6 minute read

If brokers and agents are anything, it’s adaptable. That’s according to Andy Bencosme, broker/co-owner of Century 21 Village Realty in Sierra Madre, California.

“Things change all the time, and we have to be able to change with them,” he said during a recent discussion with Doug Fisher, Vice President of Sales at Constellation1. Regulations change, businesses change, teams change, and as Andy went on to say, “our tools and systems have to adapt to what our business dictates.”

This fact is true for most brokerages in North America today. Change is inevitable, but change has also never been faster than it is today. Thankfully, technology has been changing too, and brokerages have more choices now than ever before to run their back offices their own way.

Doug and Andy recently had a great conversation about the new way to run your back office. The following Q&A is a condensed and edited version of that conversation. To watch their entire candid chat, click below.

Hear the Broker Perspective

Doug: When did you acquire your new brokerage?

Andy: We closed at the end of June 2021. I had managed this office for 12 years, and I started my career at this brokerage, so I have 20 years of history here. I was very familiar with how everything operated, so there wasn’t too much of learning curve when I took over.

Doug: That’s amazing. Congratulations! Now that you’re able to set the strategic priorities for the brokerage as the owner, do you have any goals that you can share?

Andy: I was lucky to be very involved in managing the brokerage for the past 12 years. Before real estate, I worked in tech, so I am big into systems and technology tools that can help support what we want to do operationally. When I took over, I reviewed every single system we have and have worked to modernize and streamline them, so that we can better serve our agents and in turn, our clients, and make us of all more efficient. One of those systems was our back office, and we already used the desktop version of the Constellation1 back office system.

As the broker/co-owner, I had three priorities:

  • Paperless office: We wanted to be able to clear out some of the filing cabinets in our basement.
  • Move to the cloud: The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that we can’t rely on brick and mortar anymore. We wanted to be able to do everything we do in the office from anywhere.
  • Scalability: I wanted to make a decision that wouldn’t just work for me today, but that could also grow with us in the future.

Doug: Where did the search for a new solution take you?

Andy: I asked brokers all over the country what they use, I read industry articles, I did a ton of online research, and I really tried to find out what the best-in-class solutions where. I set up calls and demos, I met with everyone, and researched what would be the best fit for us.

I looked at some impressive all-on-one solutions, but none of them fit the way we do business here.

I looked at some impressive all-in-one solutions, but none of them fit the way we do business here. We decided we needed products that work well together and integrate with each other, so that if ever we needed to switch out a piece, we wouldn’t have to change the entire system like we would with an all-in-one.

Doug: At Constellation1, we’re seeing more and more brokers who want to be able to choose partners, not be forced into a particular solution. Was that a factor in your search?

I wanted a product that could do what I need it to do today and adapt with me as I grow and change. Constellation1 Commissions turned out to be the best solution for us to add to our back office.

Andy: I’ve used four different back office systems in my career. One problem I had encountered in the past was products that made me change how I operate to fit the product, not the other way around. I wanted a product that could do what I need it to do today and adapt with me as I grow and change. Constellation1 Commissions turned out to be the best solution for us to add to our back office.

Doug: That’s so great to hear. Changing any back office system can be a challenging, both for vendors and brokers. What was the implementation process like for you? How has your experience been so far?

Andy: Back office was the most time-sensitive update I wanted to make. When I took over, I didn’t want to input new information into a system I didn’t intend to keep. The transition was seamless and it was very easy to start using, so we were able to start off with a clean slate.

Doug: In addition to implementation, you obviously need to make sure your team has adequate training. How has the training process been so far?

Andy: My wife and co-owner Julie Bencosme, who has 20 years of experience as an agent, became my business partner and took on a lot of administrative tasks when we bought the brokerage. She came in without ever having had to think about the back office side before, and even for her, Commissions was really straightforward. We even had to cancel some of the training sessions because even without past knowledge of how those systems worked, she picked it up right away.

Doug: Based on where you currently are in the process, has anything about the product really stood out for you?

It’s very fast, adaptive, and simple. It’s super intuitive. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to call an IT person to come out here and set anything up or change anything, which saves a lot of money.

Andy: First, it’s in the cloud, so I don’t need to rely on my physical infrastructure anymore or maintain a server. It’s great that I can just log in from anywhere, which takes a huge burden of having to manage the network and server off my plate.

The second is customization. For example, the agent commissions sheet is easy to edit in Microsoft Word to customize it to exactly how you want.

Third, it’s fast, adaptive, and simple. It’s super intuitive. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to call an IT person to come out here and set anything up or change anything, which saves a lot of money.

Doug: How was it entering your commission plans into the system? Did any of them have to change?

Flexible commissions are simple to do, and that’s very attractive for recruiting agents because I don’t have to fit them into inflexible commission plan dictated by my software.

Andy: It was easy to transfer over my existing commissions plans, but it also opened up a whole new world of variation. I can create a customized plan for every agent: if I want a traditional split or performance based split, I can do that. If I want to set caps, I can do that. If I want a 100% commission plan, I can do that. It’s very simple to do and that’s very attractive for recruiting agents, because I don’t have to fit them into an existing commission plan because I’m limited by my software or what model my brokerage had traditionally used. I can customize commissions plans to fit my agents.

Doug: Now that you’re on a new platform, did your agents see any major changes?

Andy: Honestly, the greatest thing is that they haven’t seen anything different other than maybe a faster close and a nicer looking commission sheet. I can email them their sheet with direct deposit or even pay them with Vemno if they prefer. They don’t have to come into the office to pick up a check if they don’t want to, we can meet on Zoom as needed and do everything else electronically.

Doug: So, would you say the switch has really helped the operations at your brokerage?

Andy: Absolutely, and not only that, it’s also been a great recruiting tool. Before, agents were tied to a physical location. They might not have wanted to travel outside a certain area to make sales. Now those constraints are gone because they don’t need to come in to the office. I can serve a much broader agent market thanks to this new way of running my back office.

Doug: Do you have any other feedback to share from anyone else on your team?

Andy: This experience has allowed me to start identifying other best-in-class tools that will integrate well with all the main tools a brokerage like mine needs.

Doug: What about improvements? Are there things we should look at in the future to improve functionality?

Andy: Sure, some of the upcoming enhancements like our corporate back office integration will be a huge help. I report our closings as a franchise, so the less I have to input manually, the better off I’ll be.

Doug: You mentioned talking to other brokers to find the best product to adopt. If a broker came to you asking for advice today, what would you say?

Andy: I would say to pick a tool that’s going to fit what you want to accomplish. Don’t change all of your systems to use a specific tool, even if it looks sexy, or it’s the buzz of the industry, or if you see it at a trade show and the rep promises you everything. Make sure it’ll actually function the way you need it to. If you ask, “can it do this?” and the answer is no, but you really need it to do that, you don’t need to settle, especially if the workaround isn’t intuitive. Pick something that fits your current model and potentially the model for your growth. The times change and we have to change with them.

Get in touch

The new Constellation1 Commissions is made for today’s brokerage. You get the customizability and computing power you’d expect, plus a sleek intuitive UI, helpful split and transaction wizards, and the most robust reporting capabilities in the industry. Constellation1 is the leader in SaaS solutions for real estate and the perfect partner for your real estate back office needs.

Download the Constellation1 Commissions Feature Sheet

Start managing your back office your way today.