Future of Real Estate: Tom Flanagan
As a part of our Future of Real Estate series on Union Street Media’s YouTube channel, our next featured guest is Tom Flanagan, Chief Innovation Officer at The Group Inc. The Group Inc. is an employee-owned brokerage with a team of roughly 200 dedicated agents. It’s also the brokerage co-founded by Larry Kendall, the creator of Ninja Selling, and is considered one of the most innovative real estate companies in Colorado and across the globe. The Group’s priority is to build trust and strong relationships by ensuring a seamless customer experience. Flanagan’s role as Chief Innovation Officer was created in 2019 with the goal of doing just that. The move combined the marketing, technology, and relocation departments into one to deliver a modern, collaborative experience across them. Click the play button above to watch the full interview and learn from a pioneer in the real estate industry.
Flanagan has over twenty years of experience. Before joining The Group Inc., he was the Vice President of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors in San Francisco and Vice President of Marketing and Technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Rhode Island. He started out as a Web Developer, has written for Inman News, and is a respected speaker, primarily on real estate technology.
Joining The Group Inc. was a natural fit for Flanagan. The Group Inc. is a company defined by challenging the status quo and blazing their own trail. Similarly, Flanagan exudes both confidence and curiosity, and has adapted The Group’s technology, marketing, and relocation practices since stepping into his current role. Many of those practices served them well when the COVID-19 pandemic began, allowing them to focus on what was still needed. Flanagan says they “continued with their company wide meetings,” and partook in, “lots of screen sharing, and zooming people in,” to keep up the level of communication they were used to.
“We are in this hybrid mode where we’re doing a tremendous amount of virtual things, but have people in the offices at a much smaller capacity. At this moment it’s working and I’m happy about that.”
Flanagan and his leadership team have seen noticeable changes in the industry this year, including seeing rushes of people go from populated urban areas to more suburban towns, leaving behind open office and building spaces. They’ve also seen changes in consumer behavior and have further adapted their customer service and digital experience. As a full service brokerage, they made changes across all of their departments. Flanagan says they have, “doubled down on video and now have two full-time video producers,” creating professional 60 second house tour videos.
They’re also, “leveraging existing technology and infrastructure in different ways,” rather than implementing brand new technology. An example is that they have improved their backend tools to ensure a better consumer experience, and more efficient brokers. They’ve also created trackable QR codes so they can connect with people who are able to attend in-person open houses during this time.
The Group Inc. is a data driven company and Flanagan tracks everything. They also use autoflow, a principle of ninja selling that allows them to measure how metrics feed into each other. They track activities like open houses, monthly newsletters, email campaigns and more to predict sales. Flanagan says, “we just don’t record the metrics, we turn to them and report them weekly at our sales meetings.”
Reporting and communication are key for Flanagan. He talks about the uniqueness of The Group’s shared ownership business model as having both challenges and strengths. At first, it was daunting having multiple bosses with strong opinions all providing feedback. Flanagan realized quickly, however, that the shared ownership model creates strong accountability and adoption. It takes a lot of buy in to do something and once done, everyone is on board. For The Group, Flanagan says, “it’s a super positive experience,” with exuberant participation and an all-hands-on-deck type collaboration.
“Everybody has an equal voice and equal say and that is very different from more of a traditional brokerage.”
Starting out in the real estate industry can be difficult. Flanagan’s advice is, “if you don’t have the financial bandwidth or don’t think you do,” you can, “maximize low-cost tools,” and utilize free platforms. Seek out the endless opportunities that the world of technology provides, and put in the effort to do so.”
“I do think there’s a lot of opportunity to invest in inexpensive tools and open source technologies, that are a great way of accomplishing your goals.” —Tom Flanagan
You can learn more about Tom Flanagan, The Group Inc., and Larry Kendall’s Nina Selling philosophy by visiting their website: https://www.thegroupinc.com/