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REAL Trends Game Changers: Daryl Rogers, President and co-owner and Matt Cord, CEO and co-owner Better Homes and Gardens Reliance, California

May 20, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Daryl Rogers, president and co-owner and Matt Cord, CEO and co-owner Better Homes and Gardens Reliance, California.

Growth Between 2014-2018: 279%

Tracey Velt:

This is Tracey Velt, editor in chief of content for REAL Trends. REAL Trends 500 data shows that there are a handful of brokerage owners who consistently achieve high growth year after year. These brokers were selected to be 2020 real trends game changers.

Today we're speaking with Daryl Rogers and Matt Cord co-presidents and co-owners of Better Homes and Gardens Reliance in California to find out how they managed 279.2% growth between 2014 and 2018. Welcome Daryl and Matt.

Matt Cord:

Thank you.

Daryl Rogers:

Thanks Tracey.

Tracey Velt:

Great. So we'll just start at the beginning. Tell me a little bit about how the brokerage started and compare it to where it is now.

Daryl Rogers:

Well, we actually had a, we didn't have this, this type of growth in mind when we first started and it started, Matt and I had worked together at Keller Williams many years ago and we had ended up basically selling off our Keller Williams offices and Matt went to work with Better Homes and Gardens down in the Bay area.

And I just culled down to one office here in Auburn, California with about 50 agents and the end of my franchise came with Keller Williams and I started looking around and met with Sherry Chris and I got really excited about the customer focused aspect of the brand and how they really felt the consumer was taking more power in the transaction. And that that was something that I was very interested in. I was coming from an area where we focus so much on the agent that I felt like we almost disrespected the consumer.

Daryl Rogers:

And so I made the franchise switch at that point to Better Homes and Gardens, but we were just one office, 50 agents, matt was still working, like I said, for another company. And we basically just slowly grew organically from there.

We added a couple other offices in the Sacramento area, areas that I had had offices in the past with Keller. And before you knew it, in by 2013 I believe, we had 3 offices in the Sacramento area and about 150 agents. And then from there, just, the rest is history.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, and what year did you go to Better Homes and Gardens?

Daryl Rogers:

2011.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. So obviously achieving that type of growth over four years is incredible. So tell me a little bit about those years, mergers and acquisitions. How much of the growth was organic? Just tell me a little bit about how you grew.

Matt Cord:

Daryl, you want to start that one or do you want me to take it?

Daryl Rogers:

Oh, well, yeah. Okay. I'll kind of lead it into Matt. I mean, most of it in that in those years was more organic. Which was not, again, not really our plan, but I got basically convinced by some people to go back to the town of Roseville where I had, and to start an office there.

So we started it with 500-600 square feet and just, we really weren't, to be honest, we weren't going after people, we weren't recruiting. It was word of mouth, people were coming in and say, "we hear what you're doing, that it's a little bit different, that you're more focused on the consumer. We want to know more about that." And we grew that Roseville office up to basically about 75 people inside of 24 months. And what that did is kind of put us on the radar for mergers and acquisitions.

Daryl Rogers:

And I had been friends with Matt through that whole time where he was still working with Better Homes down in the Bay area. And Matt and I were talking about the company down there, the old Mason McDuffie company.

And he basically said, "Hey, I think there's an opportunity here. And that's where the real explosive growth took off. And I, Matt can probably speak to that of how we put that together.

Tracey Velt:

Okay.

Matt Cord:

Yeah, it was a, it was interesting. So, Daryl had started his Better Homes and Gardens up in Auburn. I had been with the Mason McDuffie group, which had been around for a long time, it was a really fairly large operation.

And it got to the point where where the owner of Mason McDuffie decided that he'd been doing this long enough and was going to get out of the business and decided that he was going to sell off his offices.

Matt Cord:

So we were in touch with Better Homes and Gardens and sort of threw our hat in the ring to see if we could go acquire some in the East Bay. And we ended up with 5 offices in the East Bay in one fell swoop.

So it was, I think Darryl running a very, very geographically concentrated brokerage in Sacramento area suddenly became 9 offices spread out from Fremont all the way up to, to Fair Oaks.

Matt Cord:

So it, the growth happened fairly quickly at that point.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. And what year did you merge offices?

Matt Cord:

2016.

Tracey Velt:

Okay.

Daryl Rogers:

Yeah, December of 2016.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. So obviously in every entrepreneur's life there's an aha moment when you realize this, you needed to change the way you were doing things in order to scale or grow or stop your current business plan and get creative. So Darryl, we'll start with you. What was your aha moment?

Daryl Rogers:

You know, I feel like we're having them every, every day, every month right now because I do think the business is changing so rapidly. But I think the most recently, what we have focused on is that the, the old days of recruiting just, you know, pounding the phones, trying to get as many appointments as you can and then trying to convince agents one at a time to come over to your company.

Daryl Rogers:

Although, I think you can achieve some growth that way. The, the return on investment on that. I, I don't know that that's the best way. And so we have definitely decided that, you know, mergers and acquisitions with companies that match our cultural fit, that the type of agents they have match our type of agents, you know, not just going after any merger acquisition.

That's really been the aha for us. And I think what this team is, it's one of those things where you learn a lot at your previous company, but you don't have maybe the resources to do it.

Daryl Rogers:

So for us, we were taught a lot about mergers and acquisitions with KW. And so we did learn a lot, but if you looked back to that and looked to most of them over the time, there weren't that many mergers, acquisitions made by us or anybody else within the Keller system because I do feel there was a little, there was a lack of capital and I think there might've been a lack of understanding of that model.

And with the Better Homes and Gardens name and people know it and people trusted that when I reach out to an owner now with the knowledge I have for mergers and acquisitions, I get a much more welcoming, reaction.

Tracey Velt:

Right, right. So Matt, what was your aha moment?

Matt Cord:

See, I think Darryl said it right. I feel like just about every day that there's some aha moment. It's always predicated on something I did wrong the day before.

Matt Cord:

But I think mostly what we have tried to do is the mergers and acquisitions thing has been, has been incredibly helpful in allowing us to grow at the rate that we've grown. But we've also really wanted to put a huge amount of emphasis on our managers not being a smile and dial, call whoever you want.

We really want to be cautious with the people that we grow with. If they are like-minded, that they believe in the same things that we believe in. And we've had an incredibly good core of managers that have developed great relationships and really, I think very slowly and methodically have found people that they think would benefit from our organization and we would benefit from a relationship with them.

Matt Cord:

So it's, it's great to do the MNA stuff because it's such an impact so quickly. But there really is something to be said for the organic growth, the relationships that are built one-on-one. And it's, not growth for the sake of growth. It really is trying to find this balance between people that can really benefit from the things that we're offering and things that we can benefit from those people as well.

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Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. So let's talk specifics about your growth. You told me a little bit about your recruiting and your MNA. So what did you and your leadership do team do to really create such growth? And tell me a little bit about your business practices and your culture.

Daryl Rogers:

Yeah, I'll take that one.

Matt Cord:

Sure you want to start with that one. You want to start with that one? I'll jump in. Okay. I can do it too.

Daryl Rogers:

I'll take it. Yeah, I think you know, our business practices and our culture has, going back to the beginning, we believe very strongly that in the areas that we currently operate, that we, it's the one thing we step up and really proudly scream from the mountaintops is we truly believe we're the only consumer centric real estate company in our geographic areas.

And by a consumer centric, everything we do is about what would the consumer like as opposed to what would the agent like. And the way this industry has evolved, if you go back 50 years, it was always about what does the broker want. So the, the big, company name, the broker of record, they would handle all the leads, they would handle all the transactions and they would dole them out to their agents and agents were dependent on them.

Daryl Rogers:

And then the, I think of the 80s and 90s the Remaxs as the Kellers came along and said, no, it's about the agents, your independent business people and you can do really well and we just are here to support you. But as things started to evolve, the consumer started getting more control of the transaction.

You know, they could go to Zillow, they could research things, they could, tell people how much a home was really worth. They actually had good knowledge. And I think at that point there was a huge fork in the road and brokerages went one of two ways.

Daryl Rogers:

There were brokerages and continue to do this that would really resent that new found power of the consumer. I see it every day on social media and it kind of irks me when people put some sort of post on social media that's, it's some joke about Zillow or says something about their estimates or how a consumer thinks they know what their house is worth.

Daryl Rogers:

And I look at that and I bristle because it's, you're really criticizing the consumer. You're saying the consumer is not smart. And the fact of the matter is the consumer today is so well educated and I oftentimes use the metaphor of like we go and buy cars all the time and we do research, we go to CARFAX and TrueCar and all these different places. And then we walk onto a lot and we know what type of car we want and what it's worth.

And if a car salesman said to us, "all your research is stupid, you don't know what you're doing." I would leave that car lot. I would go to another one that respects my intelligence and my research. And that's the way that we, that's our culture. We're telling people, listen, your clients know what they're doing. Don't assume that they don't. Don't assume that they haven't done the research.

Daryl Rogers:

Today's consumer is extremely smart and we listened to what they want. And so you know other little ways that comes in, and I think for the longest time when we talk about a Zillow, people got mad.

But Zillow created a website that consumers loved. We created websites for 30, 40 years that the agents wanted, and guess what? We lost. Zillow came in and inside of two years destroyed that avenue.

Daryl Rogers:

If you don't learn from that and realize don't get mad at Zillow, learn for that and go, you know what? They went to the consumer and Zillow has a distinct advantage in that they don't have to please agents.

They have to please the consumer. And so our game changing moment for that was to, "Hey, that's what we're going to do." So if an agent says, I really want a mortgage calculator up in the far right corner of the website and we can show them data's as well. The consumer really doesn't care about that.

Daryl Rogers:

Well, we're not going to make a change because the agent in our office wants it, and cause then you get 60 different ideas from 60 different agents of what it should look like. So we basically create things. We create trainings.

When it comes to trainings in our offices, many places, if you look at their calendar, we kind of have a saying here its something we saw, I can't remember the guy who originally said it, but a long time ago, "If you would know a man's heart, look at his bank account." Where does he spend his money?

Daryl Rogers:

Well, if you would know a company's culture, look at their training calendar. If their training calendar is filled with numbers, "how to do 90 deals in 90 days", "how to make 100 calls in a day", "how to grow your database by 500 people". That's a transactional based company.

But if you're training calendar is based on things like "how to deliver five-star customer service", "how to give the consumer exactly what they want", "how to work with a consumer's knowledge and add your own knowledge". Those are trainings that are respecting the consumer and they're relationship based and we want to be a relationship company, not a transactional company.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. Matt do you have anything to add to that?

Matt Cord:

I don't, I don't know how you had that. I think he just covered absolutely everything.

Matt Cord:

Here's the one thing. I mean we try to mean that's, our process through all of this has really been focused o the relationship and what Daryl is saying is absolutely right. And we try to distill this down to every part of our company. And one of the, one of the lines that we've used forever here is "we don't want to recruit or retain any agent that we wouldn't feel comfortable referring to a family member."

So we really do want to believe that everybody is trained to the highest possible potential. That they are more invested in what their consumer wants and that we could go into any single office and grab one of those agents and say, "Hey look cause you represent my mother on the sale of our home" and we'd feel 100% confident that they would do a great job with it.

Tracey Velt:

Right. Okay. So Matt, I'll start with you on the next question. If you could offer other brokers some advice when growing their businesses, what would it be?

Matt Cord:

Oh my God, where do I start?

Matt Cord:

I think there's a couple things. I think one of them in terms of the mergers and acquisitions, I think you've got to put it out there that you are an interested party and an avenue that smaller brokerages or brokers that may be wanting to get out of the business know that you're out there and you exist.

So forging relationships with other brokers even just as a casual relationship but letting them know routinely like, "Hey, if you ever decide if this is, if you ever think that that being part of a bigger group is exciting, let's have that conversation."

I think the other part of it too is, and Daryl and I talked this all the time, making the hard decisions early, right? We have had personnel issues where we really kind of waited out what we knew was not going to be a great situation and wished we had pulled the trigger sooner on making a change.

Matt Cord:

We have had situations where we thought spending some money on a, either a like there was mentioning a Zillow account or some other lead accounts that we didn't and we wanted to wait for the perfect time. And sometimes that that delayed what could have been more exponential growth for us and our agents.

So I think the biggest two things is one, letting brokers in the area know that you are interested in your indeed growing and two is making sure that when you're faced with that tough decision, make that decision as soon as you possibly can.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. And Daryl, what advice do you have?

Daryl Rogers:

Matt hit it right there. I think the only thing I would say is going back to the original thing of how did we first get into this with mergers and acquisitions and you've got to, you really need to make sure as a broker that you align yourself with the right people.

Daryl Rogers:

And by no means do I want this to be a commercial, people have to choose every company they go to. But our mergers and acquisitions are a direct result of who we've aligned ourselves with. By aligning with a national company and with Sherry, Chris and Better Homes and Gardens, Rich DeNicola, they want to grow, they want to support it.

They don't just say, "Hey, you guys should really go create mergers and acquisitions." They support us. You know we have, Stephen Bright is one of our local area reps. I mean Stephen is all over this state.

Tracey Velt:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Daryl Rogers:

Finding people that might be interested. There's not a week that goes by that Stephen doesn't call me and say, "I got a lead for you. Do you want to follow up on it?" And then as soon as I've got a deal and I think I can make it work, I can get Rich on the phone, Sherry on the phone and say, "Here's what I would need if I could make this thing happen."

Daryl Rogers:

And I think that is key, aligning ourselves with the key people with a great company like Better Homes and Gardens has allowed us this tremendous growth.

Matt Cord:

It's a huge point we have. We haven't done a single merger acquisition that hasn't had every aspect of Better Homes and Gardens involved. I mean they have made it 100% possible for us to do the things that we've done so far. I mean it really, this is not something we could have done on our own.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Okay. Well thank you for sharing all of that information with REAL Trends. And congratulations on being named 2020 game changers.

Matt Cord:

Thanks so much, Tracey.

Daryl Rogers:

Thank you so much. Thanks, Tracey.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, thanks for joining us.

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