Grand Rapids, Mich., is home to about 200,000, but the sprawling metro area boasts more than a million residents. That’s large enough for Amanda DeLong, Ashley Dietch-Schaefer, and Rachael Veldkamp—three broker-owners who started or purchased companies in the last five years—to each make a distinctive mark.
Rachael: I bought my company [with husband Dave] in 2015. It had agents who didn’t know me—some earning more than $1 million in commissions every year. For me to say, “Hi, I’m your new broker”—there were challenges. I spent the first year taking people out to lunch, getting to know them, and establishing trust with them. We didn’t lose a single agent.
Ashley: I have an all-female brokerage and I love
giving other women the opportunity to build a life that they want. I help women gain confidence through their careers.
Amanda: You’d be a good coach.
Ashley: I’m an open book. I give people everything that I’ve found to be successful. And every person in my office is family to me.
Amanda: My brokerage is a little different; I don’t have agents to manage. I still love selling. I made my own CRM system, but I also rely on association tools and networking opportunities. Since I went on my own, my past clients now refer more people to me.
Time Management and Delegation
Rachael: It had always been a goal of mine to grow a brokerage. We have 97 agents in three offices.
Amanda: And you manage all of those?
Rachael: Yes. I have four agents on my sales team, and one full-time and one part-time staff member.
Ashley: How do you balance that?
Rachael: One day at a time. I hire people who are smarter than me and I give them authority and allow them to make decisions—sometimes to a fault. But they appreciate it, and I think that’s why they thrive.
Amanda: I struggle with delegation. I have to learn how to unload some responsibilities. I just hired a part-time admin who has her broker’s license, too.
A Juggling Act
Ashley: Some days I only have one hour with my kid before he goes to bed. It kills me. Everyone says you can make your own hours in real estate—that’s a lie. I’m grateful for this life, but it’s hard to juggle.
Amanda: Even on days off, I can be distracted and not present. Sometimes it’s a mental exercise to keep work and family separate.
Rachael: I regret missing so much of my kids’
childhood. There was a moment when I said, “No more.” I’m not the Pinterest mom, and it’s OK if I buy the birthday cake instead of making it myself.
Ashley: I opened my brokerage three days before I had my son. It wasn’t planned; that’s just how it worked out. But the sky didn’t fall. What you said, Rachael, about hiring the right people resonates with me. I use the DISC personality assessment for hiring and recruiting. When I went on maternity leave, my assistant said, “We got it. Don’t call us.”
Social Media Pressure
Ashley: Facebook and Instagram make it look like every agent you know is closing houses every day. But it’s not what’s happening. There’s so much myth.
Amanda: Or when you see posts that say, “Sold in one day with multiple offers over asking price.”
Ashley: The weird dichotomy is, I feel like I can’t say, “Today sucked. I had a really bad day.” The reality is deals fall apart, and even after being established for 10 years, I’ll go a week or a month without a closing.
Rachael: I post, on a good month, once or twice—and only about personal stuff, nothing sales-y. On my team Facebook page, we post listings. But on your personal page, people want to know who you are.
Amanda: We have good broker-to-broker cooperation here. I called you, Ashley, for help when I was starting my own brokerage, and I so appreciate that. One of the benefits of a smaller market is that we know who does a good job.
Rachael: The best thing I’ve done in my career is create relationships with other people in the industry.
Ashley: That’s why I’m involved in Women’s Council of REALTORS®. Talking with other people who do the same things I do has advanced my career.
Rachael: I completely agree. I’ve had offers accepted that weren’t the highest because the other agent knows I’m going to conduct the transaction in a way that’s professional and I’m going to communicate through the process.
Amanda: I don’t think clients realize how much an agent’s reputation plays a factor in their homebuying journey.