Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the June 2020 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today.
“Waking Up to Win.” It’s an everyday kind of attitude. It’s how Realty ONE Group began, and it became their rallying cry during the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the spring. The company’s focus was not just on surviving the days when the world was closed for business, but instead, thrusting the organization and the careers of its professionals into overdrive.
Do What We Always Do COVID-19 has had devastating effects, the most tragic of which is the loss of life. With it, the fast-spreading virus also brought fear, isolation and economic turmoil. But within this calamity, we saw the best of the human spirit as people turned their grief into determination—determination to see and do good, and a determination to persevere.
How do we turn our new and uncertain environment into success? How do we make it an opportunity to rise above and be better than we were before? To be the best of the best? These are questions Realty ONE Group leadership has consistently asked in its pursuit to be one of real estate’s most revered brands.
Believing that you start every day with a determination to win, work hard, stay humble and lift each other up is an everyday attitude for the company’s employees and growing band of affiliates around the U.S. and Canada. What started as a “coolture” of caring, success and fun has led to a charge to make Realty ONE Group one of the first real lifestyle brands in the industry.
More than just providing a product or service, a lifestyle brand works to inspire, guide and motivate people, actually affecting the consumer’s way of life. That’s a big goal, but the leadership team at Realty ONE Group is determined to reach it, and their resolve has only been strengthened through this event.
Because Realty ONE Group already had a mindset to persevere and win, there was no need to pivot at the onset of the crisis. Instead, it was full steam ahead.
Faith Over Fear Kuba Jewgieniew, CEO and founder of Realty ONE Group—which is celebrating its 15th anniversary—is the son of political refugees from Poland who immigrated to the United States decades ago. As a true sign of patriotism and gratitude for the opportunity to start a new, more prosperous life, Jewgieniew’s father joined the U.S. Army and was deployed to Korea in the 1950s.
“My parents worked hard, earned their way to happy and healthy lives and always treated people with the utmost respect,” says Jewgieniew. “This country gave my parents a chance, and we will forever be grateful.”
It’s a gratitude that has always led Jewgieniew to appreciate others, just like his counterpart on the executive team, Realty ONE Group’s President, Vinnie Tracey.
“This business has always been about the people for me,” says Tracey, who in his more than 35 years in real estate has built deeply personal relationships with professionals from all brands. “When your goal is to help people succeed no matter what, the environment you’re operating in doesn’t really change that.”
That’s why, when the virus began to take hold of our world, Realty ONE Group’s leadership and staff put a new plan in motion to help its real estate professionals settle in with a “Faith-Over-Fear” mantra. The goal was not just to help agents survive the pandemic and get to the other side, but to help them be better than they’d ever been before, busting through the doors as soon as they opened again.
“Worry doesn’t change anything; it really just clouds your mind with negativity,” says Jewgieniew. “It’s like sitting in a rocking chair—there’s a lot of activity, energy and motion, but zero progress.”
Progress is what the company was determined to make during a time when others would sit, watch and wait. Not only did Realty ONE Group sell more than a dozen franchises during the pandemic, the group also hosted virtual recruiting meetings open to all real estate pros. The approach was sensitive, given the timing, but direct, clearly demonstrating the YOU-first focus that is the crux of the company’s business model.
“Our model puts more money in the agent’s pocket while still providing unparalleled support,” says Mike Clear, Realty ONE Group’s chief operating officer. “While this situation came with a new set of challenges that none of us could have anticipated, our value proposition was put on display, and the response was spectacular.”
Clear oversees Realty ONE Group’s human resources, marketing, coaching and learning, and product and development teams, all of which were instrumental in moving the company forward during the last few months with new website launches, new training and a host of new marketing assets.
“It’s not about how you manage during these times,” says Clear. “It’s about having the foresight to know there will be new opportunities ahead as a result of your current experience. And we knew we’d be more than ready.”
Trailblazing ‘Always-On’ Communication It didn’t take long—no more than 10 days, in fact, before the first stay-at-home orders began to roll out—and the company began to act, launching Zoom Town Hall meetings for real estate professionals in the morning and for broker/owners and managers in the early afternoon. By now, Zoom meetings are the norm, but Realty ONE Group was one of the first in the industry to host them and, per the company’s coolture, all real estate professionals were welcome. The calls consistently averaged between 500 and 600 for the agent Town Hall and 100 for the broker/owner and manager version.
The Town Halls were meant to inspire and drive success, featuring experts and motivators from inside and outside the industry. One of the more popular calls, garnering more than 1,000 attendees, was a chat with U.S. Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, who was credited with killing Osama bin Laden. His lively conversation with Jewgieniew and team was pure insight into how to persevere in traumatic situations.
But the company also showed off its true, dynamic coolture, kicking off each call with a DJ and lively music while attendees got to see the personalities of Realty ONE Group’s leadership who joined every call, every day.
“This is who we are. This is our coolture and what makes us different from the others, and we were grateful for the opportunity to let others experience it firsthand,” says Jewgieniew. “We love what we do, and we have such a respect and love for each other. We are ONE community, and I think that was more obvious now than ever.”
Seeing that its professionals were hungry for more, Realty ONE Group launched a new website called “Waking Up to Win,” which hosts daily podcasts, transcripts from all the calls, a free business plan, motivational videos, and more. The site also includes a link to Realty ONE Group’s comprehensive, proprietary learning platform, ONE University (ONE.U), so that agents outside the network can access thousands of courses and training for free for 30 days.
“We pushed the non-essential aside and became laser-focused on delivering every asset, training, guide or plan our professionals would need to keep doing business and doing business in a big way,” says Clear. “The key was to not look at a pause in real estate as downtime. If anything, we kicked it up a notch so that our agents could do the same.”
Giving—More Important Than Ever During the pandemic, many people missed out on important birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and more, but so many still found a way to celebrate. Similarly, Realty ONE Group was set to mark its 15th anniversary on May 1 with its traditional ONE Day, a company-wide day of volunteering in the community. ONE Day is just one important part of the company’s overall spirit of giving, orchestrated through its ONE Cares, 501(c)3 philanthropic arm.
But social distancing and stay-at-home orders wouldn’t deter the rapidly-growing franchisor from giving back, and so, Realty ONE Group launched a special ONE Day webpage that featured 15 ways—a nod to its 15th anniversary—to virtually make an impact and do things for others. The company then engaged its broad-reaching network to share how they’re making a difference for others using the hashtag #GiveONEBack.
“Our real estate professionals and offices are doing this every day in the communities they serve, but it’s now more important than ever to reach out and help,” says Jewgieniew. “The need continues to be great, which means we have to do more than our part to help each other, support our partners in local business and to be as charitable and gracious as we can possibly be.”
For that reason, and in honor of Mental Health Month, Realty ONE Group made a May 1st donation of $11,111 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The organization works to build better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
The company is so very proud of its track record of giving, including another $11,111 donation last Fall to the Beverly Carter Foundation, which works to keep all real estate professionals safe. Realty ONE Group made an on-the-spot donation at the RISMedia Power Broker Dinner in November, moved by the foundation’s founder and son of Beverly Carter, Carl Carter Jr., who was being recognized that evening. The company now vows to support Carter and the foundation as much as it can and even hosted a walk/run down the Las Vegas strip during its annual ONE Summit in March to raise the visibility of the foundation.
“It would be amazing to love each other more, because greed and hate are absurd,” says Jewgieniew. “We’re proud to support the Beverly Carter Foundation, as their mission is bigger than one brand. It’s about all of us. We’re all in this together, just as we are now.”
The hashtag #GiveONEBack was shared widely during May along with a short video the company produced thanking healthcare professionals and frontline workers. The two-minute video was a short story about the world needing superheroes and was narrated by an adorable collection of the children of Realty ONE Group families who ended the piece by thanking heroes around the world.
A Spirit That Thrives Jewgieniew has proven himself to be a fierce innovator and relentless entrepreneur who refuses to abide by norms or cower to challenges. His faith in himself, the company and others is endearing, but it’s also the spirit that inspires a network of more than 13,000 Realty ONE Group professionals in over 42 states and two Canadian provinces.
Combined with Tracey’s decades of real estate experience, which included the literal implosion of the housing market in 2008, and a seasoned leadership team with a diverse background, the group knew they would not be a company swallowed up by another after a potential economic collapse. Encouraged by the resilience and determination of their own franchisees, they viewed every day as an opportunity to deliver something valuable.
“We left no stone unturned when it came to coaching our offices and real estate professionals on how to conduct business virtually while preparing for an open and lively summer housing market,” says Clear. “The topics for the day were driven by the network. They asked, and we responded, finding subject matter to coach them through everything from expanding their digital footprint to budget planning.”
Each town hall also offered words of encouragement and support along with new definitions of faith like, “Finding Answers in the Heart” or “Another One.” Realty ONE Group is not a company that shies away from loving and supporting each other like family.
Jewgieniew would conclude emails to employees and managers with simple words like “a healthy mind is a healthy life.” The company avoided laying anyone off, and while thanking their team for their continued work, also encouraged its staff to find time to go outside, enjoy the sun and clean air and bonus time with their families.
It’s something Jewgieniew, and now the entire company, refers to as “The Power of ONE.”
“Sharing in each other’s successes and believing in ONE another to make the entire network stronger, better…that’s the Power of ONE,” says Jewgieniew.
Realty ONE Group can now safely say that this spirit prevails even in the most trying and isolating times.
What’s Now, What’s Next Throughout the crisis, Jewgieniew has referred to the pandemic as a reset, not making light of the devastating challenges and loss many families have faced. But it has been a reset of our lives, helping us reprioritize, hold onto the things that are near and dear, appreciate everything we have, big or small, and know that human connection is something to be cherished.
“What’s now, what’s next,” is a favorite saying of Jewgieniew, finding its way into business planning, events and even the company’s marketing. This is because it’s a constant focus for him.
“To find the new has become my passion and almost my profession over the years,” he says. “If it has the potential to change the lives of many for the better, then I want to know about it and be involved.”
In its 15 years of tremendous growth and bucking all real estate norms as the industry’s “UNBrokerage,” Realty ONE Group has changed many lives for the better, and they’re not done yet.
“I’ve only accomplished about 5 percent of my vision for this company and for real estate,” says Jewgieniew. “As always, the future depends on what you do today, and our future couldn’t be bigger, brighter and bolder.”
To find out how you can be a part of ONE of the fastest growing real estate franchisors today, visit www.realtyonegroup.com.
Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.