The Other Side of Succession Planning

Here’s the path one new broker traveled toward taking over a real estate business and finding success independently.

Danielle Riley went on her first real estate appointment at the age of 2 and learned to read and write by helping her father with his property appraisals. Needless to say, Riley was born for this profession.

At 19, she got her real estate license while in college, and her first deal was representing a couple who was in the process of adopting five children from a woman struggling with drug addiction. “It was then that I saw the big picture – that this business is serious and something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Riley says.

Fast-forward 10 years later: Riley is now 29, the owner of her own brokerage, and is her father’s boss. She got there through a long succession plan in which she took over her father’s book of business before opening her own company.

For brokers looking to pass their business on to a relative or younger real estate professional, Riley says start planning early on. During her presentation at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Riley said she became her father’s partner after graduating from college in 2009. At the time, he led a small team at Nothnagle, REALTORS® in Rochester, N.Y. They branded their business as “Sam Morreale & Danielle Riley.” But in 2013, as Riley’s father started thinking about retirement, they flipped the order of their names so that Riley’s came first.

“That simple switch made a big difference,” Riley says. She started getting noticed more by her father’s clients and by the local real estate community. They also sent announcement letters to their sphere and colleagues to make sure everyone knew about the transition. “Focus on getting your successor’s name out there,” she says.

As each year went by, Riley took over more and more aspects of the business. She started accompanying her father on his listing appointments, and then, eventually, Riley started to go alone.

Then, just three months ago, Riley made the decision to open her own brokerage, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Prosperity, where her father, who’s now 67 and in the last phase of his exit strategy, works as an agent. Riley also oversees two other agents and has a few more joining in the weeks ahead. She’s aiming to recruit more millennials to the industry.

Riley says creating a succession plan early on actually helped their business grow. Her biggest piece of advice to other brokers is to identify a potential successor as soon as you start thinking about retirement because the transition takes time. "We're in year 10, and we're still not there," she says. But now, rather than Riley being called “Sam’s daughter,” her father is starting to be referred to as “Danielle’s dad.”

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