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First Person

Wendy Forsythe on Cultivating Relationships within Your Brokerage to Drive Success

"Get involved in your local board. Get involved in your state association. Get involved in the National Association of Realtors. Get involved in YPN or the Women's Council of Realtors or the Chamber of Commerce." Whatever it is, get involved, because that is only going to bring benefit.” - Wendy Forsythe, Chief Operations Officer at HomeSmart International.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The importance of relationships as an agent, broker, executive and industry leader
  • The importance of stepping forward.
  • The power of not giving up.

Rather read it? Check out the transcript here:


Mike Schneider: Welcome back to another episode of our First Person series. Today I have Wendy Forsythe, the chief operating officer at HomeSmart International, and we're gonna be talking about the intersection of relationships and business, particularly in real estate. So--

Wendy Forsythe: Great. I'm excited to be here.

Mike Schneider: So, our company's called First, and we like rewind all the way back to, how, when, and why did you get into real estate?

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah, so, my real estate story started when I was in college, in Northern Canada.

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Wendy Forsythe: And I got into real estate as a summer job. So I got my real estate license in the summer in between my second and third year of college. And, sold a bunch of houses that summer. Went back to school, continued selling houses, finished my degree, continued selling houses, and here we are now.

Mike Schneider: And here we are.

Wendy Forsythe: Many years later. But, I fell in love with the industry and I knew that it was my career and I knew that it would give me opportunities that I hadn't even imagined at that stage. Being in my early 20s and, fast forward and I've just been so fortunate to be a part of this industry and, now I live in the United States and here we are.

Mike Schneider: Yeah. Well, and now you're running a really big brokerage. Tell us a little bit about HomeSmart and your role there.

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah. So, HomeSmart International, has 166 locations across the US. We have, as of this recording, just under 16,000 agents--

Mike Schneider: Wow.

Wendy Forsythe: --and growing. 

Mike Schneider: Congratulations.

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah. It's an amazing company. Very much focused on providing our agents with great service with a business system that allows them to reach their goals for their personal lives and  professional lives and really a business model of the future in our industry with all the changes that are happening. So, it's an exciting place to be.

Mike Schneider: I love that. I love the innovations on business model and technology and all of that. One of the things that's a mainstay pillar for our tech company, and I think for the industry is that relationships are really central. So, you've seen a huge spectrum of the industry.

Wendy Forsythe: Yes.

Mike Schneider: Can you talk a little bit about how relationships drive this business? Because a lot of people say that, but what does it actually look like?

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah. I mean, there's so many different perspectives. So my days selling as an agent, I mean, relationships were key. You had that sphere of influence and those were the people that transacted with you multiple times, sent you referrals. And I think that's very consistent today.

Mike Schneider: And that was a big percentage, the majority, what was that of your business?

Wendy Forsythe: Uh, a big percentage of my business.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Wendy Forsythe: I mean, like any new agent starting out it, it took a while to get there.

Mike Schneider: You have to build it up.

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah. And then as I progressed into  management and I owned my own brokerage for a number of years working with agents. That transition into their business, that relationship component. When I started working in more of the corporate roles that I work in now, we still see those relationships from the agent to the consumer perspective, but there's a whole other dynamic that opens from the relationship of leaders with--

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Wendy Forsythe: --agents, you know, in the company, with other people in roles like management and support roles, operations and training and, and all of those roles, to the industry. I mean, we work in an amazing industry. And, I've always looked at it from a point of abundance. So we come to conferences. We go to events. Maybe we're kind of competitors in a way with other brands and other companies. But, I believe in sharing and building those relationships and they can do well and we can do well and our companies can do well. And, you know, we can all prosper from that regard. So, I've been very fortunate to have long standing relationships with a lot of people as we've moved through different stages of our careers. And that's, ultimately what keeps us motivated and what really, sort of, nourishes the energy level that we need to do what we do everyday.

Mike Schneider: That's great. I think that's becoming a theme too as we talk about relationships, the network component, that you really are building, and to your point, not just an individual agent's core asset, right, which is their network. But what you're talking about is the industry that you now are able to tap into [inaudible] at a broker level, at an executive level, as you're taking new business models to market.

Wendy Forsythe: It is. And even at a local level, for agents, I always encourage agents, you know, "Get involved in your local board. Get involved in your state association. Get involved in the National Association of Realtors. Get involved in YPN or the Women's Counsel of Realtors or, the Chamber of Commerce." Like, whatever it is, get involved, because that network effect of those relationships is only gonna bring benefit. And when you isolate yourself, when things aren't going exactly as you hoped, you don't get the support of those relationships and that network around you. And, ultimately we all go through ups and downs, so that support system makes a big difference.

Mike Schneider: That's a great recommendation, push. As you think back through being a broker, owner back in the day or from, some part, a lot of our, our viewers are agents, uh, is there a tip or a trick that you used or that you coached or that you still do today in terms of nurturing and maintaining relationships? What's something-- one thing somebody could go and say, "I'm gonna do that in 2019?"

Wendy Forsythe: I don't know if it's a  tip or trick. I mean, being yourself and being authentic I think is, the best thing you can do. And, I particularly remember as I was listening to young agents starting out, you meet other people that are maybe more seasoned or you aspire and you think, "Look, they've got it so together. They know everything. They know everyone. You know, I'm not there, so maybe I would sort of, hang back because of that."

Mike Schneider: Sure.

Wendy Forsythe: And, I just really encourage people just to like, just step forward and be yourself and say hello to somebody that you've never met. Introduce yourself. And then, just care. So, be in that moment in that relationship. And some of the people that I have the greatest admiration for have that quality of, when you and I are talking, we're in that moment together.

Mike Schneider: Right.

Wendy Forsythe: And then we may shift to the next conversation, but I'm in that moment, and I think that's a great quality to really foster as you think of developing your relationships personally and professionally.

Mike Schneider: That's interesting. It does seem like that's something that you can learn and develop if you're intentional about it.

Wendy Forsythe: Right.

Mike Schneider: Um is there a question you ask? Is there something-- so you're getting to know someone new. I  mean, I think that's where we get to the tip and trick level. How do you take the conversation there and be in that moment?

Wendy Forsythe: It depends on the setting, but I love to ask people-- and particularly in my role, because I'm traveling across the country, I'm spending a lot of time with our HomeSmart agents, our franchise owners. I get not as much time as I would often like to spend with those people. But--  I get some time to connect. So if I'm just meeting somebody, I love to just ask them about their real estate story, cause I think we're all, like, living and writing our story every day.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Wendy Forsythe: So, you know, if we're just meeting, I'd be like, "Tell me about your real estate story." And they'll tell me about how they started in the business, why they started in the business, where they're at now, where they wanna go. And that gives me a lot more of a interaction that I can really build upon then, "Well how long have you been in the business? Well, do you like real estate? Well, why did you get your license?" So, uh, that's one of my favorite questions that I ask a lot.

Mike Schneider: I like that. I like that and that you could have lots of different questions that fit that mold. But it's both, what's the story and you have the opportunity to talk about dreams and, future too.

Wendy Forsythe: Right.

Mike Schneider: Where do you wanna go next?

Wendy Forsythe: Because what it tells me is what's important to them.

Mike Schneider: Yes.

Wendy Forsythe: Right? So, however they decide to take that question and answer it back to me, tells me what really is their passion and what are they excited about. So if they start telling me about, kids or vacations or debt or divorce or--

Mike Schneider: Right. Right.

Wendy Forsythe: --anything, cause I get lots of interesting answers. 

Mike Schneider: Responses. Yeah.

Wendy Forsythe: And  I genuinely like people and I really like the psychology of human science.

Mike Schneider: Yes.

Wendy Forsythe: And, you know, why do we act the way we do? Why do we react the way we do? What is predictable about it? What is unpredictable about it? So, I've always had, that curiosity from that, element of things. So, I like hearing those answers. I think about them often at the end of the day, the people I talked to and the conversations that we had.

Mike Schneider: I love that. I love that. Is there anything as you think back to either when you were running a brokerage or with, HomeSmart as a brokerage too, that you are, are implementing or coaching or trying to, you know-- what does the relationship side of the business look like there in terms of how you help your agents with that?

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah. I'll focus on-- actually, I'll answer that-- I'll focus on working with our franchise owners.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Wendy Forsythe: Cause we do a lot of work on leadership. 

Mike Schneider: Okay.

Wendy Forsythe: So, we're a large franchise company. We have independently owned and operated offices in multiple states across the country. So that's kind of our front line to the agents, cause the agents are actually making the choice to work with that local--

Mike Schneider: Of what they're gonna do and how they're gonna implement it. Sure,

Wendy Forsythe: Yeah, that local owner is part of the HomeSmart brand. So, spend a lot of time, coaching and helping those business owners build their businesses. So, of course, leadership is a big component of that. Building culture is a big component of that. And, you know, when you're focusing on that, kind of, giving back mentality, you see amazing things happen with that. So that's part of what is a constant development phase, is, how do I be a good leader? What does it mean to be a leader? Are we providing the support, the tools, the relationships that the agents need and want when they're with our brokerages?

Mike Schneider: That's really helpful. Well, we'll end on this one, but is there anything that you wish you had known or that you would've done differently if you had known a few years ago?

Wendy Forsythe: Oh, yeah.  I try to practice this now, but I have an awareness of it now that I wish I had told myself younger, and a few years ago. And that would just be everything's gonna pass. Take a breath, it's gonna pass, it's, it's gonna be okay. Whatever the outcome that I'm striving for when I don't hit that outcome, that it's okay. I'm gonna get another chance.

Mike Schneider: It's alright.

Wendy Forsythe: It's good. Just, keep moving forward. And it-- and I have a phrase, relentless forward momentum.

Mike Schneider: Relentless forward momentum.

Wendy Forsythe: Yes. So, just keep moving forward.

Mike Schneider: Just keep moving forward. It'll pass.

Wendy Forsythe: It, it'll pass. We'll figure it out. We'll make it okay.

Mike Schneider: Wendy, thanks for being on.

Wendy Forsythe: Thank you.

Mike Schneider: I appreciate it.

Wendy Forsythe: Thank you, it was my pleasure to be here.

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