San Francisco’s fastest growing boutique real estate brokerage Climb Real Estate has more in common with the burgeoning tech companies that surround it than it does with California’s largest incumbent real estate firms. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Climb’s Co-Founder and CTO Mark Choey to get the inside scoop on how he and his team are rethinking the brokerage model taking cues from Silicon Valley’s red-hot tech scene.
What is the culture like at Climb?
Mark: Everyone feels like they are on one big team on a unified mission to be the best agents and brokerage in the SF Bay Area.
Agents and managers from other firms tend to be surprised that our agents are so willing to share information and are so willing to team-up on business. We’ve squashed hierarchy and different levels of status, which tend to be the norm at other brokerages.
“We’ve squashed hierarchy and different levels of status, which tend to be the norm at other brokerages.”
How are your offices set up?
We have experimented with a number of non-traditional setups. Our main office is inspired by the local tech startup campuses with open and flexible work arrangements to foster collaboration and communication. Our other office locations are a mixture of small satellite offices to a co-working office environment and a retrofitted Airstream mobile office!
How do agents at different offices remain on the same page?
We have regular in-person meetings at our main campus and have regular social and educational events to foster interaction outside the office. Of course, everyone is virtually connected with social networking and group messaging apps.
What makes you different from other brokerages?
We are a primarily a brokerage of and for the next generation. All of our clients and agents (of all ages) would identify more with the Millennial generation. We strive to be innovative and different, we have to keep our messaging fresh and new, never rest and never be satisfied!
What are the key metrics you focus on to measure success?
Market-share and client satisfaction is what we care about above and beyond agent count, revenues and profits. We look at negativity from competitors as a good thing. It shows we’re onto something great.
Are there any innovations that you’re experimenting with?
Our latest innovation challenges the notion that a successful brokerage needs to have one large retail space with enough desks for every agent on a busy street. One of our latest experiments is opening an office location at WeWork in their Mid-Market location.
By opening an office inside a shared workspace, we are able to open a new office and market presence with virtually zero startup costs and have all of the crucial functions needed to run an office. Infrastructure including printers, copiers, phones, Internet/wireless, a front desk receptionist, cleaners and mail services are all handled by WeWork. We are also instantly connected with the community of close to 1,000 tech workers and the innovative ideas their companies represent.
What’s a funny story about Climb that you can share?
Our annual CLIMB holiday parties is always a source of a new round of funny stories. One year, our party coincided with the annual Santacon event in San Francisco and our party was infiltrated with a bunch of uninvited elves. Rather than throw them out of the party, we decided to party with them and we all had a great time!
What tools do you provide your agents and why?
There is a huge cost for an organization to support tools organization-wide so they really have to be”killer” applications that will attract, support and retain a high performing team. The usage of the tool and utility it provides has to make life and business as frictionless as possible.
The Google Apps suite of products (Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Chat, etc.) has been the focus of our IT infrastructure since 2008 and we have not looked back. It’s low cost, in the cloud, reliable and platform-independent. It’s a no-brainer for us.
RealScout is one of those killer applications that fills a void that was not being serviced well in the past. As the role of a real estate agent continues to morph, buyers are increasingly turning to the Internet and searching for themselves.
Traditionally, the search experience for buyers is a mixed-bag and generally not positive. Property search is on platforms where true online-collaboration cannot happen and there was very little real-time transparency for an agent as to their clients’ true interests and preferences. That has changed with RealScout on the scene!
How do you ensure agent success?
Support, support and more support. Brokers owe it to their agents to equip them with the technology and mentorship they need to be successful. We roll up our sleeves and do what we need to do to get them to the next level! If you don’t, someone else will.
Any advice for new agents?
We have several agents who are among the city’s top producers and they all conduct business in many different ways. Some are relationship people, some are ultra-efficient lead generators and closers, some are a mix of both, some focus on one small neighborhood, some sell all over the SF Bay Area.
Find what makes you special, find what you like to sell, what neighborhoods you love, what price range and what type of clients you work well with and focus on doing that and ONLY that, every minute of every day of every week all year long. You will have many opportunities to do business in areas that are either 1) not your product type, 2) not your neighborhood or 3) not in your comfort zone… If it’s not part of your overall strategic plan, don’t chase it. Instead, try and refer it out!
What’s next for Climb?
If you had asked us what CLIMB would be in 2015 when we founded it in 2010, I don’t think we could imagine it. We have very simple goals and keep our eyes open for anything we can do to improve the experience for our clients and our agents. The rest just happens naturally.
Look outside the industry for ideas that could be adopted for the real estate brokerage industry. Stay open, help others and share — only good things happen.
The industry’s top brokerages offer RealScout to agents. Why aren’t you?