The Real Estate Dish: 30 Minutes with RE/MAX's Mike Reagan
Join QuantumDigital’s EVP and CMO Eric Cosway as he spends 30 minutes getting the latest dish on cause marketing and global real estate branding with Mike Reagan, Senior VP of Business Alliances at RE/MAX. Mike has been with RE/MAX since 1990 and leads the RE/MAX Commercial network, The RE/MAX Collection luxury division, and helped to establish RE/MAX as a leading contributor to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
Listen to the Interview [Audio]:
Eric: Mike—you’ve led the effort to raise over $147 million for the Children’s Miracle Network group, which RE/MAX has supported since 1992. I have spent some time with Mike, and let me tell you three things that come to mind every time I think of Mike. Number one, Mike is a huge humanitarian. Number two. He has a sincere passion for giving and serving others. Number three, I also learned, when he was here at our building, that Mike is a gifted storyteller who builds strong connections with everyone he meets. He really embodies the soul of the RE/MAX organization. Mike, you’ve been working in real estate since 1990, so almost 26 years. Before that, you were in enterprise software. What about the real estate industry has kept you engaged, and continues to keep you interested?
Mike: Well, good morning, Eric. You know, it’s been fascinating, really. I think my almost 26 years with RE/MAX… it really started probably with my first conversation with Dave and Gail Liniger, the founders of RE/MAX. When I talked to Dave initially he said, “We are going to change the way real estate is done around the world.” I met him in 1989 or so, and what I heard in that is I had a chance to join a cause, not just a company: “We are going to change the way real estate is done around the world.” And I think buying into that as a young person—I was moving out from Ohio… really my first experience in Colorado… I think RE/MAX at the time had about 18,000 agents in 2 countries—and I thought, “Wow! What a huge opportunity!” And so, moved to Denver, and I think every day for the past 26 years I’ve held onto that fact that we are changing the way real estate is done around the world.
Eric: RE/MAX really is a different organization. There’s no question about that, I feel it when I meet your folks. What would our listeners be surprised to learn about you, and maybe your experience?
Mike: I think, going back to what you said earlier, to me… to be with one company for this long a time, what’s been exciting is the fact that not only our company, but the industry changes so dramatically every few years, that it’s like going to a new company, you know. So, I know younger people—millennials, you know, they say they’re going to have 7 or 8 jobs during their career—I’ve been fortunate to have 2. And with RE/MAX, every 3 or 4 years there’s something new and exciting, or something that we’re behind. And now, you look at RE/MAX today, we’re able to roll out something to over 100,000 agents in nearly 100 countries. So, it’s truly a global footprint that we can be part of.
Eric: You know, you talk about change and rollouts… this year at R4, your convention, you announced a new 2016 advertising campaign, and you also introduced the new RE/MAX University education platform. Can you tell us a little bit about those initiatives?
Mike: Any time we talk about RE/MAX advertising, what’s so exciting to look at is for over 40 years, every single agent in the world has promoted one single brand—the RE/MAX balloon. So, billions of dollars go into that consistency of one brand. When they get together at R4, we had I think over 6,000 people from 55 countries and a lot of great things happened. The ad campaign was introduced and it focuses on the value of RE/MAX agents and what they provide to customers. You’ll see some of the fun commercials showing what an agent does behind the scenes. You know the theme, the sign of a RE/MAX agent, really shows that high energy, and the agents are focused not only on the client, but on the solution. We’re excited to offer the advertising across multiple media platforms, and this year we’re going to offer Spanish-language versions available throughout the year at the regional level, and so on. The other fantastic announcement, R.U. (RE/MAX University) was expanded, and intuitive educational content on RE/MAX University has a cleaner look, easier to use, easier to navigate, and so on. But there’s also this fun element to it. There’s a gamification in there. Not only does it kind of know what your area of interest is, but there’s a points system… you can kind of have fun with it. There are rewards on a regular basis. It kind of makes education fun for the agents.
Eric: Was there one thing that you found inspiring this year at the convention that you took note of?
Mike: Yeah, I think from my point of view, when I go to a RE/MAX event—you know, we’ve got a few hundred people in Phoenix this week, up to the thousands that come to the convention—it’s really a recharge. It’s a recharge for the agents, and especially for us from headquarters. It reminds us what business we’re in, and how great the people are at the individual level. And it’s fun! You walk around, you see people from South Africa, or Asia… South America. And you’re all part of the same family. You know, one of the speakers this year made a comment… or I guess, issued a challenge to the audience and said, “Did you wake up today and think to yourself ‘I’m going to do something extraordinary today’?” And I think the theme, if you will, is you’ve got to be prepared. It’s like the attorney phrase, “Don’t ever ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.”
I think, in the real estate business, there is so much information available that an agent… you have to have that responsibility to understand, “What is the cultural aspect of your client?”, “What is the focal point of this particular buyer or seller?”, and go in there as a highly-prepared, highly-educated agent to work with the diversity of the audience we deal with today.
Eric: I know one thing that’s really close to your heart is the Children’s Miracle Network—CMN. During the event, you spotlight the event and raised funds for it this year. Can you tell us about your role and how RE/MAX is involved with CMN?
Mike: Absolutely. And just one other quick point on R4, when you get that many people and that kind of brain trust together, one of the themes this year—and I think it carries over to some of the other things that we’re going to touch on—is encouraging agents to find a balance between… not just life and work, but between technology and personal service. You look at a great company like QuantumDigital, you guys, in a digital marketing strategy… but it still is a personal delivery of the agent. So, I think that was an important thing of R4. You know, in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals—I’m proud of it, it’s the best part of my job—but, in February of 1992, we stood on the stage in Atlanta in a RE/MAX convention with Marie Osmond and introduced a relationship—Marie was one of the co-founders of CMNH—but, we stood there and showed their hot air balloon and our hot air balloon, and Marie said, “You know, I think we’re going to do great things together.” I saw her earlier this year, and she gave me a big hug and said, “Mike, I love RE/MAX! You guys are going to hit $150 million this year—over $6 million average!” But, when we started looking in 1992, we felt we were ready to embrace a partnership like this. And, of course, we could’ve written a check and put our name on something… we look for a way to leverage not just the marketing horsepower, but the generosity of the RE/MAX audience. And we said, “Let’s find out. What are they great at? They sell more real estate than anyone else. Let’s leverage that horsepower into a cause.” And the beauty of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and our relationship, is there are over 170 hospitals in North America, 10 million children are touched each year through those hospitals, and those are all our families, our clients, our client’s children, grandchildren, and so on. But on day one, when we announced the Miracle Home Program, we gave the agents an opportunity to designate their listings—residential, it’s called a “Miracle Home”; commercial, a “Miracle Property”—but the agent simply says to their client, “I’m going to designate your home a Miracle Home”, and then in their listing presentation, they go on to say, “I’m going to flag it on Remax.com as a Miracle Home. I’m going to put a sign rider that says, ‘This Miracle Home supports—’” and it would be the name of your local hospital. And all of their marketing material positions the home as a Miracle Home. Well, that helps agents stand apart from the crowd, makes them unique in the marketplace. But, when the transaction closes, the family receives an “Honor Card” from their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, with artwork and a message about a miracle child, and it says, “100% of the donation that the agent made on behalf of your family goes to your local CMN Hospital.” So, every one of those $150 million dollars has stayed local—no override, no overhead—100% stays local.
So, the beauty of this relationship is every single agent, and their client, has a connection that will remain for life. And, you know at R4 for example, we bring a “Miracle Child” and their family every year, and… she (Marie Osmond) and I were on stage with Jay Leno—and we share her story, and she and I host an auction… we raised like $170,000 in an hour through support of generous agents. But, what it does is it makes this campaign real. When you sit down with a child that—she’s had 12 surgeries before the age of 3—and you talk to her family, and they say something powerful like, “You know it’s so great to be here at RE/MAX…” But remember, she wakes up with this situation every single day of her life. And it makes you want to do more.
Eric: When I first visited RE/MAX in Denver, I actually felt that energy that I hear in your voice. Where does that come from? Knowing you, it is just part of your DNA. It seems like it resonates throughout RE/MAX.
Mike: You know, it starts with Dave and Gail Liniger. When Dave built RE/MAX, it was built for a lot of different reasons—certainly to attract top-producing agents. But it also attracts leaders. When you look across the spectrum in 100 countries—nearly 100 countries around the world—you can find RE/MAX leaders in every aspect of our business. They’re on MLS boards, they’re on NAR boards. We’ve had 4 RE/MAX agents serve as president of the Commercial Institute, CCIM. In another year or so, we’re going to have the third RE/MAX person serve as president of NAR. This is the kind of people that are attracted to the RE/MAX culture. On the giving side, they’re involved in their community. It’s impossible really for us to even measure the good things that happen locally. When you hear of hundreds of golf events, and poker parties, and cooking shows and all that type of thing… because, they understand that cause marketing drives business, but they also know it’s the right thing to do in their community. And, quite honestly, it’s about personal promotion. You’re putting yourself out there, but we encourage—and this comes from Dave and Gail—you’re a leader, not only in real estate, but you’re a leader in your community. Be involved.
Eric: You know, of all the executives I speak to in real estate—when I looked at your background and I saw the term “cause marketing,” I was really intrigued by that. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen that. You really live and breathe cause marketing.
Mike: Think about this: 170 hospitals with an average employee base of 3,000 employees—that’s the footprint of an audience that already loves RE/MAX. Are you visible at the local hospital? Are you going to their job fairs? When they have a radio-thon, are you in the lobby on the phone making calls? So, the responsibility of the agent—it’s easy to say, “Well, I’ll make a donation on one deal” or whatever. But you have people like Dennis and Mary Lou Steed, RE/MAX Crossroads in Northeast Ohio. For 20 years, every single agent in their office—I think they’re up to 150 or so—every agent, every transaction does $25. This fall, that single office is going to hit the $1 million mark.
And, what do they do besides this? They’re at the hospital. They’re at hospital events. They’re visible to the hospital. And so, at the end of the day, a new doctor is moving into Rainbow Babies Hospital in Cleveland, and their head of HR says, “You need to buy a new home in our community. I wonder who should we call? Let’s call a RE/MAX agent who gives back to our hospital.”
Eric: How do you split your time up between The RE/MAX Collection luxury division, the Business Alliances role, and the charitable side of what you do?
Mike: Well… quite honestly, I spend 10% of my time with Children’s Miracle Network—you know, we’ve got a couple of global brands to manage as well—but the beauty of Children’s Miracle Network is the infrastructure they have in place. Every single hospital has a foundation coordinator that’s committed to RE/MAX. We have regional champions within the RE/MAX family that are tied to their local hospital group. You know, we have editors and writers… we have a whole team here that supports it. But, on The RE/MAX Collection and RE/MAX Commercial, these are global brands. They have a worldwide footprint. The demand for our membership is there. The expectations are so great. I’ve got a brand manager in each category that came from the industry—multiple years as actual selling agents in the commercial and luxury space. And the beauty of that relationship—Anne Miller oversees The RE/MAX Collection, Jon Danton on the Commercial side—is, they can get in the weeds on a deal with an agent. Or, if we’re talking to a potential business partner, or a prospect, or franchise sales prospect, they’re speaking the same language—they came from the luxury or commercial market. And they serve as advocates to our membership, because with over 100,000 agents, you never know what the question’s going to be, or the interest. For me—26 years, senior executive position—I’m all about promoting the brand. Our business is recruiting, retention and selling franchises.
Eric: So, is this correct? You’re now in 100 countries.
Mike: Yeah, the correct phrase is, “We’re in nearly 100 countries, and over 100,000 agents.”
Eric: In your opinion as you look at your international brand, what are some of the most exciting aspects of that?
Mike: Well, you know we were in Honolulu 2 weeks ago at the AREAA conference (2016 Asian Real Estate Association of America Global & Luxury Summit). And, when you look at that audience, they’re talking about some of the interesting opportunities and challenges. And you can cite examples of the number of foreign buyers coming into the U.S. When we’re in that environment, we’re with 500 AREAA members in that scenario. Anne Miller was on stage, talking about luxury trends in nearly 100 countries around the world. That’s what RE/MAX represents. Tony Joe from Vancouver serves as a chapter leader for AREAA. He walks into a room and, yes, people see Tony Joe—they see a RE/MAX person—but they also see Tony and say, “You mean, you can pick up the phone and call a RE/MAX agent anywhere in the world?” or “You can go to Beijing, and host a trade mission because those buyers want to come into the U.S. market?” So, it’s really the power of that RE/MAX brand. The other thing that’s exciting on the international side is—it’s certainly the growth—but, when you look at why I joined RE/MAX, we’re changing the way real estate is done around the world. If we go into a developing market, there may not be an infrastructure like MLS systems, and there may not be a national real estate association. We have a group going to China in June for the first ever China Real Estate Association convention with builders and developers. I mean, what an exciting opportunity.
But, you also hear about fun things like, in Singapore, for a 432 square foot condo, the price point starts at $1 million. So, you learn to appreciate not just what the dollar’s doing, but the economics of a lot of these different markets. And, today with the amount of data available… the one story we like to share is, I got a call from an agent here in Colorado that had a $10 million ski-in, ski-out villa up in Vail—of course, Vail is world renowned—and he said, “Mike, can you give me the phone number of the RE/MAX office in Dubai?” So, of course, absolutely. I said, “Why Dubai?” He goes, “That’s where my buyer lives.” You know, if you’ve got a $10 million ski-in villa up in Vail, the buyer’s probably not from Colorado. Right? So, that’s the beauty of what’s happening internationally. And, quite honestly, for us, for the number of years… my wife, for a number of years, has worked for Habitat for Humanity. She was trapped in a storm in Romania, and she looked up and here’s a RE/MAX office on the corner. She was able to go in, take a break from the storm, and be with RE/MAX family.
My son lived in Germany, and he was welcomed by the local RE/MAX broker there out at his home, and kind of kept tabs on him for a year. But, it is a large family. But the fact that, from a business point of view, you can pick up the phone and pass a referral to anyone in the world and have 100% trust of the quality of that agent on the other end of the phone, you know they’re going to handle the client appropriately, and it’s a RE/MAX-level experience. And you’re going to get a referral fee. So, it’s a nice business model.
Eric: It is. You have been doing some interesting things around helping agents understand the ethnic population shifts, and are really preparing your agents to really understand the needs of that market. Can you tell me more about that?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, transitioning from international, when you—and certainly, we encourage anybody to look at our new Remax.com that just launched on Monday… total redesign—but, also you can access global Global.Remax.com to look at properties all over the world. But, the demographics… they are changing. We have a national presence with 2 major organizations: NAHREP—National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, and AREAA, the Asian Real Estate Association of America. And, I think one of the reasons we did want to have a national presence with them is we believe in what their mission is. For example, NAHREP, they have a very strong platform promoting the fact that we need more affordable credit to families. We need GSE’s (government-sponsored enterprises) to start releasing inventory for individual purchase other than just investors. We need a new scoring system. You know, Fair Isaac started in 2000, the FICO score system, and there’s a new system coming on called “VantageScore.” That VantageScore alone would bring 2 million additional Hispanic buyers into a credit level to where they could afford to obtain credit to buy a new home. So, NAHREP has a very strong mission, as does AREAA. One of the primary reasons we’re involved is being able to take this valuable content—the changing makeup of our country, demographics and so on—and share it with our membership. And, what’s pretty fascinating is… most people look at, you know they would name the Hispanic markets in Los Angeles, and Miami, and New York, and San Francisco and so on. But what’s really happening is—communities like Nashville, Omaha… Columbus, Ohio—that the Hispanic communities are growing quite large in a lot of these markets. I believe there are 57 million right now. And, we have a broker in Nashville that called me recently. She’s getting involved in a NAHREP chapter there because she sees what’s happening in her community. But she says, “Now, my office has to reflect the demographics. I need to recruit a Spanish-speaking agent here in Nashville.” So, this is a learning curve for people. They all certainly have platforms. On the AREAA side—again we were just there at a very large gathering—is they speak a global language. Part of it is understanding the 19 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that are certainly growing in population, but you have to know the psychographics of that audience—household income, education level—and being knowledgeable of the cultural aspects. We had a featured speaker, Vern Yip from television, and he had a presentation on feng shui. Well, most Americans know that you have to have your mirrors facing south, or whatever it was. He covered about 30 in-depth topics that are critical to a Chinese buyer. Things like, typically a Chinese buyer will not look at a home that has the number 4 in the address. You know, interesting, fascinating details that agents need to know about their clients.
Eric: Speaking of feng shui... with your avid car collection, have you ever thought of feng shui-ing your garage?
Mike: Well, the garage-mahal is in a good place right now. It’s a comfortable showroom, but it’s a nice break from work.
I’m very passionate about RE/MAX and these associations, I tell you. With NAHREP I was honored to be invited as part of their team to appear at The White House on March 15th. And we sat in the West Wing as representing NAHREP, with leaders from the housing aspect of government. And to have that dialogue—you know, there was a top person there from CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), another representative… just some changes that are going on with the amount of inventory that the government controls, things like this. But, to have a seat at the table not only representing RE/MAX, but we came out of the meeting at The White House, and it was an open dialogue. And there were some great things brought to the table. But then two days later, the NAHREP folks… we broke up into small groups and made appearances with House of Representatives, State Senators—I know one group met with John McCain, obviously immigration reform is very important to NAHREP. And my group, three of us met with the state representative from Colorado. And so you‘ve got a whole wave of folks hitting the Capitol on one day with a very consistent message. And then, that’s exciting to be part of that. But also, when I come home, I can share that experience with RE/MAX associates and say to them, “Look, NAHREP and AREAA, they’re putting out valuable content. You need to pick up on it, start reading about some of these causes because that’s what consumers are facing.”
Eric: So, speaking of which… as you look at 2016, you're involved in a lot of initiatives—marketing and non-marketing related. What should brokers and agents focus on? Are there two or three things that you’d recommend they focus on for 2016?
Mike: Yeah, you know I think a consistent message inside the RE/MAX network is… certainly look at the partners we have. I think we have about 120 approved suppliers, great companies like QuantumDigital. But when you step back for a moment, you’re a single RE/MAX agent… maybe you're new with the system. Well, you’re facing a lot of decisions. Well, why not keep it in the family? Look at these 120 companies, because, if you're a RE/MAX approved supplier, you’re constantly improving. You’re bringing new innovations to the fold. And it makes it such a nice, convenient package—for either an experienced agent or a new agent to RE/MAX—to look to these partnerships and say, “Okay. Lead generation—what’s working?” Because RE/MAX agents, they will embrace products that will make them successful. So, you have all this data that says, “Okay, Let’s work with QuantumDigital. Here’s their product offering, but here’s a RE/MAX traction. Here’s testimonials about what’s successful.” And I think the challenge, I guess, that we put on… or, perhaps the standard of excellence that we try to portray to our partners, is that you’ve got to always be out there with innovations and so on. And I think agents today—we tell them, first let’s look at what’s happening in the marketplace. But also, know what’s going on in your community. We’ve always said in real estate, it's so local that… do you really care what the weather is in Miami? Well, not unless you’re flying there.
And I think with the RE/MAX housing report, and a lot of the things that we put out to our membership… they’re overwhelmed with data. But, I think a typical RE/MAX agent is going to be dominant in their neighborhood, their footprint, with all of the tools to drive their business. But, they’re in the people business. At the end of the day, we’re so fortunate being in an industry where we’re helping that, you know… a family in a very stressful time. Either on a positive side—a new family member, a new baby, a retirement—they celebrate a new home. Or, in a challenging time—maybe there’s the death of a loved one, or a divorce that caused a real estate transaction. And think about on the commercial side. We’re helping people find a home for their business—you know, the entrepreneurial spirit in the U.S. of owning your own business. And RE/MAX is there every step of the way. And, we like to say that; A. You’re buying your residential property—you open your own business, we’ll help you with the commercial aspect to find a home for your business, and once you’re successful, you’ll move up to The RE/MAX Collection to buy that luxury home to celebrate your success.
Eric: You know, that makes sense. It’s been a real pleasure in getting to know you better. You really represent being a true steward of the RE/MAX brand. And you have a deep passion for cause marketing and serving others that I think is just part of your own DNA. It’s a great match with the company you're with and I see that... I just see it in the stories you tell, and how you're so involved in the charity side. I want to thank you for your time today, Mike. And good luck in your corporate and charitable activities in 2016.
Mike: Eric, I appreciate the opportunity. I guess my closing thought is… the same passion applies for the brand. I was fortunate to come up in an environment… my degree is in fine arts, so I’m able to take a very creative approach to a lot of our programs. But, at the end of the day, it’s keeping our brand out in front, keeping what we believe in out in front, and supporting our membership and all of our partners.
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