Why’d You do it?
Many of you know that Rick and I left Coldwell Banker in July of this year. We get all kinds of questions from friends and colleagues, the main ones are “Why did you leave?” and “How did you do it?“. ( I apologize for the length of this article in advance….so unlike me.)
Before I explain, let me first say that Coldwell Banker was good to us, we learned a great deal the 4 plus years we were there, their corporate structure fit our business model and we would not have changed a single thing. The decision to leave came about because of a shift in our business due to the fluctuating real estate market where Coldwell Banker was no longer meeting our needs and was not helping our goals. We left doors open and were so glad that neither locks were changed nor ugly communications sent out as we had seen many times when colleagues left big brokerages.
Decision to Leave
With big corporations come rigid rules. We joined a big brokerage for the big name and the corporate backing. Rick and I both had corporate backgrounds and appreciated structure and set rules. There were procedures for everything, had to follow a chain of command and it was a relief not to be penny picked for signs, desk fees, copies, office assistance, open house ads, business cards …….(the list can go on forever with some brokerages).
But as the real estate market started to change and main-stream marketing was no longer effective, we had to work on our brand more than ever before and were making sales from our own Internet marketing, not so much from The Mega Brokerage National Marketing efforts.
After months of not getting leads from our brokerage, not seeing results from their marketing efforts, and starting to see resistance from our office with regards to our methods, we knew we had outgrown the Mega Brokerage. Our business model had changed from right under our feet and Coldwell Banker was no longer a good match for us.
Where to go?
We started researching several local brokerages to see who would be the best fit. Would it be a virtual office? Could it be another Mega Broker with less rigid rules? or would we go with a boutique company that believed and would compliment our efforts?
The third one won. Priding ourselves in customer service and having learned the importance of engaging people with blogging and social networking, we were impressed when the CEO of Majestic Properties took time from his day to meet with us and give us some F2F (that’s Face-to-face time for the text challenged ones).
It was not a hard decision, we then had to figure out how to make it happen without the move killing our bottom line.
How did we do it?
Rick and I are the most black and white people you will meet and everything we do has to be by the book. We are not the sly people that can slither through situations but had a challenge before us. We knew we could not take our listings if we left (about 18 of them at the time), and any pending transactions would be capped and loose a lot of money. We also knew that if we announced our departure, there could be a possibility of being asked to leave on the spot and would not have a chance to breathe.
We decided to speak to all of our listing clients and tell them the truth; we had outgrown our mega brokerage and the listings did not belong to us, but CB. We told them that although they were our clients, we were not allowed to solicit their business. If they wanted to continue to work with us, they would have to wait until their listings expired. We explained that our listings would be reassigned to another agent who would be thorough and would handle the sale of their property. (We knew this from an agent that had left our office the previous year and we had been assigned as the “handling agents” in the interim).
I had to admit I felt good when a lot of our clients were outraged that they had hired us not the brokerage and felt cheated that another agent would be assigned to them. We told them that we could not solicit their business and it would be up to them to make the request.
I am happy to say that all but one of our listings wanted to stay with us. There is no price for Loyalty in our business and was so happy to hear our clients wanted us, not the brokerage.
Breaking the News
We broke the news to our manager the day we decided to leave. We had grown very fond of everyone in the office and it was not an easy thing to do. No locks were changed, doors remained open for us and our manager was sad to see us go. She explained what would happen with the remaining listings and pending deals and asked us to reconsider. We already knew the steps and there were no surprises, we had made the decision to make the change and live with the consequences.
Fast Forward 4 months
It was not easy and there was a lot of stress involved. I think what made the move smooth was the fact that we knew what to expect and we did not try to fight it. We followed protocol when it came to split changes and loss of commissions. The fact that all but one client stayed with us was more than we would have expected. Some of the clients that remained wrote letters to the broker and were released, others had to wait for the listing to expire.
We are so happy with our new brokerage and see such a different attitude when it comes to bending the rules and understanding that in a challenging market, flexibility is key. In addition to all the red-tape we had to to through, we see camaraderie in our new office and people learning from each other instead of always being on the defensive. The fact that we can now talk to our broker when we have an idea and don’t have to go through a chain of command and wait days for a response is huge for us. We have grown in 4 short months and although we ask ourselves why we did not make the move sooner, we know that we had to wait for the perfect time
I was waiting for things to cool down to tell this story in order to give you a more objective viewpoint of the process. To make a move from a big brokerage you need to really plan and make sure you are making the right decision.
- know what protocol is for your current brokerage when someone leaves (where listings stay, if there is a change in commission structures, what happens to pending deals, what communication will be allowed with all parties once the change is finalized).
- Do a little research and find out how others that have left have been treated and learn from their mistakes
- Be honest – always keep in mind the Code of Ethics and make sure you don’t violate any laws or rules
- Have realistic expectations
- Be upfront and communicate the process to your clients
- Have a solid plan and schedule
But the most important piece of advice I can give you is to really analyze the reasons you are looking for change and make sure you assess the consequences to make sure it is worth the trouble and aggravation. I take a deep breath 4 months later when I look back at all the obstacles we had to go through – for us it was worth it and if I had a chance to do it differently, I would not change a thing.