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Kindness, Trust And Collaboration: Sherry Chris On ERA As It Turns 50

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ERA Real Estate kicked off its 50th-anniversary celebration on March 15 with a volunteer challenge that asked brokers and agents to commit at least 50 hours to the charities and organizations that help their communities thrive. Although some may say there are more dazzling ways to celebrate a half-century in the industry, Realogy Expansion Brands CEO Sherry Chris said the brand’s commitment to “quiet strength” is why they remain relevant.

Sherry Chris | Credit: LinkedIn

“One of the things about ERA is that they’re very locally focused. Each company is giving back to their communities and giving to one another,” she told Inman. “I just feel that this brand is quietly strong. It’s not a brand that goes out and beats its chest at every opportunity with the media.

“It’s just a brand that understands itself, and is quietly strong and there for one another,” she added. And that, I think, is very powerful.”

Chris sat down with Inman to reflect on ERA’s anniversary and the business basics that have created a robust brand. Here’s what she had to say:

Inman: ERA celebrated its 50th anniversary a few weeks ago, which is an amazing feat considering all of the industry has changed since 1972. What are your thoughts about reaching this milestone and the business basics that have enabled ERA to stick around?

Chris: We’re excited to be celebrating our 50th and you know, it’s hard to believe that we are 50 years old because when I look across the network today, I see young and young-minded people everywhere. I say that because I see people who are energetic, who are caring, who give back, and who love to collaborate with one another.

[ERA] is really a special brand because of the deep-rooted culture and giving to one another as broker-owners and agents and the whole collaboration that takes place around that. That is really the baseline of the brand. What I find is everywhere, every company that I visit, every conference that I attend, they just absolutely respect one another and love one another and that is something that you don’t see in today’s world or around our industry very often. Is it out there somewhat? Yes. But this brand is so strong. Let me give you an example.

Last [week], we had an ERA party here [at Inman] Connect and there’s a chant that ERA uses all the time. One person yells out “team” and then everyone else says “E-R-A” while everyone gathers around each other. That camaraderie is very, very unique and it’s passed the test of time.

I think what our industry needs is that collaboration, that trust, [and] that giving. That doesn’t always happen because we’re in a competitive industry, and ERA goes way above and beyond to deliver that to their ERA team members and the industry as a whole.

Brad [Inman] mentioned the importance of kindness in his keynote, and I think kindness and collaboration are often undervalued, not only in real estate but in American culture. How has ERA been able to keep that as a cornerstone? It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to keep it going for 50 years.

A lot of the broker-owners are personal friends and they would drop everything to jump on a plane and help another ERA broker in need and that’s because these relationships have been built and nurtured over many years. A number of the broker-owners started in the early days, but there’s been a tremendous succession that has taken place where children of the original brokers are now running the business. They grew up with that culture in mind and have held on to it, and it is stronger today than ever before.

It’s sometimes hard to put into words. You have to experience it.

I have a list of ERA’s achievements in front of me and all of the things the brand did first, such as being the first real estate franchise to expand internationally in 1981. How do you keep that spirit of innovation, especially as the industry evolves at such a breakneck pace on all fronts? What is ERA’s unique value proposition today?

You know, it’s a very good question, and my answer would be that I believe that the future of this industry is going to be based deeply on trust and deeper relationships than we’ve seen in the past. When I use the word relationship, I use it in reference to the broker-to-broker and agent-to-agent relationship, and also agent-to-consumer relationship.

One of the things about ERA is that they’re very locally focused. Each company is giving back to their communities and giving to one another and that will help sustain them in the future. Clearly, we are going to face some uncertain times with inflation, interest rates rising, etc.

I just feel that this brand is quietly strong. It’s not a brand that goes out and beats its chest at every opportunity with the media. It’s just a brand that understands itself, and is quietly strong and there for one another. And that I think is very powerful.

I’m glad you brought that up. I know that as a journalist, I’ve been guilty at times of just paying attention to the companies, people, etc., to use your words, that “beat their chests.” What does it mean to be a company that takes a low-key approach to promotion? What value is there in being quietly strong?

There are two ways to conduct your business: One is to be loud about it and the other is to really believe in who you are. As a brand and a group of companies, ERA practices that self-belief each and every day. They don’t have to be in the headlines every day. They are confident in who they are as brokers and agents, and that’s a pretty powerful thing within our industry.

Definitely. So I wanted to touch back on what you said about relationship building. A big thing that people are trying to address is after the transaction is over and you’ve left the closing table, ‘How do I maintain a relationship with a buyer or seller?’ What are your thoughts on this? Where are the things that you’ve seen work? 

There are two ways to look at it. One is that you have to build a relationship with the end consumer over time, and the other is that you want to. I know that within our industry that many of us went above and beyond during the two years of COVID to make sure that end consumers were OK and well taken care of. And not everyone would have done it because they wanted to, and I see ERA as a brand that truly wants to — and that’s the difference.

It’s a brand that’s somewhat behind the scenes but that’s always doing the right thing because that’s what they believe is right.

Finally, what would be your tips for someone who wants to create a team or a brokerage that has a culture like ERA? What are the basics they must master and be committed to?

The first thing is trust and that’s really the basis for everything. If you build a company or a brand based on trusting one another, then the rest comes more naturally. You’re going to succeed as a business leader or as the leader of a company, if you’re able to establish trust with your own employees, with your agents and with the end consumer.

That’s what ERA has successfully been able to do, and I think that that’s important.

Email Marian McPherson

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