When Stacie Staub, owner and founder of West + Main Homes, turned 40, she started thinking about “what the next 10-20 years” of her life would look like. In 2013, Staub was working at Live Urban in Denver, Colo. She was happy in her career, loved her team and co-workers, but decided she didn’t want to work for someone else the rest of her life. She wanted to start and run her own agency.
With an MBA in Entrepreneurship and a master’s degree in Marketing, she had the skills. She also had the confidence and desire—so she made the leap and told the Live Urban owners she was launching her own brokerage.
Now in the middle of launching her brand, Staub is sharing her experience with other agents in webinars and conferences. Her tips range from branding, to how to tell your boss you’re leaving, to how to network. One tip Staub stresses: before making the leap, lay some preliminary and necessary groundwork:
Connect with industry professionals and other real estate agents.
Part of marketing a new company involves building connections and making sure people in the industry know who you are. As a media contributor, Staub believes writing for the media outlets covering the real estate industry is a great way to reach out to your peers and position yourself as an expert.
“Real estate media outlets are often open to insights, tips or educational articles from real estate professionals,” she said. “Anything from how to use an app, or something related to the industry is often welcomed.” It’s not just about publishing; it’s about connecting with industry professionals. Those connections help her create and nurture valuable relationships with other REALTORS. If not the media, “It’s important to connect with people somewhere – online, Facebook, a local group or organization in your area where you can meet new people and potential clients.”
Strategize when to tell your boss you’re leaving.
Not every boss or broker is going to embrace and support your decision to leave and start your own (competing) business. Staub said she was lucky to have a “cool, supportive broker,” but has heard horror stories about other agents who didn’t. “If you’re working for someone else, it’s best to be as fully prepared and having done as much as possible before having that conversation,” she said. “I’ve heard about brokers who turned off an agent’s email immediately after getting the news, or who deleted databases or reacted in other extreme ways.” The best advice she can give agents is to “complete as much of the transition process as possible before delivering the news or having that conversation. Read the employee agreement you signed when hired and make sure you understand your contract, any non-compete clauses, or other legal issues before talking to anyone about leaving. Talk to an attorney before making the leap.”
Create a financial plan—and be prepared to fend off vendors.
Once she announced her plans to start a new company, Staub began to get calls from dozens of people wanting to sell her software and technology and services—not all of which she wanted. Knowing what she did and didn’t want in terms of office space, services, websites, technology, and employees was important. Know your finances, goals and business plan before going public, she said.
“Take your time and put together a plan, not just for your business, but for everything,” she said. “Knowing where you want to go will help you say ‘no’ to the things you don’t need or want.”
Define your brand.
Know what your brand is. It will form the foundation of your business and your culture and help determine the kind of business you attract. Some brokers embrace the “team” concept and encourage their agents to pursue their own brand, as well as the agency brand. Some don’t, choosing simply to emphasize the agency instead. Deciding how you want to proceed before you start will help you to avoid conflict.
Build a strong team.
Determine what skills and experience you have and what your brokerage will need. Then, hire people who possess the skills you don’t have. Take your time and make sure the people you hire fit into the culture and work environment you envision for your company.