When Kristen Trembinski, broker of record at Exit Realty Lake Superior took over the reins of her family-owned brokerage in 2012, it was a “sizeable undertaking” for the 30-year-old as broker of record. By then, the brokerage – founded by her father, Terry Trembinski, in 2000 – had grown to 12 agents.
But the challenge for Kristen and future co-owner Jamie Coccimiglio was to help incoming young agents like themselves overcome their lack of confidence in a market where “all the other real estate brokerage owners in town were amongst my father’s generation here in Sault Ste. Marie,” she says.
“As a younger person starting out, you’re typically selling someone’s largest investment. What people don’t understand when they’re going through (real estate) courses is that the courses are just one component of it. But in the business, there’s so much to learn from there on. And it’s mostly done on the job,” she says.
When Coccimiglio joined Trembinski as co-owner in 2017, they decided to take a hard look at where they struggled as young brokerage owners and where they could use a helping hand. “And a huge component for us (to focus on) was a hands-on training culture,” says Coccimiglio. Bolstered by the existing Exit formula, the two realised that creating a future-forward business where work/life balance was part of the bottom line would not only attract high-performing agents but would also help to retain them.
“When we started it was mainly about business,” says Coccimiglio. “And what we tried to do is not focus just on the business side of it.” They wanted to foster a mindset that included training, camaraderie, fun and confidence.
“I think in the future, we’re going to see that the most successful businesses aren’t just focusing on the business side of it. It’s that positive work culture and environment that they’re also working on. That’s what’s going to take some businesses to exponential growth, because if you’re happier at home and at work, it affects your business.”
With their new work/life balance raison d’être, Trembinski and Coccimiglio are seeing their vision come to fruition through the exponential growth their brokerage has experienced since their partnership began.
Currently with 40 agents and counting, the retention rate at their office hit 97 per cent in 2018 and grew to 100 per cent in 2020. During times when many business owners have moved or considered moving their brick-and-mortar operations online, Exit Realty Lake Superior will expand their physical presence. “We’re doing an expansion on our building here to accommodate (growing numbers). We have about 10 onboarding within the next month. So, our numbers are probably going to be closer to 50 by the time summer hits,” says Trembinski.
At Exit Realty Corp. International, 25 ends are considered the minimum required to make the corporate award category. At Exit Lake Superior, agents with 25 ends or 100 GCI are dubbed “top producers”. Of the 40 current agents, 21 are top producers, five are brand new to the business (less than six months) and most of the remaining agents are on the cusp of hitting the top-producer mark.
In addition, the brokerage’s average per agent production for 2020 was 29 ends per agent with approximately $4,300 average commission/transaction. All this adds up to $5.52 million in volume per agent for 2020 and approximately $126,000 gross closed commissions/agent, Trembinski says.
The brokerage has maintained No. 1 market share within the Sault Ste. Marie marketplace since 2017.
“Our career highlight award was the Canadian Broker of the Year from Exit Realty Corp. International in 2017,” says Trembinski.
Despite the pandemic, the brokerage hosts remote/virtual once-a-month career nights, regular training sessions and sales meetings twice a week. It sends out weekly calendar reminders to its agents at the beginning of every week to help them co-ordinate with the company’s set schedule.
“It boils down to communication. All our agents are independent contractors, so it’s important to keep the communication lines open and strong where we’re touching our agents almost daily or at least a few times over the week,” says Trembinski.
The owners attribute the brokerage’s rapid success to its open-door culture where agents can “come and see both of us whenever, whether it’s calling us or us reaching out to them. We have policies in place that for the first year of business, all paperwork is to be run by either me or Kristen,” says Coccimiglio.
By focusing on the individual’s overall wellbeing, in keeping with the universal Exit approach of moving from an ego-driven to an empathy-driven company, “we can all just do so much better. And that’s always been at the forefront of our growth,” Trembinski says.
Sohini Bhattacharya is a contributing writer for REM.