By Deborah Ball Kearns // Photography by Joe Szurewski
RE/MAX Results was founded 26 years ago on the philosophy that professionalism, production and unparalleled customer service will always win out. Broker/Owners John Collopy and Marshall Saunders still embrace that mindset. In fact, they live it, breathe it, and exemplify it daily to the nearly 700 agents in their powerhouse brokerage. It’s the same “everybody wins” model Dave and Gail Liniger conceived when they founded RE/MAX nearly 40 years ago. And it has served Collopy and Saunders well on their journey to the top.
By learning from early mistakes, adapting to shifting market conditions, and overcoming the loss of one of its founders, RE/MAX Results has evolved over the years to become the third-largest RE/MAX brokerage in the world – and one of the most productive real estate firms in the Twin Cities.
RE/MAX Results by the Numbers
Offices: 24 in Minnesota & Wisconsin
Agents: Nearly 700
Market share (listings sold for Q1 2012): 20.9%
Support Staff: 53
The year was 1986. Bill Saunders – a real estate veteran and Marshall Saunders’ father – was John Collopy’s managing broker at Coldwell Banker Burnet, a major power player in local real estate at the time. After Sears acquired their brokerage, Collopy and Bill Saunders began looking for an exit together; they didn’t like where things were headed.
They envisioned a real estate firm that put its agents – and their customers – first. RE/MAX, which offered maximum commission splits and a freedom-based business model, was a breath of fresh air and a perfect match. It was also non-existent in the Minneapolis area.
“Dave and the other RE/MAX leaders were true mavericks, and we loved the idea that with RE/MAX there weren’t restraints on how we could run our business,” says Collopy, who began his real estate career nearly 40 years ago. “We were up against heavyweights like CB Burnet, with 32 percent market share, and Edina Realty’s 28 percent market share. It was difficult to compete with that when we had no money and no one knew the brand. Those initial years were tough, really tough.”
Collopy and Bill Saunders pressed on, however, and over the years their effective systems and a winning atmosphere attracted top producers. Their vision took hold, and RE/MAX Results became a major force in the market.
In 1997, a devastating setback: Bill Saunders learned he had cancer. He fought the illness for 11 years before succumbing to it in 2008 – three years after he and Collopy had been recognized as the 2005 RE/MAX Broker/Owners of the Year.
In his final months, Bill Saunders tearfully confided to Collopy that he wanted his son Marshall, who had been a Sales Associate with the brokerage for 12 years, to succeed him in helping lead the company.
“My dad gave me his half of the business, but what I really got in those final years was the ability to be closer to him,” Marshall Saunders recalls, his voice raw with emotion. “That meant more than anything.”
A New Era
Gathered around a meal of sushi and Korean barbecue, Collopy, Marshall Saunders and CEO Lynn Foulke exchange carefree banter (sometimes at their own expense) and lively recollections of the brokerage they’ve all had a hand in building. All three are Minneapolis-area natives who love their hometown deeply.
Some of their best ideas have happened around this very table in a secluded corner of King’s Restaurant in Fridley, Minn.
Between bites of rainbow rolls, Saunders explains that when he succeeded his father in 2008, it was the start of a new era in many ways. The real estate market was in the midst of the worst recession ever, and many RE/MAX Results agents, like others across the country, were struggling. Desperately.
Saunders dove into enhancing the tech side of the brokerage – an area that would help agents stay ahead of the market and deliver the best possible service to their clients. The marquee example of the brokerage’s technology effort is the RE/MAX Results website, results.net, which has become one of the most-visited real estate sites in the Twin Cities. Since Jan. 1, it has generated more than 1.2 million total visits and 2.8 million total page views.
The tech upgrade also included a comprehensive, back-office solution where Sales Associates can access leads, marketing templates and contact databases, along with their own websites and blogs.
The recently launched RE/MAX Results Mobile App, enhanced with a cutting-edge augmented reality feature, has been wildly popular with more than 7,000 downloads since its launch in May. On the support side, RE/MAX Results employs a full-time, full-service IT support staff, and agents have a weekly selection of video updates, tech tips and other training tools to choose from.
“We’re constantly looking at ways we can be better, because the market demands it,” Saunders says. “We knew we had to take technology on as one of our main platforms; we wanted to create end-products that were meaningful not only to our agents but also to their customers.”
RE/MAX has never been the largest real estate network out there, and it doesn’t necessarily strive to be; it’s a place for experienced professionals who are serious about their business. The same philosophy goes for RE/MAX Results; local competitors surpass them in agent count, but no one beats them in per-agent productivity.
The approach works. RE/MAX Results closed 11,843 transaction sides for a sales volume of more than $2.2 billion in 2011. That transaction count made the firm No. 19 in RISMedia’s 2012 Power Broker rankings, right between a brokerage of 3,965 agents and one of 1,854. RE/MAX Results’ sides-per-agent average (nearly 20) was more than six times greater than the brokerage ranked above it.
That sort of production fuels an environment that appeals to top talent like Dean Haagenson and Rob Monson. Haagenson, a real estate veteran who’s been with RE/MAX Results almost from the beginning, loves having independence and support while working under the RE/MAX umbrella.
“The first year I joined RE/MAX, my production doubled,” says Haagenson, whose 25-year-old son, Ryan, is also an agent at the firm’s Uptown office. “At RE/MAX, as a whole and at RE/MAX Results, everyone goes above and beyond to find ways to stay relevant. We have great resources available to us. The key is to use them.
“Sometimes it’s as much about leadership as anything else. John and Marshall sit with you to review your business plan and offer input on how to make it better. Success is largely about being accountable.”
For his part, Monson – half of the Rob Monson and Lane Larson team – also values the support he gets through his RE/MAX affiliation – from the corporate level to the management team and staff.
The benefits of this support are evident in the success of the Monson-Larson team; it’s already closed 92 transactions this year, compared with 97 closings and $40 million in sales volume in 2011. Selling the RE/MAX brand is the last thing they worry about; RE/MAX Results does it for them.
“From the top down, we have a professional image that consumers have absolute confidence in,” Monson says. “The experience starts right when a client walks through the front door. We take that and run with it in our marketing.”
Hard work completes the formula.
“When the market is down, go back to basics. Show up, be professional and stay proactive in your prospecting,” Monson says. “Call those FSBOs and expired listings, and follow up with past clients for referrals. The more sellers you work with, the more signs you have.”
On a windy Wednesday morning, nearly 20 RE/MAX Results agents walk through a picturesque, yellow cottage-style home with white trim on a quiet, tree-lined street in Excelsior, Minn. They comment graciously on the property’s craftsmanship while gentle breezes rustle in from a nearby lake.
One of Dan and Jane Revsbech’s listings, the $550,000 luxury home built in 1956 is part of The RE/MAX Collection, and it’s one of the properties agents are previewing as part of a weekly luxury property tour organized by the brokerage.
The tour is one example of how RE/MAX Results helps its agents excel. Another is in the sensitive handling of acquisitions and mergers.
Beth Nordaune, who works in the recently acquired Rochester office, was initially nervous about the transition when her previous RE/MAX office converted to RE/MAX Results. Her fears were quickly put to ease, however, when the entire leadership team came to the small office, 90 miles southeast of Minneapolis, to share the news and outline the next steps.
That kind of hands-on care makes RE/MAX Results special, Nordaune says.
“We knew things might change under new ownership and they did; they got better,” says Nordaune, who’s been with RE/MAX for 11 years. “Things have gotten so good, in fact, that I became overwhelmed with the amount of business I ended up getting. I went to John completely frustrated and I told him, ‘I think I’m going to quit because I can’t handle it.’
“He told me, ‘Beth, you have a gift. You have to give yourself permission to say no sometimes so you don’t burn out.’ He talked me off the ledge.”
Having unfettered access to Collopy and Saunders is another positive of working with RE/MAX Results, but the benefits don’t end there. Agents also enjoy weekly and monthly live or web training, customized marketing, in-office couriers, distressed-property negotiators, a legal team, accountants who generally turn around checks within 24 hours most days, and much, much more – all packaged in stylish physical spaces where friendly receptionists greet visitors and callers with a generous helping of “Minnesota nice.”
It all goes back to giving Sales Associates what they need to succeed, says Collopy.
“We’re just as committed today as we were in 1986 to putting our customers – the agents – first,” Collopy says. “We have the same desire to win. We have agents who are working hard to win. We have no aspirations to be the biggest. We simply want to be the best.”
In Their Words
A few RE/MAX Results agents – some veterans, some rising stars – sat down with ABOVE to explain how RE/MAX helps them excel in their businesses. Here’s what they had to say:
“ We love that we have support to run our team how we want. We’re constantly blown away by the technology in our office, and we know that our Broker/Owners have our backs. We’ve been recruited by other brokers over the years, but we’ll never leave RE/MAX.”
– Tina Lockner and John Lockner, Lifetime Achievement Award
winners, 100 Percent Club members (Woodbury office)
“ At RE/MAX Results, they embrace the philosophy of serving their agents so we can best serve our clients. By empowering us to do our jobs better, it makes us a stronger force in the marketplace. RE/MAX, unlike other brands, does what it preaches.”
– Stuart Francis, Hall of Fame, 100 Percent Club (Wayzata office)
“Moving to RE/MAX four years ago was the best decision of my life. When I go to listing presentations, clients know the global RE/MAX name. They usually start their home searches on remax.com, which drives business to me locally.”
– Wendy Carson, Platinum Club (Apple Valley office)
“ I’m 25, so I use Twitter and Facebook to find new clients and keep in touch with past ones. I know exactly what I need to do to be successful, and I have Broker/Owners who are focused on helping me get there. I want to be associated with the best, and that’s why I’m with RE/MAX.”
– Ryan Haagenson, Executive Club (Uptown Minneapolis office)
Making Strides in Commercial Realm
RE/MAX Results also has a strong reputation in commercial real estate. Under the leadership of Mark Hulsey, Managing Broker of the RE/MAX Results Commercial Division, the brokerage has developed three commercial-qualified offices in which commercial real estate is practiced alongside residential operations. The division comprises 25 brokers who specialize solely in commercial real estate.
“The strength and scope of our brokerage, along with the power of the RE/MAX Commercial brand, opens doors for commercial clients,” Hulsey says. He adds that RE/MAX Associates in both sectors are uniquely positioned for additional business. “Within RE/MAX, commercial brokers should work on getting leads from residential agents, and
residential agents should be referring commercial leads to commercial specialists. It’s really simple: Let’s use our network!”