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An emotional Robert Reffkin says he’s optimistic about Compass’s future

The brokerage’s CEO discussed his 10 year journey with the firm during Compass’ annual agent conference

Compass agents from across the country have descended upon Atlanta for the brokerage’s annual fall conference, the Compass REtreat. The gathering officially kicked off Wednesday morning as Compass’ founder and CEO Robert Reffkin, took to the main stage at the Georgia World Congress Center to address the crowd of 2,500 Compass agent attendees.

In a wide-ranging – and at times emotional – keynote speech, Reffkin addressed the various challenges and triumphs Compass has seen in its first decade of existence, as well as current obstacles and future goals he has for the firm.

In 2021, Compass ascended to the No. 1 brokerage in the country by sales volume. According to the RealTrends rankings, Compass closed 224,067 transaction sides for a total volume of $251 billion. Despite the productivity, the brokerage has struggled to turn a profit since going public in April 2021, losing over $783 million in the past six quarters.

Compass’ struggles most recently resulted in three rounds of layoffs between June and September 2022, including a 10% reduction in staff in June and cutting its technology team from 1,500 employees to 700 via the August and September layoffs.

“Seven hundred people is still likely larger than every other traditional brokerage firm’s technology combined,” Reffkin told attendees. “It’s larger than we were just two years ago.”

In addition to layoffs, the brokerage announced on its second quarter earnings call with investors that it was ending its agent recruitment incentive program in order to cut down on costs.

Although Reffkin told attendees that these decisions and especially the choice to cut staff this year was difficult to arrive at, he describes the time before the brokerage’s IPO as his “lowest low.”

“That was the only time in my life where I had no hope,” Reffkin said.

As Reffkin has previously noted, his mother’s journey of raising him as a single parent inspired him during this difficult period, but he also credited the firm’s agents as another source of inspiration for their ability to bounce back from challenges with renewed passion for the industry.

Looking ahead, Reffkin may again need to rely on these sources of inspiration, as he noted the more difficult decision are likely on the way given current housing market conditions, however he remains optimistic about the future of his brokerage.

Reffkin’s main objective for Compass is to provide “anything an agent needs,” fully realizing “the promise of technology,” and that the technology will be “Apple easy and Google fast.”

“Our stock market’s gonna go from two to 20 and well beyond. Many companies have gotten to 20 —Why not us?” Reffkin asked as he concluded his keynote. “The book will be how a group of 30,000 entrepreneurs banded together to improve in industry and where will we be located? Of course, all the major cities in the US but not just there. We will be in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, and Sao Paulo.

“I promise you on our 20th anniversary, I will be on this stage still working for you. Yes, we will have a little more gray hair. Few more wrinkles. But we will have a lot more pride in the company that we have built together the future of real estate.”