“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
Coach John Wooden
Mike Grogan knows success and the dedication, effort, and skill development it takes to realize his goals. After a tumultuous, yet fruitful year, Mike shared his background, current challenges, and future expectations. “I very much see myself, as the managing broker, as a coach. I am in a unique position where I do not compete with my agents for listings; I can mentor and coach agents and assist them in becoming as successful as they want to be.” Coaching and service runs through the Grogan family vein. Mike’s father, a retired FBI Special Agent, coached his sons’ sports teams during Mike’s youth. Mike's brother, Kevin, now coaches elite triathletes in Florida and coaching is integrated in Mike’s personal and professional growth.
After graduating from Florida State University in 1995, Mike, and soon-to-be bride Stephanie, moved to the Williamsburg area for Mike’s promotion within a mortgage credit reporting agency. As digital technology disrupted the credit reporting sector, Mike became a realtor for Berkeley Realty, and took advantage of these emerging technologies. Mike published his cell phone number in the paper so prospective buyers and sellers could reach him anytime. “At the time people thought I was crazy. Most agents did not want to receive calls at home or outside of the office; I just wanted customers and more transparency.” He continues, “I remember as an agent we would huddle around every other week waiting for the latest MLS book to arrive. Back then there was no digital MLS, updated listings were printed and delivered every two weeks. These things were like sacred Bibles, public information – like Zillow or Trulia – simply did not exist.”
During this time, Mike and Stephanie raised their daughters, Nicole, Ashlyn, and Savanna, in the same Grogan coaching tradition. An ever-present dad and supporter, Mike helped developed Kingsmill’s swim team during his daughters’ swim years, assisted Jamestown High School boys’ basketball team, and was a mainstay on his girls’ sidelines. “One of the mantras I tried to instill in my daughters, in sport and life, is the discipline to stick it out in tough times. It is not easy getting up at 5 AM and jumping in a cold swimming pool, but those who show up early, put in the work, and remain steady find success.”
Mike continued to build his success; when Berkeley Realty became William E. Wood then Howard Hanna, Mike put his name in the hat for managing broker. His goal: develop and coach a winning team. Mike discussed how he applied his coaching principles, guiding Howard Hanna Williamsburg through a rollercoaster year to become one of the top firms:
What were the initial leadership challenges you faced guiding Howard Hanna Williamsburg into the pandemic?
Looking back, it’s easy to say what you could have done differently. However, the timing of it all worked just fine for us. In the first quarter of 2020, our staff began experimenting with a cloud-based digital storage system. By upgrading from traditional paper file storage, it positioned our staff to be able to work from home with the simple flip of a switch. The conversion almost immediately pushed us to the forefront of a highly competitive industry. It afforded us the unique ability to remain open for business during the most challenging period that I have seen in my 25-year career. With these changes word quickly spread that Howard Hanna could meet all the needs of a client who wanted to sell their home through a completely remote process. By moving most of our staff home, we were able to continue to function and conduct closings in a safe environment.
How did you pivot the business to capitalize on the unexpected housing market fluctuations?
Coming out of 2019, everything pointed toward 2020 being a great year. All the factors were perfect. No one could have anticipated what was about to happen in March. We felt like we would be able to ride out 2020 just fine, but I was as surprised as anyone when the housing boom developed during such challenging times. While we have always provided a one-stop-shop business model, this year we saw more and more clients placing additional responsibility on their realtors. Our agents found themselves stepping up and playing more of a facilitator in the mortgage process, various inspections, and the actual closing. While we found that our model led to a smoother transaction, in many cases it allowed us to close deals that our competitors simply couldn’t handle.
Talk about the innovations you adopted to support your staff and agents during the crisis.
Ironically, Howard Hanna has been widely known as a disrupter in the market when it comes to open houses. It sounds silly, but open houses became few and far between at one point. As of the close of 2019, Howard Hanna alone was averaging eight open houses per weekend. Homeowners took notice and started calling us to list their houses. Our open house plan is one of the key factors in the success of our newer agents. We help our agents with this by annually promoting a company-wide “Big Event” where our goal is to paint the town green with open house signs. Last year we hosted over 60 open houses over two days in Williamsburg alone. The pandemic did not create a good environment for public open houses. We adjusted and began focusing on virtual open houses that we posted to Facebook and YouTube. We were one of the first to do this and we were getting thousands of views. In just the first week that we experimented with this we sold three of the four homes we featured. It’s a perfect example of how a challenge created a new way for us to move forward with cutting edge technology.
What are the key factors that turned a difficult outlook into one of Howard Hanna Williamsburg's best years?
These days an effective real estate broker is more of a coach than a manager. Those old sports themes hold in our office more so than most. If you spend any time at our office, you know our focus is “good preparation” and “knowing the process.” When you’ve got some of the best realtors in the industry working for you, the job is simple. We send our realtors into the market each day fully prepared with the knowledge to handle whatever challenges the market presents. We provide some of the most technologically advanced software, now coupled with artificial intelligence. As agents master it, they have a competitive advantage over their competition.
Describe the future of the organization as you continue to lead them.
Our goal is to continue to grow in Williamsburg and the outskirts. Having jumped to just over 10% in market share, Howard Hanna has a hand in at least one out of every 10 sales in Williamsburg. The pandemic showed us that we can’t be ready for everything, but we have proven that great companies adjust quickly and adapt to their clients’ needs. Wrapping up 2020, our vision is simple: be recognized as the most professional real estate company in the market. We work hard at that every day.