Agent ownership is a radical departure from how most large brokerages operate, but when done correctly the rewards – particularly to the customers – are tremendous. It’s the extra mile, an earnest endeavor to please and a certain unspoken pride that comes from being not just another agent, but one of the owners of this innovative company. Creating an atmosphere that’s both special and ingratiating, the ultimate result wrought from the pride of ownership is something that Counselor Realty founders have understood for more than 50 years. While other brokerages employ some of these ideas, the business model that Counselor created has not been duplicated within the industry.
While being a shareholder is certainly not mandatory, it’s an affordable option which every Counselor agent is offered. Regardless of whether they choose to become stockholders, every one of them has an opportunity to participate and provide input on how the company is run. Truly democratic, everyone from the CEO to the board of directors is elected to that post, therefore accountable to those who voted for them. Perhaps what’s most impressive and makes this system really work, is the fact that those elected to these offices remain active real estate agents which means rather than becoming detached from the day-to-day challenges that every agent encounters, they remain in the trenches and in touch with how decisions impact their colleagues.
IN THE BEGINNING
Counselor Realty had a humble beginning back in the early 1960s that started with a small group of successful real estate agents. These experienced professionals recognized the direct link between providing superior customer service and directing their own business. Daring to step outside the proverbial box, they created a company owned by the agents. The concept proved so effective that that small nucleus of real estate agents has grown to include hundreds of owner and non-owner real estate agents in multiple offices and satellite locations throughout the Twin Cities, Minnesota and Wisconsin real estate markets.
Outgoing President/CEO Andy Barnes is an 18-year real estate veteran, who is proud to claim that his home has been with Counselor Realty since he first got his license. “We’re run kind of like a co-op,” he says. “Our model is that we are not here to make a profit off our agents, every dollar that we take in goes back out in the form of services for our agents. The majority of our agents are shareholders and we want to make sure we are as cost-effective as possible in everything we do.
“When the company was first formed in 1964, those original five agents wanted to create something different, agent driven and a model that had never been seen before,” Barnes continues. “The result, as you can see has been nothing short of spectacular. Counselor Realty is an energetic company that really takes notice of keeping the agents we have happy, successful and profitable and feeling that this is the best place to be.”
Counselor’s success rate consistently ranks them among the top national brokerages in homes sold per agent annually, and their real estate agents average over 12-years of experience in the real estate industry.
This is a company where you can come to learn and grow your business, but at the same time being very independent.”
“This is a company where you can come to learn and grow your business, but at the same time being very independent,” Barnes explains. “We do not have a heavy hand telling agents what they have to do, you can run your business as you see fit.
“At the same time, our education and training are among the best as is our use of technology and those tools that are cutting edge. In fact, we did direct comparisons against some of the largest national companies and were not surprised to discover that our technology and the tools we provide were either at par with these larger brokerages or, in some cases superior. The reason is no mystery, we can do this because no one is taking a profit, the money accrued from our agents goes right back into the company. We’re always building, improving and adding tools and ideas that best serve our agents.”
PASSING THE BATON
When Barnes’ term ends in April, he will be passing the baton into the capable hands of Michelle Larson, who currently is a team leader in Counselor Realty’s White Bear Lake office. With more than 24 years of experience, Larson has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the unique features that make the Twin Cities neighborhoods so desirable. However, her strongest asset she will tell you, is her unwavering capacity to truly listen.
“This is going to be a great year,” she says, the genuine excitement seems to radiate from her. “We have Nick Dreher on board as our new Director of Growth and Development, we have some really great leaders and just to be a part of it, is truly thrilling.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
As Larson mentioned, Nick Dreher has recently stepped into an extremely important role with Counselor. As the new Director of Growth and Development, Dreher will be charged with re-energizing the company brand both internally as a culture leader as well as externally as a brand ambassador.
Dreher brings a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience to his new post. In fact, in addition to more than 15 years as a real estate agent, he has also successfully participated in a diverse mix of industry related fields.
“I’ve worked in home mortgages, worked with builders, worked in the title industry and had an active real estate license up until about two years ago,” he says. “I’ve done a little bit of everything. Most recently, I was consulting with businesses that were struggling to find a voice in this industry. I’ve also worked directly with agents and what I discovered is that what they were looking for was real value from their brokerages.”
In response to the increasing demand for his knowledge and expertise and wanting to help as many people as possible, Dreher authored a book, “Mindset, Methods and Metrics: Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent.” Coming off the tremendous success of this, he says he’s excited to jump in with both feet and become part of the unique culture that is Counselor Realty.
“This business model is unmatched in the Twin Cities and nobody knows about it,” says Dreher. “By building the brand we hope to show customers and prospective agents how unique and rewarding being a part of Counselor can be.”
This business model is unmatched in the Twin Cities and nobody knows about it.”
Working very closely with Dreher is Jennipher Reichert, Director of Operations and Agent Services. Jennipher’s 20-plus year history includes all aspects of the organization from marketing to relocation. A go-to person for answers and assistance, Jennipher began early on at Counselor Realty while still attending college earning a bachelor’s degree in business. Her dedication to Counselor stems from her passion to help others and see them succeed. “The best part of what I do is getting to work with a phenomenal group of professionals and help them realize their goals.”
Also, on the leadership team moving forward is Andy Prashad, a 24-year veteran of the industry. Prashad left the corporate world to venture into business for himself and found the Counselor model to have the most flexibility and the freedom to run his business; plus, all the support services provided by a large brokerage. Prashad is not a status-quo kind of guy. He is continually exploring options that will help grow his business and serve his clients in the best possible manner. Counselor Realty exceeds those requirements for Prashad. “I did not leave the corporate world to join another corporate setting,” he says. “I want to do my own thing so I can serve my clients in the best possible manner. I can do that here.”
The best part of what I do is getting to work with a phenomenal group of professionals and help them realize their goals.”
It can be a huge risk when a company decides to break the rules or step outside the lines. For Counselor Realty this risk has paid off tremendously. As they look to the next 50 years, it’s with excitement and the knowledge that they have found the perfect formula that ensures both agents and clients receive the maximum satisfaction and value.
Heading into another year of progress for Counselor Realty, President Larson notes, “It’s just such a unique company having agents share ownership and all their voices are so important and I just wanted to make sure that it continues. I feel so fortunate to be part of such a wonderful group and I welcome the opportunity to share all that we have to offer.”