What is your company culture like, and how does that culture impact the success of your team? These are crucial questions in any industry, and they're especially important in real estate. Building a strong culture starts from the top, but it also depends on every team member doing their part. Here's why culture is so critical to success and how you can foster a strong culture for your real estate team.
Individual excellence may improve results, but team culture is the key to building a reliable, sustainable business where team members look forward to working each day and providing an excellent experience for your clients. A healthy culture makes it easier for your team to collaborate, support one another, and seamlessly integrate new members into the team.
Your culture is reflected in everything that your team does. It makes your real estate business a more attractive place to work for top-performing agents and helps every team member perform to the best of their abilities. It's also reflected in how your clients are treated, how well your team helps them accomplish their goals, and how likely they are to generate referrals after those goals are accomplished.
How to Build a Strong Culture with Your Real Estate Team
As a team leader, other team members will naturally look to you as a culture setter and an example. When you bring a positive, team-focused attitude, a collaborative spirit, and a strong work ethic to the table, team members are naturally more likely to follow your lead.
No matter the size of your real estate business, team culture is a key ingredient in your recipe for success. Whether you're launching a new brokerage or working to boost the performance of your existing team, actively building a positive culture will help you accomplish your goals. No two teams are exactly the same, but the core elements of a strong culture apply across the board.
This week Harley reviews setting up saved searches in the DeltaNET.
According to research by RISMedia, the most popular technology stack for real estate agencies and brokerages includes these elements:
These correspond with three big concerns real estate pros have: Developing new business, maintaining efficiency in the office, and ensuring properties have terrific listings. Add a dedicated real estate CRM to the mix, and you are ready to really shine.
Technology enhances your capabilities, helping you do more of what you do well and reducing time you spend on routine tasks. Combined with the versatility real estate pros bring to the table and the industry's natural diversity, it empowers you to excel no matter what the market throws at you.
But there's one problem: To reap the benefits, everyone has to be on the same page.
Why Even Great Technology Rarely Changes Your Business Overnight
Solo agents working alone in the home office often have more success implementing and using new technology than their colleagues in large teams. The individual needs to conquer the learning curve, but once that's done, it's easy to get nearly 100% of the potential value from technology.
On the other hand, large teams can face an uneven roll-out when it comes to technology.
Even a highly efficient company that's driven by best practices can fall behind if everyone has a different idea about what their software does, when to use it — and, most importantly, when to work around it. The more people avoid a platform or use their own solutions, the more confusing it all gets.
Software doesn't just make things faster. It gives everyone a common frame of reference, including the same workflow and the terminology to get the job done right. This is especially crucial when multiple professionals need to work together to bring a transaction to a successful conclusion.
The key to making a smooth transition is to understand how technology relates to change management.
Recognize Your Team's Early Adopters and Passive Resistors
In 1962, sociologist Everett Rogers published Diffusion of Innovations, one of the most widely cited works in the social sciences. The book was built around the idea of the Rogers Diffusion Curve, which stated that, within any organization, five different orientations to change would be represented:
Innovators and early adopters are those most likely to embrace new technology. They do so not for its own sake, but because they clearly see and understand the value proposition it offers, whether that's speed, efficiency, accuracy, or whatever else it might be.
On the far end of the scale is the "passive resistor." This is not simply a "laggard" who will come around to new things in time. Instead, passive resistors demonstrate a commitment to things the way they are, often because existing approaches have proven successful for them in the past.
When decision-makers in an organization introduce a plan to use particular software and do things in a certain way, passive resistors are those who demonstrate lukewarm compliance. They might go right on using their preferred methods, which makes your business less efficient and less secure.
Getting Off to a Strong Start with New Technology
"Because I said so" rarely works on children, and it's just as useless with many adults. So, it's important to communicate about technology plans and lead change in a measured, respectful, transparent way. Only once such steps have been taken should active monitoring for compliance be used to close the gap.
Here's how to get started:
New technology may take some getting used to, but it can mean the difference between an average year and blockbuster results. Contact us to learn more about optimizing your use of real estate technology.
It's no secret that nearly every real estate agent would like to improve their social media presence, regardless of how much success they've already had on social platforms. According to a social survey from real estate website "The Close," 88 percent of real estate agents would like to improve their social media, while 44 percent find social media to be one of their best sources of leads. Only referrals ranked higher as a lead generation source. If you're one of many agents who want to improve their social media, we've got some proven tips to help you accomplish your goals.
Know Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach, and what are their real estate goals? It's hard to please everyone, and knowing your audience makes it much easier to tailor your social presence to their needs. Start by looking at who you want to reach with your real estate brand, and the needs of your typical clients. Take some time to engage with your audience directly on social media, encourage conversations, and learn more about them.
Be Authentic and Build Personal Connections
There's no better way to build trust on social media than to be yourself, and try to form genuine connections with your followers. Trying to be someone you're not rarely works out with social media marketing, so authenticity is really important. While you're likely to be posting plenty of content, it's equally important to interact with your followers on an individual level, and in public settings like Facebook groups. Word of mouth spreads quickly on social media, and your engagement with your audience is one of your biggest drivers of lead generation.
Educate Your Audience Rather Than Pitching to Them
Think about all of the people you follow and connect with on your personal social media accounts. How many of them do you follow because of their sales pitches? If you're like most people, you probably connect with social accounts that educate, share interesting content, and engage with their followers. Your real estate knowledge is a huge asset, and sharing it with your audience is a great way to boost your social media.
Create and Share Thoughtful, High-Quality Content
So, what's the best way to educate your audience? Sharing great content that you create and sharing interesting content that you find online are two powerful ways to build your social presence. Content comes in many forms, from blog posts and videos to quick status updates with relevant statistics. Keep track of engagement to see which types of custom content resonate most with your audience, and try to share fresh content as often as you can.
Get Comfortable Behind a Camera
While quality content comes in many forms, there's no denying that video content is one of the biggest drivers of social media engagement. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels allow you to post short, bite-size video content, while longer videos will work on nearly every other major social platform. With a relatively new smartphone and a few accessories like a tripod, you'll have everything you need to start creating video content. Practice makes perfect when creating videos, so dive in, invest some time, build confidence, and reap the rewards.
Be Consistent and Stay on Schedule
Perhaps the biggest secret to social media success is that it takes time and effort to build the type of meaningful connections that will earn you business. Blocking out time each day for social media activities and sticking to your schedule will help you build a successful, reliable social routine. With DeltaNET®6, you can save time on social media marketing by easily automating posts, including listings, blog posts, open houses, client reviews, and more. When you automate routine tasks, you can dedicate more of your social time to engaging with your audience.
Integrate Social Media Into Your Real Estate Website and Marketing
As you build your audience, your social media pages should help drive plenty of fresh traffic to your real estate website. But your website and other marketing materials can also help drive interest in your social media. Make sure that you have social sharing buttons on your website content and that your social accounts are integrated seamlessly into your website. Our custom real estate websites make it easy to integrate social, share your content, and generate leads.
Choose the Right Tools for Social Media Success
If your real estate CRM doesn't provide all of the tools that you need to improve your social media, perhaps it's time for an upgrade. With DeltaNET®6, you can easily manage all of your real estate marketing in one place, including your social media, AI-driven email marketing, online ads, content, and so much more.
Marketing is one of the most important parts of real estate, and it can also be challenging for agents to come to grips with. Once you've learned the knowledge and skills you need to serve clients, marketing should be your next priority.
Having a marketing plan is essential to your overall success!
Marketing is indispensable because the majority of your future clients will find you online. These days, most home searches begin there. As more Millennials turn to the market and the eldest of Gen Z find their way into it for the first time, this trend will continue.
A marketing plan helps you identify where your audience is, how to connect, and the best ways to do so over the time it takes them to launch their home search. From the high-level plan you develop, you can work backward to understand what you need to do every quarter, month, and week.
The concept may seem intimidating at first, but it is worthwhile.
Marketing is the central piece in pivoting from finding new business through in-person methods versus drawing qualified leads directly to your website with minimal effort. This transition has the potential to save you thousands of hours a year, but it relies on having the right marketing assets in place.
What Does a Real Estate Marketing Plan Include?
A real estate marketing plan is a top-level strategic roadmap you develop once and review quarterly based on your evolving goals and the success of your marketing initiatives. It is built around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as leads generated and transactions completed.
How Do You Write a Real Estate Marketing Plan?
There are seven components to a marketing plan for real estate.
While some may prove challenging, each element builds on the ones before. If you do not have the time or resources to conduct a deep market analysis, you can leverage the wisdom of your colleagues and mentors to start with some basic assumptions that you then verify with experience.
The elements of a real estate marketing plan include:
Turning Your Marketing Plan into Reality
To achieve your goals, you may find you need more tools or training. Upfront investments are common in the first few years of the real estate journey. Be sure you understand how much you're spending, why, and a timeline for a) first value and b) return on investment, including recouping the initial spend. From there, review your analytics data monthly to track trends and prepare for a quarterly plan update.
Contact us to find out more about digital marketing for real estate.
Today Harley reviews setting a verified email address in the DeltaNET.
With vaccination rates flagging and an ambiguous timeline for the end of the pandemic, the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!"
Of all industries transformed by the pandemic, real estate moved the fastest — because it was essential to protect agents, brokers, and their clients. Giving up with the finish line in sight doesn't make sense.
But there is a flip side. Research shows many supervisors are nervous about this new work-from-home world. If they can't see people doing their work, they worry nothing is getting done. It's affecting teams in all kinds of industries.
Luckily, real estate is a little bit different.
An independent streak has always been a big part of success in real estate. Even with perks offered by the largest agencies and brokerages, individual real estate professionals know they need to be true self-starters if they're going to reach the heights of their profession.
A lot of that energy comes from having personal goals. Nothing can replace it.
On the whole, it's not unreasonable to think real estate is near the top when it comes to industries that are well-prepared for working from home. A greater number of agents' daily tasks are done with digital technology than ever before, clients have come to grips with Zoom, and virtual tours are available.
But there is a flip side. Agencies and brokerages also need to be able to deal with the risks.
Not the risk their teams will be sleeping in until noon and checking out at three — rather, the very real ambiguities, complexities, and issues that come with moving to an all-digital workflow in a matter of weeks. Everyone needs to be sure they are taking the right precautions to succeed.
There are really two aspects to that:
Let's look at best practices that should be communicated to everyone.
All Agents and Brokers Should Make Sure At-Home Technology Is Safe and Secure
Let's face it — although we all know not to give our bank details away to the Nigerian prince in our spam folder, not everybody knows the ins and outs of cybersecurity. In an office environment, all it takes is a little common sense. In today's remote work, though, things can be a lot more nuanced.
These tips will help you close the door on common home office vulnerabilities:
Remote Work Productivity Strategies for Real Estate
Working from home demands a whole new set of skills not everyone has. However, it can be easier than it looks if you get off on the right foot. That means holding yourself to the same professional standards you would at the office, and a few important cues can get you there:
Contact us today to find out more about today's digital productivity best practices.
In this Tech Tuesday, Harley Wolfarth demonstrates how to interact with the Do Not Call (DNC) System in the DeltaNET. Keep in mind that this system must be activated at the company level to be available to you.
Real estate has long been considered one of the best investments of all.
The sterling reputation of owning a home as a way of building wealth took a beating among Millennials after successive waves of downturns and crises. Now, it's on its way back. Up-and-coming Generation Z made a strong showing in homebuying during the pandemic.
Only a fraction of that generation is old enough to enter the market now. But general trends indicate they look at buying a home as an important life milestone — and a goal to be pursued at earlier ages than ever before. This is sure to shape the real estate landscape for years to come.
In short, they have a different view of their return on investment.
ROI is the ultimate goal of any investment. It stands at the heart of the concept of "putting your money to work for you." If your return on investment is flat, it's evidence that you could have gotten greater value from that money elsewhere. If it's negative, then you've identified a bad investment.
To succeed, real estate agents should put this concept at the forefront of their minds.
Real Estate Technology May Be the Best Investment an Agent Can Make
Every time you choose one solution over another for your business, you are making an investment. The goal is to make money or save money. However, it's not always easy to trace the path from the tools you use to your bottom line. To make the connection, go back to the simple maxim everyone knows:
"Time is money."
If you can save time, you can make more money. Even if you don't "reinvest" that saved time directly into work hours, it still makes a difference. After all, having more time for rest will enable you to do your best work longer and more consistently. This is always more productive than just getting by.
On its own, real estate technology can't promise you'll close more deals or get more leads. But it can serve as a platform to accelerate and simplify your use of the skills that yield those results. It multiplies what you are capable of. Imagine doubling or even tripling your productivity without making a hire!
Now is the time to seek out and implement the modern tools that make it possible.
Real Estate Technology Is on the Grow After Pandemic-Induced Slowdowns
The pandemic drove tremendous evolution in the real estate market in a matter of weeks. A rapid pace of change was imperative to keep transactions moving while maintaining safety for everyone.
With pandemic restrictions beginning to fade, it's clear that real estate won't be returning to "business as usual." Many pandemic-driven changes are here to stay, and technology facilitates it all.
All in all, real estate technology has two big effects:
There's no greater example of this than the virtual home tour. Virtual tours were gaining momentum before the pandemic, along with other types of interactive and video content. To expand buyers' search radius and protect sellers from dealing with crowds, they mushroomed practically overnight.
As a result, real estate technology solutions have evolved to make them easier, even for agents who have never been comfortable in front of the camera before. The tempo of technological innovation is sure to remain upbeat as work gradually returns to normal and teams can collaborate more easily.
Artificial Intelligence and Automation Combine to Make Real Estate Technology Work Better
Two core capabilities define the real estate technology of tomorrow:
For example, real estate agents from coast to coast use social media. It is the #1 source of high-quality leads for many agents and firms. But on its own, social media can be a time sink. Automation speeds up the process of using it, while artificial intelligence verifies the business value that it can offer.
DeltaNET™ 6 is the all-in-one real estate solution that unifies these two capabilities in a way designed from end to end with your unique needs in mind. It gives you complete visibility into all of your contacts, customers, and brand advocates, where they stand, and how best to connect with them.
Delta Media Group is constantly expanding and improving its product line. In 2021 alone, we've added dozens of additional free features to DeltaNET™ 6. By adding more value, we aim to become your best investment in the growing world of real estate technology.
Contact us to find out more or get started.
Take a drive through Wichita, Kansas on any given day, and there are a couple of things you're bound to notice. Bustling businesses. People ducking in and out of shops or grabbing a quick bite to eat at local restaurants. Homes those same people are anxious to get back to after a long day of work. And, of course, J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. signs on lawns throughout the city.
Whether those lawns sit in front of residential or commercial spaces, it's impossible to miss the presence J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. has throughout Wichita. For over a century, the independent, family-owned and operated, full-service company has exemplified its promise of meeting The Standard for Excellence, serving its community, and racking up accolades. That includes nearly three straight decades as the top real estate company in Wichita, according to RealTrends.
"You can't drive anywhere or very far without seeing a J.P. Weigand sign in Wichita, says President and General Manager Joshua Turner. "And because we do commercial and residential, we're so present. You drive down a residential street; you're going to see a J.P.Weigand sign. If you drive down any major thoroughfare, a business district, you're going to see a J.P. Weigand sign. It's a household name. Everybody knows that J.P. Weigand is real estate in this part of the state."
And while real estate has undoubtedly changed in the last 100-plus years, Weigand's commitment to its clients has not. With leaders who know the neighborhoods in Wichita like the back of their hand and agents who constantly strive to get the best results possible, Weigand's ability to make anyone the company works with feel like family is a trend as dependable as spotting signs on lawns. Because, really, this is a family business and every interaction just adds another member.
GETTING TO KNOW J.P. WEIGAND & SONS
To understand J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. now, it's important to understand J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. then. Then being 1902 — when J.P. Weigand himself first arrived in Wichita. Traveling from Illinois in a covered wagon, it didn't take long for Weigand to realize there was something special about the area, a potential that he was determined to grab onto. So, he subleased desk space and got to work.
Less than a decade later, Weigand's certainty in Wichita's potential proved true as the city's population boomed, bringing with it a need for the sort of real estate company that could help that population turn the area into homes. In 1912, Weigand expanded his business, leasing a one-room office, and while he remained the lone staff member, tracking his transactions on scraps of paper he kept in his suit pockets, the company's growth matched the city's. Joining Weigand a decade and a half later was his son, Nestor R. Weigand, Sr., truly making the company a family affair as those living in Wichita began to define real estate with the Weigand name.
His reputation expanding, Weigand's dedication to Wichita never wavered. In fact, one of his business cards in the late 1920s read:
I am for Wichita. Wichita is the Indianapolis of the Southwest. The greatest commercial and financial center of its size in the world. 15 lines of railroad radiate into a territory with 700,000 people within 100 miles of Wichita; wherein the future will live 1,000,000 people, with Wichita as their metro point. Population now 45,000; will soon have 100,000. Watch us grow.
Grow, they did.
Since those early days, with J.P. Weigand walking his way across the city because he never actually drove a car, the company now boasts over 200 associates offering services from seven locations across South Central Kansas, with more than $500 million worth of real estate sales annually. Family is still at the center of the company as well, with Nestor Weigand, Jr. serving as CEO and Chairman of the Board. It's a presence that, despite more than a hundred years between the company first opening its doors and now, keeps its roots as strong as ever, with a sense of pride in its Wichita heritage that has never once waned.
"One of the things that has impacted me about this company is the way that people are treated here," Turner says. "People are treated with respect. They're treated well, and that's all part of that standard of excellence. We treat people with excellence, also."
PUTTING WORDS INTO ACTION
For J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc, The Standard for Excellence is not simply a tagline. It's more than a motto. More than a string of words, even. It's the foundation on which the company has built itself; a promise made every day by every person working for Weigand. Excellence is a guarantee, ensuring that whatever transaction Weigand might be working on, it never forgets the human element of real estate.
"We always put our clients first," Turner says. "Nestor [Weigand, Jr.] often says that integrity is more important than the deal. We always want to be handling things with integrity. And our reputation is very important to us."
Providing clients with the best possible experience begins well before any deals are made or a single dollar bill changes hands. In order to foster that familial mindset, Turner says Weigand has to bring the right sort of agents into the fold. Finding those agents who mesh with Weigand's culture and understand the company's collective goals begins in the interview process.
Whereas other companies may allow agents to simply sign up and get into the field, Weigand takes a far more personal approach. Potential agents meet with Weigand's leadership team and, once hired, go through additional training above and beyond simple licensing.
"We put every potential agent through an interview process to ensure that they are a quality person, at least as best we can, and make sure that people are going to be engaged and that they're going to understand what our standards are," Turner details, adding that any additional training Weigand offers is free for agents.
"[Training is] a requirement from us," Turner continues. "And so it's about making sure that [our agents are] somebody that's going to fit into the culture and making sure it's somebody who will provide a quality product. And if they don't provide a quality service to our clients, they don't stay here very long."
One of the keys to finding agents who will truly gel with Weigand's culture goes back to those ever-present "FOR SALE" signs so easily spotted throughout Wichita.
For so many people living and working in the city, Weigand is an almost omnipresent company. The name is synonymous with real estate, and so, as Arlan Newell, the Managing Broker of Weigand's Newton and Hutchinson office, explains, the majority of people looking to jumpstart their careers with the company are already well aware of who they're joining and what that means to the community.
"It seems like the ones that kind of mesh their way to us are the people that have already known our company for many, many, many years," Newell says. "And maybe they're coming off of a second career or a change of career of some kind. A lot of those people end up gravitating towards us because our name's been in the market for so many years. The integrity of the company leads them to come to us."
Bringing in those agents — whether they're looking for a new direction with Weigand or simply hoping to get careers off the ground — throws the importance of training into stark light. It's a process Weigand doesn't take lightly and one that's grown and evolved as much as the company itself over the last century-plus.
Once they're hired, agents go through a two-week-long training course, touching on everything they can do now that they're part of the Weigand family. It's a crash course in everything from Weigand's technology offerings, including the tools provided by Delta Media Group®, as well as instructions on how to handle contracts, open houses, and everything in between. Armed with all that information, agents have a perfect jumping-off point as they hit the ground running with Weigand.
"They get a lot of training in their first few weeks on the job," Director of Marketing Abby Parker says. "We try to give them as many tools as possible to set them up for success."
As an independently-owned company, with such an obvious and long-standing reputation in the community, Turner says Weigand's ability to localize its training also helps set it apart. By focusing classes and training on South Central Kansas, agents offer the sort of area expertise that can make all the difference in real estate.
"Companies have these national training platforms, even international training platforms, but you don't conduct real estate transactions in Wichita, Kansas, the same way you do in San Diego or in New York," Turner says. "So our training is provided by local experts that have been in the business for 15 to 35 years, and that know how business is done in Wichita, and they know the people in Wichita. One of the key components of what we do is making sure that people understand Wichita and the way we do it here."
A PILLAR OF SUPPORT
Building a business with a family atmosphere like J.P. Weigand & Son's means giving agents every opportunity to succeed. But in order to succeed, those agents need someone in their corner — no matter what they're working on, where they're working, or who they're working with. In addition to training and the various classes offered, particularly to new hires, Weigand's support system is unparalleled, ensuring agents know there's a safety net to fall back on.
And it just so happens that safety net comes with over 100 years of real estate experience.
"We invest a lot in having staff that's trained, and that knows how to deliver the product and help the agents deliver what we expect," Turner says. "So the agent is not out there trying to do it all on their own. That also gives those agents a leg up on being able to handle more volume themselves because they're not doing every step on their own."
On the residential side, Director of Operations Leslie Myers sets the tone for Weigand, running, as Turner details, "pretty much everything that happens kind of behind the scenes to support the brokers and the staff in each of the offices and bring continuity and cohesiveness in the way we do it."
So whether it's assisting with marketing efforts or double-checking compliance and regulations, Weigand's support staff lives up to its name day in and day out. By giving their agents that extra assistance, Weigand takes some of the pressure off its agents.
"Our sales support staff does everything for our agents," Myers says. "They input listings; they do contract compliance, they set up their transactions for them. They get them from contract to close, everything that needs to be done."
It's not just those hired to the support staff making everything run smoothly for Weigand, though. Beginning with Chairman of the Board and CEO Nestor Weigand, Jr., the entire structure of the company is built with the best interests of its agents in mind.
"Mr. Weigand treats people with respect and dignity," Turner says. "He doesn't act like he's better than anybody else. He engages his employees. And that helps maintain that family value of the company because of how people are treated like family. And when something comes up, or somebody comes up, and they don't treat people like that, they get rid of them. And that's the expectation."
Real estate is often a stressful industry. Buying and selling homes is a monumental moment in anyone's life — including the agents. It's also an industry undergoing near-constant change. What worked 50 years ago doesn't always translate in today's market. Now, there's always more to do. More phone calls to make, more social media platforms to master, another open house to market. Still, Weigand has found success in both eras, and that's a testament to the people that make up the company.
In short, its agents.
Turner says that Weigand's longevity comes because "We recognize that the agents are our clients. They are what makes the company work.
"Without them, there's no reason for sales support. There's no reason for marketing. There's no reason for operations managers or a president without the agents," Turner adds. "And we focus on supporting the agents and allowing them to be successful because our success is connected to theirs."
When the people working for the company also turn to the company in life-changing moments — like buying or selling a home — it stands to reason that those people would be best suited to continue Weigand's tradition of success. Over the last century, Weigand's reputation has only grown. More and more people think of Weigand whenever they're looking to make their next real estate move, including those who call the company their professional home. So, Turner says, Weigand has done everything possible to make sure that professional home provides all the comfort and support it can.
And with that support, it's rare that any agents leave the home they've helped build for themselves at Weigand.
"We have agents that have been in the business and been with our company for 35, 40 years," Turner says. "And it's because we take good care of them, and we recognize even when there's a mistake, because this is a human-driven business, J.P. Weigand has proven that we can get through those types of mistakes and get past those turbulent times because we've been around for 120 years."
When a company exists for more than a hundred years, it's no surprise that the company will also grow with the times. Over the last century, J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. has evolved into a full-service real estate option with multiple divisions, all of which maintain The Standard for Excellence that's at the company's core.
Residential Division: With offices in Wichita and the surrounding areas, Weigand provides the best possible home buying or selling experience in South Central Kansas.
Commercial Division: Since opening, Weigand is Wichita's largest commercial real estate brokerage firm representing buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants, investors, and developers with professional services, including office leasing and sales, industrial leasing and sales, retail leasing, and sales, investments, consulting, auction services, farm, and ranch sales, land sales, site selection, corporate services, and tenant/buyer representation.
Relocation Division: A member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World Relocation Network, this division sold over 1.3 million properties valued at over $296 billion last year.
Auction Division: Weigand's auction team works throughout Kansas and Oklahoma, utilizing auctions for a wide range of properties, including agricultural land, farm, and ranch, as well as commercial and residential.
REO Division: Weigand's newest division was created to better serve the needs of the lenders in the area and the increased number of real estate investors in the market.
Balancing so many divisions could be challenging, but Weigand has worked hard to keep everything organized and successful. Parker says communication is one of the most critical factors in that consistent success, ensuring that no matter what division someone is working in, they know how it fits into the rest of the Weigand model.
"From my marketing perspective, communication boils down to letting agents know what we have available and what our other divisions can do so they can help each other out," Parker details. "It's a one-stop shop for their client, and we can do everything their client needs in a transaction."
Adds Turner: "We have good, strong, experienced leaders in every division. We don't experience a lot of [issues] because between our training and our staff to support the agents and our leadership, they're able to keep things rolling the way that they're supposed to. And we won't put somebody in a leadership position that isn't equipped and hasn't proven that they're equipped to handle those types of things."
Six different brokers manage Weigand's residential offices, including Newell, all of whom, as Turner says, "have experience and the knowledge to make the decisions and to determine which direction we should be going with certain things." Meanwhile, Turner often takes the lead on the commercial side, with agents who, cumulatively, boast 560 years of experience. Weigand is also affiliated with Weigand-Omega, a property management company, adding even more knowledge to the collective tank.
"The guys that run that company have been in the business for 50 plus years," Turner says. "It's a lot of experience, and people want to work with us and want to do business with us because we make sure it's right and there's not a lot of headaches."
Despite so many moving parts, Weigand consistently avoids crossing signals or stumbling into obstacles, anticipated or otherwise. Backed by that same communication Parker touted and the confidence that comes from years of working in the industry, Weigand's multiple divisions only serve to make it that much more appealing to clients, giving those in South Central Kansas the chance to work with one company for all of their real estate needs.
J.P. WEIGAND & DELTA MEDIA GROUP
So much of the world has changed since J.P. Weigand first arrived in Wichita. Technology has become the driving force for achievement in real estate, something that wasn't even fathomable 50 years ago, let alone at the turn of the century. So, as the industry continues to evolve, it's imperative that Weigand found a tech provider it could depend on.
Turns out, Delta Media Group® fit that bill to a tee.
After years spent with Booj, and vetting other providers, J.P. Weigand & Sons opted to take the tech plunge with Delta Media Group. Working with Delta has given Weigand a partner in the truest sense of the world, not only making the transition from Booj simple, but ensuring every piece of tech supports the company's collective goalkeeping pace with the rest of the real estate world, just like it has for the last century.
"[Delta is] always evolving," Myers says. "[Weigand is] improving all the time, so what Delta has and is moving forward with was something we wanted. All of the automations for the agents on the CRM is huge. A lot of that stuff we were already doing, but manually, so we were thrilled to learn about all the ways we can help our agents save on time. And we were also impressed with [Delta's] tech support and the fact that the agents can reach out personally, and they're very responsive to them. That's huge for us."
Of course, transition is a process, and any project, whether it's building a house or a custom website, will face its own handful of obstacles. Getting everyone up to speed on a new CRM was a challenge Weigand expected, but with DeltaNET® 6, agents could pick things up quickly, easily moving contacts and information. And Turner is quick to applaud Delta for its communication throughout Weigand's transition, providing support whenever necessary.
For Weigand — which prides itself on the support it gives its agents — that sort of response makes all the difference.
"The quality of a company is measured by how they deal with problems but after the sale," Turner says. "We've run into snags. We expect that. But Delta has stepped up and done everything possible to correct those issues."
Newell echoes the sentiment, adding: "I'm a working broker, and I probably know the system on the backside as well as anybody does that uses it day to day. And anytime I had an issue, I can get an answer. I get a, 'Thanks for that. We'll work on it.' And then I get a follow-up when it's up and done and correct. So I appreciate that. It's a kudos to Delta."
In addition to getting everyone on Delta's platform in the last few months, Weigand has also worked on a fully custom site. The project gives clients and agents alike a singular spot where just a few clicks can give them readily available information, the kind they need to ensure any transaction goes off without a hitch.
More than simply providing information, however, a good website can be a marketing tool as well. Ease of use, simple navigation, and a straightforward company story, all give consumers — or in this case, potential real estate clients — a sense of confidence that makes choosing Weigand feel like the simplest of choices.
"When I check out companies I want to buy from or look at, if their online presence or their website is not easy to navigate, and I'm not finding the information that I need out of it; why look any further?" Parker says. "We have all the information that [clients] could ever think of finding [on our site]."
Weigand's site also makes it simple for would-be clients to find the company via internet search. Just a few decades ago, clients would see one of those Weigand signs and call the number on it. Now, while that still happens, it's more likely for would-be clients to grab their phone to Google the agent's name instead of making a phone call. So, it's crucial that Weigand immediately pop up in any of those quick searches. Thanks to Delta's industry-leading SEO and all of the work Delta has put into Weigand's website, those search engine results aren't just a want; they're a fact.
"That was a big key," Newell says.
By embracing fresh, new ideas — including, Turner says, "creative and talented people on our staff" — Weigand ensures it never finds itself behind the times, and partnering with Delta has made it simple to maintain that tech tempo, allowing the company to ask its agents what they want before turning to Delta to make sure it happens.
"Everybody's open, and the truth is there have been times throughout the legacy of this company that we have fallen behind in the technology role, but because we also listen to our agents, and we try to find the solutions that the agents need, that's changed," Turner says. "And when they're saying, 'Hey, we need a better website, or we need a better CRM.' We listen, and we have constant contact with our agents. It's one of the real advantages of having a broker and a manager in every office. They work hands-on, directly face-to-face with the agents."
Staying competitive with the rest of the real estate world, particularly when so much of that world is made up of larger or national companies, requires Weigand to take every suggestion agents make regarding their tech to heart. They know best what they need, after all. But, sometimes, offering all those tools can be a daunting and expensive task. Not with Delta. Delta gives Weigand a way to provide for its agents without breaking the bank, while the technology remains as cutting edge as it is simple-to-understand.
"This transition with Delta has helped us catch up to providing the tools," Turner says. "Working with Delta has allowed us to provide a product that is the same quality as what these national companies are providing at a cost and a scope that works at a smaller level."
PART OF THE COMMUNITY
As long as Weigand has been in business, it has been a part of the Wichita community. J.P. Weigand learned the city by walking it, creating a foundation for relationships that have stood the test of time and become the lifelines that keep Weigand as successful as it's been for the past century. Of course, over that same century, especially with the growth of social media, Weigand's relationship with the city it calls home has changed just a bit.
Simply posting about homes or properties on social media is no longer enough. Parker, who joined Weigand in April 2020, says the company's Facebook page, in particular, is "Wichita-centered," meaning that it's not just an advertising platform or even a place for clients to find updates on properties, but a place to learn more about the city itself and everything it has to offer.
"I'm sure you follow brands that all they do is sell, sell, sell, and you don't want to follow them anymore," Parker says. "So adding in things that people can do in Wichita that
the agents can share and their clients can see it and get engagement from those is better than just posting about houses that are for sale. It's great that we have such beautiful homes for sale in Wichita, but we want to be involved in our community. That's one thing Weigand's great about is being involved in the community and participating in community events.
"We're a local company," Parker continues, "and Wichita is really big on buying and staying local. So we want to encourage that to our followers and agents as well."
Turner adds that, through Weigand's commercial division, the company also works with plenty of area businesses and often shines a light on the companies that make Wichita run. Hosting lunches at local restaurants, ordering catering from businesses Weigand helped purchase a storefront for, or posting on social media about the latest updates for area companies is the new norm. Not just to help get word out about those businesses, but because, as Turner puts it, "That's our bread and butter and [those businesses] support us, so we support them."
Weigand has also long been a significant contributor to various charities, initiatives, and events since it first opened its doors. Wichita and Weigand have genuinely grown together, and that sort of relationship makes giving back to the area as natural as anything.
"Invest in the success of others, and we in turn will be successful," says Johnathan Weigand, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Weigand's Commercial Division.
"We give back a lot to the community, probably to the tune of over a hundred thousand dollars a year," Turner says. "We strongly encourage our employees and agents to engage in community committees and community outreach events. There isn't a real estate company in Wichita that's been around longer than we have. And Wichita has built this company, going on fourth-generation leadership. And it's really good to see the response that we get from the community."
TO THE NEXT 100 YEARS
More than a hundred years ago, J.P. Weigand arrived in Wichita with a simple desire: To help people find the same home he found in this city. Now, although plenty has changed in Wichita, with more cars on the streets and buildings that are quite a bit taller than they were in 1902, Weigand's mindset hasn't shifted an inch.
Home is still the ultimate goal, providing the Wichita community with a sense of comfort and belonging that ensures every Weigand client feels as if they're part of the family, too. And as Weigand turns its attention toward the future, growing that family is the expectation. But how does Weigand achieve that? Same as always: Embracing change, encouraging evolution, and working with trusted partners. On the tech side, that means continued work with Delta Media Group.
"We need [Delta] to be our forward thinkers," Newell says. "Our world is buying and helping people sell houses and fulfilling their dreams. Your world is this technology world that is continually evolving. What we need is for you to be our forward thinkers for us on where we need to go."
Wichita has long been at the center of everything Weigand does. The city sets the tempo of Weigand's decisions and, for over a century, that's led to unquestionable success. Turner doesn't anticipate that changing any time soon, but what he does hope is that, with Delta's support and the sort of game-changing tech the real estate world is embracing, Weigand's continued evolution will help the company jump the line, so to speak. No more waiting for trends to migrate in from the coasts. No more waiting on updates. No more curves to sit behind.
With another century ahead of Weigand, the company wants to dictate what comes next, looking to become a trend-setter in the industry.
"What I want for J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. is to set the bar for the future of the real estate industry," Turner says.
Artificial intelligence is poised to become the next big thing in real estate.
Lots of ink has been spilled about the potential of AI to replace jobs. But as the pandemic has shown, that future remains a long way off. Instead of displacing professional expertise, AI has the potential to serve as a highly versatile and adaptive "multi-tool" that can help real estate agents and their clients.
In fact, it is already affecting every stage of today's real estate transactions. To understand what makes artificial intelligence so exciting, it's best to begin with the basics.
What is Artificial Intelligence, Really?
Artificial intelligence enables a piece of software to make inferences and draw conclusions based on a set of data. Some AI, called Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems, have the ability to interpret and answer a question posed in the "natural language" that ordinary people use every day.
AI has been around since the 1950s. However, the processing power and bandwidth available today has driven it to new heights. Everyday people can now interface with AI-based systems using the supercomputer they keep in their pocket. This is accelerating AI development on a grand scale.
Automatic processing and data collection are where today's artificial intelligence tools shine. They aren't always great at solving complex problems alone, especially when that means applying creativity. But they help agents, buyers, and sellers "connect the dots" and gain deeper insight for more informed decisions.
Let's dive in and see what artificial intelligence is doing to improve today's real estate world.
AI is especially crucial for real estate agents in their never-ending quest for lead generation.
These days, the vast majority of lead generation is bound to happen online. Agents' real estate websites and their social media are the two biggest planks in the strategy. Both can be enhanced by using AI to generate branded customer care experiences in a seamless and delightful way.
Machine learning is on display in a modern real estate all-in-one solution like DeltaNET™ 6. By continuously learning about buyer and seller behaviors based on past transactions, it finds patterns within millions of data points — patterns invisible to even the keenest human analyst.
This saves time by automatically scoring leads and facilitating effective follow-up.
Home listings are already searchable in massive quantities in any market you care to name. But buyers in particular depend upon real estate agents to sort through the oceans of listings and find those that meet their criteria. Agents, in turn, can look to artificial intelligence to accelerate the process.
Yes, the process typically begins with the AI system pulling in data entered by the real estate agent or directly by the buyer. By monitoring details like how long was spent on each listing and which photos were looked at, however, it highlights factors that allow it to surface additional listings faster.
This equips agents to send a curated round-up of listings to their buyers so they can act faster.
Real estate transactions aren't as confusing or complex as they might look from the outside. Still, there can be many twists and turns – and there's a lot both buyers and sellers don't know. The right AI can streamline transactions, making data searchable and easy to reference when you need it.
One of the biggest advantages to artificial intelligence is how it can cut down on human error. While it's always a wise idea to double-check every document, you no longer need to worry about tedious data entry that can introduce problems. Instead, software auto-populates forms contextually.
We all know of an AI-driven valuation tool that's notoriously off the mark in many of the estimates it gives. Despite that, AI-driven property valuation is growing better by the day. One key to making it work effectively is to cross-reference data from multiple vetted data storehouses.
By doing this behind the scenes, a machine learning tool can determine how much weight to assign to different sources. Ultimately, estimates continue to improve. Instead of spending hours developing a list of comparable sales, you can quickly generate a report and double-check the figures.
The lending landscape will always affect real estate agents and their clients, so it's crucial to know what changes are around the corner. Mortgage lenders have jumped into AI with both feet, using it to tame the ferocious process of underwriting — which can involve hundreds of documents.
Artificial intelligence can highlight key points within an entire corpus of documents, allowing lenders to make an initial determination in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. As the process continues to get faster and more accurate, lenders stand to double or even triple their productivity.
Contact us today to learn how you can capture AI's power with confidence using DeltaNET™ 6.
If you have seen any of the sales or training presentations I've delivered to REALTORS® in the last 12 months, then you'll know I've been beating the drum that the industry needs to "BE DIFFERENT." That's because there's growing disruption within real estate that's not going away anytime soon. In particular, we have continued to see massive movement from industry juggernaut Zillow over the last 12 months.
This is old news, but Zillow has been a licensed brokerage inside of every MLS in the country for months now. They also strategically made an acquisition of popular showing service "ShowingTime" in early 2021. I don't believe they are finished making big-time plays this year, as they also made the switch to power their property search on zillow.com with true IDX data, making it even more accurate and faster than before.
I bring this up because while Zillow's moves present clear challenges, there are specific things that both brokerages and real estate agents can do to prevent their business from being impacted by major industry players. Ironically, many of these things have been at your disposal for years. But, as the saying goes: The best time to make a change was yesterday; the second-best time is today. The change I'm referring to is fully leveraging the business automations available on the market NOW. Either with your current CRM/all-in-one solution or by taking a look at companies such as Delta Media Group® to see the impact that can be made in your company nearly overnight.
I believe very strongly in the following five concepts, which should be top of mind when looking at fully adopting your current technology or while evaluating other options. First and foremost, you want to find a technology firm that can help your brand BE POWERFUL.
What does it mean to be powerful in regard to real estate technology? There are a few answers to that question. Number one, you need a website platform that makes your brand stand out online. Something that doesn't feel cookie-cutter, something that truly speaks to your brand identity, and that you would feel proud to showcase online. There is immense power in a strong brand and a website that can fully tell your story and deliver an incredible experience for your customers when they find your site.
The second answer to the question of "being powerful" online is by having a website platform geared toward SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Having a beautiful, powerful website means nothing if nobody is visiting it. There is a major misconception in real estate that nobody can compete with the big portal sites for rankings online. Delta has been competing with and beating portal sites for phrases like "Homes for sale in
There is power in being present and dominant in the search engines. The battle for getting traffic to your site can't be won by spending tens of thousands of dollars on paid advertising, but it can be won by focusing on search phrases that truly matter in your market and getting customers to engage with you without forcing them to register on your site. Remember, Zillow is a powerful national brand, but they don't have the power and local name recognition that your business should have.
The next element you should consider is how technology can help you BE EFFICIENT in all aspects of your day-to-day operations. A phrase I hear thrown around a lot in online webinars is, "What do you have more of? Time or money?" I've consistently recognized that your time is the most valuable resource you will ever have. At Delta Media Group, our mission statement is "Automate to Elevate Life." Every day, we're looking for ways to deliver the most powerful real estate software ever built, designed to automate away the things you just don't have time to do.
When we talk about being efficient, I'm essentially talking about getting your business automated. After all, Zillow is immensely efficient at deploying new initiatives and executing them. The DeltaNET® 6 platform offers dozens of automations that any sales professional should use in their business. Here are just a few of the key highlights any CRM solution you're looking for should offer:
• Automated Drip Campaigns
(not just email, things like automated texts, automated calendar notifications, and more)
• AI-Driven Newsletters
• Automated Social Media Posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter
• Automated Tasks lists created each day based on your clients' behaviors with your website or emails
• Automated instant notifications to your customers related to new listings, market activity, and more
Something else you should be able to squeeze out of a technology platform is how you can BE CREATIVE.
In my opinion, I don't believe the major portal sites have been able to create a clear identity for themselves. There is something to be said about the human element and being able to tie yourself to your business in creative ways that help you feel like a local business rather than a large corporate entity.
Within the DeltaNET, you'll find our Creative StudioTM, which offers hundreds of designs ranging from single-page flyers, multi-page brochures, printable postcards, e-card designs, and so much more. New designs are constantly added to the platform, and all of them are completely customizable with options to match your brand's identity from the first click. I've never seen such an easy-to-use system display or such incredible high-quality designs. It also supports integrations with Adobe InDesign and even print fulfillment through third-party printers. Other "all-in-one" solutions typically offer this type of creative marking center; however, I don't know of any that offer it at the base price like we do inside the DeltaNET. That's right, our entire suite of marketing materials has no additional cost, and as I mentioned earlier, the entire e-card piece can be completely automated.
The fourth "concept," I feel, is probably the most important. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a 2020 case study analyzing data over the real estate market (and REALTORS®) for 2019. One of the many things revealed through this data is that an "experienced" real estate agent — which NAR defines as someone who has been in the business for 16 years or more —gets more than 39% of their business from repeat business. Additionally, another 29% of their business came from referrals from people they had worked with in the past.
So that's more than 68% of your business coming from the clients you've already worked to help.
Here is the other interesting element of that data. Directly after a transaction has been completed and the client has moved into the home, more than 90% of customers said they would work with their real estate agent again in the future. That means, despite those earlier numbers, in reality, real estate agents are losing nearly 50% of their future business opportunities for one reason or another. I believe the biggest reason for this is because real estate agents do not do their best to stay top of mind with a client after they have helped them move into a new home. You may feel that your clients should use you again in the future because you've done a great job with them, but the truth is those clients are getting bombarded by your competition to work with them. You have to continue to show your clients you want their business.
That is why we believe any technology platform you are looking to deploy needs to help you BE RELIABLE.
Why would a customer work with you again in the future and give you their business? Ideally, it's because you were a reliable expert who helped them navigate the largest transaction of their lives. However, your job isn't done when the commission has been paid out. You have to continue to provide value to those clients with things like real-time market statistics detailing what is going on in the neighborhood your client has now moved into. You have to provide them with automated home estimates about what the value of their home may be. Finally, you should continue to give them information about what's happening in their local community and the real estate industry as a whole. Never be stagnant.
Ultimately this brings us to the final phrase we want to impress upon you. I feel strongly that if you are POWERFUL with your brand, if you are EFFICIENT with your time, CREATIVE with your marketing, and RELIABLE for your clients...it will help you BE DIFFERENT in your business strategy and prevent your business from being impacted by the disrupters that are constantly trying to change the status quo.
At Delta Media Group, we believe that technology can empower your business and supplement all the great things you're already doing to be a leader in your marketplace. If you are looking to have your current technology solution audited or evaluate other options on the market, we have a team that can offer you a free consultation. Please don't hesitate to reach out!
Five Star Real Estate Lakeshore was built to be different.
Initially owned by David Gritter, Terry Brinks, and Don TerHorst, Five Star Lakeshore opened its doors in April 1999 with a singular purpose: To provide Western Michigan a real estate option made up of the best agents in the area. With those agents in its corner, Five Star Lakeshore quickly built a reputation of quality service, integrity, and professionalism -- all without working under the umbrella of a national agency.
"[Five Star Lakeshore] started because the three original founders were at a different brokerage, and they were tired of the higher fees," explains current owner and partner David J. Arnoldink. "So, they just said, 'Hey, we think we can do this a little better.'"
Five Star Lakeshore's offices are locally owned, staffed by people who are familiar with the West Michigan area. These are people who know the ins and outs of the community, giving clients a local edge when buying or selling a home.
No matter how many years pass or what else changes — like Steve Grilley joining Arnoldink and Brinks as partner — Five Star Lakeshore's agent-focused mindset has helped the company continue to color outside the usual real estate lines. Five Star Lakeshore prides itself on offering an efficient and high-value option for agents and clients alike, buoyed by the strength of a branded franchise without the overhead and control of a bigger organization.
This is a company focused on its people. On what agents can do when given the freedom to do it, because Five Star Lakeshore, at its core, wants its agents to succeed as much as its clients.
"This is the way it was set up from the beginning," says Agent Development Leader Kimberly Ryan. "We're definitely more agent-focused than brokerage-focused."
A FOCUS ON AGENTS
It's easy to claim that a business model puts a spotlight on agents. Plenty of real estate brokerages do that every day. But at Five Star Lakeshore, that spotlight shines a little brighter, allowing agents the power to forge their own real estate paths while still giving them the confidence that the company name on their business cards is there to support them every step of the way.
Since opening, Five Star Lakeshore has evolved without losing sight of its agents and what they're looking for out of their careers. For Five Star Lakeshore, agents are the star of this particular show, and the goal of every transaction is to receive a standing ovation, metaphorical as it may be.
"When it comes to how we're making decisions, whether it be something cost-wise or a website or anything else, we're trying to focus on what's best for our agents versus what's best for the brokerage," Ryan says. "The name Five Star Lakeshore shows our reputation and the backbone of who we are, and we want to have that be a nice umbrella that our agents are comfortable being under. They have the reputation, but they also know the focus is on them and that they can go out and promote their businesses."
"We don't have a corporate number or an office number on our signs," Arnoldink adds. "Our signs are big and bold with the agent's name and their direct line. We want the listing agent to get the phone calls on their own properties. Reward those who are getting the listing themselves."
Real estate can be a tricky business. Buying and selling a home is one of the most important moments in anyone's life, and Arnoldink admits that in a "commission-based business, that's scary for a lot of folks," particularly these days. That's why finding agents with the innate drive to succeed is at the crux of Five Star Lakeshore's company-wide mindset.
After all, Five Star Lakeshore began with three people looking to carve out their own real estate niche. Now, agents are building on that legacy. First-time agents, especially, have found Five Star Lakeshore an appealing landing spot, the perfect jumping-off point for the rest of their careers. With Five Star Lakeshore, agents are in control of their day-to-day life. No one is "breathing down their necks," Arnoldink says, or "telling them they have a task list." As the public faces of Five Star Lakeshore, even things like marketing are left up to the agents to fine-tune and use as they see fit.
"We don't do brokerage marketing very much," Office Manager Diane Wolters says, "because [agents] are the ones that the clients are working with."
When someone is thinking about working with Five Star Lakeshore, the goal, more often than not, is to have them think of working with an agent. Because for as obstacle-filled and nerve-wracking as real estate can be, it's also a distinctly human business, and agents provide that personal connection between Five Star Lakeshore and the communities it serves.
So, now, whenever Arnoldink and Ryan meet with potential agents, they're looking for that specific personality, that desire to be the best they can be and to represent Five Star Lakeshore's decades-long reputation whenever they get a new listing.
"Ambition is a huge key," Arnoldink says. "We try to provide the structure, the umbrella, a good culture for them to work under, but they have to go out and do it themselves."
While Five Star Lakeshore wants agents with self-motivation and the drive to create their own circle of influence with the sort of local relationships that drive business, the company isn't leaving its people entirely on their own, either.
Training sessions are offered as soon as agents are brought in, educating associates on what it takes to succeed in the area from both an immediate cost standpoint and to help them plan for the future.
"Over the last eight years, we've been focusing on education so our agents can grow, not only in their skill sets but in their commissions," Ryan says, adding that Five Star Lakeshore saw record commissions paid to agents earlier this year. "We're focusing on education for our existing agents, as well as our new agents."
In addition to training sessions, Five Star Lakeshore also offers a mentor program, spearheaded by Ryan, who says it gives new agents "a chance to get into a career that they might not have had guidance in before." Working with existing agents, many of whom have a background of multi-year success, Five Star Lakeshore's most recent hires get an inside look at what works and what doesn't in Western Michigan, giving them a solid foundation to build the rest of their careers. The program beings with Jumpstart, meeting several times a week over three months to cover goal setting, buyers appointments, listing appointments, understanding the purchase and listing agreements, and technology pieces from using a CRM, the MLS, to pricing a property.
Following each session, agents receive homework to, as Ryan details, help "build not only their knowledge but their confidence before working with clients."
Through the program, which got its start, in part, as a response to the Great Recession, every agent also receives a syllabus detailing the local market, a resource they can keep with them for as long as they stay with the company.
"Agents can refer back to their previous lessons and use them for future reference," Arnoldink says. "We've had a lot of success with it. We also started offering some split programs, better, stronger commission splits than a lot of our competition, and more education."
Ryan adds: "The mentor program follows agents as they work on their transactions. They have constant access to me to call, text, email, or meet and get answers to their questions. Since no two transactions are the same, it's helpful to have an experienced agent focused on helping our newer agents. No question is a 'dumb question,' and I would rather hear it all so I can walk side by side them in their transaction.
"As time goes on, the agents start to feel more comfortable, and usually after a year or so, they can handle it on their own and 'graduate' from the program," Ryan continues. "I'm never far away and sometimes have an agent reach out even a few years afterward to discuss a question they haven't run into before. I love helping our agents build their businesses faster and stronger than if they were in a traditional program. We feel like this unique approach is a major piece to our past and future growth and shows them how much Five Star Lakeshore cares."
With the mentor program flourishing and more opportunities than ever for agents to thrive, Five Star Lakeshore has doubled its agent total, bringing in and retaining more and more people looking to take their careers to the next level. And it's that continued growth within the company that's helped Five Star Lakeshore increase its footprint across Michigan.
Most recently, Five Star Lakeshore added offices in Grand Haven and Zeeland and merged with a smaller company, WestEdge Realty. Arnoldink says the growth has "come organically," but it's Five Star Lakeshore's stature as a company with dependable associates that consistently gets the ball rolling on expansion.
"It's been connections that we have in our area, and we've been approached, or we've approached somebody and said, 'Hey, you'd be a great fit,'" Arnoldink says.
FIVE STAR LAKESHORE & DELTA MEDIA GROUP
There'll be no partying like it's 1999 when it comes to technology at Five Star Lakeshore. At least not anymore.
Just a few years ago, while working with a small, local tech provider, Arnoldink admits that Five Star Lakeshore wasn't significantly "involved with technology." So, when Delta Media Group® came into the picture, Five Star Lakeshore wasn't all that knowledgeable of its new tech partner. It didn't take long for that to change. Suddenly, the tech sky was the limit, and Five Star Lakeshore was anxious to make the jump toward that horizon.
DeltaNET® 6 gives agents a suite of tools and, most importantly, provides them with cutting-edge technology to stay at the top of their game without breaking the bank.
"[Agents] keep more dollars in their pocket to allocate where they best see fit," Arnoldink says. "We've started to look inwardly and say, 'Hey, you guys, here's the set of tools.' We know a lot of your business comes from your relationships. Here's a tool to keep track of that in a better way, manage that in a better way."
No matter what their expertise with tech is like — from agents who grew up with a phone in their hands to those who are a little warier of recent changes — the DeltaNET's ease of use gives Five Star Lakeshore agents confidence every time they turn on their computer. Today's real estate world doesn't often afford extra time to learn a brand-new platform, but with DeltaNET 6, Five Star Lakeshore doesn't have to. Instead, agents have an intuitive system that makes sense for their busy schedules and even helps take some of the stress out of their everyday workload.
"Because we're not a national corporation and we're independently owned and operated, we don't always have the marketing background to know what to do," Ryan says. "So we rely on Delta to help us. And the communication that we've had has been awesome to allow us to put those pieces together."
These days, not only does Delta Media Group provide Five Star Lakeshore with the industry's most powerful CRM, but the duo is working on a large-scale website refresh. Moving away from individual agents sites, Five Star Lakeshore's main site will provide clients with an informational hub, giving them all the knowledge they need before buying or selling a home.
"In this revamp, we wanted it to tell a different story on who we are," Ryan says. "As far as what agents are looking for, our website tells a story about us."
When originally coming onboard with Delta, Arnoldink says Five Star Lakeshore's site was "so blatantly templative; it was crazy." Without the ability to customize, the site didn't give clients a sense of what Five Star Lakeshore was truly all about. Now, from the first click, users can learn Five Star Lakeshore's history, while also finding the perfect agent to work with.
Through it all, Arnoldink says the communication between Five Star Lakeshore and Delta has been "smooth," making the entire redesign process seamless. But that's nothing new; open communication is tradition for Five Star Lakeshore and Delta, with regular meetings and updates regarding brand-new tech.
"I check in once a year, at least, and say, 'Hey, what new changes do you have? Are we offering everything we could or can?'" Arnoldink says. "And [Delta] always says, 'These are the couple of changes we've got going on.' They listen and recommend options for some of the things we've taken advantage of or some of the things we haven't, and it's been a good fit for us."
Five Star Lakeshore's tech focus has centered on its site refresh recently, but the advent of social media has also required attention. As agents move away from individual sites, social media gives them an avenue to continue marketing themselves and hone their brand, something Five Star Lakeshore, with its reputation of providing agents the leeway to bolster their careers, loves to see.
Social media also allows agents to flex their creative muscles. They're not just selling a property. They're selling their ability to sell that property. Posting photos on Instagram is as important as any other marketing strategy and might even work better to help create relationships with the community.
"As a company, we're letting the agents go out there and do what they're comfortable with," Ryan says. "So we have agents that are using TikTok regularly; they're using Instagram. They're not only showing the public what they have for sale and what open houses are coming up, but they're showing them who they are as a person. And we feel that that's so important because we know that the public's going to work with the agent because of who they are."
By putting not only their name but their personality out there, agents make themselves more approachable, more dependable, and a real estate partner in the truest sense of the word. It also helps create a sense of community, something Five Star Lakeshore has encouraged in the last two decades.
"In our sales meetings before COVID, we would consistently ask all of our agents, 'Where does your business come from?'" Arnoldink details. "And probably 90% would come back and say, 'It's from my sphere of people.' So we want to look more inwardly and offer these tools that [agents] can nurture their sphere. We're hoping it makes a big difference for them."
Building on those relationships also means giving back to the area. In those same interviews where Ryan and Arnoldink look to find self-starting agents, they're also looking for people who want to better the communities where they live and work. Teaming with agents, Five Star Lakeshore supports a handful of organizations and events every year, including Habitat for Humanity, as well as local initiatives like the Mount Baldhead Challenge to support the Boys and Girls Club.
Says Arnoldink: "As far as the community goes, it's everything."
WHAT'S NEXT FOR FIVE STAR LAKESHORE
As Five Star Lakeshore turns its attention to the future, the drive to succeed won't change. That drive is built into the DNA of Five Star Lakeshore, from the company's opening day to this very moment. And with the hopes of seeing agents' continued success while growing teams and expanding into new offices, Five Star Lakeshore is more confident than ever in its structure.
There are no plans to slow down. No plans to back down from any challenge. Only the desire to provide Western Michigan with a dependable real estate pro, led by agents who do their company proud.
"The future of Five Star Lakeshore is to continue to find ways to support those teams, to continue to bring new agents in, educate them, build loyalty with them through the mentor program," Arnoldink says. "And to continue our community involvement and hopefully even grow that."