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UPDATE: Following the publication of this story on Friday, a Compass spokesperson responded to Mauricio Umansky’s claims involving Robert Reffkin. “This is factually inaccurate.”
The Agency CEO and founder Mauricio Umansky has been hard at work building his brokerage up into one of the most well-recognized boutique luxury brands in the industry since launching in 2011. To date, the company has closed more than $41 billion in transactions and has over 850 agents across more than 50 offices.
In 2021 alone, the company significantly grew its franchise business, opening 11 new franchises. So far in 2022, it has opened five more in Canada and on the East Coast.
Inman recently spoke with Umansky about his company’s rapid expansion, working with family and some of his favorite memories from Inman Connect New York, including a memorable exchange with Compass CEO Robert Reffkin. Here’s what he had to say, edited for brevity and clarity.
Inman: Your franchise business has grown a lot in the last year. Do you have plans for many more new franchises at this point?
Mauricio Umansky: We’re definitely excited for the continued growth of franchising. I think we opened 11 franchises last year — I think it’s a great pace and a great cadence, and we’ve geared up our team and staff in order to accommodate faster growth this year. I can tell you one of the exciting things I like, and one of the most important things in business, is learning from everybody else and then innovating and changing because you can’t just do the same thing over and over again.
What we’ve done with the franchise model is a very new franchise model that I’m not sure has been seen in real estate before. I think one of the best global networks, personally, that has been created, and I’m only talking about luxury real estate, is Sotheby’s.
One of the things we want to do is build that global luxury boutique ‘2.0,’ and what that 2.0 means is, we treat our franchisees as corporate-owned, which I think is one of the primary differences. So we do not differentiate like Sotheby’s does, whether they’re a franchisee or whether they’re corporate-owned, and I think that’s a huge difference from a cultural perspective and then also just from the way we’re all together on one network. We don’t have office meetings without the franchise staff.
Do you feel that keeps you closer as a company?
Way closer. A lot more [like] family. [It’s] part of our culture, which is tremendous collaboration, tremendous openness. And we really think it’s important to build an extraordinary network around the globe. And if you can do that, then you can keep and maintain a lot of referral business from office to office, [and] you can really start servicing the clients and consumer in a really amazing way because we keep notes on our CRM about consumers, clients and all that stuff.
And [our] other distinction is really just adding some great technology in order to make the process a lot more efficient and get to improve our servicing to our clientele. Between those two things — [treating franchisees as corporate-owned and adding great tech] — I don’t know of another franchise company that has both of those aspects.
Will you eventually branch out to locations beyond Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean?
100 percent. Right now we’re concentrating on our east coast expansion — we’re definitely starting to look at Manhattan. I’m sure you know, we’re already in Boston and D.C. and Florida and we’re working on some other really fun ones on the east coast that we’re super excited about. But we opened last year our first office in Europe, in Amsterdam, and that will be the beginning of our European expansion. We’re currently looking at London, Spain, France. And then I can tell you, we’re assembling a team now to start looking at the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
That’s really exciting. As we think about the approach of Inman Connect New York, I wanted to ask about how you recently presented with your daughter Alexia at Inman Connect in Las Vegas. Is she still excited about real estate and working with the family in this industry?
[Yelling off the phone] Alexia — are you still excited about real estate and working with the family, or have you had enough of me? She said she’s sick and tired of me. Hahaha. She’s loving it. She’s doing really great and she’s absolutely loving it. She’s sitting right behind me right now at the office. We have an office that is kind of open door, so we all sit in one office space.
Do you have any other fun memories from past Connect events you’d like to share, since this is our 25th anniversary?
I remember the first time I met Robert Reffkin from Compass at the New York Connect. We were both speaking on the same panel and I remember before going out on the stage, he came up to me and said to me that our real estate marketing was the best he’d ever seen and that he wanted to let me know he copies everything we do and he doesn’t invent anything. And he said to me, ‘Why invent when it’s already out there and we can just copy it?’ And I thought that was fucking hilarious. [Editor’s note: On Wednesday, Compass declined to comment on Umansky’s claim after an initial request for comment.]
I guess that’s a compliment.
It’s certainly a good compliment, but not a lot of people have the, pardon the language, the balls to say something like that, but he did. So that was kind of fun.
After knowing that, we did put out a couple of marketing campaigns with the intention of them getting copied, which were kind of, you know, not the campaigns we necessarily wanted. And they got copied and we were laughing. We had a good little internal laugh.