1 to 51 Agents in 111 Days
My guest is Diana Johnson the Broker / Owner of Realty ONE Group Coastal in Summerville, South Carolina. Diana shares her story how she went from 1 to 51 agents in 111 days, that’s right, 51 agents in her first 111 days.
1 to 51 Real Estate Agents in 111 Days
Robb: Hi Diana, thank you so much for joining me today. I know you’ve been very busy and I appreciate you taking the time out to share your story.
Diana: Thank you, Robb.
Robb: So Diana, where are you located? I’m curious, because I’ve never been to South Carolina, so I’m not familiar with the area. You’re in Somerville, is that right?
Diana: We are in Somerville, South Carolina. It’s right outside of the Charleston area, and that encompasses Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties.
Robb: So it’s three or four counties, is that correct?
Diana: We cover three counties.
Robb: Three counties, okay. So Somerville is like a suburb of Charleston?
Diana: I think you could say that.
Robb: Okay, very good. And are you on one MLS system?
Diana: We are on one MLS.
Robb: How many agents are in that MLS?
Diana: Oh goodness. Probably 8,000.
Robb: 8,000 agents?
Diana: We have agents graduating from school constantly, so it’s growing by the day.
Robb: Ah, very good. Now tell me a little bit about yourself. What did you do before real estate?
Diana: Before real estate, I was with MUSC, and I helped form the compliance committee, which came about during the Clinton Administration. And then I was a compliance coordinator for several of the departments down at MUSC.
Robb: What is MUSC?
Diana: Medical University of South Carolina, I’m sorry.
Robb: Oh, okay.
Diana: It’s the medical university in downtown Charleston. Robb: Now, after doing that, why did you get into real estate?
Diana: Well, I actually got in very naïvely. I had twins, and I decided that I wanted to work from home and just do a little bit of real estate on the side. But immediately, I was working more than I had previously worked, and ended up being the rookie of the year for my company.
Robb: Rookie of the year, that’s terrific. How long ago was that? Diana: That would’ve been in 2005.
Robb: 2005. What is that, 13 years?
Diana: Yeah, 13 or 14 years.
Robb: Did you work for a traditional legacy-type company with the typical commission splits?
Diana: I did. They were a national brand. They then became independent, but they remained the market leader in our local market.
Robb: Now did you have a team or were you a solo agent with that company?
Diana: Well I started out as an individual agent, and I had a team a couple of times. I had an assistant most of the time. And at the time I left, I did have a team.
Robb: And how many agents on your team?
Diana: I had just brought on my fourth agent when we moved.
Robb: Great. What type of price do you focus on in your market? Or what’s the average or the median, or is there a price point that you’re in?
Diana: Well, it really depends on what area you’re in. We’re in Somerville. The average price point is probably between 200 and 250—closer to 250 at this point. But as you get closer to Charleston and the coast, the prices really start to go up. So, selling in the different areas, those prices range from 200 to upwards of a million.
Robb: Okay. And right now, it looks like you’ve got some doodles back there on your wall. Diana: Yes.
Robb: And so you’re at your office right now.
Diana: I am at my office. I’m actually at one of my agent’s office. I call it the Chad Priest Production Studio.
Robb: Oh, okay, I’ve heard some things about Chad, and we’ll talk about him here in a little bit and about what he’s been doing for you there. So as a team, with a traditional company, what was your thought process about going to open up your own office and start a Realty ONE Group franchise?
Diana: Well, I certainly was not looking for it. I had someone contact me—I’ve known him for years, and he introduced the company to me. I said no a couple of times and he said, no Diana, you’ve gotta do it. This is you. I finally agreed to fly out to California and then I knew. It’s very innovative. It’s what our market needed. It’s what agents are demanding. And I knew that if I didn’t do it, someone would, and that they were going to explode here.
Robb: So you felt that if you didn’t take advantage of it, someone else was going to and that the opportunity would be lost.
Diana: Absolutely, yes.
Robb: I know the first time I went to California and visited with them, I could just feel how much they care about their franchise owners and their agents and their staff. Did you get that feeling?
Diana: Yes, it was very warm, very inviting, much like our office. And it’s been a huge compliment to have the agents that I have in my office, but it’s very much like the corporate office.
Robb: Yes, and the other thing is the creativity out there in California—what they’re doing in the labs and even the conference room I was in, there were a lot of doodles and fun things. Creative, artsy-type things.
Diana: That’s right, they sure do.
Robb: Now, when did you open? It was about 111 days ago or around about that time.
Diana: Well, I opened the doors on December 1st. Originally, it was to get settled and learn the platforms, but agents started coming and we’ve been growing ever since.
Robb: You have. You started with one agent, and you’re up to 51 agents as of today.
Diana: We have 51 agents.
Robb: Wow, that is remarkable. Tell me a little bit about the process of getting your office set up. Was it difficult? Was it just moving from that team to an office environment that was yours? Give me a little bit of insight on that.
Diana: Well we certainly had our challenges, because I’d never opened up an office, but overall, it’s been exciting. It’s come with its set of stresses, but I’ve got a great team, and we’ve just climbed the mountains as we’ve had to, and my team’s been very supportive. They’ve been great. They go over and above, and it’s really been good.
Robb: That’s terrific. Now, in your office there, how many square feet do you have? Diana: I have about 4,500 square feet.
Robb: And do you know how many individual offices? I assume you have individual agent offices. Tell me a little bit about the layout.
Diana: We do. We have a conference room, a small kitchen, a training room, and then we have our work center area, and our reception area. I believe we have about 11 offices. We have several very large offices that we’re getting ready to break into smaller offices, but we do have agents with individual offices and shared offices.
Robb: With 51 agents, it sounds like you can still operate in that location with more agents, but that’s quite some growth. I’ve been in the real estate industry for 25 years, and to go from 1 to 51 agents in 111 days, Diana, that’s remarkable. You’re doing a lot of things right, and the agents are spreading the word. Are you looking at perhaps going into other markets?
Diana: We are. We hope to be in Mt. Pleasant in the fall, and we are just starting to discuss our options in that area. I’ve got a lot of agents that are already showing interest in being in that Mt. Pleasant office, so I’m looking forward to it.
Robb: So Mt. Pleasant, is that just on the other side of Charleston? Is it south of Charleston? How far is that from the office that you’re at now in Somerville?
Diana: Mt. Pleasant, probably across the bridges, is maybe 20 minutes. On a good day with no traffic, of course. But it is part of Charleston County, but it’s more coastal—it’s closer to the beaches. It’s a separate area with a completely different price point. With the traffic, it’s just far enough that we’ll have the growth there that we have here. I’m certain of it.
Robb: Why do you think agents are joining your office? They must be joining in groups. You must have five joining in the same week for that much growth. But what are they saying? Are they telling you why they want to join your office?
Diana: Well, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback. I think a lot of it is the synergy in our office. I’ve invited many to our sales meetings. They’re untraditional, both the unbrokerage and the model itself. But we have a great energy in this office. We have the training for new and advanced agents, so if you’re wanting to take your business to the next level, we have that training. We have it onsite, and we have the tools and technologies so that our agents can go out, they can compete, and they can market their homes. The tools and the technology are free to our agents, and so it offers the them what they’ve been demanding for years. It’s been good. Everybody has been very receptive. Our agents have been very helpful when new agents come in. I think as we have agents that visit us, they can sense that. And so, in return, we just keep on growing. And there’s really not a lot, you know? As far as the broker support, tools and technology, the training —it’s hard to come up with a reason why an agent would not be interested in the model. It really is.
Robb: It’s a no-brainer. They’re attracted to the comp plan, but when you show them the broker support and the technology tools, what I hear you saying is they’re really just blown away by it and it’s a no-brainer for them to join. But I think there are some other things that make you unique, because before I put you on, you had your staff there, people were laughing and joking— it just looks like a really fun environment there.
Diana: Well, you have to make it fun. Real estate can be very stressful. I’ve been in the business for a long time. I went through the down market, and it can be stressful. So the last thing you want is to walk into a stuffy office where you don’t feel like you have support, your day’s been ruined. We just don’t have that here. You come in and you need help? We’re going to give you the help. You just need to put your head down and talk? The agents are there for support. We have Ms. Pac-man, so certainly if you need to redirect and focus your energy elsewhere—
Robb: What is Ms. Pac-man? You have to tell me about this.
Diana: The arcade game—c’mon, Robb, you know was Pac-man is. Robb: Oh! The arcade game, okay.
Diana: Kids think it’s Pokemon.
Robb: You actually have the game there?
Diana: We do! And we have black and gold Jenga—the big Jenga blocks. Robb: Oh, wow. Well, how fun is that!
Diana: Yes, it’s sweet. We try and make it a fun atmosphere.
Robb: Well, I can sense that. Now, are you actively selling as the broker-owner? Tell me a little bit about your role each day.
Diana: I am not actively selling. I decided before we opened that it would be better if I was non- competing. I think that’s just better all the way around. So what I’m doing is I’m in the office, I’m helping the agents, I refer my business out, and that way I’m available. Otherwise, at the rate I’ve been selling, I would never be here, and I wouldn’t be able to support the agents and train and such. So I certainly stay in contact with all of my clients, and when I’m referring them out, I do meet with them, but no, I am not competing.
Robb: That’s terrific. That’s really good to hear, because the agents appreciate that, and you’re able to give a lot more attention to them and help them grow their business. Now, as far as staff, how many administrative staff members did you start with? The day you opened, was it just you, or did you have some staff in place?
Diana: The day I opened, as far as administration, my daughter was helping me. It was challenging—I had a few other agents that went to California with me that we’re helping as well, but within probably two weeks, my office manager joined us, and she’s a lifesaver. She’s my IT guru, the technology part of us, and I really don’t know what I’d do without her.
Robb: That’s great. Have you had to expand your staff as you started to get up to 51 agents, or is it the same staff in place from when you first opened?
Diana: I have brought on another admin. She has a custom graphics background, so she’s helping a lot with the individual marketing, farming campaigns that our agents want, as well as some of our social media.
Robb: So you have two full-time staff members and 51 agents, and you’re a non-competing broker. You’ve got a nice setup here. Now just before we came on, I saw a really sharp marketing video that was done. Can you explain who does that for you and tell me a little bit about that?
Diana: Well that was Chad Priest, and that was for his team. He’s very technology savvy and he does a lot with the production side, obviously, which is why we were able to set up and do this. But he’s phenomenal—very organized, very dedicated, and very savvy. So we are very lucky to have him on board.
Robb: Definitely. I could see the sense of detail in the video and he clearly pays close attention to what he’s doing. It was a great video. We’ve just got a few more minutes and then we’re going to wrap this up. Can you tell me which direction you think the real estate market is heading? Do you have some insight on that? I know we don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s always fun to talk a little bit about the direction things are going, both for brokers and agents.
Diana: Well, I think we’re going to trend more towards these types of models. There are some 100% platform models out there, but they certainly don’t have the tools and technology that we have as a franchise. You know, agents are demanding more. The time of the large splits are out the window. Agents are able to better market themselves through the internet, and they’re demanding more. I was able to see that out in California while visiting some of those offices and the corporate office. It’s very innovative and it’s cutting edge, but it’s where real estate is going.
Robb: It is. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
Diana: Well, we are currently here in Somerville. We are expanding. Certainly any agents that are interested in talking with me, I keep everything very confidential. You don’t have to worry about anybody knowing about our discussion. There’s a platform for every agent, whether they decide to come on board or not. I wish everybody well. There’s business out there for all of us, but I think we have something great to offer. I think it’s over and above what the other companies have. We are entering this market with a bang, and I sure plan to continue that.
Robb: Boy, you really have. 1 to 51 agents in 111 days—it’s the place to be. If I was an agent in Charleston, I’d be talking to you, because seeing that type of growth, you’re doing something right. You’re doing a lot of things right! Diana, if an agent wants to reach out to you and to visit with you, how should they reach out?
Diana: Well, they can certainly call the office at (843) 972-9450, or call my cell phone, (843) 345-6485. My email, email@example.com, pretty easy to remember. And certainly, you know, I can sit down with them. We’ve had one agent that just from January 1st to today, which is not even the end of the first quarter, she has already doubled what she did all of last year with a large company. So our agents, they’re exceeding what they’ve done in previous years. There’s a reason they’re coming over, and I would love to talk with anyone who’s looking to grow their business, who’s looking for more energy, more support—whether it’s the tools and technology or the 100% platform. If they feel like they have it and they don’t need the tools and technology and support, but they are looking to keep more of their money, I think we’ve got the best of all worlds.
Robb: Definitely. And would they be able to reach out to you by text or a Facebook message?
Diana: Absolutely. They can reach out to me through Messenger, by text, email, phone call. They certainly can.
Robb: Terrific. Diana, I really appreciate you joining me. I hope to get to South Carolina some day. I haven’t been there. And when I do, I’m definitely going to stop by your office and say hello.
Diana: Well you should. It’s one of the top places to visit, Robb.
Robb: I’m in Iowa, so we just don’t go east that much. We just do west.
Diana: Oh, come on.
Robb: But I’m going to head east.
Diana: You should. You would love Charleston, it has so much to offer, and we would love to show you around!
Robb: Well, I’ll bring my wife and my family sometime soon. Thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it. I know you’re very busy, and what a remarkable job. I’m very impressed. 1 to 51 agents. So, thanks for your time.
Diana: Thank you, Robb.
March 21, 2018