While the team concept is certainly not new to the real estate industry, it is rare to find a group whose success has been as complete or consistent as that of the number one selling team in the state, The Minnesota Real Estate Team. Founded by Ryan O’Neill of RE/MAX Advantage Plus, the group has not only earned the top spot among all real estate teams in Minnesota, it’s done so for each of the past eight years. In addition, they are recognized as the number one RE/MAX team in the United States, closing more than 1,275 homes last year alone.
Beyond sales, awards and recognition, for O’Neill the true indicator of success is his high member retention rate. In a business where people move about like pieces on a chess board, The Minnesota Real Estate Team enjoys the loyalty of an unprecedented number of their producing agents.
According to the team’s longest member, Kevin Curtis, that’s precisely what O’Neill has achieved. “I’m frequently asked why I don’t leave or start my own team,” Curtis said. “Why would I? I have my own business, I don’t have to answer to anyone, yet I enjoy the support, resources and advantages of being part of something bigger.
“Ryan is just one of those exceptional leaders,” he continued. “We benefit from tremendous exposure thanks to his excellent marketing, his radio program and his extensive relationships. He’s also a great resource when things start going sideways or you encounter problems.”
Perhaps the reason O’Neill is so conscious of how the other guy feels is related to his first foray into the world of real estate back in 2001.
“I was exploring investment properties,” he said, “and tried working with a couple of different REALTORS – both very nice, friendly people. But, at the end of the day, there was this sense of unease. There was too much of a sales angle in their approach, I don’t know, something that just made me a little bit uncomfortable. So I thought, ‘Hey, maybe there’s another way to do this business.’ I decided to get my license and see what would happen.”
Once licensed, O’Neill placed a small ad in a local newspaper that read, “Want to learn how to buy investment property?” It drew immediate response. Soon he was driving all around the Twin Cities area, meeting people for a quick cup of coffee or bite to eat. Sometimes these meetings led to a new client, sometimes not. Regardless of the outcome, he never felt it was a wasted trip. “I never consider it a waste of time to meet new people,” he said. “Besides, even those buyers who didn’t become clients appreciated that I’d taken the time to meet with them and I began getting referrals.”
That initial, uneasy feeling he’d experienced, has impacted how O’Neill approaches his own clients.
“I never want anyone we work with to feel any pressure at all,” he said. “Our agent is there for the clients and we believe it should be a positive experience. Actually, if you can share a laugh or two, even better! That’s been an overriding theme for our team as well; our job is to provide value to the buyer and seller in a no-pressure environment.”
This same philosophy carries over to his management of The Minnesota Real Estate Team.
“I’m a big believer in giving someone an opportunity to succeed,” he said. “If an agent has a sincere desire and a solid work ethic, he or she will absolutely achieve a certain level of success. My job is to provide all the support I can; whether that means solid leads, education, training or advice. But I’m not going to be Big Brother, ‘Hey where are you? How many calls have you made?’ I’m just not that kind of person.”
Tony Dagostino was a five-year veteran of the business when he met O’Neill and has now been part of the team for six years.
“What sets Ryan apart is his sincere dedication to each and every one of us,” Dagostino said. “He leads by example. I think the fact that he manages to keep so many people happy and wanting to be a part of his team speaks volumes. He’s like the Santa Claus of real estate.”
O’Neill has fashioned a team of likeminded industry professionals, whose focus is to provide service to clients throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Now with more than 85 agents, The Minnesota Real Estate Team can provide a specialist in every facet of the real estate business.
“Ours is a diverse and knowledgeable group of professionals from all over Minnesota, representing a cross section of ages, ethnicity and background,” O’Neill said. “We strive to match our clients with the team member who can best serve their real estate goals as well as their personality.”
The youngest of six children, O’Neill credits his family with much of his success. He describes them as a very close and lively bunch – his parents, warm and loving role models, instilled excellent values and were always supportive of their children.
“I feel my work ethic comes from them, they always worked hard and were passionate about their beliefs. My dad was a lifetime, small town attorney and my mom a school teacher,” he said with obvious pride. “They were always our biggest fans, regardless of what direction we chose. As the youngest, I looked up to my older siblings too. I decided to go to Notre Dame because that’s where my next-to- oldest brother went.”
As a Fighting Irish, O’Neill graduated with a degree in German, and even had one year of study abroad before returning home to his Minnesota roots.
“My brother Tim is a very talented pianist who had started up a music business,” he explained. “I grew up playing piano as well, so when I came home it just felt like a natural fit for me to join him in his business. We began playing professionally as the O’Neill Brothers and recorded several CDs. But, as much as I enjoyed this, I always felt drawn to real estate as well.”
Although real estate has become his vocation, the O’Neill brothers still do a Midwest concert tour together every other year during the Christmas holidays. Their CDs of relaxing piano compositions are still big sellers through HSN, QVC and other venues as well as being a popular choice on iTunes.
It was music that led O’Neill to his wife, Kathy. “She is a very gifted musician in her own right,” he said. “She’s also extremely supportive of my work. She understands the long hours I put in yet, keeps me balanced.”
In addition to his family, O’Neill is humble and quick to share the credit for his success amongst others. He credits his team’s success to the hard work of each of the outstanding agents who are part of the team. O’Neill also acknowledges the help of his longtime friend Scott Wollmering and the broker and owner of RE/MAX Advantage Plus, Eric Malmberg.
“I was actually on Scott’s team when I first started out,” O’Neill said. “Currently, we co-host a local radio program and continue to be great friends. I learned a lot from him and respect and admire him greatly.”
Aired on AM 1130, “The Minnesota Real Estate Show” is a live call-in program that can be heard every Saturday between 10 and 11 a.m.
“Eric has owned and operated 12 locations of RE/MAX Advantage Plus throughout the Twin Cities area, and been very much like a brother to me,” O’Neill said. “He’s been my friend, my mentor and one of my biggest supporters in building our team. I owe a great deal to him.”
Unlike many, O’Neill chose not to name the team after himself. “It just made more sense to have a name that was more inclusive so that agents could have an option to join a team without losing some of their own identity or marketing ability. It’s not a strategy that I think is necessarily better, it’s just a little different, and seems to work for us.”
For more information on Ryan O’Neill and his company, visit www.MNRealEstateTeam.com.