By David Bramante | March 4, 2018
I just finished reading “The Future of Brokerage Black Paper” by Robert Hahn and Sunny Lake (see below), and I’ve sent it to a handful of top agents and brokerage owners for them to read and weigh in on the ideas. I want to strike a conversation up with these agents about the issues I have been actively wrestling with as a Lead Agent of BRE Investment and now as a Team Leader at Keller Williams Realty Downtown Los Angeles, and I want these conversations and some answers to my questions like… yesterday.
When I ran BRE Investment LLC on its own and out of an office in Silver Lake, in the historic landmark Neutra Office Building, I had a handful of full-time and salaried employees at the brokerage company. And what started out as a boutique real estate company which handled property management, leasing, Airbnb supervision, and brokerage sales in Silver Lake and Echo Park, it eventually dissolved back to its core competency of services… my core competency of real estate sales in Echo Park.
This was a boomerang back to my origin story, because the success of my sales in the area allowed me the opportunity to expand our services, and that uncontrolled expansions which I allowed was the reason we had to retract. As I have told many people over the last few years, I wish I had never expanded our services and I wish I had brought in some commission-based agents. I thought about it on a weekly basis for nearly two years but did not act on any of it, because I allowed myself to be distracted by the new problems we were handling.
Through the experience of running BRE Investment and leading the scope creep of its services, I learned that I had made several mistakes in my calculations of what an effective real estate team / boutique real estate brokerage was about. And looking back, I was ultimately not able to create the winning formula for a boutique brokerage with an eye on expanding into other hip areas, like Venice. What was missing with BRE Investment in those years?
As a recap, I believe me being the only rainmaker on the team selling real estate, and having a staff that focused on the wrong services (management, leasing and Airbnb) was a losing formula. After two years, I went from a single agent to an agent with a team and offering “full-service real estate services” to a single agent yet again. And not much to show for it, except from an imaginary PHD in real estate brokerage. My experiment in expansion had gone terribly, terribly wrong. I slowly and sadly fired the staff one by one, and focused on real estate sales exclusively as a one man band like the old days.
I was older and the world around me in Echo Park had changed. My peers in the area, like Courtney and Kurt, and Tracy Do Real Estate, had increased the size and success of their real estate teams and had dialed in their marketing to very impressive levels. Things on the Eastside had gotten much more competitive in 2017 compared to the old days of 2005 when I first started selling real estate in Echo Park. I realized at that point in early 2017, it made little sense to be a single rainmaker agent, in any way that I looked at it, and I wanted to join a brokerage again.
I started examining my real estate business decisions with regard to building a real estate brokerage. I started reading like a maniac, trying to crack the code on what had gone wrong. I had clearly missed something so obvious. Neglected what haunted me every week. All that wasted time and energy, and all those wasted paychecks I cut every two weeks. It was was a transfer of my commission wealth to my salaried employee’s wealth, and I had brought in all the business… so that stung and made me sick.
And so in that mindset I began examine joining a real estate brokerage again. I had worked at Sotheby’s, Re/Max, Re/Max Commercial, Marcus & Millichap, Keller Williams Realty Santa Monica, and briefly worked with Brock Harris’ mentor Leslie and with Clint Lukens at Clint Lukens Realty.
I ultimately decided to go back to Keller Williams, but this time in Downtown Los Angeles. I knew the ownership and after joining I began discussing taking on a leadership role in the office. While me coming into the brokerage alone was a shift at the office merely because the office didn’t have a Team Leader for about six months, my activities were to be focused on the numbers: agent count and company dollar. I wanted to work on these, and continue to sell with my clientele, but with a vengeance. I brought BRE Investment the brand into KW DTLA, and was given a mandate to change KW DTLA once and for all. Previous leaders without sales experience and without experience in managing an office had all failed. So this seemed like a win-win.
The main request was that I recruit, recruit, recruit because that would directly impact company dollar. This was something I felt I should have done, only after the fact, at BRE Investment. And so I would take my skills as a listing agent with a bizarre appreciation for cold calling and start contacting the agents in the area.
And so after six months as the Team Leader of Keller Williams Downtown LA, and as the owner of BRE Investment 2.0, I’ve been reading hard and fast on how a skilled salesperson can quickly become a proficient manager, and how focusing on being a leader is significantly better than micromanaging as a manager. I am consuming books at an alarming rate, and I love it. And I’m re-reading the ones that bring the most value to me and my agents, recommending some of them so that we’re all on the same page and speaking the same language and so that I can change the culture from the inside out.
I started as the Team Leader on September 1, 2017 and officially took control of the position on October 1, 2017. So now six months into the role, we have Keller Williams Realty’s Family Reunion event in Anaheim. After being at the event and hearing Gary Keller’s Vision Speech, I tracked the activity online as I thought about the ideas. I was quickly on Inman.com, and I found and read Robert Hahn’s and Sunny Lake’s “black” white paper on the idea of the future of brokerage, and what they envision is the financially successful future of the broker-agent relationship. This is the very problem I have seen and thought about for years.
Experiencing the different pressures of a real estate brokerage first hand, and having started several real estate tech companies myself, Robert and Sunny are asking the questions everyone in real estate should be asking (and should have been asking for a while):
- How is technology going to affect the industry for its current-role players?
- What’s the most financially sustainable version of a real estate brokerage now and in the future for its current players?
From where I stand, these are the two important questions of the day. These are the most important questions of the day. So even though it’s always on my mind and in my conversations, Robert Hahn is making me think hard and fast about the future of the real estate brokerage.
I’m approaching my role as Team Leader at Keller Williams DTLA like a would-be CEO of a real estate tech company, and I’m only more interested in that now that Gary Keller has announced to the world that KW is a tech company (as of 2018). I actually met with the Josh Team at KWRI in Austin in early December 2017, and spoke to their team about some of the tech ideas that I had.
I’m obsessed with the book “Lean Startup” and tech culture, have taken Ruby on Rails classes at General Assembly, created real estate tech companies and now I have all of that experience juxtaposed against the new experiences I have had as the Team Leader of the office for the last six months. And I’m asking my self how to I reconcile all I have learned with the future of real estate brokerage.
David Bramante is the Team Leader & Managing Partner of Keller Williams Realty Downtown Los Angeles, and the manager of BRE Investment in Echo Park.
He has been a top producing California Realtor since 2005, helping clients sell, buy, invest and lease residential and commercial real estate in Los Angeles.
As a real estate consultant, he has hired, mentored and coached over 150 Realtors in Southern California, including many top producing Realtors in Los Angeles County.
For questions about the above blog post, becoming a real estate agent, or joining Keller Williams Realty, send an email to David directly at david (at) breinvestment.com or davidbramante (at) kw.com.