Heading the A Team Consistently Ranked at the Top of RE/MAX Performance And The Region, Swick Cracks The Code In The Economically Hard-Hit Rust Belt City
In 2013, Dayton, Ohio based real estate broker Denise Swick, a 20-plus year industry veteran and a longtime top sales performer in the Miami Valley region for RE/MAX Performance, collaborated with other top selling agents across the country in writing the provocatively titled bestselling book, “Cracking The Real Estate Code. The title of her chapter, which offers her expertise on the importance pricing homes at the right market value, starts with three words that reflect her long-held business philosophy that has also become her key branding line: “Performance Outsells Promises: Perfecting Pricing to Get A Home Sold.”
True to the title of the book, Swick has worked the seemingly impossible, not only surviving but thriving in a rust belt area that was one of the hardest hit real estate markets in Ohio during the recent economic downturn. As recently as the Spring of 2013, when the national foreclosure rate had dropped 23 percent from the same time during the previous year, Ohio saw a 73 percent increase in scheduled foreclosure actions compared to a year earlier, recording a 68 month high. Swick says that within the state, Dayton has been among the top five cities for foreclosures over the past several years.
Despite these trends, Swick and her team of RE/MAX professionals (dba Denise Swick & Company), driven by their mission to deliver the absolute best results the market will allow, are consistently among the Top Two in their market, focusing on residential resale not short sales or foreclosures, the Miami Valley, which refers to the land area surrounding the Great Miami River in Southwest Ohio. It includes the cities of Dayton, Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Centerville, Fairborn, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Springboro, Vandalia, Springfield, Middletown and Hamilton.
So how did Swick crack the code? By looking at the future of real estate and realizing the only way to get to the next level is by surrendering the “one woman show” mentality that had driven her success over the previous two decades and embracing the power of the team concept. A perfectionist by nature with very high standards for those she surrounds herself with, she’s fond of saying, “our mediocrity is everyone else’s excellence.” When she started building her first team two years ago, she found it hard to delegate other responsibilities at first.
Ultimately, however, she began building a successful team by sticking to a few key concepts. The most important aspect was hiring the right people who share her same core values and work ethic, and creating a whole culture around that. There has been occasional turnover of people she came to realize were there only to make money and who didn’t make serving clients their #1 priority.
“The agents I work with have fun and work hard,” Swick says. “We’re all driven to succeed but when we take time off, we like to enjoy each other’s company as well. We do a good job and we are not as attached to the outcome, as we are doing what we say we will we do, when we say we will do it. Honesty and integrity are the foundation of everything.”
Swick, a native of Columbus, believes that the team concept benefits both the buyers and sellers in multiple ways. Under the old model, one agent tries to do everything: prospecting, marketing, bookkeeping, providing ongoing personalized service to clients, lead follow-ups, negotiating, showing and listing property, etc. “But there’s that level of production,” she says, “where a single agent gets tapped out and the customer service level diminishes because that one person can’t do everything and stay on top of the game.”
“How teams across the country, including ours, are becoming more successful,” Swick adds, “is due to clients being helped at a higher level. We have taken the traditional jack of all trades real estate agent job and broken it down into manageable pieces to secure and service more clients more professionally and at a higher level of service. My prediction is that there will always be a place for mom and pop type operations, but the general trend will reflect this successful team approach. In recent years, we’ve gone from one dimensional photographs in a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) book to online videos which show every aspect of a property, and now use GPS to map routes, not a maps book and copier machine. The same way we’re embracing new technology, we are embracing the changes in the way we do business.”
For Swick, having a full team is a logical extension from the days when she did most of the tasks herself but also worked with a listing manager and contract manager, who helped facilitate customer service and closing sales. Building that team helps professionalize the industry while providing more business for individual agents because of stronger lead generation systems and comprehensive training to provide professional service. The inside sales department takes care of making outgoing and incoming calls and takes care of the prospective buyers and sellers that come to the company, operating like a company inside a company. Other team members are buyer specialists, listing specialists, and executive assistants/customer service reps, and Chief Operating Officer.
One of the first things Swick did when she decided to start building a team was research on lead generating systems and interviewing other large teams that had been successful on how they conducted their business. She also invested in BoomTown, a complete online system that leads internet home buyers and sellers to the user’s virtual door, then gives agents proven tools to “turn clicks into closings.” BoomTown has generated millions of leads and sales for buyers and sellers, for real estate teams across the country.
Swick discovered that some of the agents that had been using BoomTown for a while started larger teams, and she learned about the nuts and bolts of assembling and cultivating those teams.
“Some people I talked to had been in the business a shorter time than I had been and weren’t even selling anymore, but just managing teams,” she says. “In the beginning, there was some trial and error because I wasn’t as skilled as I later became in hiring the right people. I knew how to bring people to the business quickly but that doesn’t mean that they always knew how to make things work. The turning point came when I hired a COO to run my company and started creating training programs. We wanted to train our new hires on simple things like how to write contracts, negotiate deals and schedule effectively. When I hired the COO, it was like hiring a new football coach who has to create a new crew and start over. But that’s what we had to do to create a winning team.”
Hiring the perfect complementary team is an evolving road with many potential bumps and comings and goings along the way, but Swick eliminated many potential problems when she started running personality profiles on her hires. Each position on her team fits a different profile, and she worked diligently to figure out who would be the best fit for any given position.
Within a year after implementing her first team at RE/MAX Performance, Swick says her business more than doubled and they closed over 200 deals –65% a direct result of Denise’s efforts. She is still the top sales person on her team but ultimately her goal is to accelerate teams in other areas and to train more people. Her goal by 2018 is to help over 1,000 buyers and sellers per year.
Perhaps the most ironic part of Swick’s becoming nationally renowned for her success and expertise in real estate these past few years is that back in the late 90s, after less than a decade in the industry, she was almost ready to quit and go to law school. Then she realized that attorneys are in essence sales people with law degrees, and she was already making more than most attorneys did. She had always had the drive to succeed, and was doing okay financially, but it took a powerful coaching program to take her game to the next level and build the right mindset.
“I was frustrated with the quality of people working around me and working 24/7 and just doing okay for myself, and not getting to the level I knew I was capable of,” says Swick. “I didn’t understand the team concept at the time, but knew an agent in my marketplace who had built a successful unit and watched his business explode. I wanted to know his secret, and he told me about a real estate coach named Mike Ferry. I enrolled in his training and had many breakthroughs that proved invaluable to my later success. He taught everything from how to set goals to effective prospecting, the importance of calling people back and constantly getting out and finding new business instead of waiting for potential clients to come to me.
“While I had the eagerness required to be successful, I was lacking the sales skills and ability to organize my day to day life and generate business beyond flyers and open houses. I implemented the tools that Mike taught, practiced scripts and dialogue that I would eventually use on prospective clients and learned how to lead generate over the phone. I set prospecting goals for myself and started targeting expired listings and For Sale By Owner (FSBOs) and in general became proactive. That made all the difference.”
Swick, a business major at Wright State University in Fairborn who ultimately graduated with a degree in marketing, was bored one summer while in school and joined a girlfriend in taking real estate classes. It was the perfect fit from the start. It took her five months to make her first sale but then she closed five properties in a row – at age 20!
Years later, she still gets great satisfaction helping both her team members and clients succeed. “It’s kind of exciting that by my efforts, I have provided jobs for people to support their families, while providing a nice fulfilling life for myself,” she says. “One part of our mission statement is delivering the best possible results for clients. I will always give them the highest value of what the market is, even if it’s not what the client may think it is. I’m always about being truthful. When my clients and friends refer me to their friends and business associates, they say, ‘Denise won’t tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear to get your home sold.’ Selling a home can be complicated, its my goal to reduce the complications and make it a smooth and successful closing! .”