"How I Got Started..." with Ronnie Vaughan, Owner of Coldwell Banker Vaughan & Company
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.
Q: Tell me about your early career.
A: I was a truck mechanic when I was 19 and a police officer following that. I got into sales and became a car salesman at Dominion Chevrolet because my friend had been doing well, and I figured if he can do it, so can I. The same thing happened with real estate; my friend was doing well, so I found myself in real estate in 1974.
My training at the start was, "Here's an MLS book. If you have any questions, ask me." I had no idea what I was doing, so I went to the top agent in the company and asked what I should do and did exactly that. I sold about eight houses during my first eight weeks in the business. When that top agent left to start his own company, I joined him. He was building the company up and needed a manager, so I took on that role and we built the company up to about 50 people and were the number one company in Richmond for several years.
In 1982, several other managers and I decided to start our own company. We were doing well, but all of my money was going back into the company and I didn't want to put in all of that work for nothing. So, I left and went to work for a smaller company. They told me that they couldn't afford to pay me at the time, so I told him just to pay me a little bit on every deal I got for him, and that was how we did things. Again, we built that company to about 50 people and became one of the largest producing companies in Richmond.
Q: In your words, what is Coldwell Banker Vaughan & Company, Inc.?
A: It is a company of experienced agents who all know what to do and how to do it. They are honest, they always try to do the best job for the people, and they continually work to get better. They know that I expect that. All of that makes for a great, open atmosphere in the office.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: I decided to open Vaughan & Company, Inc. in 1986. I had about five top agents join me at that time. We were working with Eagle Construction and got all of their listings which helped us get a good start. We joined Coldwell Banker in 1989 and have been the leading Coldwell Banker office in Richmond ever since. It provided us with access to a lot of tools and resources that we didn't have before.
Q: How would you describe the real estate industry now compared to how it was when you were first starting, or even 10 years ago?
A: To me, it's a lot easier now than it was back then. When I first got in the business, we had a three-ring binder with loose pages, and that was our MLS book. Every week, we had to update the entire book and put new stuff in; nothing was in order. Going from that to the technology we have now is a whole lot easier, in my opinion. The information we can get from our phones is tremendous. I can hit a button on the phone and show you what each house in the neighborhood sold for. People can make better decisions because of the information we have access to now.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you face in growing the business, and what do you do to combat these challenges?
A: The bigger you get, the less control you have and the less contact you have with everyone. I will never be a control freak, but I want to know that my people are doing what they are supposed to be and treating the customer right.
I became friends with a trainer from the west coast named Mike Ferry and had all of my agents doing his program which was a big deal in that everyone improved what they were doing and had an A-list presentation. That was the only training I had as far as the skills part, and it really made us more productive. At one point we were doing three to four sales per agent per month.
Q: As a successful business owner, do you have work / life balance? How have you managed to improve the joy and fulfillment in your life?
A: Naturally, a typical real estate agent works a lot. We work when other people don't. On top of being in the office during the day, we are also working nights and weekends. That can put a strain on relationships, and families have to work through that together. This business has nonetheless improved my life because our success has enabled me to do things and travel to places that I never would have been able to do otherwise.
Q: What can we and others in the community do to help your business grow and be more successful?
A: Send us a bunch of prospects! Seriously though, any good publicity is good for us.
Q: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs / small business owners?
A: Make sure you hire good people. The secret to doing so well, is having good people. Give them the training that they need to be successful. The key is giving the customer the service that they should get, and if you do, there will be more customers that you can take care of.
“How I Got Started...” is a blog series that spotlights the entrepreneurial and life journeys of various small business owners and professionals. The content of this blog was curated by members of the CreativeMktGroup team.