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REAL Trends 500: Podcast Lacey Conway CEO, Latter & Blum Companies, Louisiana

Jul 14, 2020 8:54:43 AM

Lacey Conway, CEO, Latter & Blum Companies, Louisiana

With a focus on staying debt-free and looking for ways to beef up ancillary services, Conway stays growth-minded. The company ranked No. 30 by transaction sides in this year's REAL Trends 500 Top Brokerages. Find out more about Conway's growth strategies in this podcast.

Tracey Velt:

This is Tracey Velt, Editor in Chief of Content for Real Trends. We're speaking to the top brokers in the country to take a peek at how they built their businesses. We'll talk about lessons learned, personal passions, and their top strategies for recruiting and retaining productive agents. Today we're speaking with Lacey Conway, CEO of Latter & Blum companies in Louisiana. Welcome Lacey.

Lacey Conway:

Well, thank you Tracey. Happy to be here.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. We'll start at the beginning. Tell me how you got started in the business and ultimately came to run the company.

Lacey Conway:

Well, let's see. My father bought Latter & Blum in 1986, so at that time I was close to turning seven. I feel like this company has really been a part of my life from a young age, and aside from interning in the mail room, and various odd jobs during the summer, I pretty much jumped in, and it was a pretty straightforward path to this leadership position.

First licensed in 2005. Worked as a sales agent in the company. Did that for about 10 years. Got my broker's license, managed one of our offices, and really in the last four years have taken on more of an executive role, and have shared an office with my dad ever since.

Tracey Velt:

Great. Obviously you've been in the business for a while, and what are your top two lessons that you've learned while building the business?

Lacey Conway:

I'd say even watching the company get built. One thing I'd say probably is delegating authority. Don't micromanage. Trusting the people you hire. The second one, probably avoiding debt. I would credit my father for making sure that the company has been healthy and strong. Really, as of I'd say around the year 2000 the company has not had any debt.

Tracey Velt:

That's wonderful. Obviously everyone has an aha moment when growing the brokerage. What was your moment where you thought a strategic change was necessary or you realized, "Okay. This is exactly where I need to be, and I can make a difference."

Lacey Conway:

Tracey, I'd probably say right now I feel like there have been quite a few aha, and that I love that. That's a very positive spin, and also a couple, "Oh my God," moments. The industry is moving so fast, and I feel like right now one of the things that ... We're morphing, and changing, and getting current, is just the fact that as a company we're 104 years old.

"Oh my God, we have too much overhead and too many expenses." The second one probably, "Oh my God, the agents just want more and more," and just trying to find how we stay relevant and prepare for the next hundred years.

Tracey Velt:

Most brokers build their business with a strategic mix of organic growth and M&A. Tell me how the business has been grown, and was there a year where the company had a huge growth leap?

Lacey Conway:

Yes. Really both. I would say since the mid '80s the company has gone through, God, close to 30 acquisitions, so a large part of our growth attributed to that, although obviously organic growth is very important. There are really two times in the company's history that we've essentially doubled our size.

The first being January of 1995, we bought a company, CJ Brown, in Baton Rouge. At that time Latter & Blum's sales volume was somewhere around 580 million, and with that acquisition it jumped to 940 million, so really in units and volume doubling.

Lacey Conway:

Second one really being October 2015 we purchased a company in Houston, Texas, Realty Associates. That one has really been an interesting one for us because at the time, Latter & Blum in 2015, our sales volume was 2.1 billion, and with that acquisition we jumped to around 3.3 billion. Technically, with that acquisition we have more agents in Houston than we do in all of Louisiana.

Tracey Velt:

That's really interesting. Yeah. Obviously that must be a challenge, but what are some of your greatest challenges that you're seeing in the business right now?

Lacey Conway:

I mean generally I would say the biggest challenge is just that the industry is moving so fast. I know it seems like some companies aren't moving, yet our world is moving so fast. Staying on top of all the money that's in this industry, the tech, the stories, the hype, really trying to figure out what is appropriate, and really nailing the timing for each of the markets that I'd say we're in.

One of the challenges that I mean we've touched on is really just our geographic footprint. I'd say for me personally, keeping that connection to the agents in the markets, and knowing the pulse, all of that just gets a little more challenging when you're dealing with so many markets.

Tracey Velt:

With challenges come opportunity, so where do you see the opportunity in real estate brokerage?

Lacey Conway:

I'd say additional acquisitions and mergers, partnering. It seems like figuring out what we're good at, sticking to that, and if it's something that maybe we feel like is out of our comfort zone, there are many companies that are exploring different parts of this real estate transaction that there might be opportunities to partner with. It's just like other traditional firms I mean as well.

Beefing up your ancillary services. I mean that's always been an opportunity, and I think that's something that we would like to take advantage of as well. But yeah, I mean it's a lot juggling what's going on with iBuyers, AI, use of data, big data, all of that. It's a lot, but there are opportunities.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Definitely there are opportunities. It's just figuring out what they are. Let's talk about your recruiting strategy. What is a lesson that you've learned trying to figure out that puzzle?

Lacey Conway:

Oh gosh. I mean I would definitely say that it is still quite a puzzle. There are so many good real estate companies out there, and so many good agents, and they have a lot of options. I do feel like one thing for us that we're working on is really just at a basic level getting better at telling our story.

There's just a lot of noise, a lot of talk, a lot of promises, and I think for us it's just really articulating and showing our value proposition. But again, it's just with agents right now it feels like what is valued in the value proposition is changing.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. We're going to get a little personal here, and I want to talk about inspiration. What or who inspires you?

Lacey Conway:

Oh my goodness. Well the list is long. That is for sure. But like most, I would have to say first, obviously my children. I've got two children. They're my world. They're precious. I've always loved horses. I've always been involved with horses. That is something that has always inspired me.

Good short story writers. Being able to write a compelling, and insightful, concise story that gives you a window into human nature has always been something that is of interest and inspiring, and I don't know, Sam Heughan with or without his shirt on. I don't know. The list is long.

Tracey Velt:

Oh, that's good. My last question is, tell me about a childhood or teenage experience that really shaped the person you are today.

Lacey Conway:

I would say, I am the youngest of my dad's four daughters, so having three older sisters clearly I was beaten early and often, and just experiencing life with different personalities and viewpoints.

I think it forces you to be flexible, and adaptable, and it's probably made me irritatingly easygoing but has been great experience to dealing with, I think we have over 3000 agents at the moment. So just being able to relate and be human. I think that's probably been a great experience for me.

Tracey Velt:

Great. Well, thank you so much, Lacey, for joining us on the podcast today, and we really appreciate your time.

Lacey Conway:

Wonderful. Thank you, Tracey.

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