Making a merger work with diverse companies

Is it better to specialize and embrace a narrow niche, or grow big and serve all? This merger took a brokerage that specialized and combined it with one who was focused on new homebuyers. Here’s how they made it work.

Modern-day brokerages have shifted towards specialization. Broker/owners have embraced narrow and specific client niches with a desire to own particular segments—whether that’s luxury estates or entry-level homes or working primarily with just buyers or sellers. In this model, we devote significant resources to build our local presence, recruit the types of agents that align with our segment, and create compensation plans appropriate to our niche.

The adage has been that “you can’t be all things for all people,” but I recently set out to see if that mantra really is true.

In November 2020, I merged with Paul Atkinson’s PRA & Company Realtors to create ERA Infinity Properties, better positioned to serve the diverse needs of our communities in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Broward County. In our case, diversity comes in many forms—from the properties we represent, to our agent roster, and the clients themselves.

I started my real estate career as a waterfront property and luxury specialist more than 20 years ago and affiliated with ERA Real Estate in 2018. My company concentrated on the Fort Lauderdale luxury market and achieved success as the region became increasingly attractive to affluent buyers looking a bit northward from Miami. I also have extensive experience with the development of new construction projects. But that concentration of business did not allow me the opportunity to compete effectively in other facets of the move-up and entry-level business. Thankfully, that changed when I met Paul.

While I was known as a luxury firm, Paul built his company differently. He got into the business in 2003 and opened his company in 2013 with an eye on the growing needs in South Florida. He believed strongly in having an agent base that truly reflected the market. He and his agents take great pride in the work they’ve done, from helping first-time homebuyers repair their credit, enter homeownership and eventually move up.

Neither of us played in each other’s “sandboxes,” yet we still had similar business philosophies. We realized there was no reason we couldn’t merge to provide clients an attractive and robust one-stop-shop experience that is effective, efficient and enjoyable for our customers. Now, you could say that we can serve across pretty much the entire real estate market.

We moved our agents into one central office and immediately saw a new culture filled with the sharing of ideas.

For example, we recently had a potential luxury buyer who spoke Russian. This might have created a challenge for us a few months ago. But the agent made one phone call and had a colleague join the meeting to translate. At the same time, we also had one of our higher-end clients ask us to work with his son who was just beginning his homeownership journey. Paul and I were thrilled to see business stay in-house.

The merger allowed us to truly represent almost every group of potential buyers and sellers. In addition, while diversity, equality and inclusion is usually reflected in hiring practices, internal resources and growth opportunities within companies, I also believe it should be incorporated into overall business strategy.

Mergers are designed to make the combined business stronger, usually from a financial perspective. And while that has most certainly been true for Paul and me, we are also very proud of our ability to meet the needs of many with a degree of expertise and personal service that defies the prevailing specialized approach to client segmentation.

By coming together, we weren’t looking to necessarily buck that trend, but to capitalize on our combined knowledge and experience to create an end to end real estate solution that can remain relevant to our clients for all their real estate needs—now and in the future.

Tom Stravecky is President of ERA Infinity Properties.