Small Is Still Dynamic: Starting An Independent Firm

by Chicago Agent

Jim RothQ&A with Jim Roth, Owner, The Real Estate Group (TREG)

CA: When did the Real Estate Group open its doors?
Jim Roth: We opened January of 2008.

CA: How many months/years did it take to prepare to open your own real estate firm?
JR: It took me roughly six months to put my vendors and suppliers together; however, I really started realizing the need for a different type of broker model in the market two years earlier. I have invested over $250,000 into my back office systems (accounting, communication, transaction management, marketing), and I did extensive research and investigation as to how TREG’s business systems needed to connect.

CA: What was your history before starting TREG?
JR: I started in real estate in February of 1997 as a sales person. From ’97-’02 I worked for six different brokerage companies as a sales person: Coldwell Banker Stanmeyer, Prudential Burnette, Coldwell Banker NRT, Belliard Gordon/Sudler, Sussex & Reilly C21 and Prudential Preferred Properties. Over that same period of time I averaged roughly $13 million in sales and 30 transactions per year. In 2002, I was given the opportunity to invest and start an office for a broker (Prudential Preferred Property – Lakeview), that involved becoming a partner/president/COO for the entire organization. At the end of 2006 I sold my interest in the company and accepted a position with Guaranteed Rate as EVP of business development. I remained with G-Rate until the summer of ’07, at which time I fullly engaged with setting up TREG, prior to its official opening in 2008.

CA: What made you decide to open your own business, instead of buying a franchise?
JR: Two reasons: cost and flexibility
1. The cost of being associated with a national brand, to me, is greater than the return of that expense to the customer. My evaluation of both expense to me as the broker and the one levied on the agents by that association was no longer going to be a realistic expense that consumers would be willing to pay in the future.
2. Real estate is local, and without the ability to adjust your strategies to accommodate the needs of your clients, you will always be at a disadvantage. Being part of national brands, by my estimation, has very little value in the matrix of why a house sells.

CA: How many agents did you have at the start, and how many now?
JR: I started with myself and my administrative manager. The first agent (Colleen Bansley) joined me in the first month we opened. Now we have 45 sales associates and four leasing agents.

CA: How did you recruit agents when you first started?
JR: Most of my recruiting is done with people I have worked with before, or are recommended to me by TREG agents or other industry people. Because we were new, some were apprehensive, but most understood that our company was positioning itself for the changes which were coming to our industry. And everyone knew me before.

CA: What are the advantages to having your own real estate company?
JR: The advantage of TREG is that we are a small but dynamic group of professionals. We use our size to our advantage, agents receive the benefits of their experience via commissions and latitude in the work place.

CA: What are the disadvantages?
JR: I have worked for myself for the last 20 plus years, I don’t see any disadvantages.

CA: Is there anything that you might do differently if you could go through the process again?
JR: Of course there are a number of things I might have changed given how the market has evolved, and for the most part I have addressed those issues since we opened. We adapt at TREG, and I have a group of professionals who understand that our No. 1 commitment to our clients is to do the right thing for them. I opened my company because I truly believed there was a void in our industry with respect to a brokerage that caters to agents who want to run their own business, and not be plugged into a pre-conceived process. Agents need flexibility; today’s consumer demands it. When you can’t provide what people want, they will find it somewhere else, and you can’t replace lost sales revenue with brokerage fees.

Jim Roth is the Managing Broker/Principal of The Real Estate Group. He can be reached at 773.572.0964. For more information, visit tregchicago.com.

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