New Albany, OH
Competitive advantage doesn’t come easy. With nearly 20 years in real estate, the Raines Group has watched new upstarts, seasoned pros, and mega-agents venture into the Columbus, OH area. Staying ahead of them took a fresh perspective on a traditional idea. Here’s their story.
The First Move to Dominance
In 1998, the surrounding areas of Columbus weren’t as competitive as they are today. The Raines Group, in its first year of business, had a simple goal: $15 million in sales. Today, they have a projected goal of $200 million. How did they get there? And how did they keep the competition from winning their business? They focused on internal operations.
It wasn’t marketing that saved the day. It wasn’t a catchy real estate slogan. It was logistics. More importantly, the change didn’t happen overnight. The Raines Group has been repetitively improving their systems since 1998, especially as they’ve grown outside their original real estate market.
Here are the steps they took over the years to grow their real estate business.
Designing an Operational Process
Coordinating staff in a complex operation with multiple people can get chaotic. Getting them all on the same page and running the business like a well-oiled machine takes … a lot of iterations. The Raines Group didn’t hit a “perfect solution” off the bat. They asked for outside perspectives. They tested each decision. And they reworked existing ideas.
During that process, they created a process. Try saying that three times.
Sales staff (i.e. real estate agents), have an 8 week onboarding process. The Raines Group teaches them the listing and buyer process. They walk them through the tasks they expect them to complete. And they also do role-playing, to make them comfortable when they actually start working.
How did they know what process to enforce? Like we mentioned before, they tested it. There wasn’t one idea or one hypothesis. There were dozens, and the Raines Group implemented them all, watched which ones worked, and then got rid of the “trash.”
Every MLS market is different. Each region of the United States has different kinds of homebuyers and sellers. Just because one process worked in Arizona, didn’t mean it would work in Ohio. The Raines Group had to measure it against goals. They selected the one that best fit their business and their real estate market.
The key element of success: Expectations. The Raines Group, from the start, set expectations for everyone and outlined priorities. This helped staff focus on what really mattered (to reach their goals).
Carefully Recruit Agents for Success
There are 20+ people working for (and/or supporting) the Raines Group brand. Most of us know the adage: Hire slow, fire fast. The Raines Group has definitely adopted this mindset. They follow the problem solving method Google is known for -- Will this address the issue we’ll see in 5 years time? If not, rethink whether you need it or not.
Recruiting real estate agents and other staff is a slow, methodical process for the Raines Group. Most real estate teams talk about hiring based on culture. Ron and Sandy (owners of the Raines Group) actually put it to practice.
Every hire goes through behavioral questioning. Peer interviews ask “what if” scenarios. Applicants fill out DISC profiles and take a Myers Brigg test, to evaluate how they fit into the company’s culture. Did we mention, this is on top of general testing for sales skills and other efficiencies?
So, why does the Raines Group go through all this? Because they know disengaged employees have 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, and 60% more errors.
Today, every real estate agent working under the Raines Group has an assistant (whether personal or virtual). Coupled with a system like BoomTown, it allows their sales staff to hold more conversations, create more connections, and close more deals.
People who fit into the culture will be more engaged with their work. Once hired, the Raines Group makes sure every team member feels valued, supported, and respected. The residual effect is higher performance and profitability. Plus, they know brand reputation goes a long way.
The main value prop of any real estate agent is their customer service. With a process designed to support excellent customer service and a culture to support their goals, the Raines Group watches their agents turn into mega-agents. They become well respected in the community, and that fuels more business.
If there’s any tip for building and maintaining a strong real estate sales staff, it’s to focus on the work-life balance.
Define a Scalable Marketing Strategy
As the Raines Group fine-tuned operations, they began to look outward. For years, they worked on internal operations, but as their business grew, they realized a strategy to replicate operations across offices was needed.
New MLS markets meant more recruiting. A mixed staff between rookie agents and seasoned veterans meant tweaking operational processes for different people. Example: Agents with a large sphere-of-influence (SOI) didn’t need to focus their time on managing their lead gen portals, like Zillow and BoomTown. They were already getting plenty of referrals, so the Raines Group tasked newer agents -- ones without a book of business -- to manage lead generation sources.
They also worked out responsibilities for expanding farm areas. With the sales goal of $200 million, they decided to take their normal 3000 homes “market” area and expand it to 10,000 homes. To do that, each agent took a neighborhood for door knocking, mailing flyers, and getting involved in the community. Meanwhile, operational staff would help with advertising, follow up with inquiries, and so on.
In addition to scaling operations, the Raines Group also started a client appreciation program. They outlined which customers would be valuable for their brand and targeted them with continuing communication (“check-ins”), block party invitations, movie night gatherings, and holiday gifts. The result? 50% of their income comes from referrals and repeat business (from these specific people).
Growing your real estate business doesn’t have to mean “more leads.” It doesn’t have to be recruiting more real estate agents, either. Sometimes, honing down your operations, scaling it with technology, and building a positive work-culture can have a 1000% better return on investment (ROI).
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