Maintaining a Leading Edge in Today’s Competitive Market

by Paige Tepping, RISMedia | Published August 2022 Real Estate Magazine

Danny and Charlene Sullivan
Leading Edge Real Estate Group
Huntsville, Alabama

Region served: Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee
Years in real estate: Danny: 19; Charlene: 3.5
Number of offices: 5
Number of agents: 170

Having begun as a family-run business, what do you believe have been the hallmarks of your success?  

Danny Sullivan: We started Leading Edge at a time of adversity during the housing crisis in the early 2000s. We owned three real estate franchises at the time, and while we weren’t interested in starting or owning another business, we had 30 agents who needed a place to hang their license, so we hunkered down and created a low transaction fee-based model. A majority of the offices in our marketplace were offering traditional splits, but we wanted our agents to keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible.

Charlene Sullivan: Leading Edge was born during a time when we knew the traditional model wasn’t going to work. Not only were we having a hard time identifying brokerages that were interested in Danny’s fee-based model, but we also noticed they all had rules as far as how the business should run, the way agents should dress, and the amount of time they needed to invest in agent training and coaching. With us, our agents are free to run their business the way they want while keeping 100% of their commission.  

What attracted you to United, and what were the main reasons behind your decision to merge with them?

DS: While we weren’t looking to make a move, I knew that our days were numbered because it was getting harder to compete as a small brokerage. After talking to Tyler Anderson, United’s VP of Broker Network Development, I wanted to learn more. Everyone I spoke with had great things to say about United, and that’s what solidified our decision to join.  

CS: Not only did we find ourselves struggling with agent retention, but we were also having a hard time figuring out how to bring technology to our agents. We were a small brokerage that couldn’t afford to spend millions to bring new tech tools into the office, and at the same time, our agents couldn’t afford to go out and purchase the technology that would allow them to compete. We needed to catch up, and United was the answer to our prayers.

How does being part of United enhance your value proposition to agents and support your brokerage’s growth?

CS: Besides the culture, which matches ours perfectly, United’s Bullseye Cloud-Based Productivity Platform places us on a level playing field. The marketing tools, seamless technology, comprehensive training, lead-generating websites and referral program make day-to-day tasks easy on our agents, ensuring that their pipelines are always full. Everything United provides is exactly what we were looking for.  

DS: One thing that hasn’t changed is our identity. Staying true to ourselves was critical, and I’m happy to say that nothing has changed for our agents. The only difference is that they now have access to more tools, technology and training than ever before.

As a husband and wife team, how do you balance your roles?

DS: I’m more of the idea guy and the face of our company while Charlene works behind the scenes putting things into motion. She’s also a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring we have the necessary systems to make everything work efficiently.

CS: We learned early on in our marriage to divide and conquer, which has been beneficial in both our personal and professional lives. Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and we’ve learned to respect and appreciate those differences and use them to our advantage.  

In what ways are your agents utilizing United Real Estate’s tools, resources and training?  

DS: Having come onboard in January, we couldn’t wait to see everything United would be unveiling at their ReUnited National Conference. Those agents who are plugging in and using the resources in Bullseye are beginning to see results, and many of our agents have had success with the automated marketing programs and listing videos. We understand just how important technology is, so we’re keeping an eye on those who may not be taking advantage of what’s available and getting them engaged. The Bullseye platform is user-friendly and extremely easy to use, even for those who may not be technologically savvy.

CS: Our agents are also finding success through the United Referral Network. If they’re clued in and using the tools, they’re starting to see just how easy it is to grow their business.

How does United’s home office team support you when it comes to your day-to-day and back-office operations?

DS: Their leadership team and support staff have been amazing. Everyone is accessible, including Dan Duffy (CEO) and Rick Haase (President), who are never too busy to help solve an issue or answer a question.  

CS: They also take time to touch base with our agents. Rick is constantly checking in to see how things are going and what they’d like done differently. He always asks about their families and shares openly about his as well.

What advantages have you experienced being part of a national organization yet maintaining your unique brand identity and culture?

CS: The areas in which we were struggling, we’re now excelling. The competition on a national level is huge, and it will become harder to compete with the Zillows of the world. We’re still a local brokerage with local recognition, as well as part of one of the top 10 national real estate firms in the U.S., which is a total win-win. Through United, our agents are part of a national lead and referral system. They also have all the benefits of a national organization. Our business is going to grow exponentially with United’s help.  

DS: One thing that impressed me was the way in which Dan laid out United’s strategic plan to compete with the industry giants. He didn’t just talk about five years down the road, but rather, 100 years into the future.  

What advice would you give to brokers who are having difficulty recruiting and retaining agents?

CS: My best advice is to open the lines of communication with your agents and get them back into the office doing things together. We now have a whole platform that will help with retention, especially now that we are getting our agents involved and using it.  

DS: The best recruiting tool is a happy agent.    

“We could not be more pleased to be partnered with Danny and Charlene Sullivan. Their steadfast focus on doing more for their agents marries exceedingly well with United’s mission to improve the financial trajectory of our agents’ and brokers’ careers and lives.”

– Rick Haase, President


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