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First Person

How Therese Antonelli Went from Broker's Exam to Leading a 30 Agent Brokerage in 4 Years.

"People should definitely not discount the fact that your past clients is where you truly need to make that number one focus.”- Therese Antonelli, Broker and Owner of Moving the Mitten Real Estate Group.

Here are a few highlights:

  • How a big sphere of influence can double your business.
  • Why community involvement keeps you in touch.
  • How finding a personal connection is the start of any relationship.

Rather read it? Check out the transcript here:

Mike Schneider: Welcome back to another episode of First Person, where we talk about the intersection of relationships and business, particularly in real estate. And today, I have Therese Antonelli, who is a broker, owner of Moving the Mitten in Detroit. 

Therese Antonelli: Yes.

Mike Schneider: Uh, thanks for being on.

Therese Antonelli: Thanks for having me.

Mike Schneider: Well, we like to start-- our company's called First. Rewinding, how did you, why did you first get into real estate?

Therese Antonelli: Well, it was kind of by default.

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Therese Antonelli: So, I did the typical high school, college, got a degree, actually in teaching. There were no jobs at the time back in 2003. And so I landed in restaurants, high-end hospitality for about 10 years. And then I hit 30 and my body just couldn't physically do what I needed to do anymore. So I said, "Oh, gosh, I gotta figure out plan B. I gotta figure out what my career is." And I already had a degree hanging on the wall that my parents had paid for that I wasn't using and I definitely wasn't gonna do that again. So, to tell you the truth, for a thousand bucks out the door, took my real estate class, got my real estate license, and boom-- I was in real estate.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Therese Antonelli: Yes. I know.

Mike Schneider: And now you're a broker, owner. Tell us a little bit about the growth there.

Therese Antonelli: So, it's actually kind of cool. In the state of Michigan, as with most states, you have to be an agent for three years working underneath a broker. Get your feet wet, kind of learn the ropes. And literally on my third year anniversary, I was sitting down and taking my broker's exam because I knew that I wanted to do big things in life. So, I took my broker's exam. By then I was already a pretty big, top producer as an agent. Um, took my broker's exam, opened up a small boutique firm. It was just me and my assistant at the time. I didn't have any intentions of growing it. I didn't know. You don't know what you don't know. So, um, sure enough, four years later, I have a company of 30 agents. 15 of them work on my team and 15 of them are independent. And I have created a good monster.

Mike Schneider: That's fun. Well, we always talk on this show, obviously, about relationships in the industry. And everyone on the show says, "This is a relationship business."

Therese Antonelli: It absolutely is.

Mike Schneider: So, I'm curious. Can you give us a story of how relationships have played into your business, some specific example? 

Therese Antonelli: Yeah. So, I think part of the reason why I had such a good go at real estate from the start when I got my license was that I had a really big sphere. You know?

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Therese Antonelli: From my family to my work life, I just-- I've always been a very personable, friendly person. And that followed me. You know, kind of, people liked that personality. They were attracted to it. So, getting right off into my real estate career from being an agent, I just, I just soared. You know, I doubled my numbers every single year, every single year, every single year, and a lot of it was involving all those people in my life in my successes. So they were my cheerleaders, right? So, as I got better and better as an agent in real estate and then when I opened my brokerage, it was a milestone and everybody celebrated it and they wanted to be part of it. Whether it was attending our, client appreciation events or our community events. And then it was referring their friends so that our circle grew and our circle grew. It's completely relationship based and I think that's one of the only reasons that I've been so successful in this business, is keeping such an open mind, keeping in front of our past clients is  truly what I think has led to our success. 

Mike Schneider: Very cool. And, and here's the numbers side of that. That you said, you have 15 on your team, so-- and then 15 independents. So I'm sure there's a balance of leads and relationships.

Therese Antonelli: Absolutely.

Mike Schneider: But do you know how much of your brokerage business comes from networks?

Therese Antonelli: Yeah. So, I would say referral-based-- you know, whether it's a past client buying again with us or, or a past client referring--

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Therese Antonelli: --somebody to us-- that makes up about 75% of our business year after year after year.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Therese Antonelli: Now, the other 25% is supplemented through the third-party lead sources that, of course, we pay for leads.

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Therese Antonelli: And come in and meet new people that then become part of our sphere. But, um, we're very, very involved in our community. Nobody in our community does not know us, you know? Whether it's hosting pictures on Halloween night as the trick-or-treaters are walking down Main Street, or photos with Santa, or photos with the easter bunny or our fall harvest party, I mean, people know who we are and that continues our sphere to grow. So--

Mike Schneider: That's great.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Well, you've built an incredible business--

Therese Antonelli: Thank you.

Mike Schneider: --and when 75% of it, which we hear a lot, comes from your network--

Therese Antonelli: Yeah. It's our bread and butter.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Therese Antonelli: People should definitely not discount the fact that your past clients is where you truly need to make that number one focus.

Mike Schneider: So, one of the things we're drilling in on this season is how you do that.

Therese Antonelli: Okay.

Mike Schneider: So, can you come up with, with one specific tip or trick because you've obviously done this.

Therese Antonelli: I can give you more than one.

Mike Schneider: You've trained other agents.

Therese Antonelli: Because this is like my thing.

Mike Schneider: Great. Well what are, what are some things that maybe agents aren't doing or that, that you can get a little bit deeper?

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider:  So, obviously people want to send a closing gift.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Maybe you have something more than that. But what's a tip or trick people should do in 2019?

Therese Antonelli: So I, I have two things. Um, I don't work so much with buyers anymore--

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Therese Antonelli: --at this level of my career. However, I infuse into my agents. One thing that we love to do is, for our buyer clients, the first holiday in their new home, we actually get a custom Christmas ornament made. We used to source it out of North Carolina. It was a lady I found on Etsy. And she would-- we'd literally send her down the addresses, she'd create this custom little Christmas ornament, put it in a box, and ship it to our clients. Now we actually found a local woman out of Michigan, on Etsy as well. But we send that Christmas ornament out to every buy for the first holiday season in their home. Well, what do they do when they unpack their Christmas tree and their Christmas ornaments? They're hanging it up and they're thinking of us. So, buyers get a Christmas ornament first holiday every year.

Mike Schneider: Awesome.

Therese Antonelli: The second thing that we do-- and people sometimes think I'm crazy cause this has gotten out of control. Many agencies do the pumpkin pies around Thanksgiving.

Mike Schneider: Yes. Of course.

Therese Antonelli: My thing always has been pumpkin rolls. So, every year since I got into the business in 2011, I used to actually bake the pumpkin roll, wrap the pumpkin roll, hand deliver. Well, I only was able to hand deliver my first few years in business cause then it just got crazy. I had so many clients. But I got into business in 2011, and those people who used me as an agent in 2011 to this day still get a hand baked, hand delivered, not by myself, I have drivers now, pumpkin roll to their door. And what I found is it's all just residual, right? I have these clients, every year they're posting on Facebook, they're tagging me. Their fiends are then thinking, "Well, I want a pumpkin roll. My agent doesn't do that. I better use her the next time I sell." So it's just those little touches. Again, once at Thanksgiving, it says, "Thank you for your business and your friendship." And then obviously the Christmas ornament on top of all those community events that we host in our office throughout the year we invite our clients to. And then we're known for our annual client appreciation party blowouts. So.

Mike Schneider: Oh, wow. Yeah.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: So, what's-- what-- those are awesome.

Therese Antonelli: Thanks.

Mike Schneider: I think that-- and I think the, the-- lots of people send a Christmas ornament, but you got it custom made--

Therese Antonelli:Yeah, we do.

Mike Schneider: --for that, for that person.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Schneider: I think that's taking it one step further. Um, what about when you're sitting down? Do you have a tip or trick for how you connect with people when you do get together one on one, not for a listing appointment, right, but just connecting relationally?

Therese Antonelli: Um, I just think it's always about finding that medium, finding that thing, whether it's a sports team or an event that you enjoy or a pair of shoes that you have or a clothing piece. You have to find that, that piece that connects the two of you. Don't even bring real estate into it. Make that connection first, just about something casually, and then once you're on the same level there, then you can lead into the pitch if necessary. Same thing when I go into someone's house, I try to find, as a listing agent, I just try to find that, like, "Oh, I love that picture." You know, talk about that picture or talk about that family picture in a vacation spot and see if you can make that connection there before you even get into real estate. Because if they're like, "Oh my gosh, you've vacationed at the same city or resort or beach I do every year," there's kind of a connection there, you know?

Mike Schneider: I think that's a really, really good point. In fact, another guest put it this way-- that the actual definition of a relationship--

Therese Antonelli: Yeah?

Mike Schneider: One definition is the connection between two things, right?

Therese Antonelli: Mmhmm.

Mike Schneider: So that's what you're looking for, that's actually--

Therese Antonelli: You're making that connection.

Mike Schneider: --how two things relate together.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: And so, if you can make a connection around something--

Therese Antonelli: Absolutely.

Mike Schneider: --you've built part of a relationship.

Therese Antonelli: Perfect.

Mike Schneider: Well, uh, where can people find you online if they're in the mitten or moving to the mitten or Moving the Mitten?

Therese Antonelli: Yeah, so--

Mike Schneider: Where, where is that?

Therese Antonelli: I gotta tell you, if-- those of you who are thinking, "Why did she name her brokerage Moving the Mitten?" So, if-- many of you don't know, the shape of Michigan, where my brokerage is, is a mitten. We've known-- the mitten state. So that is why Moving the Mitten came about. And, uh, you can definitely find us at But what I would more importantly invite you to do is visit us at our Facebook page, Moving the Mitten, where we proudly have over 23,000 Facebook fans.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Therese Antonelli: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Well, Therese, thanks for being on.

Therese Antonelli: Thanks for having me.

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