A Culture of Teamwork Keeps CENTURY 21 North Shore at the Top of Its Game
“Happy agents are productive agents.” That’s the reasoning of Jim D’Amico, dynamic broker/owner and chief motivator of CENTURY 21 NS Group/North Shore of New England, a Massachusetts-based firm whose more than $1 billion in real estate sales last year is validation of his belief. D’Amico, who has overseen more than 25 years of company growth, understands that his agents are a driving force in the firm’s success. “I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to take a call from one of my agents,” says D’Amico. “I appreciate their value and I want them to know it—to know I’m there for them 24/7 and I value their success as much as they do.” But confident and comfortable agents are only a part of D’Amico’s business philosophy. In this exclusive interview, he shares the vision and strategies that help to motivate continued growth.
Barbara Pronin: Jim, let’s start with a recap of your career path in real estate, and how you came to lead your company.
Jim D’Amico: I actually started right after college. My dad, a longtime successful property owner in Chelsea, Mass., suggested I get my training as an agent at CENTURY 21. He was a firm believer in the brand before I really knew anything about it. In my first full year, I sold only two homes and I figured I may have chosen the wrong career path. I interviewed in the corporate sector and decided to join a small, successful firm in Chelsea called Florence Lipp Real Estate. Florence was not only a leader in the market; she controlled the market. There, I was trained and mentored by Diane Cambria, who helped me list and sell over 50 homes in my second full year. Then, in 1995, my dad heard the CENTURY 21 agency in Chelsea was up for sale. I rushed over to talk to the seller and made my way through a long and shaky process, but finally, at the ripe old age of 25, I was able to close on the sale with franchisor approval—and the rest, as they say, is history.
BP: How many offices and agents does the firm currently have?
JD: We have 725 of the industry’s best agents in 41 locations throughout New England, and more to come.
BP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in your marketplace? What sets it apart from the competition?
JD: We are a top company both regionally and nationally, and I’m thankful for that, but what sets us apart from others is our agent-centric value system and our teamwork culture. Teams have been an overused term in our industry recently, but what I consider a team culture is people who help one another and root for one another even when they don’t get a financial benefit. That is teamwork. When it comes to our value proposition, we keep it simple. We don’t charge our associates for every little this and that. Charging for errors and omissions coverage, technology, copies, sign installations and more just gets in the way of an agent’s success. It’s very simple for us. Our agents get a great split and we provide great tools. We allow our agents to build their teams as they see fit. We don’t micro-manage. We are here to support them. We thrive on what I call “uber-communication.” That’s the reason I answer my cellphone every time an agent calls me, and if I get an email with a concern from an agent, I pick up the phone and call them. We have a two-email rule: If you have to send a third email on the same topic, don’t. Pick up the phone. I don’t want to ignite some kind of email chain of thoughts that can somehow get misunderstood. It’s all about directness for me, and getting to the root of the agent’s concern and working through it to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s the same kind of thoughtfulness and problem-solving we bring to our customers. They know we’ll do our level best to make their real estate goals a reality.
BP: How have you grown the company over the years in terms of offices and agents?
JD: We have been very successful both in recruiting top talent and in being a resource for company leaders in the area who are looking for an exit strategy. Since 2016, we have added 24 locations and more than 390 agents to our company.
BP: What attracts agents to your firm, and why do they stay?
JD: Two things, actually. First, our culture is very strong, as I’ve already indicated, but also our value proposition beats the competition hands down. We offer finite training from the best in the business, unbeatable support, including our own call center, and 100-percent reimbursement for training and retreat participation.
The second big focus is technology. We lead the charge on CENTURY 21’s ZAP and Business Builder lead-generation programs, and provide the best in lead flow technology to our agents from the new realtor.com® stack of FiveStreet, Top Producer, etc. In short, we deliver over 2,000 leads a month to our team, and while many owners are out selling homes, I’m out there assisting our team members in the field or overseeing operations to ensure our people are being properly supported and getting paid promptly. Our business model is no secret, so the best agents want to be with us.
BP: Can you expand a bit on how your business culture works—and on your leadership philosophy?
JD: For one thing, we have a 100-percent happy rule. In my view, you can’t be successful if you’re not happy, so the rule is, if you aren’t 100-percent happy, you need to pick up the phone and call me so I can see what we can do to change that. For another thing, we lead by example. We don’t ask any of our staff to do what we wouldn’t do ourselves. I was raised with the rule that if you see a scrap of paper on the ground, you pick it up—and that’s the kind of “we’re in this together” culture that we’ve built with our agents and support staff. We’re here for each other every day. Our agents have a say in all we do, from office functionality to décor to systems to policies and guidelines. A lot of company leaders say they listen to staff, but here, we actually do. We don’t manage in a vacuum. We run a transparent and fun operation.
BP: What’s your strategy for effectively marketing the firm and best serving the needs of prospects and clients?
JD: While other companies market the brand or the company, we market our agents. It’s a fact that all the best agents work at CENTURY 21 NS. That’s what we want prospects to know, and our customers back that up. It’s why our referral and repeat business rates are as high as they are, and why we are consistently on a growth curve.
BP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
JD: We have great managers and great tech people who are focused on putting the needs of our agents on the table and researching the best ways to make them happen. We are presently working on converting to a paperless environment. We use Lone Wolf Technology’s operating system and dotloop, for example, to help us streamline procedures and move us into a paperless world.
BP: We understand you’ve joined forces with Led2Serve as a way of giving back. Can you tell us a little about that?
JD: Led2Serve facilitates local and global service projects with a focus on the environment, education and housing—projects like painting a school, building a ramp for the disabled or manning an environmental clean-up effort. We donate a portion of every transaction to help support efforts like those, and our agents, friends and families are able to get personally involved in projects that directly help to better our communities and the world around us.
BP: So, what’s on deck for Century 21 NS?
JD: In three words: grow, grow and grow. Life is short. We have one shot at this thing, and we are committed to offering the best service to the most people by growing our strength in our current markets, and being the new kid in town in as-yet untapped markets. In short, we will continue to acquire and expand our locations through judicious acquisition, and also to attract and support the industry’s best agents—career professionals who are happy in their work and who are totally focused on understanding and helping to fulfill the real estate needs of their clients.
For more information, please visit www.century21northshore.com.
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In It to Win It: CENTURY 21 North Shore