They have to want to be with us.
JG: How have you guided your agents and brokers during the recent macroeconomic challenges and shifts impacting the housing market?
KJ: We are coaching our franchise network not to modify, adjust or raise their commission fees, because once you get the momentum upwards, you keep it going. Downward momentum is hard to reverse.
With that positive momentum, we also advise them not to pass the higher inflation costs over to the customer—the agent—because the competition will use it against them. Think of it as an investment. There can be perks that attract and hook their interest, but once the agents come over, they will stay.
They are attracted by the brand, but attached to the culture.
Vinnie Tracey: We all know that when agents get pinched, or are in trouble financially, they start looking around. When you’ve had a market as we’ve had, there are only two ways to make more money. You either do more deals or get paid more on every sale. That’s the way agents have to look at that.
When you look at the last downturn, some legacy brands lost thousands of people because they were strict with their fees. That’s why others were able to load up on people. They wanted better splits, less overhead expenses and a seamless transition. We’ve all learned these lessons, and this is our time with our system to start seeing explosive growth.
JG: That said, it’s common in market downturns for broker/owners to consider consolidating or joining more prominent brands to weather the headwinds or hand over the reins. How is Realty ONE Group positioning itself as a potential landing spot for these folks?
KJ: We’re in the best position in this market shift. We welcome it. We have momentum with our leadership and experience, but everybody is empowered and supported. Part of our culture is always looking for reasons to celebrate with someone.
With these cycles, many things will happen, but to narrow it down, I would say many broker/owners from independent firms want a legacy. That is important now more than ever. They want to save face and their reputation. They don’t want to crash and burn.
Perhaps they want to jump and maybe get an earn-out in the next few years while also saving their reputation as it ties into their legacy. Some may want to blend in, merge or move in some of their agents so that they can coach.
JG: How is Realty ONE Group positioning its agents and brokers to succeed as the market slows?
KJ: First, with our coolture, pure learning and learning from each other because there are no two transactions that are alike, and that is an opportunity for them to connect with other Realty ONE agents in our safe, fun, happy, encouraging environment—within the offices and local communities.
Secondly, we are leveraging our proprietary coaching platform, ONE University. We are becoming a larger, stronger and more prevalent business coaching company. We lead with business first—business coaching, business meetings, business marketing and business tech.
The culture and ONE University go hand-in-hand. The first thing is to make sure our agents are committed and that this is the career for them. Their commitment will then allow us to guide them and not just coach them. It’s not a one-size-fits-all for Realty ONE professionals or real estate professionals as a whole.
JG: Looking ahead and with that momentum, what are some of the top milestones you want to achieve in the future?
VT: We always talk about marketshare, but another thing we talk about at our company is people and how we can promote our people and get them better. I never hear people talk about how you change people’s lives, and that’s what we do. Nothing is better than taking agents and helping them go from four to eight transactions. That may not sound like a whole bunch, but we’re talking about those agents driving a 12-year-old car who want a four-year-old car. Maybe they’ve never taken their wife or husband on a honeymoon or couldn’t afford to buy that engagement ring.
When I look at it, I want to uplift my people. We always talk about putting people on your shoulders, which I love about our company, because that’s what we do every day. Everyone always talks about marketshare and things like that, which is the end goal, but you get that marketshare when you help others.
KJ: I view it as helping people enjoy their lives, the freedom and flexibility. It’s a mixed bag, and everyone is doing the same thing. It’s a very straightforward business; for some, it may seem like a mad rush to reach specific numbers, but what if you’re not reaching those numbers? You’re getting close to those goals, and it’s realistically attainable, but then what?
Right now, we’re closing in on 20,000 agents, and Vinny always tells me that we don’t have to sell a single additional franchise and we can be at 30,000 in the next few years if we just stay the course.
The path that we charted was very intentional and thoughtful. We want to be a global organization, and that is why bringing Vinnie onboard was timely. If that was five years prior or later, I don’t know what that would look like. But it was timely, it’s working out great, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.