Writing the year’s wrap up used to be my New Years eve ritual, but with the scale of the job these days it’s impossible to quantify everything by midnight on 12/31. So let’s dive into my happy summary of a great year for the brand on the first business day of the new year.
2021 was by far the most cartoonish, crazy year I have witnessed in the industry, going back to 1996. Buyers were in the stiffest competition I’ve ever seen, and sellers were in the driver seat by a gigantic margin. This made life for listing agents comparatively advantageous (although nothing in this industry is truly easy), and for buyer agents it was trench warfare. I smile when people tell me that I must “have it easy” in this hot market, as they don’t know that the lack of balance complicates things enormously for all buyers, and no transaction can occur without a buyer. That difficult side of the puzzle notwithstanding, 2021 was the best year for J. Philip Real Estate by most conventional metrics.
Overall, the brand closed on over $150 million in volume for the first time in history. Last year we eked past $140 million but this year we were at $156 million, an increase of over 10%. We remain the top selling Westchester and Putnam county based independent brokerage for another year.
34 of our associates closed $1 million or more for the year, the highest total in the firm’s history. This means more to me than market rankings, because when someone entrusts their livelihood to us, we want them to be able to be a primary bread winner if they choose. One of my happiest stats is the sheer number of our professionals who are at that level of production. We have them by the dozen, and for a firm our size that is something we are fiercely proud of.
Another stat I pay close attention to is the amount of property we put under contract each week. Happily, we torched 2020 by nearly 11%, with close to $160 million put under contract, and that has us going into 2022 with good momentum.
We haven’t had our awards event yet, so I cannot make a shout out to recipients, but I can say confidently that this year’s list will dwarf that of prior years.
Where to start? Chief Operating Officer Jenn Maher was an absolute superhero in 2021, instituting systems and architecture that epitomized the best practices of working on one’s business rather than just in it. The firm’s policies and procedures were revamped and updated, the managerial and administrative structure was rebuilt, streamlined and expanded, the Inside Sales Division was started, transaction management was expanded, and overall I can look you in the eye and say that if 300 new agents walked into the door tomorrow, we could onboard, train and deploy them as smoothly as if half a dozen did. Among other initiatives Jenn spearheaded was the adoption of an entire planning and accountability system used by the company leadership, the administrative staff, and all of the departments that support the sales force. We now have a crystalized 1, 3, and 5 year plan with clear objectives and the roadmap to make it happen. I’ll happily restate that $1 billion in annual sales has never been more attainable for us thanks to Jenn’s fine work.
Jenn was also a prolific producer of video content, with her “Success in Real Estate” broadcast developing a bigger following, and added to that was our joint “Real Estate Unscripted” broadcast every Monday. Providing licensees and public alike good informative content and commentary has been one of the best ways I have found to build the brand. This endeavor will grow into something special; mark my words on that.
Uber administrative renaissance woman Ronnie DeMeo was elevated to Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and now oversees several large departments in the back office, as well as remaining my right had and the spiritual leader of the “Core Team” as Jenn terms them, the employee support staff that does admin, communications, sales support, and marketing. This past month the entire admin and management team met to plan the relaunch of the company systems, and I’ve never been in a room with so many smart, talented employees working together to forward the company’s vision. It was a sight to behold.
Josie Faranda stepped up significantly in 2021 as well, helping to tackle the firm’s enormous tech machine, as well as overseeing the fledgling Inside Sales (ISA) department, which is tethered to the aforementioned tech. Josie is quickly taking a complicated digital matrix and helping the personnel run it like a well oiled machine. The entire journey of the consumer from a raw inquiry for more information, to choosing a J Philip agent, through the closing has a cadence and written process that guides our training, agent support, and oversight.
Transaction Coordinator Michele Kantrowitz is among many smart, talented people who have stepped up and helped move our systems forward. Supporting the team in something as sensitive as shepherding the steps to closing a contract is something she does well, and the agents get enormous value from her contribution.
Other steps forward included:
- The addition of a virtual CFO to oversee and manage the company finances
- The start of the full renovation of two offices
- A structured recruiting system with a budget to increase the size of our sales force
- The adoption of a new CRM software that “sees around corners” thanks to artificial intelligence and predictive analytic programs
- An equally high powered transaction management platform
- Establishment of basic Boot Camp Training for new and experienced agents alike
- A full compendium of both basic and advanced company training in our Trainual platform, thanks in large part to Lorei Kwok
- The new Agent Leadership and Culture Committee with a more clearly defined purpose
- Establishment of a Mentor Program for newer agents
- A company lead program open to all agents, with the support of the aforementioned ISA program and Transaction Coordinator.
- The elevation of Keri Kenny to Commercial Director
I am so humbled that this team of sharp, committed professionals has chosen this brand to share their talent. There are so many awesome people contributing it’s impossible to name them all. Many thanks to Brittany Alvarez for her great training contributions (and a big congrats on the new baby!), to Cristina Gameiro for her tenacious work and support in building out our team model, and so many others who rolled with the changes both inside the brand and out there in this industry.
I announced at the end of last year’s wrap up that we’d roll out a new company website and expand the size of the brand. The new website went live in the first quarter, but I was not satisfied with it, so expect a better version of jphilip.com this winter.
We are working on expansion, and have hired a consultant to spearhead something special. Stay tuned there.
We see the future of the top producing agent significantly tethered to the team concept, which is essentially like a brokerage within the brokerage. Few traditional brands will admit this, but they aren’t excited about that idea. Teams are not as profitable as individual agents are to brokerages, but our plan is to scale the brand so that teams will be welcome, will flourish in our model, and the arrangement will be a win/win for all parties. I’ll restate it more clearly: J Philip Real Estate is enthusiastically a team-centric brokerage. Expect bigger and better teams growing with us.
Personally, I served my first year as a director of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors; I had been on the board of the MLS for a decade and served as president in 2014, but this was my first time on the association side of the organization. I also served another year on the board of the Beverly Carter Foundation, an organization committed to agent safety on the job. Locally, I was on the Ossining Historic Preservation Commission, and on the Committee for the establishment of the Sing Sing Prison Museum. My kids are healthy and doing well, I’m in a great relationship for close to 3 years now, and I wake up every morning feeling blessed and grateful.
I take no small amount of joy in observing that 2021 wasn’t just our highest production year, it was the year we built a bigger plane as we flew it. The absolutely gigantic projects we took on -simultaneously- certainly turned the agents’ collective heads as if we were crazy. To their credit, they hung in there, were supportive and comported themselves like the true professionals they are while we challenged them with so many changes. These are the people who make me feel confident in promising that before the next 5 years is over that J Philip Real Estate will be at over a billion dollars in annual closings. I love this bunch.