Why Now is the time for Trusted Brands to Show Up for People
President & COO Liz Gehringer speaks on the importance of trust in real estate, and how the Coldwell Banker brand’s approach is one you can replicate
During uncertain times, people return to known, trusted brands. Given continuing uncertainty at home and across the globe, established brands have an opportunity to influence change at scale now more than ever. Executing from a place of good ethics has never been more important, as customers turn to us seeking our expert advice, polished service and genuine care. Like many other industries, the real estate landscape has transformed over the last two years. COVID-19 turned remote work into a broader reality and caused many of us to examine what we value, and where and how we live going forward. As people migrated in record numbers and in new patterns, our communities also transformed. The sheer volume of home buyers and sellers continues to be an opportunity for real estate agents to broaden their engagement with diverse customers and create greater representation among home buyers and sellers.
Diversity and inclusion remain vital to the long-term growth and health of any company and to the communities in which they operate. We’ve experienced a continued evolution in which companies, large and small, are leveraging their influence to have a positive impact on society, especially where they can drive change through their line of work. As President of Coldwell Banker Affiliate Business and Chief Operating Officer, it is my responsibility to make business decisions not only based on ethics and integrity, but also on facts and data. In this case, data tells a bigger story that good instinct alone can’t – it validates our work towards building communities where agents, buyers, sellers, and all individuals are valued, represented and respected.
We utilize data-backed insights to strengthen our diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts at Coldwell Banker – and here is how you can execute initiatives in your organization.
- Be a student of those you serve
In 2021, the Hispanic Wealth Project found that more than half (53%) of Latino renters reported plans to buy a home in the next five years. A study by the Urban Institute forecasts Latino buyers will account for 70% of homeownership growth from 2020 to 2040, serving as the growth engine of American home buying. And our own survey with The Harris Poll shows Hispanic homeownership desire is high: 42% say “owning a home” is an important financial goal, and among Hispanics this is higher than any other financial goal.
This data describes a growing demographic of homebuyers we aim to meaningfully know and support. And it is just one example. People like to work with those who understand their values, needs and experiences, especially in real estate since homebuying is so personally driven. With this in mind, Coldwell Banker is building a community of agents who reflect today’s society and are well educated about the clients they are serving. We support industry partners like the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the Asian Real Estate Association of America, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, to encourage and celebrate diverse agent participation in the industry, and keep us informed on emerging trends. Our homework translates to better communication with homebuyers and sellers – and an easier homebuying and selling process because we start with an educated understanding of values and needs.
- Eliminate barriers to entry
Coldwell Banker also recognizes that it can be difficult to break into the real estate business, particularly for aspiring entrepreneurs who come from communities that traditionally have been underrepresented or marginalized, so we created an industry-first program to ease the entry costs of initial investments. First announced in February 2020, our Inclusive Ownership (IO) program aims to increase the representation of people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and veteran entrepreneurs in the real estate industry. New brokerages that affiliate with Coldwell Banker under the program do not pay the initial franchise fee and owners receive financial incentives to support them in the critical first two years of business. Since its launch, Coldwell Banker has welcomed 23 brokerages under the program, and their growth has been tremendous in terms of adding agents and increasing their sales volume.
In my role as Chief Operating Officer, I operationalize our initiatives. Our exclusive mentorship opportunities and full first-year onboarding program guide new franchise owners as they realize the benefit of adding a global brand to their business. The Inclusive Ownership program also provides new owners with various educational classes and access to additional support from members within our global network. While growing their own business in every aspect, they also help us target the homeownership gap in the communities we serve.
- Look for leadership gaps
Data drives us in other areas of DE&I, too. While 65% of real estate agents are women, the industry lacks women in higher-level leadership positions – which can form and harbor feelings of isolation for women as they embark on their executive journey or look to lead in their marketplace. I am proud to lead the Coldwell Banker brand’s What Moves Her initiative, which helps women grow their business and careers, and celebrates their contributions. More than 5,000 women have participated in the program and we are implementing studies to further understand the positive impact that Coldwell Banker women in leadership have in our industry, and real estate sales overall. Increasing diversity and inclusion in leadership roles is not only the right thing to do, but it also results in greater representation that drives better business decisions and results down the line.
- Ask: “How will these decisions set an example for the future of my industry?”
Stepping up to meet thorny challenges can help your business operate more ethically today and set a powerful precedent for future leaders. I am constantly inspired by the fact that Coldwell Banker was founded during a crisis in 1906, on the idea that customers deserved trusted advisors in making real estate purchases. Coldwell Banker has and continues to equip real estate experts with the right tools and information to guide buyers and sellers. As a company leader of a trusted brand, I think about what influence I can have during this chapter of a storied brand’s history. Along with our parent company, we have been designated by Ethisphere among the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the 11th year, an honor I personally sought when building our ethics program. We draw ideas and inspiration from our peers who have achieved that status. At Coldwell Banker, treating each other and our customers ethically takes care of most everything else.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to build DE&I programs, visit https://coldwellbankerdiversity.com/ to learn more.