For brokerages today, the challenges just keep on coming. How to attract (and retain) talent? How to stay relevant in an industry full of disruption? And at the top of this list, communication.
Adam Stern, president and managing partner of resale at PSR Brokerage in Toronto, says as brokerages evolve from traditional models, it can be a struggle to get busy, far-flung agents to read important emails, receive alerts or attend onsite training. “The traditional brokerage was, years ago, very relationally based,” says Stern. “I might be able to help you if you’re in my office in a meeting. But (today) how I can help you grow your business if you’re 30 minutes away and you’re so busy you haven’t had time to come in?”
Towards a solution and in tandem with expansion plans, the boutique brokerage has been developing PSR’s Virtual Assistant, a built-in-house-from-scratch app that aims to give a digital boost to the traditional brokerage model. Stern says, “There will be more features added over the year, but we will be able to launch at the beginning of 2020.”
We asked Stern more about the PSR’s VA tool and the firm’s overall plans.
REM: What features come with PSR’s Virtual Assistant?
Stern: It centralizes the offerings of the brokerage in the palm of your hands: marketing, training, calendaring, systems, content, you name it. This is all stuff that’s provided today if you’re in my office, but I believe as the industry unfolds and agents work more and more independently, they don’t care what’s in my office, they care what they can access in the palm of their hands.
REM: So it’s a desktop and mobile-friendly app?
Stern: Yes. Any alerts that are going on in the brokerage will be sent to the agent right on their cell phone as a notification. In theory the agent will need to use this, not just want to use this, to get their marketing content, submit deals, all of it. They will need to do things digitally.
REM: What will likely be the key benefit for agents?
Stern: We find that what agents need more than ever is content, branding and marketing services from the brokerage. If you get a thousand agents in a room and ask, “Is it a good idea to post on social media?” They all would agree, yes. The challenge is, what do they post? Who is making this content? Because the agent isn’t necessarily the best marketer. So we’re trying to solve that problem. Along with all the things that this tool does – like centralized deal processing, preconstruction inventory updates…where we’re going with this long-term is marketing. We want to be able to differentiate ourselves as digital marketing specialists to help agents grow their brand and business under PSR.
REM: Can you share another practical application for the app?
Stern: If an agent has no choice – come to one of Adam’s training meetings or go show a condo that could potentially make you $40,000 in commission – they’re clearly going to pick the commission and the job they have to do. The problem is you’re missing out on training and that could also scale your business… I think it’s more beneficial for an agent to come into the office and receive training. But I’m very aware that agents like to operate on their own schedule, so this tool will be able to livestream all our corporate training so at least, should you miss the stream, it saves it and you can watch it at a later date.
REM: Why go through the pain of developing a solution like this?
Stern: I think a lot of brokerages are struggling to find their exact value proposition and they’re chasing down fees. But I know agents want to pay less and also they want more for their money, which is generally a model that just doesn’t work. If you combine the digital solutions with traditional, as we’re embarking on to do, we strongly believe we’ll mitigate and solve the biggest challenges agents have…The problem has always been that the brokerage is probably already providing that solution, the agents just didn’t know or know how to get it, so this keeps that solution at their fingertips.
REM: What can you share about PSR’s expansion plans?
Stern: We have three offices in the GTA; we’re currently around 110 agents and are going to be expanding in a few strategic locations across the GTA in the next couple of years… We actually think we’ll double the size of our brokerage by the end of 2020.
REM: How does a digital tool factor in with your expansion plans?
Stern: We want everything to be seamless and scalable so that’s what this allows us to do. So if we were to open an office in each different geographical location, you’re still provided the same opportunities, training and marketing all across our platform.