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EXECUTION Starting a service business for real estate agents

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SeanODG

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Hi everyone,

Hope you all are doing well! This is a first post in a process thread. These threads are so infinitely valuable (longtime lurker here-thank you to all who make this forum valuable!) that I hoped to give back by writing one of my own. To be fair, TBD on if I can actually do anything to make this thread valueable. My goal is to keep this up to date for the next few years with a post every week or so. It’s on my calendar so I don’t forget!

Background
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I studied entrepreneurship at Wharton for business school and worked in management consulting for BCG for a couple more years to learn about business. Most importantly, I met my now wife there!

Here’s the really interesting thing: that’s the number one business school and either one or two consulting firm. I didn’t really learn anything about business at those two. I can make a really A+ PowerPoint presentation though.

There’s no class about how manage a P&L. Nothing about customer satisfaction. Nothing about how to sell.

The entrepreneur classes were largely focused on how to start the next Uber. How to take the path of 0.0001% success rate, competing against millions of smart people, but could get you on Forbes. The exits from BCG send you into a "strategy and analtyics" role at doordash.

Nothing about how to start a really good business, without venture capital, that makes you and your family a few million per year. Nothing about the fast lane. Everyone I graduated with makes a few hundred grand in private equity, but it’s really just the high paid slow lane. And means NYC taxes too.

MJ has played a bigger role in my business life that the fancy education and work experience has. Thank you, MJ!!

Business
The business is fairly basic. I’m planning to provide outsourced services to real estate agents. There are hundreds of freelancers and a few companies doing exactly this. None of them seem like they’re doing a great job, and there are >1M agents in the country, so there should be room for all of us.

Plan for the next month
Today is when things get started! I filed the LLC today and will spend the next month or so cold emailing agents to ask to interview them. I’m going to email agents who represent a wide variety of homes to understand what type of agent is the best customer here

I’m also going to start writing. I’m planning on inside sales until SEO takes over, so getting some good content out there can help to get that going!


A good result for the next month looks like:
  • Filed LLC, opened bank account
  • ~5 blog posts written
  • ~50 realtor interviews, leading to:
    • Understanding of why someone would/would not work with a company instead of a freelancer
    • What are their biggest pain points? How are they being met/not met by freelancers?
    • What would they be willing to pay for someone to solve this problem for them?
 

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MJ DeMarco

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The business is fairly basic. I’m planning to provide outsourced services to real estate agents. There are hundreds of freelancers and a few companies doing exactly this. None of them seem like they’re doing a great job, and there are >1M agents in the country, so there should be room for all of us.

I like the niche approach. You might have something here.

Thanks for sharing your journey.
 

SeanODG

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@MJ Thank you for all you've done for everyone!!!
 

mattierocks

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Interesting! What kind of services? Like transaction related stuff?
 

SeanODG

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That's
Interesting! What kind of services? Like transaction related stuff?
That's right. At least, that's the hypothesis since there's a freelancer market for it. I'm currently in the process of getting in touch with real estate agents for an interview process to find out if that's actually the case though
 

mattierocks

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Gotcha. If you’re talking to agents who do a lot of deals, I’m sure there’s a market for it. That saves them from hiring team members just for paperwork, which gets irritating pretty fast. Good luck and I look forward to seeing your future posts!
 

SeanODG

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Hello everyone,

Not much to report, but I promised a weekly reporting schedule and I plan to stick to it. I'm wrapping up a consulting engagement that is scheduled for completion on Jan 21st. After that time, I'll get started on the business. The consulting engagement (and consulting in general) has been how I've made money in the past and will get startup capital for this business.

I'm planning on depositing ~$10K from the consulting into my business bank account to help pay for the launch of this business. Of that, probably ~$2K will go to a website, probably ~$500/month in subscriptions for different software (Lemlist, Leadfuze, MeetCrystal, Reply.io, Loom are just a few that come to mind).

Regarding action steps upon completion of the project Jan 21st, I'm going to spam every realtor I've ever met to ask for 20minutes of their time, then, at the end of the call, thank them for their time and ask if they know of anyone else I should be talking too. Mentally working on a list now of who to reach out to on this front

Looking forward to it!
 

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I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I studied entrepreneurship at Wharton for business school and worked in management consulting for BCG for a couple more years to learn about business. Most importantly, I met my now wife there!

Here’s the really interesting thing: that’s the number one business school and either one or two consulting firm. I didn’t really learn anything about business at those two. I can make a really A+ PowerPoint presentation though.

LMFAO



A word of advice for finding a business opportunity by interviewing people...people are usually pretty stupid and very often don't know what they need.

Better to shadow them for a day and ask questions as you watch them go through their day. You'll see opportunities that they don't see.

Go ahead and interview people, but if someone lets you shadow them for the day, that would be even better.

Sounds like you're doing it pro from the get-go, best of luck to you.
 

SeanODG

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Hey Everyone,

Back with another update! I'm still working ~80 hours a week consulting right now, but this is also my last week of consulting so I'll get a lot of time back very shortly.

To that end, I'm looking to fill my calendar for end of January/February with interviews. Back at BCG, we used to use Alphasights to find interviewees for us and then we'd pay them $1,300 an hour. Absolute ton of cash, and I don't have near the budget to do that.

So, I need to solicit interviews myself and I'm doing that by pounding the pavement.

Most interviews are going to be realtors (customers), but a lot of interviews are actually going to be my competitors. The largest competitors I actually have are freelancers. The fact freelancers are so successful actually is why I'm confident a business here can succeed. I'm literally doing exactly what the freelancers are doing, just wrapped in a stronger offering with systems and technology.

But, why would freelance competitors want to talk with me? Because I'm paying them

I went on UpWork and found ~15 people who offer transaction coordination and hired them all. Price ranged from $15-$45 an hour. I'm going to talk with all of them on the phone for an hour Zoom call. I'll ask their strategies, their tactics, what works, what doesn't, etc.

At the end of it, I'll have paid ~$700 for a multi-month head start on my competiton
 

Gabbe18

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Quite interesting thread.
Made me think of another business Smart Alto | An Appointment Setting System for Busy Agents and Growing Teams
I don't know if this relates to you or is even useful for your business but I thought it's worth mentioning
The CEO of also posted a thread on reddit a few months ago where he outlines how he started the business.
You can find it here

Keep working and good luck on your journey! :)
 

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SeanODG

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Thanks for sharing Gabbe!

Funny you share that one actually; Smart Alto is a company I'm familiar with and a very similar business. My company and Hassan's solve different problems, but the target user (high performing agent) is the same person and the cost is a high monthly subscription!

They're definitely an interesting one to benchmark off of!
 

Gabbe18

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Thanks for sharing Gabbe!

Funny you share that one actually; Smart Alto is a company I'm familiar with and a very similar business. My company and Hassan's solve different problems, but the target user (high performing agent) is the same person and the cost is a high monthly subscription!

They're definitely an interesting one to benchmark off of!
Well, I hope the link about how he built his business comes in handy!
 

SeanODG

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are you looking to provide all the services they need?
Hey Daivey!

It's a great question; the short answer is NO.

From initial research and interviews thus far, it seems like realtors who use freelance transaction coordinators right now end up funneling them a lot of basic admin work (update social media, input some online, etc.)

I think it's a distraction and not something I want to focus on right now. We're going to be the best in the world at providing this one, very specific niche service and that's that!
 

daivey

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Hey Daivey!

It's a great question; the short answer is NO.

From initial research and interviews thus far, it seems like realtors who use freelance transaction coordinators right now end up funneling them a lot of basic admin work (update social media, input some online, etc.)

I think it's a distraction and not something I want to focus on right now. We're going to be the best in the world at providing this one, very specific niche service and that's that!
sorry i missed some of your posts in between, and when i read through it i thought you were consolidating Realtor needs into 1 space or so.

so it seems you're targeting a specific niche instead. cool
 

SeanODG

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sorry i missed some of your posts in between, and when i read through it i thought you were consolidating Realtor needs into 1 space or so.

so it seems you're targeting a specific niche instead. cool
No worries at all!! Thanks for asking about it!

The hope is that this specific niche is a large enough pain point that can quickly see some traction. Or slowly. Or, honestly, just get some traction at all!
 

Walter Hay

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It might be a while before you reach the scale of Boston Consulting Group, but I think you have it in you to make a big impact even if you don't get that far.

Do agents have quiet times at similar times during the day? If so I would hit the pavement hard during those times and try for an unscheduled quick chat. I built both of my businesses by doing that, with the secret sauce being an envelope containing: (Business#1 Industrial Chemicals: An offer of a production size free sample) (Business #2 Image Boosting Products: A high quality but irrestible novel free sample)

If the person I wanted to see was "not available" I simply asked the receptionist to give the envelope to that person.

Walter
 

SeanODG

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It might be a while before you reach the scale of Boston Consulting Group, but I think you have it in you to make a big impact even if you don't get that far.

Do agents have quiet times at similar times during the day? If so I would hit the pavement hard during those times and try for an unscheduled quick chat. I built both of my businesses by doing that, with the secret sauce being an envelope containing: (Business#1 Industrial Chemicals: An offer of a production size free sample) (Business #2 Image Boosting Products: A high quality but irrestible novel free sample)

If the person I wanted to see was "not available" I simply asked the receptionist to give the envelope to that person.

Walter

Hey Walter, thanks so much for this tip!

Just to make sure I'm really understanding this (because it sounds like this tip has helped build multiple businesses!!)

Go into the offices during their downtime on the day with a printed out envelope full of detail. If they see you, give them the envelope. If they don't, give the receptionist the envelope

Is that right?
 

SeanODG

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Hey everyone,

It's a new week so time for an update. My guess is reading this will look glacially slow to some people. I think this is my third or fourth update and I don't have the bullshit rented Lamborghini yet. My hope is that this case study on building a real business is a giant middle finger to the "make $10K a month after two days of work" crowd. This doesn't happen overnight.

I digress!

Progress is happening, even though it probably doesn't look like it. I wrapped up one of my last remaining consulting contracts within the past week. That's great to be wrapped up because these contracts are well into five figures per month and 70+ hours a week, so I'm using that cash and free time for the business growth here.

Last time I talked about how I scheduled a bunch of interviews with current freelancers in the space. Those are starting today and I'm excited for them. I'm also hitting the pavement for interviews with realtors (read: potential customers) as well.

From a technical standpoint, I also have my email warming up with lemlist so I can do cold outreach and my bank account setup. Website coming shortly (website content will take longer).

The goal of my conversations is to understand:
  • What agents are most willing to pay for this kind of service? (target customer)
  • What matters most to these agents? (how to provide value)
  • How competitors are doing this (the benchmark)
  • How competitors are getting customers (how to grow)
If I have these four, I can grow this business. Then, it's just a function of scaling sales to get there.

The good thing about my target market (realtors) is that everything I need to segment them already exists online, as well as info to personalize.

For example, let's say I figure out the standard customer is an agent who specializes in $1M+ homes in urban areas. This is now a done-deal.

I use VA's a ton in my consulting business. I'd use them here as well by:
  • Telling them to go onto Zillow for a major city (e.g: Chicago)
  • Fill out an Excel database for me of all houses for sale >$1M, including the listing agent
  • I can then filter to see which listing agents have multiple listings (they're busy...and would pay for a service like mine)
  • Then, I upload that filtered list into Lemlist and let it do the rest.
My personalized email outreach then sounds like (example):

Hi Susan,

You must be extremely busy: it looks like you're representing both 123 Main St and 456 Poplar. That kitchen on Poplar is amazing BTW!

Since you're clearly busy, have you looked into a transaction coordination service to gain ~15 hours back per transaction?

Happy to chat in more detail about how agents use our service to eliminate busy work in order to focus on growing their business.


This is personalized, short & sweet, and I'm excited to A/B test it. The hope is that it's compelling enough for 5 demos out of 100 emails sent.

Interviews need to happen first. But, this is the direction I'm heading in.
 

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Hi everyone,

Hope you all are doing well! This is a first post in a process thread. These threads are so infinitely valuable (longtime lurker here-thank you to all who make this forum valuable!) that I hoped to give back by writing one of my own. To be fair, TBD on if I can actually do anything to make this thread valueable. My goal is to keep this up to date for the next few years with a post every week or so. It’s on my calendar so I don’t forget!

Background
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I studied entrepreneurship at Wharton for business school and worked in management consulting for BCG for a couple more years to learn about business. Most importantly, I met my now wife there!

Here’s the really interesting thing: that’s the number one business school and either one or two consulting firm. I didn’t really learn anything about business at those two. I can make a really A+ PowerPoint presentation though.

There’s no class about how manage a P&L. Nothing about customer satisfaction. Nothing about how to sell.

The entrepreneur classes were largely focused on how to start the next Uber. How to take the path of 0.0001% success rate, competing against millions of smart people, but could get you on Forbes. The exits from BCG send you into a "strategy and analtyics" role at doordash.

Nothing about how to start a really good business, without venture capital, that makes you and your family a few million per year. Nothing about the fast lane. Everyone I graduated with makes a few hundred grand in private equity, but it’s really just the high paid slow lane. And means NYC taxes too.

MJ has played a bigger role in my business life that the fancy education and work experience has. Thank you, MJ!!

Business
The business is fairly basic. I’m planning to provide outsourced services to real estate agents. There are hundreds of freelancers and a few companies doing exactly this. None of them seem like they’re doing a great job, and there are >1M agents in the country, so there should be room for all of us.

Plan for the next month
Today is when things get started! I filed the LLC today and will spend the next month or so cold emailing agents to ask to interview them. I’m going to email agents who represent a wide variety of homes to understand what type of agent is the best customer here

I’m also going to start writing. I’m planning on inside sales until SEO takes over, so getting some good content out there can help to get that going!


A good result for the next month looks like:
  • Filed LLC, opened bank account
  • ~5 blog posts written
  • ~50 realtor interviews, leading to:
    • Understanding of why someone would/would not work with a company instead of a freelancer
    • What are their biggest pain points? How are they being met/not met by freelancers?
    • What would they be willing to pay for someone to solve this problem for them?
I'm in the process of taking the real estate course to get my license. When I get my license and my feet wet, ill look you up. Sounds like a great idea.
 

SeanODG

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Time for a new week and update. Excited to share progress:

Tactical things complete;
  • Interviews with freelancers (AKA competitors): 4 of them
  • Interviews with real estate agents (customers) 1 of them
  • Bank account set up (Mercury)
  • Cash Transferred in ($10K; all I'm giving myself to get this started)
  • Lemwarm set up to warm up my outbound email
  • Wordpress guy hired to build the website

Overall, this past week was highly productive. The key item were the interviews. I've spent a decade in real estate, but I'm still doing interviews to learn and confirm

There were a couple big themes coming out of them:

This is a strong market
There are a ton of freelancers in teh space and more every day. A ton of brokers are hiring for full time TC's and there is a lot of interest. The value prop is clear, which means my job is to sell 'why me', not 'why you need this solution' AND 'why me.'

This is a profitable market
I spoke with a couple freelancers who are making >$200K a year doing this. Roughly 50 hour weeks right now and just them with limited tech, systems, and no employees. Adding in those costs lowers my margin, but enables me to be confident I can grow a business here.

I have a large financial model projecting expenses and this business will be profitable from day one.

Clear customer profile
This was fantastic news. The freelancers all confirmed who their customer is and it's largely who I thought it was. Even better, I can scrape Zillow to find their names and email addresses in bulk.

Low Churn
The answer I kept getting was the average customer stays with freelance TC's for 2-3 years. Factoring that in as an average LTV of 30 months, that means monthly churn will be 3.33%. That's a slam dunk.

High expectations
This is the kicker.

TC's will interact with highly sophisticated people on a daily basis: homebuyers. It clearly takes a lot of money to be able to buy a home, which automatically raises the sophistication of the buyer. Then, keep in mind that buying/selling a home is a highly emotional process.

That leads to an environment where you have highly sophisticated people with incredibly high emotions during a legal transaction. The logical implication is that the margin for error is basically nothing.

A lot of people would try to outsource this work to the Philippines. And I probably will have international VA's for data entry work and similar.

However, I think I need absolutely INCREDIBLE stateside employees due to the low margin for error. But, not just regular employees. We need the culture.

From day one, the culture of this company is going to be focused on two things:

  1. Our north star metric
  2. How we will achieve our north star metric.

The North Star Metric here is the number of transactions we support a month. The goal right now is 1,000 transactions a month. I'm going to say this 100 times a day.

How we will achieve that goal is by being the number one customer service company in the world, regardless of industry. Better than the Four Seasons, The Ritz Carlton, Nordstroms, etc.

Lots of updates and thoughts here on how I'm thinking about this....be back next week!
 

stefaan

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Hey Sean,

Thanks for sharing your journey.

I have been following this forum passively myself for some time. It looks like you are doing it much better then me when I started this journey.

I developed a software tool for lead generation in the real estate market in Belgium (service based). And was thinking of doing the same thing in the US (and maybe other huge countries) as you say there are a lot of agents looking for quality leads. I have no clue about how the market works , which are most popular platforms etc etc.

If you are interested we can have a call and collaborate and if we connect we can bring something on the US market together and sell the shit out of it.

Send me a message, or email and we set up a call to get to know each other.

Talk soon!

Stef

Stefaanvervaet1@gmail.com
 

SeanODG

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It's been a while so figured time to come back with an update.

Things are moving and progressing here. Lots of tactical things done, like:

  • Setting up pipedrive/reply.io/zapier/etc.
  • Another ~dozen or so calls with realtors
  • Website underway (and coming soon)
  • secured some backlinks from HARO (help a reporter out)....dependant on the website launching soon
  • Got ~20 articles being written (that I'll then blast around for guest posting purposes)
  • Have ~13K of content being written for the site (I'll need to heavily edit and enhance myself)
  • Lemwarm is warming up the inbox

Overall a lot of tactical stuff. Launching in end of March (writing this in end of Feb) is still a super realistic goal.

Something else worth writing about though is a conversation I had yesterday with my brother-in-law. He asked me what my backup plan is, in case this doesn't work.

Honestly, I haven't even really considered it. I don't have a backup plan.

Maybe it's a sign of conviction. Maybe confidence the business will succeed?

I also hate when people make declamatory statements online (e.g: "I'm going to make billiionzzzzz" or "I make $10K a month without working, bro") because they don't have any clue what the f*** they're talking about.

So I hate that I'm writing this: but I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, this business can succeed to the tune of a couple million EBITDA business. It's in an industry I've studied/been a participant in for a decade & my consulting business literally specializes in evaluating opportunities for private equity firms.

Said differently: I think the opportunity exists, so if I'm understanding the market correctly, that means it all comes down to execution. That might not be a crazy insight, but it does mean that success (or failure) is entirely dependent on execution....because I think the niche is right

Added pressure, but it's fun. Still time to keep executing and getting ready on my side!
 

SeanODG

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Another update here. It's been extremely busy, so figured I'd follow up with at least an update or two!

There are two big pieces of work going on.

The first is my consulting. Consulting has been my business for a while and how I make money. It's also something that will eventually be replaced by this new company. It's my business, but in effect, it's my 'day job' that will be replaced.

I've signed on a bunch of new clients to help keep the lights on for the next few months while I work to get Close Concierge up and running. It's certainly a time commitment, but I think the smartest possible thing to do right now.

Outside of consulting, Close Concierge has been full of progress. Here's a bunch of updates:

Website is live at closeconcierge.io
I hired a developer to get it designed and launched and I wrote the copy. Took a few days but that's now good to go. Let me know of any feedback!

Sales deck is ready
I have the sales deck in place, which is great so I now have something to show people when I pitch them after they respond to a cold email.

Email Domain Warmup is going
We're two months into domain warmup. I'll give it another few weeks and then start emailing prospects.

CRM is set up
Hubspot is good to go. I really want to ensure I'm tracking conversion rates carefully from the get-go.

Most exciting: Twitter is growing
I've been doing "build in public", as you can probably tell. This has been super interesting. I had a tweet get retweeted by a fairly large account and my follower base 5X'ed overnight. It's been interesting because it's lead to a lot of people to reach out and ask questions about my business/how they can help.

In terms of next steps, I just have a dozen small thingss and then I'm ready to get selling. I should be running outbound campaigns in early April!
 

SeanODG

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Hey squad!

Busy few weeks here but wanted to come back here and post an update. I know this isn't actually being read that much (if at all!), but I actually have found writing this out publicly every once in a while is actually super helpful. It's a form of mental accountability.

So, let's talk progress and what has been done.

The headline is this: I'm officially in sales mode now!

And, the first few days were pretty fricken awesome. I've been trying to sell for 3 business days now and I have 5 sales meetings booked/held. More are trickling in. This is awesome because my business model assumes 3 customers by the end of April.

I'm expecting a close rate of ~10% to get started, optimally scaling up to 30% once I get better at selling Close Concierge.

Even at the 10% close rate, with the response I'm getting thus far, I firmly expect to hit that 3 customer benchmark. That would be $3K MRR, and pretty good for month #1.

How I'm booking sales meetings
I'm using a couple of different tactics.

The most scalable one is cold email. I know my ICP extremely well. It's not "a realtor." My ICP is someone who has been a realtor for a certain number of years, has a certain number of listings, in a certain price range, and specializes in a certain type of buyer and transaction.

I have my team finding these people from realtor.com and I'm loading them into a cold email sequence. It's been crazy: my open rate (for email #1 in a 7 step sequence) is >80% and my reply rate is 15%. If you haven't done cold email before, those numbers are bonkers. I highly recommend cold email, as long as you really know your ICP.

The other tactics are also bearing fruit. A TON of people post on Linkedin that they are looking for transaction coordinators. I'm searching for people who post that, then I drop them into a sequence as well. That's booked two meetings.

(BTW: I've been using Reply.io for all of this, but I want to make this time as efficient as possible because my days are slammed. I'm actually upgrading to Outreach.io this week. It's way too powerful for my company, but that's exactly why I'm going to invest in it).

Outside of that, I haven't really done much. Nothing else matters than sales
 

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