On June 1, Brian Estes, CCIM, opened a new chapter in his accounting-turned-real estate career. On that day, his agency joined the Prudential CRES Commercial Real Estate network, marking Prudential CRES’ debut in the Magnolia State.
It was the culmination of a nearly two-year quest by Estes to expand his company’s horizons and reach, as well as to grow and retain a professional, well-trained staff.
“I felt like we were already moving in the right direction,” Estes said. “Now that we’re part of the Prudential CRES network, I’m really excited about the opportunities. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”
Education and retention
What started as a sidelight has turned into a successful real estate career for Estes. A native of Jackson, Estes graduated from Mississippi College with a degree in accounting, and went to work at LDDS/WorldCom where he would stay approximately three years. That experience proved under-whelming.
“I enjoyed the people I worked with — hated everything else,” Estes said flatly. “Accounting just wasn’t for me.”
Fortunately, he had real estate to fall back on. While still at LDDS/WorldCom, Estes began investing in residential real estate. At one point, he owned more than 60 homes in the metro Jackson area. But, his accounting background and love for investment brokerage steered Estes toward the commercial side of the industry. His first job was in commercial property appraisal, and he enjoyed a successful stint with Jackson commercial Realtor Mark Bounds, who proved a huge influence on Estes, and encouraged him to go after the CCIM designation, which Estes earned in 2000.
In 2004, Estes stepped out on his own, establishing the Estes Group in Jackson. The company originally focused primarily on commercial property appraisal, but over time shifted its emphasis to third-party brokerage and management, which today makes up 70% of the company’s business. The agency has since branched out from clients primarily in the metro Jackson area to a customer base that spans the entire state.
Still, Bounds’ influence and philosophy, particularly in the area of training, remained with Estes. Estes saw a changing commercial real estate industry, one that required agents to have in-depth, specialized education and experience in the various aspects of the business. Thus, Estes hired agents with highly defined responsibilities.
For example, one member of Estes’ five-person team focuses exclusively on recreational land, while another concentrates on investment grade real estate.
“This is still a people business, but you have to be able to number crunch, offer analysis,” Estes said. “At one time, personality trumped knowledge. If people liked you, they hired you. Not any more. It’s more about analysis than sales. When the phone rings and someone has a question, you better have an answer. You have to able to handle the business.”
While this specialization model proved successful in forming a more professional, highly trained team, it didn’t overcome another hurdle in the industry — turnover. Estes said his previous experience was typical. An agent goes to work for a company, learns the trade, and then steps out on his own after a few years. This represents not only a drain on an agency’s bottom line, but also results in the real estate pie being cut into smaller and smaller pieces. Estes was left with the challenge of finding quality, prospective agents, getting them up and running quickly, then keeping them. Since his agency was relatively small, he knew he would need outside help, an association that would not only offer a wider reach, but the resources to train and retain his people.
Enter Prudential CRES
Estes believes he has found just that with Prudential CRES. Prudential CRES traces its roots back to 2000, and today encompasses select, professional companies with a proven track record of performance. (Estes said Prudential CRES’ membership screening process is detailed and exhaustive.)
Estes was immediately attracted to Prudential CRES by the brand name, as well as the fact that it was a growing, national network. More than that, the network offered a solid, focused training program.
“The training system can take an agent with absolutely no experience, and have them up and running in three to six months,” Estes said.
Just as important to Estes, Prudential CRES’ system also aims to retain agents. As example, agents can earn up to a 10% ownership in the agency based on their performance, and there are also other incentives such as revenue sharing.
As far as the benefit from the name recognition of Prudential, Estes said his office is already reaping that reward. His office recently received a referral from Chicago of an owner with property on the Gulf Coast.
“That’s the way the industry is heading,” Estes said. “More and more property is being purchased by out-of-state entities. They often need a local agency to provide analysis and other assistance. But, who are they going to call? They don’t know any of these local companies. That’s where the name recognition of Prudential really helps. It provides instant credibility.”
Estes’ agency is currently the only Prudential CRES office in Mississippi. That could change soon, however. Estes said he understands Prudential CRES is looking at the Gulf Coast for a member, but he would be given the right of first refusal if that came to fruition.
“I believe we will triple in size due to our affiliation with Prudential CRES,” Estes said. “The potential is tremendous. We now have a huge to-do list, and we haven’t even checked off a third of it yet.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.