You might say Andre Barrett caught a lucky break when his first ever real estate investment increased twenty-fold in a few short years. But when he launched his own business a decade later during one of the worst recessions in US history, luck had nothing to do with it.
Andre opened Barrett Group in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 2009, after identifying a need resulting from the collapse of the housing market just a year earlier. At the time, real estate was at a standstill and there were no real business models to follow. Navigating a niche that few understood was definitely a challenge.
But Andre’s persistence paid off. He successfully put Barrett Group on the map and, over the past 10+ years, built it into a leading independent brokerage with a roster of 10 agents and hundreds of listings throughout South Florida’s Broward County.
For Andre, doing business during The Great Recession was a crash course in the importance of having a system for managing client relationships. Back then, agent tools, systems and software were hard to come by. Today, Barrett Group uses a smart sales system to manage everything from tracking leads to following up on more than $32 million in sales volume.
“If you can get things to mesh together, you can create a machine that operates really efficiently, makes everyone’s lives easy, and makes it fun to do what we do on a daily basis,” says Andre. We couldn’t wait to sit down and find out more.
In 2001, Andre was graduating high school and trying to figure out his next step. He had saved up about $6,000 — a considerable nest egg for a high school student — mostly by working side jobs, and he asked a friend who sold real estate how he might put his life savings to work.
As it happened, the friend was selling land on the Gulf Coast of Florida and it was priced well enough for Andre to afford two lots with his savings. But real estate investment was a bold idea for an 18-year-old, so his mom insisted on accompanying him to see the property. They both liked what they saw, Andre closed the deal for about $2,500 per parcel, and the rest as they say, is history.
Fortunately for Andre, the economy was on the brink of an expansion that would last through much of the decade, and with it, land values rose rapidly. Andre’s $5,000 investment would soon be worth $100,000, and he continued making investments.
With his early success, and a rapidly growing economy, Andre decided to get his real estate license. His plan was to continue making his own investments while breaking into a brokerage.
“I realized the power of investing in real estate,” he recalls. “I just loved it and wanted to help other people achieve the same thing I achieved.”
It was a good plan while it lasted. But as we all know, real estate runs in cycles, and the boom would come to an abrupt end in what became known as The Great Recession.
“I was working with all of these real estate brokers that really didn’t figure out how to make money, because it just took a while for people to understand what they needed to do after the market crashed,” recalls Andre.
While others sat on the sidelines, Andre actively sought out his next opportunity — and an emerging transaction type quickly caught his attention. At the time, banks were trying to shore up foreclosure losses, and one way to do that was with a short sale, where homeowners could sell their homes for less than they owed on their mortgage.
More than 5 million homeowners were behind in their mortgage payments across the country, and South Florida was what Andre calls a “hot zone”, checkered with homeowners looking for a way out.
With so many homeowners underwater, it wasn’t long before the phone began to ring. One listing led to another, and, aided by door hangers and various other guerrilla marketing strategies, Barrett Group’s ‘for sale’ signs multiplied.
“At one point, I had investors and wholesalers calling my office because we had so many listings in our area,” Andre remembers. “They were asking if we were an asset management company because they were seeing my for sale signs everywhere.”
The short sale process was long and complicated, sometimes taking six months to a year to close. Most banks hadn’t even formalized the procedure or designated a point person for these transactions.
Andre often found himself talking to the bank’s customer service representative, someone who couldn’t even open a checking account, let alone guide him with a transaction as complicated as a short sale.
Not only did each listing have a different timeline and due date, but the real estate industry was still using fax machines to transmit documentation, an unpredictable method at best.
“You’d fax a document into the bank, and they’d be like, ‘We never got it.’ You’d have to send the same documents 5 or 10 times before they would acknowledge receipt,” Andre recalls.
Business software was still in its infancy back then and Andre hobbled together multiple tools to help collect, organize and track the volumes of information he gathered. But despite his ad hoc digital system, he ended up with overstuffed folders stacked on this desk to help manage the load.
Fast forward a decade or so, and no one’s doing many short sales in today’s real estate market. But with multiple agents and a database that includes more than 20,000 contacts, Andre’s manila folders just won’t cut it. He came across Follow Up Boss in 2016, and he’s been using the system ever since.
Andre uses Follow Up Boss to take care of several core tasks:
As chief rainmaker for Barrett Group, Andre brings in leads by working his network, making regular appearances on a community radio show, launching digital marketing strategies, and keeping an active Instagram.
Follow Up Boss’s Smart Lists allow Andre and his agents to track every step of the conversion process — from the moment a lead enters their database, right up to the close of the sale and beyond.
Here’s how it works.
New leads are entered into the system and organized according to the buyer’s timeline for making a purchase.
At Barrett Group, Smart Lists are organized into six segments:
Assigning Action Plans
Once the leads are properly tagged, each segment is assigned to specific Barrett Group messaging to fit the situation.
For example, a hot prospect might get a text or a phone call every day or every few days, whereas a client who’s not looking to purchase anytime in the foreseeable future might get an email once a quarter. Whenever a contact engages with Andre or his team, the Action Plan automatically updates the database and adjusts for the next step.
Every day, agents can refer to their Smart Lists to check on the status of leads and clients and determine what action is needed.
Is it time for a phone call? Have they been pre-approved for a loan? Has the agent made calls for the past 30 days to no avail?
As a lead becomes a ‘hot prospect’, a ‘nurture’ and so on, it gets moved into the appropriate category with a new custom Action Plan. If agents can’t get anyone on the phone after about 30 days, the lead moves into the ‘no response’ category where a different Action Plan is used to encourage a response at a slower cadence.
The Barrett Group team also includes an ISA whose job it is to reach out to new leads, but for Andre, the most important aspect of the job is keeping the database updated and organized so clients and prospects get the right message at the right time.
Andre also relies on Follow Up Boss’s reporting features to help manage his agents, the company’s productivity, and of course — to track deals and revenue.
He checks in on the Deals dashboard regularly in order to track the:
“My main focus is how many contacts are my agents making in an attempt to get a new lead to engage, because that’s the biggest goal for us,” he says. “When a new lead comes in, we want to get them on the phone, figure out what their needs are and help them with that.”
Andre uses Follow Up Boss to see how many contacts his agents are making each day and the average number of contacts by week. After he’s worked his Smart List and made his calls, he usually works one-on-one with agents to review their progress and offer guidance.
Of course, Andre’s quick to remind his agents that these systems are in place for one reason: to sell homes.
He’s always on the hunt to learn more about the best ways to hit the next level. (In fact, his current to-do list includes a book on the best sales techniques for different personality types, and a plan to help his agents improve their own skills. 💯)
As you might expect from someone who clearly loves a good system, Andre’s ambitious plans to get the brokerage to the next level are centered around improving the operational structure of the company.
He’s working on adding a call center to generate more leads and even going the extra mile for his agents by bringing in success coaches who can help him and the team develop strategies for meeting their biggest sales goals.
“This business is all about selling homes, and ultimately, we want to sell more homes,” he says. “So our goal is to set up the organization in a way where everyone knows exactly what they need to do to help grow the business and there’s a massive amount of accountability.”