“So, have you written the State of the Firm blog post yet?” I was just asked. Basking in the glow of the Christmas break, with three teenagers here and an 11 year old out with friends as I type this, I laugh because as much as I love writing this stuff, time is a rough factor. That said, I am making the time to summarize the company’s 13th full year of production, because we have much to celebrate.
First and foremost, the dust is still settling on the final numbers, but we are flirting with our best year ever in terms of number of closed transaction and dollar volume closed. I’d like to say that is gratifying, especially in light of the venture-capital-backed competition that has entered the market, but I’ll cop to being frustrated that the firm hasn’t grown more. I’m competitive. I’ve been spoiled by past years with 20-40% growth year over year. I hate status quo. But that’s not the real world.
Last year at this time, in the Hudson Gateway MLS, we had 284 closed transactions for $89.5 Million, and that doesn’t include 4 other MLS systems where we do an additional measure of business. This year, the numbers are very similar: 282 closed transactions for about $91 million. That puts us at a ranking of 25th out of about 1300 firms, and no other Westchester or Putnam-based independent selling more units than our firm for the 4th year running. When we factor in business from other systems we should be well over $100 million closed and 300 transactions. Not too shabby.
The Putnam office, with numbers still yet to be finalized from the MLS at this writing, is flirting with a market ranking of either 5th or 6th in overall transactions, which is bananas. What Jenn Maher has accomplished with that division in just three full years is utterly remarkable. Jenn, who as you may know is my partner in J. Philip Commercial brokerage as well as the Putnam operation, has done this great work while operating as the Hudson Valley Chapter Vice President of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors as well. Jenn has also started a bar-raising video series on social media that has upped the stature of the entire firm. Spectacular.
Last year at this time I announced that Gloria Hernandez would take over the day to day management of The Briarcliff Manor office in addition to her duties overseeing Pelham, and her guidance and leadership were instrumental in another strong year of production. Gloria’s commitment to training and developing a basic curriculum for new agents, as well as compiling a cyber library of our accumulated knowledge has laid the groundwork for what I predict will be a breakout year for the firm in 2019. Gloria also spearheaded a training system (Thanks to Alyssa Hellman and her Game Plan system) for our part-time agents who want to transition into full time, and I expect that will pay dividends in 2019 as well.
Speaking of training: 2018 was the first year the company had a year long program of agent training that resulted in a dramatic improvement in contracts written in the second half of the year. Simply put, if we continue the pace of contracts signed that we set from July onward, we will see at least a 20% increase in sales in 2019. For that I have to thank Anthony Lamacchia’s REAL Training, which was a remarkable program that made a dramatic impact. It punctuated that for me, the theme of 2018 was training and investing in the professional development of the firm’s agents at a level heretofore unseen.
A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the support staff and administrative people who make things work around here. Ronnie DeMeo, in her 11th year with the firm, headed the team and was a priceless asset to the brand. We saw amazing value from Nancy Green in Putnam and Rosaline Cruz in Pelham, who, while new to the firm in 2018 was not new to excellence. Each of them epitomized professionalism and a commitment to supporting the team that no other firm can match in my opinion. We also said hello to a new Transaction Coordinator, Michele Kantrowitz, who seems to have never found a task at which she did not excel.
For a number of years I have benefited from Maureen Jacobson‘s consultative prowess, and her insight and support has been stellar. She’s been an irreplaceable coach.
As for the agents, all I can say is that I won’t be shocked to see 2019 be our best year ever by far judging by their commitment, talent, and hard work. A few facts:
- 2018 was the highest total of agents who closed $1 million or more, going from 26 to 32 with a few others on the cusp.
- As I said before, no Westchester or Putnam based independent brokerage sold more than our company. You can’t accomplish that with mediocre agents.
- We slashed the amount of escalations where managerial intervention was needed to deal with a problem on a transaction. That’s huge from a professional standards metric, especially with almost 100 on the team.
- As for the consumer experience, we had more 5-Star ratings from clients than any prior year.
- Repeat business and referral business was high, which is a great vote of confidence from past clients.
- The morale and esprit de corps of our team of professionals was remarkable.
As for that last point: When we did a series of recruiting videos from some of the agents giving their experience here, I was floored (and humbled) that their favorite thing wasn’t our tech, which has always been strong, the most common descriptor was “family.” Wow. That says quite a bit about the support and collegiality of the team.
While the subject of video is up, I compiled a number of short housing related videos on my LinkedIn. I also was active on the Village of Ossining Historic Preservation Commission, as well as being a member of the Sing Sing Prison Museum committee.
So where do we go from here? Unlike past years where I predicted higher production based on perhaps hubris or momentum, I believe that our training and recruiting systems are now in place to grow the firm in an unprecedented way. We continue to attract stronger and stronger agents to the company, and our best recruiters are the agents themselves, although we are proceeding in a more formal way to get the word out about what a great professional home we are for the ethical, professional agent.
I’ll reiterate that the long term goal is to grow the brokerage to a billion dollar level of production, and my methodology has been to hire the best agents in terms of character and commitment, not necessarily looking for gaudy numbers coming in. We don’t hire just anybody. For the right person, we will continue to provide the best possible tools to serve their clientele, with an eye on growth.
In years past, I’ve made numerical predictions, but this year I’m going to be a bit more coy. I’m looking for good agents who want to grow their practices the right way. My role is evolving from chasing deals to procuring the best training, tools and professional infrastructure. 2019 will be centered on providing those agents with the best tools and training possible, and this year I can say that we’ve never laid the groundwork the way we have in the past 12 months. So I’m not worried about numbers; we’ll let the bean counters do their work while we do ours.
Here’s to a great 2019. We have much to be thankful for, and I expect magic.