Omaha broker on his one-relationship-at-a-time recruiting strategy

Every year, RealTrends chooses GameChangers based on five-year, transaction side percentage data from the RealTrends 500. This year, we chose seven independent brokerage firms and 10 franchises who grew their businesses at astronomical rates.

In analyzing this list of top-growth brokerages, these GameChangers grew their brokers in multiple different ways — from mergers and acquisitions to recruiting and coaching and retention.

As CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Good Life Group in Omaha, Nebraska, Tom Simmons brought about 282% growth between 2017-2021 by transaction side percentage to be named a 2022 RealTrends GameChanger.

RealTrends spoke with Simmons about the growth of his brokerage:

Tracey Velt: What was your biggest aha moment or lesson learned while building your firm?

Tom Simmons: I think the fundamental thing I learned, or was reminded of, is the understanding that my agents don’t work for me, I work for them. I have the benefit of having been a salesperson compared to a business owner who doesn’t understand that side of the business.

We owe agents the resources, environment, attention to detail, appreciation, and support to make their lives personally and professionally more fulfilling. 

Tracey Velt: In the past five years, what percentage of your growth was organic and what percentage was M&A?

Tom Simmons: We started with 10 people in 2015 and have entered into some relationships with larger teams but never did a brokerage merger or acquisition. We’re now at 300 agents, and it’s been been one relationship at a time.

We don’t have goals around recruiting, but we do have a strong desire to interact with people in the real estate community in a positive way. If you do that, good things will happen. Have meaningful conversations, keep in touch, put agents in a recruiting CRM — it’s a process.

We want to have good conversations and understand on a personal level what is best for each agent or team. We want to improve their business and quality of life. We develop a behavioral and compensation structure that will help them.

We don’t believe in comp structures that are the same. We try to be nimble on outsourcing resources based on the individual agent. Some may want Homebot and some may want transaction support, others want a social media coordinator. We try to customize compensation based on needs rather than uniformity.

Of course, we model things for a sense of economic viability. We need to be profitable, but we don’t need to paint everyone with the same brush.

Tracey Velt: Moving forward, what is your main focus for growth?

Tom Simmons: We believe ancillary services are critical and that you have to have critical mass to monetize them. Splits aren’t going up; they’ll go down, so if you don’t have critical mass, which in our market is about $15 million in gross commission income (GCI), you can’t effectively have ancillary services in a meaningful, financially sound way.

If you don’t have these services, you’re dead because you can’t compete. If my title company makes as much as the brokerage, then if someone is trying to compete with me on split. You can outspend them, but once the splits get tighter, if you don’t have an eye on ancillary, you’re dead.

We’re doubling down on quality and want to be cost effective for agents.