Top 1% producer Mike Opyd has a bone to pick with traditional real estate firms. He feels brokers are paying WAY too much for the value they receive. At REMAX Next (the firm Mike co-founded) brokers choose their own commission structure and create their own branding. He believes in “disrupting” the established relationship of a broker to their firm, and compensating them higher at the same time. Mike is also a big believer in coaching and mentoring, and talks about how he maintains his own successful individual practice.
D.J. Paris 0:13
Hello and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real. The only podcast made by Chicago real estate agents for Chicago real estate agents. My name is DJ Paris, I am your host through the show and hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and relaxing time, and are probably finishing out the year this month. If you’re a broker, you’re probably trying to get some final deals in for the end of the year, or maybe even thinking about what you want your 2018 year to look like. And we are gonna have a ton of episodes in our backlog. So we’ve been accumulating them and then you will we will be cranking them out here in the month of December. So we’re probably on pace to do about three a week. So be on the lookout. Best way you can support us is to telephone and if you have other agents you know that are interested, or that might be interested in learning what the top producers out there are doing. Tell them about the show they can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or streamed directly from our website. Also send us your ideas and questions. Whether it’s for Kerry McCormick when we do our our monthly Monday market minute and she talks about what’s going on in the real estate world as all and also answers your questions. Or if it’s just hey, you got to interview this person, he or she would be great for the show. And they have an interesting story. We are always open to that. So send us a drop us a message either on our Facebook page, or on our website, which is keeping it real pod.com. Today on the show, we have Mike open, which this is one of my favorite interviews that we’ve done this year because Mike is a disruptor in the real estate industry. And he’s going to talk about how he’s doing that in his own way. So enjoy the show. Tell a friend and thanks for listening.
Today on keeping it real. We have Mike opet, Mike graduated college and after two years of corporate America he quit without having a job to move to. And after a phone call from his cousin he was hooked and started in real estate just as the market crashed perfect timing. For the first few years. He did not do a lot of business. But what he did instead is immersed himself in all the things real estate and was determined to know more than everyone else. And I personally also think that is an awesome, awesome goal. After surviving the crash and working for a few different companies, his partner, and Mike opened up his own firm which is now called REMAX next and they’re in the West Loop. Their goal is truly putting agents first and allowing them to design their business as they want without the limitations of other outdated brokerages. Thanks, Mike for being on the show.
Mike Opyd 3:03
Thank you, AJ happy to be here, man.
D.J. Paris 3:05
Awesome. Well, I would love to hear about the you getting into the business right at the probably the most challenging time in recent history, and sort of how you weathered that storm and also how you learn so much along the way.
Mike Opyd 3:20
Yeah, so you know, when I graduated college, I had a finance and then a master and a degree in management. And I wanted to jump into finance that I would take over, you know that world quickly realize sitting in a desk staring Excel spreadsheets, doing partnership, tax accounting, which is just as sexy as it sounds, was not for me. I stuck it out for two years. And then I just basically just quit without actually a job to come back to. So started looking for a job couldn’t find one. The economy was pretty much in the tanks, or getting the tanks to that point. It really was just a call to my cousin who’s been a top real inner city for a long time. And I was just really asking questions about investing in real estate. I mean, I had no money I saved up a little bit, but was in no position here to invest in it, but just was curious, you know, just from the finance standpoint, really was about a 30 minute phone call. And when I hung up, I was absolutely hooked. I just I saw real estate is something that I think I could take my energies and my inability to sit still and kind of target or focus everything I had into it. So I went out, got my license a couple of weeks later and started off with my cousin as part of her team started doing that for a number of years. Then I end up separating to go off and do my own thing. At this point, you know as part of the team we had switched from Keller Williams to dream town. So then at that point, I was on the Young Professionals Network board at the Chicago Association Realtors I met another person who was starting up a group during that time. So I worked for him for a couple years, about four years. And at that point, it’s you know, it’s always kind of been my goal, to separate and do my own thing and start my own company. And it just so happens as I was nearing the end of my time work. And there, I was kind of gearing up of how I can do that. separated from the group started actually creating my own company. I had the LLC done, the website was getting work done. So all those things were coming into place. And then my partner came up to me and and want to just grab lunch. And little did I know that he was going to introduce me to REMAX. And, you know, my mindset was always that I just when I did my research on all these companies, whether I was going to work for one, or maybe even consider buying one, I just never found one that I really thought was going to fit the profile that I really wanted at a company where we’re allowed to do our own branding or marketing and really customize it so agents can, we could center on just helping agents out, never considered REMAX my partner told me about it, I thought it was too good to be true. Went up to meet with the corporate people, they further emphasized exactly the same thing my partner told me, and a couple months later, we had a franchise and officially opened up last July in the West Loop.
D.J. Paris 6:26
Congratulations. That’s a That’s That’s fantastic. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, and let’s let’s get right into, you know, sort of what your vision is for for your firm. Because you you were you have a very specific sort of feelings about agent training and, and sort of what you’re providing. And I’d love to hear sort of, you know, the frustrations that maybe you’ve had seeing other firms out there and sort of your solution and what what you guys are doing differently because I love firms that are sort of disrupting the industry with just better offerings.
Mike Opyd 7:03
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s actually one of our favorite words to use is to disruption. You know, when I was doing my research, what I found is these brokerages were still living in the era of the 80s and 90s, where no, the Internet didn’t really exist, people would have to have a big brokerage name to work for, because that’s what the consumers want. And that’s what the sellers and buyers were looking for is, you know, the big name real estate companies, people would walk into an office and look at a book that had all the MLS listings of what was available. But you know, times have changed. And now we have the Zillow, the realtor.com, you know the MLS is online. And I think 93% of consumers start their search online. Yeah, but in my but from what I’ve seen, is that these brokers are still living in an era that defined by people walking into an office and needing that big name, to attract agents, and they’re still treating the agents like that big name is a reason why their work in there. And they’re going to they’re going to kind of pay them accordingly or allow them to market accordingly. I’ve never agreed with that. And so one of the things my brokerage is what we’re doing is we’re really giving agents an opportunity to one choose their own commission split, which we have a number of options, and an agent literally decides which one they want to go with which, you know, whatever one they’re going to be more comfortable with, which is unheard of for any brokerage that at least I know all day allows an agent to decide that.
D.J. Paris 8:42
Right? There’s firms typically have depending on your production, you may have some negotiation power, but it’s it’s Hey, we’re willing to offer you this, Hey, can you bump it up a little bit? Maybe a few percentage points here and there. But yes, it is. It is not a choose your own adventure sort of scenario.
Mike Opyd 8:59
No. And you know, what I spoke to if we never did was for 10 years, I spoke to a lot of agents that I know some really close friends and it really hit home for me when one of my good buddies has worked at a company for a while. You know, he’s a loyal guy, not a not a major producer, right? He’s probably been there for 10 years does five, 6 million, you know, pretty decent amount of business over the course of the life. He’s been there and he wants to speak to the owner and ask him like, hey, you know, I’ve been here for a while, can I bump my commission up? He got a 2% on. And I’m just like, it may like dead like, you know, pissed me off. I just I could not believe that. And I know the owner of that company, and I was just like, you gotta be kidding me. So loyal client or loyal, essentially a loyal client because that’s exactly who that person is. Right? It’s been to that owner. That’s right. So things like that had pissed me off and I just I see it over and over my partner dealt with it with his old company that he worked for, and he was he’s, you know, a major producer and he went to negotiate his commission split and you know, he’s doing 20 or 30 million they told him he was there long enough to get a higher split ever. Right? Right? Like, you gotta be kidding me, this guy is literally keeping your lights on and eating your pocket. So one of the things we designed is our business around the structure that an agent can take their own commission, something they’re comfortable with. And then they can start to build their business that way, you know, take that extra commission put it into their marketing or their advertising or whatever it is. So that was one of the main things that we focus on. And then the second thing that really ticked us off is, you know, if you drive around Chicago, and you see these signs that agents put up when they have a listing, you know, that brokerage name is plastered all over that sign.
D.J. Paris 10:46
And that’s correct, great advertising for the firm, or the firm.
Mike Opyd 10:49
But the reality is, the firm doesn’t have any relationship with that seller, zero, you know, I can go to an owner and be like, Hey, do you know my seller on 123 Main Street? And they’re gonna be like, No, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Well, then my next question is why the hell is your information all over to sign and mine isn’t? Right. So that’s one of the things that pissed us off too, is that these these brokerages are using you as an advertisement for them when they have no relationship with that seller, or even the buyer if it’s other type of marketing. So we allow these people to design their own marketing 100, like pretty much however they want it is what they do within obviously, legal boundaries. But we’d like to say that, you know, if you’re putting a sign up, you’re 95%, that sign is your face, your image, your whatever, if you’ve a group, your group logo, your information, We’re the 5%, that’s down here at the bottom left hand side, that we’re not going to really see as much as that agents information, then who do you think they’re gonna call, they’re gonna call that agent, they’re not going to call that brokerage that has the brokerages name on it. And number, they’re gonna call the agent, right? So that’s how we feel like agents should be able to grow their business, not because there’s some name behind it, because those times have passed, but I don’t feel these brokerages have really changed their model. And it’s the same over and over. And we’re just really tired of that. So we took kind of some of the pain points that we’ve experienced, and like how do we build a business around really just helping an agent grow themselves and their company, because that’s essentially what they are, they’re their own company.
D.J. Paris 12:25
Right. And boy, you just You said so, so much that that is I agree with and I work at a firm has a very similar philosophy with respect to advertising, it’s like, this is your brand. And ultimately, and ultimately, as a firm, because I’m in the back office, I’m not out there in the field. You know, we don’t want we don’t want the phone calls anyway. Right. And I because those should go directly to the to the listing agent, obviously. And also, the most important thing is, is buyers, they don’t care to see our brand, our brand logo up there either. Like it doesn’t matter to them, they just want to see who do I contact to get more information about this listing. And obviously, we don’t want those phone calls to begin with. But the broker doesn’t want us to have those phone calls either. And so I think that is such an important and well set point. And it’s so funny because the the the firm’s that we’re sort of referencing who do take what we I think we would, we would both you and I would agree or probably more of an agent’s commission than they ought to, are able to justify or one of the ways that they justify it is by saying, hey, our name is really important, and it’s out there and you can see it everywhere. I’m not so sure that I agree that that’s all that important to a consumer and I think you obviously feel the same way. As you know, you put your your company name, which you’re required to have for IDF PR, but you know, just doesn’t say how big it needs to be. And you just kind of hide it away in the corner. Because obviously it defeats the whole purpose for the broker so that I could not agree more with everything you just said, I’m so glad you know, there’s other people out there thinking the same way. Let’s and you know, it’s kind of ironic, too, because, you know, you have all these progressive thoughts and you literally joined the largest real estate company in the world, but they just happen to also be incredibly flexible, you know, with their commission structures. And you know, I know different REMAX offices are structured differently, but it’s sort of a funny thing that just happens to be the biggest one has the most flexibility.
Mike Opyd 14:26
Yeah, and that’s I mean, it was crazy when I started hearing about REMAX because like I said it wasn’t so there’s not a huge presence of REMAX in the city. They’re typically in the suburbs. So it really wasn’t even on my radar when I was looking at other companies. But what I really enjoyed about them is they is that they allow us to create our own brand, right so sure never see like a Coldwell Banker next Keller Williams next, right? They’re not allowed to do that. But we can take a REMAX name which like you said biggest real estate across the entire world. And we could put our branding our logo on it. And then we can use that to you know, brand ourselves however we see fit, you know, we, we have some pretty aspiration pretty big aspirations and goals that this isn’t just going to be a real estate company, we’re going to have multiple different companies. And we could take that next and really use it in a bunch of different ways. Like if we want to start our own janitorial company. I mean, we could just call it janitorial, you know. So those are the things that we were really looking forward to. And when we when we learned that REMAX really is independently owned and operated, and we can make all our own decisions, and, and really create a company based about our passions and our goals. And our vision, it was like a no brainer, you know, we have all that support behind us have the biggest name and all the relationships they’ve built since the 70s When I started, but we can make it our own. And so when we found out that when I found out all this stuff, it was for me is a no brainer to buy a REMAX franchise is like, Well, why would I waste all my time and trying to build relationships? And, you know, and try to find all these people to help my office out when all this stuff is set up for me already. I just gotta pay for it. You know, it’s, it was kind of it was really just like the easiest decision ever at that point.
D.J. Paris 16:21
That’s, that’s awesome. And I think a lot of firms and it must know this, but like your friend, the example you mentioned of your friend who moderate producer asking for an increase in his commission split, and having them say, No thanks. And, you know, they would have to know, and I know, his production level isn’t enough for them to care that much. However, it’s free money for them. And you would think that, obviously, they must know he could leave and go to any other firm who you know, is willing to better that commission split, and every single one of his clients is gonna go right with Him. In fact, he could go to a firm with even the world’s worst reputation, you know, and probably still bring every single client over. And I always marvel at firms. And maybe they just it’s maybe the numbers aren’t big enough to where they care. But I have always found that to be so puzzling. But, you know, I guess you’re right, there is the bit of a kool aid that is still drink today about the brand that you know, the firm that you work at is, you know, they probably think they’re a bit more important to the brokers business than maybe they actually are, at least I would I think you and I both agree that’s probably true. If you’re not getting a tremendous amount of value, you know, for paying for that for that. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, your process of how you guys bring on brokers and what you look for, and, and you know, that and sort of how you treat brokers once they’re on board.
Mike Opyd 17:50
Yeah, so we so that’s one of the things we set up from day one was kind of like an onboarding system to help them out. Because we know the transition is never easy from one brokerage to the other. So, you know, we’re out there, and we’re talking to agents, and we’re explaining to him our concept and who we are showing them our office and things like that, you know, we’re really looking for personal agents that are, can see the vision, I guess you could say, you know, so you know, really the people that I think have been in industry for 4050 years, and maybe they’re just comfortable with the company they’re at, they’re they’re a little bit older, they will get this and we’ve seen that experience, as we brought agents through who are curious about what we had to offer, kind of the older clientele, they just it was to them, they were just they just didn’t really see it as much as we saw it. So we’ve had younger agents come through and the millennial generation is a very entrepreneurial generation. You know, I am a millennial, so one of the first millennials, as you say, I’m not born early 80s. So I can’t say I’m part of the middle of that generation, but I know enough to be dangerous. And I see how we operate. And, you know, because there’s so much material agents are going to want that are joining the industry are going to want that flexibility that these companies have because that’s how our mind test them. So for us, we’re really a brokerage that is going to be really appealing for agents that are maybe a year into the business couple of years on a business doing one to 5 million in production, have kind of seen the industry a little bit learned about it learned or companies heard about other companies, and then they could use us as a comparison of how we are so different than anything that’s out there. So that’s one of the things when it comes to like you know, bringing agents on board and recruiting I guess what I think is gonna be the best for us and what we can offer the most benefits to and then when we get them in the door, we have like I said a whole onboarding system so we sit them down. We get all set up with all the REMAX stuff and everything and REMAX offers their own website, you know, applications, different things like that. So we get them all set up, we get their heads shots done, we pay for them, we get them their own business cards, we pay for that we have them then sit with our marketing director. And she will design whatever they want, whether it’s postcards, mailers, group logos, whatever they can envision, our graphic designer slash marketing director will help them out with, you know, so for us, the the idea is the first you know, let’s say, two weeks or 30 days is to really, really ramp up that business, from what they were doing before and maybe trying to correct some of the errors that are making, you know, we have a bunch of partnerships in place to that can really help them with their marketing, whether it’s sending out postcards for free or, or helping them get exposure in different ways running Facebook ads, different things like that. We’ve created those partnerships with the people that are working with our office to help our agents out. So, you know, one of the biggest focus too is, you know, how do we take these guys or girls who are erzeugen men or women who are, you know, maybe making 2 million or doing 2 million in production, how do we get down to 468 10, you know, if that’s where they want to go, and we try to put these relationships and play so they can, you know, kind of take the money that they’re making, put it back in their business, and at the same time, have all these free things, to supplement them to really grow and build upon what they want to do. top of it. I’m, I’m obsessed with helping agents, I think that’s my biggest passion really, is helping people. So I you know, I mentor a bunch of agents in the office already. And I, that’s one of the things I’m passionate about is you know, if someone needs mentoring, or just need someone to to keep me on track or keep them liable, you know, that’s the type of thing that we want to help them out with as well. So it’s kind of a mouthful, but those are some of the things we’re doing to help our agents.
D.J. Paris 21:53
Yeah, no, that all makes perfect sense. And I think it’s, it’s smart. And it’s, it’s, you know, the idea that you have a marketing. So I’m the marketing person for our firm, but I don’t, I can help people design things, but I don’t specifically do a ton of that. And I think the fact that you guys have that is so important for somebody who’s, you know, in that one to 5 million range, because they probably haven’t designed their own stuff yet. And or if they have it probably could be improved upon. And to be able to offer that as a service when somebody is on board, I think is I’ve never heard of another from doing that. Let’s just put it that way. I think that in and of itself is revolutionary, but I also think it’s a really good idea. So we need to yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s awesome. What I wanted to also ask, is I wanted to make make, just make a reference back to a point you made a few moments or minutes ago. And this is something where if you’re, you know, if you’re at a firm or if you have your own firm, or if it’s just you on your own, and you’re your own managing broker, and or you’re starting out in the industry, and you don’t have the financial resources to do some of the external marketing activities. Like for example, if you wanted to do a mailer, but couldn’t afford it, or, or flyers, or that sort of thing. You know, Mike just brought up something very important, which is, you know, relationships and his firm has built relationships where some of their partners can assist with, you know, the payment. And, you know, you can also build those relationships, some of those as well. So I always think that brokers sometimes miss the bigger picture, like you can reach out to lenders, you’ve worked with attorneys you’ve worked with and said, Hey, can we do a co marketing effort, and oftentimes those lenders and, and various ancillary services to real estate, realtors are more than happy to do that, you know, we’re in the process of getting advertisers for the show. And, you know, we have 1000s of listeners. Now, almost, we assume everyone is a broker. I don’t know, almost everyone’s a broker, for sure. But um, you know, we’re now reaching out going, Hey, do you want to advertise on our show? And, you know, we’re starting to get a good response to that. But that’s, that’s what Mike’s team sort of does for us. They reach out they have partnerships, relationships with vendors, and they’re able to assist and I think that’s, a lot of times brokers don’t need don’t in their firms certainly aren’t maybe offering that too. But brokers themselves don’t always think to do that. So I think that’s really smart. Absolutely. I wanted to ask you just because you wrote us a couple of funny things. I wanted to hear about the time you had seven Starbucks meetings in one day.
Mike Opyd 24:29
Yeah, that was probably the most caffeine and humans ever consumed in a lifetime. It was just happened to be this one day, and I didn’t realize it, but I had a bunch of different meetings set up for different things with partners, buyers, sellers, and a couple of just agent meetings set up. And I saw I didn’t realize that at the time, but I end up setting up seven meetings at Starbucks. And it just so happens that every single time I went every single meeting I had there were a different Starbucks’s. So I was all over the place but every single one I went to the person bought me a coffee there for me and I’m I love the taste of coffee. I’m obsessed with it. I have some next to me right now, for some reason, it’s just one of those things I just love. So I’m not going to turn down a free coffee. I would say by the time I got done with seven coffees that day, I was shaking. I was I realize what’s going on. Like my wife was asked me like, what’s wrong with you? I couldn’t sit still. I went out and I actually bought a fidget spinner. And I’m sitting there on our couch and I’m just sitting there shaking spinning this thing. And it got to the point my wife thought that they’re like I was having a seizure or something like that. So I was like shaking so much and spinning this thing. And my knees were bouncing and I mean, I probably got about two hours of sleep that night. I just couldn’t fall asleep. I kept getting up I kept going out and like reading and math was I don’t know it was just way way way too much caffeine for 124 hour window I highly suggest never doing that.
D.J. Paris 26:07
Yes, it’s funny I don’t drink coffee. So whenever I I mean I do I do a regular episode once a month with Carrie McCormack who’s a properties broker and we do a fun a fun episode and she she and I have met at Starbucks because she prefers to meet there and I don’t drink coffee but she’ll buy me a coffee or I figured while I’m there I might as well get one and I don’t drink a ton of caffeine and so that I always end up the same way and I gosh, I can’t imagine doing seven of those in one in one day. Yeah, and I want I want to make sure we we plug your your office and so if there are brokers out there listing that are interested in learning more about REMAX next, I know they can visit their website which is REMAX next.com What can they Is there a way they can get in touch with you directly?
Mike Opyd 26:58
Yeah, I’m always available. So easiest, probably either shoot me an email Mike at REMAX next.com Or just give me a shout on my cell phone or text me whatever is easiest. 312-929-8910 Of course, also Facebook, I’m all over social media. So reach out to me, you know, if you have questions, happy to answer anything, explain more of what we’re trying to do here. Very, very easy to get a hold of though. Well,
D.J. Paris 27:27
yeah. And definitely, you know, reach out to Mike because I really love firms like Mike’s who are, you know, disrupting the industry and and really providing it, which I what I hear and what Mike has been saying, from the beginning is just offering more value, you know, and, and offering a the commission structure that makes sense for the broker. But you know, what I what I don’t hear Mike saying in any any sense of the word is, you know how much he wants to earn, off off of his brokers he wants to help he wants to provide for them and let them you know, take the lion’s share, which I think is is commendable. Certainly I’m on board with with those sorts of values. And I think as you’re right, as far as who this appeals do, I think it appeals to a lot of people in particular, you know, younger brokers who aren’t so much sold on the fact that the brand is worth 50% of someone’s income, right? Or maybe it is, but I don’t know, I think a lot of people would would challenge that. So firms like Mike are out there to say, Yeah, let’s challenge that.
Mike Opyd 28:30
To further emphasize really quick, what you were just saying, so my partner and I just throw it out there, we don’t take a dime out of this company. And we’re not planning to for a while. So, you know, for us, we’re putting every single thing, every single dime the company makes back into the company and into our agents until at some point, we could step away and start, you know, earning an income off it. But we’re talking two years down the line before we ever do that. So we’re still gonna sell in the meantime to pay our own bills. But, you know, we’re not taking a dime out of this company at all for a while. Well,
D.J. Paris 29:03
I don’t know how many firms can say that they’re doing that. And I would say that is a really important point is would you like to work for a firm who says we’re going to reinvest everything in better off better offerings to our brokers and being able to provide better and better services. So well, well done. I think that is quite commendable and, and very forward thinking. So congrats there. All right, Mike. Well, we appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to be on the show. So Mike, by the way, I would like to mention since we Mike is a very humble person. He is also a top producer. So this is he is also on top of this, you know, doing his own production and he’s incredibly successful there too. So the fact that you’re doing both of this and had time to be on our show is is really something so we appreciate it.
Mike Opyd 29:44
Alright man. Thanks for having me.