Josh Team: Change is an opportunity for new industry leaders to emerge

The past few years have not been easy for Josh Team as personal health challenges forced him to take a step back from his role at Keller Williams.

But Team said the time away gave him a chance to reflect on the kind of work he gets the most enjoyment from. And when Ryan Serhant approached Team to join his eponymous brokerage, Team said he was excited to jump into a new challenge.

HousingWire recently caught up with Team to discuss his first few months at Serhant., and his overall thoughts on the challenges facing the real estate industry.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Brooklee Han: What ultimately led you to make the decision to start this next chapter of your career at Serhant.?

Josh Team: I am a builder by heart. In my past career, I built a lot of digital transformation stuff, and one of the reasons I went to Keller Williams in the first place is when they were recruiting me, they were talking about the idea of building something.

So, when I went there, I had an idea of trying to build the first platform at the franchise level — to do something that had never been done before — and that was exciting. And we managed to go from two to one and it was great.

But when I had cardiac arrest and was then going through my recovery, it was a tough moment — a human, vulnerable moment. I didn’t know how to read, I didn’t know how to write, I could barely walk and it was just a really scary time in my life. And a big part of my rehab journey was relearning everything, and I realized I wanted to build again. I wanted to get back to building.

So, when Ryan called me and shared with me his appetite to do something really big, and he had the means and enthusiasm to do it, I felt that Serhant. was going to be the best place for me to build and really do what I love.

Ryan’s company was started just a few years ago and they are already a top brokerage in New York. They are one of the most followed real estate brands on the planet and it is only going to get bigger based on everything that is in the works right now. And we have a leader in Ryan with the vision to reimagine the art of the possible.

So, as the builder, having the opportunity to come in with a visionary and ask the question, ‘What would this space look like if we were going to reimagine it?’ And then on top of it, the whole work seems to be setting us up to reimagine everything — I just think there is no better place to be right now in the industry.

I had conversations with and was considering going back to a traditional big-box brokerage firm, but the problem is that they don’t have the ability right now to reimagine themselves and rebuild. They have to survive. They have made big bets and they have to kind of wait those bets out. And that takes time, and the market isn’t that favorable to that right now.

So, I actually believe the next generation of leadership in real estate will most likely not be the incumbents. It will actually be the challengers that emerge because they have the flexibility to do it. So, whoever has the bigger vision and the stronger execution and the bigger platform — I think that is the best place to build right now and that is what attracted me to Serhant. 

BH: You are Serhant.’s first president. Can you talk more about your role?

Team: As Serhant. went on its journey in the first several years as a company, achieving what they accomplished, Ryan really surrounded himself with amazing people, and what they built was nothing short of remarkable. But the next step, though, is creating a little more structure and a little more predictable scale, and that is what I am here to bring.

I am here for the next iteration of the vision, what that next big phase is, and we have a pretty big vision. And then, how do we operationalize that in a predictable way that scales across the country? So, we are looking at the next several years and what our journey looks like, and we have very ambitious plans and we think that the next season is very exciting. It is my charge to help bring that to reality, with the help of a world-class team.

BH: As you alluded to earlier, the industry is dealing with a lot of change and disruption right now. How are you looking to use that disruption to help fuel Serhant.’s growth?

Team: Every time there is a downturn in the market, you have to innovate, because what got you there isn’t going to get you out of there — because the market has changed. So, as the market fundamentals change, organizations have to evolve.

The healthy organization can evolve quicker because they are healthy, and the unhealthy organizations get exposed. As Warren Buffett says, when the tide goes out, you can see who isn’t wearing bathing suits, and that is kind of what we are seeing right now. The organizations who are really healthy in their core are going to navigate this and they are going to be fine, but the organizations who are more vulnerable are going to be exposed over the next two or three years.

And as the tide keeps going out, they are going to lose market share to the people that are more innovative and able to provide more value, because as the consumer starts to demand more from their agent — because of the increase in transparency with the conversations brought by the commission lawsuits — that conversation doesn’t stop with the agent. The agent is going to go and have the same conversation with their brokerage and their MLS and everyone else.

So, what you are going to see is firms having conversations about how to provide the most value to consumers and their agents. The winners will show up in market share. At Serhant., last quarter we grew our market share by 31%. And I think we are going to continue to see trajectories like this as new innovative models come out.

One of the key things that we do is track how much time we can save an agent. So, we are asking agents, when they come through our onboarding process, how long it takes them to do certain tasks, and then we provide solutions for them that do some of the most time-consuming tasks for them. So, we have saved agents about 800 hours, or almost five months of time, in the last couple of quarters. 

BH: In addition to helping agents save time and energy, what are some things you are doing to help them navigate all of the changes that are coming their way? 

Team: I think we are all doing some things in common, but what makes firms different is that margin of what they do differently — what ultimately is going to set your brokerage apart from others. What we fundamentally believe is that what agents are going to need over the next few years is going to be something completely different.

I don’t think agents are going to go to a brokerage for training, education or a logo as much anymore. We believe that the agents who are coming to us, they need four things.

The first is they need a brand platform. They have a logo, but what does that logo mean, what does it give you access to? And we have what we call “the Serhant. effect.” And I didn’t fully appreciate this or understand this when I got here, because at Keller Williams we did a lot of research and found that the agent and their personal brand didn’t matter that much.

But at Serhant., I think because it is the brand that Ryan built — and that people affiliate it with Million Dollar Listing and luxury listings — so when people launch their independent brands off of our platform, it changes the average deal price for those agents just because of the association. And we see that across the country.

So, we have a lot of initiatives that you are going to see. The Netflix show (“Owning Manhattan”) is just one, but we are continuing to create a bigger national brand platform for people to launch their brand on. We think that is going to be a really big value proposition moving forward, as agents are going to want bigger personal brands, especially if we see consolidation of firms.

Once agents launch their brands, we then help amplify them through marketing but also through what we call Studios — which is a complete in-house marketing agency that has videographers, photographers, content strategies and video editors — that will help agents leverage their brand and their work. We also provide them with coaching, because as you elevate up in luxury price points, you have to have a completely different way of marketing and branding.

Then we of course have the S.MPLE app, where you can get on and ask for help with any task. And then we have a system in house where we have advisers here in New York or Miami, or we have technology that we have been building in house, that will assist you however you need. 

We believe these things are the brokerage of the future. Agents are going to want to launch their brands, amplify their brand and then have the brokerage do more work for them. And then there is also the training and education component, which is the topping to all of this.

BH: This is a rather challenging time in the real estate industry, from uncertainty over interest rates to navigating the terms of the National Association of Realtors’ commission lawsuit settlement agreement. What are your overall thoughts on the challenges the industry is facing? 

Team: We just came from Q1 2024, which was the best quarter in company history, so yes there are a ton of headwinds, but change is fantastic. It is only bad for the people in first and second place.

Change creates an opportunity for everyone else to change seats. And so, the more change, the more chaos, the more the entrepreneurs who are willing to reimagine can create opportunity for themselves and their companies. 

It has been really hard for a lot of organizations for the last 10 years; it just wasn’t that hard for the biggest organizations. But now it is hard for those big organizations and it may not be as hard for the small organizations. 

But change is constant and I think right now is a good opportunity for all of us to go ask those really tough questions: What are we? What is our value proposition? What is the thing that we can really be great at? Where is the industry going? And how can we be a force for good?

And I think if we can get into business with like-minded people that want to forge ahead on this journey with us, this is an opportunity for the next generation of leadership to step up in the industry. It takes all different ideas and perspectives, and I don’t see this just as change within the industry but an opportunity for a changing of the guard. I think there is a new era of real estate being born right now. 

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