We have applied for a Grant sponsored by Chase Bank and Living Social. The first step to even have our proposal considered is to obtain 250 votes from people who have Facebook accounts. We have to get those votes by June 30th to be considered. It is crucial that everyone who can does in fact vote immediately. Your vote is extremely important to us. To vote now, click here. Then click on "Login and Support", then search for "Windermere Bay Area Properties", click Vote, Click Share. Then finally click on our company name and LIKE our Facebook page. The entrie process takes 60 seconds.
Our Grant submittal consists of a response to a specific series of questions included here:
Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique?
We purchased our real estate franchise in July 2007, literally weeks before the bay area real estate market began to crash. Our unique approach, and the defining element of who we are today, was to create an office culture and environment that acknowledged strong, successful agents as the backbone of the company and then pay them accordingly.
We have remained true to that vision and have been successful in attracting several top producing agents to the company. Our company at this point is averaging 17 closed transactions per year per agent. Our full-time Realtors average over 25 closed transactions per year. The average in our is less than 25% of these numbers
Additionally, while we are open to, and eagerly embrace, new technologies and marketing possibilities we also pay close attention to our ROI and have been able to keep our costs under control. As a result, even with a small sales staff and a declining market, we will show a profit this year.
There are many people within the real estate industry who believe that the Industry’s future depends on developing the systems and operations to allow the small companies like ours to have a BIG presence in the community while maintaining the efficiency, effectiveness and maneuverability of a small organization. This grant will help us accomplish that goal.
How is your business involved with the community you serve?
As a Windermere franchise there are two commitments that we make. These two commitments were in fact decisive factors in our decision to go with Windermere as a franchise organization.
The first commitment was to Windermere’s Community Service Day. In California that is the third Friday of October, every year. On that day, every person, including all the agents and all the owners and staff, take a day away from work and together perform a day of community service. This last year we worked with a non-profit organization called Loved Twice to gather and assemble boxes of “gently used” and new baby and toddler clothing for those young families who often have literally nothing for their newborns when they leave the hospital. In years past we spent our day working with the Fresh Start non-profit in Walnut Creek, Ca. This organization helps the homeless and near homeless within the suburban communities of Central Contra Costa County. Both are marvelous organizations and we are proud to have been able to support them in some small way.
Our second commitment is to support the Windermere Foundation. A portion of each commission goes into the foundation funds, which we then disburse to support organizations that reach out to the community specifically to help the homeless and near homeless. Because of the huge level of distress caused by the housing collapse and the economic downturn, the support that we, and other people and companies like us, are able to provide is absolutely vital to the ongoing welfare of untold hundreds of families.. This year and last year we donated our funds to the HOPE project within the Mt Diablo Unified School District. Our donation did not go into the District’s general fund. Instead it went specifically to help those children whose family lost their home … and provides essentials like transportation to get them back and forth to school, or backpacks for their books.
The residential real estate industry is tremendously impacted by the quality of the schools in the area. In the affluent communities there is usually significant financial support from the parent and community organizations. That support simply does not exist at a sufficient level within the less affluent communities and neighborhoods. It is my belief that it is incumbent upon the Realtors and real estate companies from both the affluent and less affluent communities to actively support the school programs within those areas where these enrichment programs are being cut. These programs enrich the lives of the students and make their school experience meaningful, and the result is better citizens. If we receive this grant a key element of our corporate culture and our community branding will be to spearhead a wider level of Realtor support for these programs to give back to the community.
What would a $250k grant mean to your business plan and how will you utilize the funds to ensure long-term growth and stability?
We are presently a small, nimble company. We have put some systems in place that are very efficient and cost effective for both the office and our agents. But to last we have to grow … in market presence, agent count, locations, and of course sales and profitability. To accomplish that we have to become one of the “go to” companies in the region for those agents and agent teams who are our “target” as set forth in our business plan. The game is changing. We have to become one of the game changers.
The Grant will help decrease the time needed to implement our business plan because the implementation does not have to wait for the cash flow for funding. With proper re-branding and appropriate marketing, a speedy implementation will help create momentum, energy and buzz within the real estate community and the community at large… increasing the likelihood of success over the long term geometrically.
The key to sustained growth, long term productivity and stability is to adapt to changing market conditions and new ways of doing business … in real time, while making those transitions easy for the agents. As an office we have embraced advancements in technology, especially in our online transaction management and integrated online marketing platform. With the Grant we will further expand our Virtual Office into the Cloud to include website integration, social networking integration, lead generation and contact management systems at both the office and agent level, and expand into enhanced communications systems, both hardware and software (specifically with Realtor optimized I-Pads). To minimize the ongoing “technology trauma” experienced by many agents with the Grant we will implement an integrated Transaction and Marketing Coordinator position into our Administrative Support System as an adaptation of the P.O.D. program initiated by Windermere Corporate in the Northwest offices. … to create a more seamless positive experience for our clients and our agents. Unlike other companies that have attempted to move in this direction it is our intention to continue as a local company, remaining active and present in our local communities, even as we grow.
Part of the plan is to increase the productivity of our existing agents by assisting them in increasing their average sales price and their personal market share. Additionally, it is imperative that additional productive agents be added to the roster through an effective recruiting program of both existing and new agents, and also through the acquisition of small or modest sized independent brokerages. A portion of the Grant funds will provide the seed money to bring this about, through effective re-branding, optimized agent tools, an aggressive recruiting campaign to both new and existing agents, and recruiting events that highlight the benefits of our company in an upscale fashion.
What types of challenges can you identify with your plan and how will you overcome them?
There are very few new agents entering the real estate industry, and that presents a challenge when competing with the large, established firms with significant name recognition, presence and backing (a prime example is that the most prominent firm in the region is owned by the parent company of the major title company). When recruiting existing agents the most significant challenge is that they are complacent … reluctant to change things when there is already upheaval all around them.
We will use Grant funds to become the local, community focused, cutting-edge real estate information resource and sales organization … and in doing so garner that presence and name recognition needed to attract more top quality agents (new and existing) to our company. A well articulated and funded recruiting campaign, highlighting the agent benefits of our company presence and culture should maximize the recruiting potential of individual agents and agent teams.
Another avenue that we are pursuing is to seek out small companies whose owners are ready to sell. When done successfully and being very mindful of the bottom line this can produce quick, relatively large scale results. There are owners in the region who are open to discussions, but the seed money to make the transition is often an issue. Allocating 30 to 40% of the Grant to this “seed fund” should by itself generate at least one additional location with up to 25 agents, especially when combined with the recruiting campaign noted above and adapted to office/company recruitment.
Describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful.
We have a small team of entrepreneurial agents with an average of 10 years selling real estate in the local marketplace (not including me with over 35 years experience), most of whom are also actively involved in the community in some leadership role.. They each have a different specialty, ranging from first time home-buyers to REO specialist and short sale specialists. We have an integrated transaction management and accounting system that interfaces with our document management system allowing a single part-time admin person to handle all of our current administrative needs. The system interface with the agents is sufficiently streamlined that our current agents are able to close 20 to 30 transactions without the need for a dedicated transaction coordinator. Their input and suggestions on an ongoing basis have led to the use of several systems in current use and their suggestions for further innovations have been, or will be, incorporated in the utilization of Grant funds, including technology upgrades and the addition of a dedicated Transaction / Marketing Coordinator, all of which will help our current agents and our additional agents to substantially increase their production levels.
Additional relevant information you would like to share
The process of writing this proposal has helped to solidify what our company needs to do to be successful in the long term. In these challenging times it becomes very easy to focus entirely on the immediate and urgent needs of day to day survival. Taking a fresh look at the long term plan and just asking those “what if” questions has opened up new thoughts, ideas and approaches that would not have been articulated without this exercise. My hope, of course, is to make them a reality much more quickly with funds from this Grant.