ICNY 2020 Highlights

On January 28th, 2020 - real estate agents from all over the country descended upon the Big Apple for an action-packed week at Inman Connect New York.

Side had lots of great stage presence. Several of our highly successful partner agents shared their insights on everything from lead distribution to effective team management. Our CEO also took the stage, participating in general session panels focused on the future of the real estate industry and the evolution of technology. 

Read on for more details on the top 5 most impactful Side highlights from ICNY:

1. General Session:  Side CEO Guy Gal on Where Tech Needs to Focus

Panel description: An end-to-end system supporting the agent experience has been the Holy Grail of tech development at most brokerages for years now. Are we getting closer to reaching the promised land?

Guy, the visionary behind Side’s unique brokerage model, spoke on technology’s proper role in real estate during the general session on the first day of ICNY. The discussion was focused around how brokerages are trying to provide end-to-end solutions to agents and what that looks like. 

In response to a question on how companies are attempting to provide for that need, Guy said, “What I've seen a lot of in the industry so far is people building in the space between [the] agent and [the] client. That’s largely where brokerages invest because they want to have more of a relationship with the client, [which] intermediates and interferes with the agent. I think the more interesting and more impactful place to build is in the space behind the agent.” This approach is the angle Side has leveraged in developing their robust tech stack.

Guy gives some context around why Side opted for this approach when he says, “Think about the agent as an interface, as an app -- as the killer app. It's an easier way to think about the opportunity and to say, well, what are they spending half their time doing? Things they shouldn't be. Things that are $10 an hour work.”

He continues, “Those are things that software is really good at automating and solving. [Effective companies] go narrow and deep and save that agent tens of hours of time every week, because that's what's really going to make a big difference for them. And, invariably, for the client on the other end of the transaction.” 

As for who should decide what tech agents use, Guy says, “If you're an agent, you will die from indigestion before starvation. There are a lot of different products out there, and they're really good at marketing and convincing you that you need to pay them money every single month. And if you look to engage with all of them, it's a full time job.” 

Guy continues, “We take a position with the agents we work with and say, this is the best CRM. We looked at 40, we went inside and out, and we recommend this [one]. When asked how agents perceive this model, Guy explains, “It's actually really welcome. It's perceived as a service - and it is.”

Guy also spoke on a panel discussing the future of real estate. His prediction moving forward? Guy says, “In 10 years, [I see the industry] as being very different than it is today - from an industry standpoint, maybe less so from a consumer one. In 10 years time you should expect to have a lot less agents in the industry, [and a] smaller group of agents facilitating a much larger share of the total transactions. That’s going to be the thing that represents the most significant improvement to the consumer experience.”

>> Watch The Quest for the Holy Grail
>> Watch 3 Takes on the Future of the Industry

2. Teams Track: Partner Agent Ben Bacal: Provide Leads to Agents Who Hustle

Panel description: Should team leaders feed leads to their team members, or teach them how to fish by training them to be more prospecting-based? The right answer can depend on the structure of a team. Let’s explore which model is right for yours. 

In Ben Bacal, founder of Revel Realty’s case, he provides leads to his team, but only to agents who hustle. Ben started with a team of 15 and after partnering with Side, grew to lead a team of 47 agents and provides ample opportunity for members of his team to step up and show their initiative and ambition. 

He explains, “I [distribute] leads based on how hard [agents] work, determined [by] if they bring me on listing appointments. Whoever brings me on, I jot it down in my CRM, and I'll see who's done the most. If I get a $7 million lead, I give it to the agent who’s putting in the most effort to get out there and prospect.” And for those who take him up on the offer of inviting him to listing appointments, Ben helps close deals by leveraging his $2.5 billion dollars in sales.

Ben says, “My theory is, a lot of big brokerages want the big guys to stay at the top. Now that I have my own company, I want all my agents to be listing powerhouses. Side empowered me to take my business in my own hands and create a brand that's impactful on my marketplace. I impart that same power that Side gave me to my agents.”

He elaborates, “If you get to $10 million in sales, Side and I will build - Revel Real Estate will build your own website. We'll give you your CRM. You’ll have a business manager dedicated to you to propel you forward. Those that are working hardest and having the best results will continue to get more from me, and will continue to rise that much faster.”

So does Ben practice what he preaches? You bet. He says, “Even today, [if] I drive down the street [and] see a construction set up, I'll go knock on the door myself. I'm still out there prospecting and cold calling.”

>> See Inman video coverage | click the arrow in the top left, select Teams Track, go to 1:24:00 to see Ben

3. Teams Track: True Houston Founder Nicole Lopez on How to Leverage Accountability to Retain Top Talent

Panel description: Agent retention on teams is a persistent challenge. Three team leaders talk about how they keep all parties satisfied so everyone benefits and business keeps thriving.

Nicole Lopez, the founder of True Houston, recently went through a team purge; going from nine members down to three. When explaining her early days as a business leader, Lopez says, “It was fail fast, fail forward, and fail often. You don't grow without failure.” 

Why purge? Nicole says, “The purge was tough, but we had a lot of complacency on our team and that was something that was just not going to be acceptable for us anymore. In order to continue to grow and double our numbers every year, we had to weed out the weak and build upon the new.” After whittling her team down. she gradually hired until she once again had nine agents.

With her team stronger than ever, Lopez puts a lot of emphasis on accountability to optimize agent retention. “We meet three times a week and [all my agents] do a daily success habits sheet five days a week. We tally at the end of the week and we’re big on rewarding our team. We do lots of fun little contests to build a strong team culture that revolves around family, [which] helps to hold everybody accountable”

When asked where Nicole adopted her leadership style from, she said, “[In] one of my favorite books by Ben Horowitz, he talks about wartime leaders versus peacetime leaders. As a team leader, you have to be a combination of both. You need to know how to hold people accountable, but you also need to know how to encourage them and keep them motivated. And those are two very different things.”

>> See Inman video coverage | click the arrow in the top left, select Teams Track, go to 21:38 to see Nicole

4. Teams Track: Kelsey McGaughey with True Houston on Why Belonging to a Team is the Key Driver of Her Success

Panel description: Not every member of a team is the team leader. And that’s okay! Let’s hear from a group of team members about why working with a team works for them.

In her panel, Kelsey explains why flying solo wasn’t the right career move for her, and why belonging to a team has been a much better fit. She says, “I've been in real estate for four years. [The] first year, I was independent and I wasn't really doing much. I needed some structure and some guidance.” 

At that point, Kelsey was willing to give real estate one year to prove itself out as a career path she could be passionate about and successful at. If it didn’t happen, Kelsey knew she needed to move on, but she had a super productive year. And to give her more accountability, she decided to seek out a team. 

So what led to her success? First, she found an amazing mentor in Nicole Lopez, the leader of True Houston featured in the panel above on team retention. Kelsey explains, “She recruited me [and] she's the one who taught me everything I know.” In addition to taking Kelsey under her wing, Nicole set an expectation for consistency and accountability. 

Kelsey explains, “At the beginning of the week, we set up how many calls we’re going to make, how many new clients we’re going to touch, and how many contracts we’re going to try and get.” Setting goals at the beginning of the week and being held accountable to the week’s goals on Friday helps Kelsey stay productive. 

>> See Inman video coverage | click the arrow in the top left, select Teams Track, go to 1:48:00:38 to see Kelsey

5. Teams Track: Kelli Griggs on The Benefits of Leaving a Big Box Brokerage and Owning Her Own Boutique Brand

Panel description: Should you manage your team like a brokerage? The increased structure of regular meetings and training can help create a longer-lasting team — but at what cost?

Kelli Griggs is the founder and experienced team lead at Navigate Realty. Prior to Side, Kelli was part of a mega team within a big brokerage. At listing presentations, she would constantly run into situations where a seller would say they already interviewed with someone from that brokerage, and Kelli would immediately feel frustrated that she couldn’t differentiate from the bigger brand. 

She explains, “Instantly I knew that I needed to create my own brand. I couldn't be Navigate Realty inside a big box. And so I did what a lot of people do. I went out to get my broker's license and [was ready to] focus on that route. [But] I was exhausted with the backend and legal and compliance.” 

That’s when Kelli met Side and decided to partner with us and build her own business. With her company, Navigate Realty, up and running, Kelli was ready to start making some decisions on how to operate her business. 

After testing the waters with a similar team model to the one she was used to at her big box, Kelli was running into issues with agent egos and other managerial obstacles. She would bring in experienced agents, teach them everything she knows, and they’d leave and would compete with her at another brokerage. So she decided to pivot. 

Her current model entails taking in hungry new agents and training them up to make them massively successful. To date, her mentor-mentee structure is working amazingly well. Kelli says, “[Now] we have a very unique model and we're super successful. We’re officially the number one boutique brokerage in my market and we're super excited about that.” 

Kelli offers an example, “I have a young rock star named Taylor Hirst that came to me with zero transactions, and she's like, I want to be the best agent in our market. I took her under my wing and helped her grow, and she went from zero to $15M in two years.” The moral of Kelli’s story? What you know isn’t always what’s best, and taking a chance on a new way of doing things has the potential to pay off big time.

>>See Inman video coverage | click the arrow in the top left, select Teams Track, go to 2:09:00 to see Kelli

BONUS: Inside Our Side-Sponsored Gatsby-Inspired Soiree

Smooth jazz, ice-cold champagne, twirling swing dancers, and an air of sophistication created by the gorgeous Manhattan skyline backdrop. Here’s a peek inside our Gatsby style soiree:

Side is very proud of our industry impact and of our partner agents who took the stage to share their incredible knowledge. Special thanks to Susan Fixsen, Kelli Griggs, Ben Bacal, Nicole Lopez, and Kelsey McGaughey for your time and contributions. To those of you we had the pleasure of connecting with, it was great to see you. To those who weren’t able to make it, we hope to see you at Inman Connect Las Vegas this summer!