1 + 1 = 3!
I have been suggesting for a while that there is going to be a wave of consolidation in the CRE tech sector. It’s already happening. The major theme over the next twelve months is no doubt going to be all about M&A and JV’s. I would say the one word you will hear more than any other is, “collaboration”.
It just makes sense. There are a lot of startups competing for still too little market share. And the end-user, the brokers or developers in particular, are telling us all that they are overwhelmed with all of the choices. So collaborating is just a natural evolution of the sectors maturity and also a smart business strategy.
Recently, two great CRE tech friends reach out to tell me about their recent collaboration...Jeff Finn of RealNex and Turner Levison of CommisionTrac. I have great respect for each of them, and know their businesses very well. So I was thrilled to hear of their joint venture and think it makes great sense for each of them. I spoke to both Jeff and Turner to get some insights on this recent news:
Michael Beckerman: How did this partnership come about and how will it work?
Jeff Finn- At RealNex, our strategy is to build a holistic end-to-end solution. We have largely completed that for the brokerage sector for the front office, with our integrated CRM, transaction management, financial analytics and marketing suite. We knew from the start, we would need to add the back-office commission management component. Rather than building it ourselves, we scoured the market for a solution. None that we evaluated fit as neatly and completely with RealNex as CommissionTrac. So now, we are going to market together, delivering an even more comprehensive solution to the market. We will quickly build the data integration so that once a deal closes in RealNex, CommissionTrac will manage all the disbursements and feeds into our client’s accounting system.
Turner Levison- It’s simple really, RealNex’s platform has all the tools to manage a broker or whole brokerage’s CRM needs, marketing, financials and more.
They basically have everything a broker needs to get deals done, and once the deal is done, is when CommissionTrac starts. We take key deal data to use our accounting automation tools and easy workflows to make sure everyone gets paid accurately and quickly!
As for how the partnership came to be, I would say the relationship started when I met Jeff and the RealNex team at NAR Annual in Orlando all the way back in 2016. We’ve been staying in touch and talking about working together for a few years regarding the synergy between our platforms, so we decided to take the next step.
MB: What do you see as the benefits for each company? And more importantly, for your customers and clients?
TL: From our perspective, you could run an entire brokerage with RealNex 3.0 and CommissionTrac. CommissionTrac even integrates with Quickbooks to make things super simple come tax season!
From first meeting to commissions distributed, our shared customers will have a seamless workflow. With our upcoming integration, all your data will easily move from RealNex to a new CommissionTrac voucher to save time and effort.
The benefits of RealNex and CommissionTrac, is having happier customers with a more complete solution. When new tech saves tons of time and makes people happy, they talk about us. That means more people looking to escape running their business on excel spreadsheets and checking out our two amazing platforms.
JF: The benefits to us are the benefits to our clients. Streamlined data-entry and work flow. Greater visibility into team performance and productivity.
MB: Jeff you have done several of these, and Turner I know you have been approached by many others to partner. What would you say are the most important things you look for in a company to determine if they are the best partner for you?
JF: Leadership and culture. We look to work with people like Turner, and companies like CommissionTrac. They are driven, and passionate about their solution, and have an overwhelming client-centric focus.
TL: I really think Jeff nailed it on the head here. We see a similar hard working culture at RealNex, and we’ve just always jived well in meetings. I’ve enjoyed Jeff as a friend in the space for years, and couldn’t be more excited to have formed this alliance.
MB: In building your own platforms, what are some of the lessons you each have learned along the way that you can perhaps share with other Founders as they try and scale their businesses?
TL: Customers will have the best ideas. I mean it. Listen to them, document their ideas and suggestions, and review that list frequently. Prioritize then build. Rinse and repeat. It’s a cycle.
Also, when you build something that was suggested by a customer, always follow up and let them know. Customers LOVE seeing their vision or product feature request become a reality, and it often leads to more referrals. In a business like CRE, referrals go a long way. As the market adapts to all of the new technology entering the space, the vendors must adapt as well.
Of course, if any CRE tech founders out there want to connect, please send me a note on LinkedIn. Big believer in Karma; I am fortunate to have great mentors in the space, and am always open to sharing war stories and the limited advice I can give.
JF: Listen to the community and filter out the priorities. While founders have great visions and ideas, you can’t work in a vacuum. We are fortunate to have thousands of clients and great relationships throughout the industry. There is no shortage of ideas and feedback. This could be overwhelming, as you can’t do everything for everyone. But being able to synthesize the feedback, consolidate it, and run with ideas that have the greatest impact for the largest audience, is key. We have seen many challenges when something was purposely built for one company, rather than being designed for the broad market.
MB: Is the biggest challenge in building a successful CRE tech startup the adoption of the brokerage community? How have you each been able to achieve this with your own respective sites?
JF: No doubt. We have talked about this in the past. Often startups have great ideas and are able to raise enough capital to build their MVP, or even more, but that is just the beginning. The real heavy lift is going to market, gaining adoption, and achieving critical mass. It is a long and difficult process, and many run out of gas along the way. Don’t underestimate this phase, as even with a great product, the market inertia may keep clients from beating a path to your door. Part of our strategy, was to acquire products that had large and loyal installed bases, so that we could focus on value-add and scale. We are now uniquely positioned to align with companies like CommissionTrac, to quickly plug into our channel and access the market.
TL: Adoption takes time. Focus on continually adding value. Circling back to that question about building platforms…if you listen to your customers they will help you grow. We’ve done well by asking customers for feedback, as well as letting some innovator companies beta test new features before pushing them to production.
Seriously. Customer feedback and ideas are adoption rocket-fuel.
MB: What are some of the new initiatives you are each working on separately and collectively as well?
JF: We have a very exciting and robust roadmap. Will look forward to sharing more in due course, but for now, we are focused on a series of powerful enhancements to expand our reports, dashboards, transactional, and client connectivity tools.
TL: It’s all too top-secret to even discuss… okay, okay, we’re focused on enhancing our accounting and invoice automation tools, as well as a dashboard and reports revamp. The goal is for our customers to do less and benefit more!
If anyone wants a sneak peak, request a demo on our website and I’ll be happy to give you a look at some of the new features being developed in our CommissionTrac Sandbox!
Turner Levison is the founder of CommissionTrac and focuses his time on building relationships and growing his business. He is a graduate of The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, and is also on the honorary board of directors for the Special Olympics, as well as an advisor to the KSU Entrepreneurship Center and SharedSpace. To learn more about Turner, visit here.
Jeff Finn is the President and CEO of RealNex and Founding Partner of Pavonis Group. His active role in real estate and technology have made him a trusted leader in the sector. In addition to running his business, Jeff is an active investor and advisor to several technology companies in the industry. He is also involved in charity work to improve the lives of orphaned children. To learn more about Jeff, visit here.