On a regular afternoon 10 years ago, I sat in my office talking to a client on the phone and didn’t like what they told me. An admin from my office had tried to sell them title insurance and mortgage services, and I thought that was pushy and obnoxious.
When I hung up the phone, I complained to the guy sitting next to me. He mocked me and said, Oh. You think you can do it better yourself, Janis Benstock real estate?
And I thought, Yes. Yes. I can.
And so I did.
My brokerage will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and I have never looked back.
But that doesn’t mean it has always been easy. It surely has been tough at times.
Thinking about starting your own Real Estate Brokerage? Well, get ready for an exhilarating journey! Starting your own brokerage can be incredibly rewarding, but it requires some serious planning and execution.
Here are 5 things I learned the hard way about opening my own brokerage.
1: Let’s Get Down to Business Planning
They say you need a solid business plan, but I am more of an intuitive, fly by the seat of my pants entrepreneur. I resisted creating a business plan because I didn’t know how.
I was just too excited to jump right in and didn’t want to slow down and actually plan.
Although I still stand by the mantra, progress over perfection, and believe in not getting trapped in the details, a little bit of planning would have saved me some really hard times.
A strong foundation would have made it easier to build a solid brokerage.
Even if you aren’t the formal type, at least give thought to your mission and vision for your company and commit to writing as much as you can about how the company will operate.
Think about the day to day operations of your business now, and realize that soon you will be responsible for all of it.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
The best thing I ever did for the health of my brokerage was to ask for help by hiring a business strategist. It has saved me so much time on the learning curve and it’s difficult to even put a number on the return on my investment.
My only wish is that I would have done it sooner.
2: Choose a name that you can grow into
I love my name, Settle Down Philadelphia. It is catchy and a play on words. People freaking love it.
It does a great job of being location specific, yet it also restricts me to a certain area, Philadelphia.
As I have grown, we have started listing outside the city, but it looks kind of weird to see a Settle Down Philadelphia sign in Bala Cynwyd or Doylestown.
I am still working through this issue and deciding where to go from here.
Maybe I will just drill down and be the Queen of Philadelphia, or will I look for a way to expand my name to be more geographically inclusive. This is not something I thought about when I started, but you can learn from my mistake.
3: Assemble a Dream Team of Experienced Agents
The success of your brokerage hinges on the quality of your agents.
For way too long I hired the wrong people. I only hired agents who were just starting out. I told myself that I wanted agents who were fresh so I could train and mold them, rather than seasoned agents who might already have bad habits or big egos.
I spent all of my time trying to train, motivate and manage baby agents. It was exhausting and unproductive. It wasn’t good for them, and it definitely wasn’t good for me. It meant I still had to go out and sell houses in order to pay the bills.
After much soul searching and work with my strategist, I uncovered some limiting beliefs I had that held me back from going after the seasoned agents. I shifted my mindset, started to believe that I, and my brokerage, are good enough for top producers.
Now I make it a priority to start discussions with at least 5 agents each week.
4: Be well funded
If I would have waited till I had enough money to start a brokerage, I would still be waiting. I self funded by the seat of my pants. It was scary and hard, but I did it. I never wanted a partner, so I wasn’t interested in investors.
Yet, I struggled.
What would have been nice would have been some balance. Maybe a business loan or a personal loan to get me started, so that more of my energy could have been spent on building instead of surviving.
Maybe you are ok with a partner. If so, do it now and make your life easier.
Spend some time thinking about why you are opening the brokerage and what you want to accomplish to help flesh out the best financial strategy for you and your new company.
As unsexy as it sounds, do some budgeting and come up with a plan on how you are going to produce the income to carry your business.
Get creative, and believe that if you put your mind to it, you will find a way to thrive.
Step 5: Find the Perfect Office Space
Does your state even require a physical office? Mine does, but my agents hardly use it.
Yet, my first office was spacious with a custom made workspace for agents but they never came. It was cool and in a trendy part of town, but it was down a flight of steps, so people walked by and hardly saw that we were there. Some customers had a hard time with the steps, and we were in a freaking basement. What was I thinking?
My second office was street level in a prewar building with lots of charm, but much smaller than the basement office. All I had for agents was a hot pink showpiece sofa to congregate on. I moved to an area with foot traffic, but we hardly had any walk-ins and parking was impossible.
I am now on my 3rd (and hopefully final office) and it is a perfect combination of convenience and flex space for agents. Rather than desks that they never use, I am creating a media center where they can come in and shoot video for their socials. I also have a proper conference room for closings, and parking!
Think about what your purpose is for having an office.
Is it for clients? Agents? Who is it built for? Do you need to be where there is a lot of traffic so people see it? Or is it just a place to hang your hat?
Explore your options, and if possible, strongly consider buying rather than renting. That way you not only rely on sales production, you are also building equity in the real estate and getting rental income if it’s a multi unit or mixed use property.
You Can Do it!
If you are thinking of opening your own office, do some homework, but make sure you don’t spend all of your time planning and none of your time doing.
Don’t spend all of your time researching and never take action.
Don’t become a procrastalearner.
Pull the trigger.
Don’t be afraid to fall. Just pick yourself back up and try again.
Just like anything in life, be clear on what you want and why, and then go for it. Sure, you need to turn a profit in order to stay afloat, but try not to focus so much on the outcome that you forget to enjoy the process.
Creating and building my brokerage and my school are the most challenging things I have ever done, but this process of creation is what makes me feel alive and purposeful.
Being creative and helping others empower themselves is what I thrive on.
Despite the challenges and the stress, I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe tips 1-5.
You are unstoppable. You can be, do or have anything you desire. If real estate is part of your plan, JBREA was created for you.