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REAL Trending  Special Edition: Leading Through A Challenging Market

May 1, 2020 5:00:00 AM

Lacey Conway, CEO, Latter and Blum Real Estate, New Orleans ditched the 30- and 60-day plans to develop weekly plans to mitigate the damage of the coronavirus on their firm. Find out what other steps she took to keep the company running smoothly and keep her agents engaged.

Tracey Velt:

In this special edition of The REAL Trending Podcast, we're speaking to real estate leaders on what they're doing to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on their businesses. We'll talk about actions they're taking, lessons learned from 2008 and more.

Tracey Velt:

This is Tracey Velt, Editor in Chief of content for REAL Trends. Today we're speaking with Lacey Conway, CEO of Latter and Blum Real Estate in New Orleans. Welcome Lacey.

Lacey Conway:

Thank you Tracey. Good to talk to you today.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, well this is trying times on everyone and I expect that your company hasn't felt the full impact of this yet. But, I know New Orleans is soon becoming a hotspot.

Lacey Conway:

Yes.

Tracey Velt:

So let's talk a little bit about some of the business steps you've taken immediately to lessen the impact on the company.

Lacey Conway:

We, as an executive crew, have gotten together and now it's daily, sometimes multiple calls. We've pretty much charter out our 30 day, 60 day plans and really as events seem to escalate, it's turned more into, "Okay, let's look at this week and let's make a plan for this week and our two week plan."

Lacey Conway:

I think for us, and it seems like every brokerage, our focus really is on how can we cut the extensive leases, salaries, employees? I mean, I know it's heart wrenching but we have absolutely taken our first steps and first rounds of layoffs, furloughs, pretty much everything we can do to keep the company healthy and keep as much cash as possible.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. So have you done anything else as far as your technology or do you have that in play already?

Lacey Conway:

That's been huge, yes. I mean, pretty much essentially taking advantage of every medium available to us. Really focused on the videos, the virtual meetings, all of that has been really... Saved the day. We use SkySlope so we're capable of being paperless. And, in a lot of ways this has forced everybody to take advantage of these tools and become more proficient in some things that they didn't have to do before.

Lacey Conway:

So that really has saved us. But yes, I mean emails, really taking advantage of all those online virtual tools.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. And so, tell me how you're communicating to your agents. Do you have a weekly Zoom call or I guess you use... I don't know what you use. So tell me what you're doing with the virtual meetings, sending videos to them. How are you communicating to all of your agents?

Lacey Conway:

Really everything you've mentioned. I've started doing a weekly video. We use Zoom, the managers do their weekly meetings through the offices. Sending videos for sure, virtual meetings, all of it. Everything available, we're taking advantage of it.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. Now, are you doing it... You said weekly or tell me how frequently you're doing it.

Lacey Conway:

Really it breaks down to, as on the corporate level probably weekly.

Tracey Velt:

Okay.

Lacey Conway:

And, in the offices, whether it's daily get togethers, we have a weekly office meeting that happens, so those are still continuing.

Tracey Velt:

Okay.

Lacey Conway:

And again, it's at the pace of what's happening. As things escalate for us, we send out emails more frequently. We don't want to... Everybody's getting information on COVID and we don't want to flood everybody with too much information. But, at this point it seems like you can't have enough inflammation.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. And so, obviously this is much different than the 2008 down turn but what did you learn during that, that's helping you lead through this current pandemic?

Lacey Conway:

I would say for us in the Gulf south, our real nightmare came in August 2005 with Katrina. So by the time 2008 came around, it was a down turn for sure. But, it became relative. With Katrina, I mean it was traumatic in the way... I mean, the economy, emotional, all those impacts. But again, it made the 2008 down turn seem relative, not as big of a deal, more navigating changes with the CFPB.

Lacey Conway:

But, through all of it, there seems to be a silver lining to each crisis. For us with Katrina, we had an operation in Baton Rouge, which more than made up for our losses in New Orleans. But, they're takeaways from each crisis and we adapt and you move on, life goes on. So lessons learned from all these crisis.

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Tracey Velt:

Okay. And, did you feel like because of 2008 you were more prepared financially, as well?

Lacey Conway:

Yes.

Tracey Velt:

Obvious... Okay.

Lacey Conway:

And I'd say Tracy, from speaking with our aged, wise counsel at Latter and Blum, they're more echoes of the action plans taken, say in the downturn. Like the oil bust of the 80s, that kind of reaction is a lot of what we're doing today. So unfortunately, I think for our area, we've been through a lot of crisis. And again, there's takeaways from each. But yes, you're more prepared and I think you spring into action a little more quickly and you're a little more level headed, after going through a series of these.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. So what advice do you have for smaller brokers? One office shops or small brokers who aren't quite sure what to do.

Lacey Conway:

I feel like through all of it, just being proactive, being positive. Internally we're really focused on who and what we need to be post crisis. We're going to get through it. And, I think it would be to keep in mind that usually what you do during these times of crisis is remembered long after it ends. So staying positive but taking action.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. And, let's just set the numbers aside and everything for a moment and talk about how are you feeling? How are you feeling about the market? How are you feeling about business?

Lacey Conway:

I would say I'm pretty much cautiously optimistic. There's just so much uncertainty. I think the general feeling is, that we are going to get through this and I think everyone feels that there is an active real estate world on the other side of this. It's just that waiting period of making sure you can stay healthy and make it to the other side.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely.

Lacey Conway:

And, I think every... Yeah, go ahead.

Tracey Velt:

No, go ahead.

Lacey Conway:

I think every market has their unique set of headwinds. And, I think for us, as far as New Orleans basically becoming the epicenter of corona, it may take us a little longer to get over it. We have heavy unemployment and we're staring on hurricane season. So lots of things to be concerned about. But, I think generally everyone feels like there is going to be something on the other side. And, if we can just take precautions and really keep an eye towards looking forward to once we're out of this.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. And now, you are... Tell me a little bit about your market right now. Are you still taking listings and having closings?

Lacey Conway:

We are but it's slowed pretty dramatically. I mean, I feel like anything that was pending April, we should be okay. I think May, all bets are off.

Tracey Velt:

Okay.

Lacey Conway:

The title companies have been amazing. I think everybody's pulled together the best they can to make sure that business goes on. But for us, we were a nonessential, now where essentially. It's a little bit confusing trying to navigate how to keep business going and how we communicate that to the agents. And, I think for us, especially being in a few markets, say the Lafayette market isn't as effected yet as New Orleans.

Tracey Velt:

Right, definitely. Well Lacey, thanks for taking the time to talk to REAL Trends today. I know that it's a busy time for you so I appreciate the time.

Lacey Conway:

Yeah. Thank you so much, Tracey.

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