When Sue B. Clark, former broker-owner of Lake and Land Realty of Highlands Inc. in Lake Placid, Fla., set out to build her brokerage, she did so with two partners. The plan from the start was to always have three broker-owners on board. This way, if one changed business plans, the brokerage would continue.
Clark, CRS, joined forces with Harelis Santis, AHWD, C2EX, a former teacher turned broker, and Jeanne Wheeler, SFR, C2EX, who worked as a mortgage loan secretary before making the switch to become a real estate professional. Over time, Lake and Land became a powerhouse. The woman-owned endeavor was home to 20 agents and garnered several awards.
“I never really thought of this business as a female-run endeavor – just like-minded individuals with a goal of success and prosperity,” she adds. “We were three experienced agents with many awards under our belts and a lot to share.”
Recently, the already successful brokerage united with Century 21 Myers Realty to form Century 21 Lake & Land Myers Realty. The partnership brings the total amount of agents to over 140.
“To have legends like Jeanne Wheeler, Sue Clark and Harelis Santis choose us to partner with is a great win for us, but also their team of 20-plus agents who will have access to the Century 21 brand’s innovative productivity platform, world-class marketing, and agent learning and coaching,” says broker Jack Myers.
A Business Built on the Golden Rule
For three women to run a smooth and successful operation, they had to be on the same page when it came to values. All three believed in following the golden rule. The three agree that respect and admiration for one another go a long way in managing the business.
The golden rule standard extended to their agents too and quickly became part of company culture. Agents were expected to treat all clients and fellow agents with respect and empathy. Agents came to expect they would receive the same from their brokers too.
“I have been with the brokerage since I became a REALTOR® in 2018,” Santis says. “We are a big fellowship, and we give the support agents crave and need in this fierce, evolving market.”
Wheeler was attracted to the brokerage because of her long-standing relationship with Clark and her admiration for Clark’s success and values.
“She was recognized as a tried-and-true leader, not to mention [being named] REALTOR® of the Year six separate times. So I had no qualms about accepting her offer to join her in the company she had started,” she says. “She always helping her community as a proponent for animals and volunteer work towards their well-being and safety.”
Playing to Each Other’s Strengths
Santis, who worked as a substitute teacher and then a math and Spanish teacher, believes the three of them meld because they have good chemistry and allow each other to follow their strengths.
Their distribution of duties was spread evenly. All partners took equal responsibility for troubleshooting, recruiting, and following up on files. Wheeler handled advertising and building maintenance. She also shared agent training, goal setting and events tasks with Santis. Clark controlled human resources and shared finances. Along with the duties she shared with the other brokers, Santis took the lead on technology.
“We each had areas we managed, and we met monthly to discuss anything new or to come up with new ways to improve and get better,” Santis says. “We also split the agents to give equal share responsibilities when it came to answering questions and resolving issues.”
She loves the fact that Clark and Wheeler have been in the business for a long time and have the expertise to know how to deal with anything that comes their way.
“Our success comes from being honest, fair and professional with each other and all of the agents,” Santis adds.
The fact that they all made it a point to be available to their agents played a big role in recruiting and retention, Clark says.
Maintaining Admiration for One Another
Santis, Clark and Wheeler all make it a point to spend time together outside the office. They volunteer together and enjoy each other’s company at dinners, which allows them to appreciate one another outside their broker roles. This camaraderie strengthens their relationship with one another in the office.
“I admire Jeanne for her constant pep talks, and the agents adore her,” adds Clark. “She is our energy base and has a lot of real estate knowledge.”
Clark says Santis is the “level head in times of stress. The agents look up to her, and she gives excellent guidance in her training periods.”
Santis sees Clark as practical, strong-willed, determined and laser-focused in everything she sets out to do. “She is well-known and loved in our community,” she adds.
“Jeanne is sweet and radiant, and a strong businesswoman with a heart of gold who loves to help everyone in every way,” Santis states. She has a great following, both customers and agents alike.”
Joining Century 21 to Enhance Brokerage Offerings
When the market started showing signs of a shift in spring 2022, the brokers were worried they wouldn’t have the tools to help their agents be successful in a market that most of them had never experienced before, Clark says.
Months before, they’d sat down with a Century 21 representative and listened to what merging with a large brokerage would afford them. With the changing market, they all agreed it might be time to make the leap and join.
“It seems that Century 21 will be able to offer our agents the ability to get more listings and provide services to our buyers and sellers to make the whole transaction a win-win for all,” she adds. “From the sophisticated CRM in MoxiWorks to individual web pages for each listing to follow-up programs with customers, and the list goes on.”
The three brokers also appreciated the way Century 21 invested in giving back to the local communities, which aligned with their values.
“Giving back is baked into the culture at Century 21,” adds Wheeler. “I was once a 16-year Century 21 brand veteran, and I’m happy to be returning to the family.”
Advice for Those Who Want to Start a Brokerage Together
It’s important to have a clearly defined mission and goals for the business, Santis says.
“I would recommend that they think about the culture and what kind of working environment they want to foster and grow.”
It’s also imperative to ensure that business goals and values align. Though a woman-owned situation worked out for these three, Clark says it’s more about personality and value match than anything else.
“Men would have an influence on decision and give a different view on some things. I would definitely have a man about when choosing the logo,” she says with a laugh, saying it took them several months to come up with theirs because each woman had her own style.Clark says the key to success is to meet a lot and discuss the nitty gritty. Figure out duties and responsibilities. Dream up what the brokerage might look like in 10 years and then make a solid plan to get there. Most of all, make sure everyone involved feels like a good fit, and keep lines of communication open.