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Hornung: Corporate values in his DNA

Highlights:

  • Real Trends held is 2013 Gathering of the Eagles conference in Denver last week.
  • The conference was titled “A New Era.”
  • Lane Hornung helped kick off the conference by participating on the first panel.

“All great companies have cultures that are so tight, they’re almost cult-like: Those people who do not share the company’s core values find themselves surrounded by corporate antibodies and ejected like a virus,” Jim Collins.

During last week’s unseasonal snowstorm, Lane Hornung kicked off a panel apologizing for the weather to the group of leading residential real estate executives from all across the country gathered in Denver for the 2013 Gathering of Eagles Conference sponsored by Castle Rock-based Real Trends. It was the 26th annual Gathering of Eagles conference. This year’s theme was “A New Era.”

Lane Hornung

Lane Hornung

However, Hornung, founder and president of 8z Real Estate, had nothing to apologize to the more than 100 real estate leaders packed into a meeting room at the Westin Downtown Denver hotel last Wednesday, when moderator Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC., asked Hornung and the other three panel members what most excited them about the future of the residential real estate industry.

Hornung, whose company is a sponsor of 8z Real Estate, answered what most excited him is that increasingly in the future Realtors can be extremely proud of their chosen profession. For example, when a real estate agent walks into a room and is asked what he or she does for a living and the answer is  ”Realtor,” the broker will be recognized  as a respected professional.

“We want to raise the bar of what it means to be a good Realtor,” Hornung said, during the panel discussion among owners of new, innovative “Beta” brokerages such as 8z, and more established “Alpha’ brokerage companies.

“It keeps getting harder to be a good Realtor, which I think is exciting,” Hornung told the audience, which represented about a third of the real estate executives who attended the conference.

Hornung was joined the panel by Kelly White, president of the GoodLife Team in Austin; Kevin Levent, president of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Metro brokers in Atlanta; and Mark Woodroof, partner of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene in Houston.

Chris asked each panel member to describe their company. Both 8z and GoodLife are considered Beta brokerages, while the other two are more established players.

In three years, Hornung has grown 8z to 71 agents

Last year, his agents did an average of 24 transactions each, more than three times the national average.

Both 8z and GoodLife were launched during the real estate meltdown, but not only survived, but thrived.

image003“There is an advantage to starting with a Tabula rasa a clean slate,” Hornung said.

He said at 8z, the business model was never predicated on the numbers of Realtors, but by the volume of individual brokers.

“We targeted a smaller group of Realtors with a higher production from the beginning,” he said.

White, of GoodLife in Austin, said “our story is very similar to Lane’s. We couldn’t have started at a worst time,” as far as the real estate market.

At GoodLife, she said they have had great success in recruiting Realtors from other industries and training them in a standardized way of doing business. Now, her Realtors are in the top 3 percent in Austin, she said.

8z brokers also geographically based and “we never intended to fill all the lots in one year,” Hornung said. “The slots might be filled over a decade.”

When looking for the best brokers, he doesn’t call it recruiting.

“We call it selection,” Hornung said.

Hornung said the more times a broker helps people buy and sell homes, the better they get off of it.

“We not only want great brokers, but we love working with great brokers from other companies,”  Hornung said.

“If there is an 8z broker on one side of the transaction, and a Kentwood broker on the other side, it is going to be a very good experience for a consumer,” Hornung said, noting that last year Kentwood agents averaged $10.1 million in sales per agent. Real Trends rated Kentwood as the No. 2 in the nation as far as traditional real estate brokerage firms on sales volume per associate, topped only by Washington Fince Properties of Washington, D.C., at $12.47 million per agent. However, REALHome Servies and Solutions, a REO disposition firm, ranked even higher, although it not a traditional real estate company. With a mere 27 associates, it had a whopping $67.7 million in sales per associates.

“That was really nice of Lane to give a shout-out to a competitor,” said one executive from the Portland area attending the conference. “It showed a lot of class.”

Chris also asked the panel members to describe their core values, culture and use of technology.

Hornung noted that he came to real estate from the technological side.

He earned an engineering degree from Stanford, an MBA in finance from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and before becoming a real estate broker he was involved in the start up of Zip Realty.

“We are a very technological company, but we don’t let technology define us,” Hornung said. “To me, it is the brokers themselves who are the tip of the spear. They are on the ground and their relationship and knowledge is what is important to the consumer.”

As far as core values, he said they are the same today as when he was a U.S. Marine helicopter pilot and when he was growing up in Arvada.

At one point in his career, Hornung was a research assistant for Jim Collins, the best-selling author of such books Good to Great and Great by Choice.

“We have a corporate culture that is so strong, like Jim Collins says, it will eject all viruses. These are the core values I have had all of my life. They are in my DNA.”

Although it was snowing heavily outside during the first day of the Gathering of Eagles, Hornung said as the lone local speaker on the panel, it was his responsibility to assure the audience that wasn’t typical weather for the Denver area.

“It was 80 degrees here on Monday.”

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at  JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.