Kathy Cross is a LivePlan customer and the founder of Imagine Real Estate, a real estate agency that prides itself on allowing brokers to establish their own brand identities and operate more freely than they would under a franchise model.
Palo Alto: How did you come up with the idea for Imagine Real Estate?
Cross: Imagine Real Estate was formed shortly after joining RE/MAX over 12 years ago. I’d been working on the idea for a long time. I wanted to own a company that was non-traditional, forward-thinking, and outside of the franchise structure. A place where brokers can be creative, capture niche markets, and excel without large overhead and expenses. Brokers create their own brand identity. Imagine the possibilities — they are endless.
Is this the first business you’ve started or owned?
No, I was part of an LLC with ERA Delta Real Estate after only two years in the business. I was part owner for five years. I learned the foundation and the nuts and bolts of a real estate transaction. I learned what worked for the market of the day, and the intricacies of a transitioning market with high overhead. Once that season was over, I searched for a new way of business that produced high income and high expenses. During the most productive times, I didn’t have a tool to measure the value of what I was working so hard for. Business felt empty of real relationships and I longed to nurture those relationships beyond the transaction, so I positioned myself as a small business owner of Imagine Real Estate.
What were some of the challenges you faced in starting your business?
The initial challenge in starting my business was knowing all of the taxes and expenses to allocate for each broker, knowing how much more payroll tax to add to employees in preparation for payroll, building a phone system to reach all brokers, and delegating specific administrative tasks to free me up to do what I do best — securing the listing and sale or property management agreements.
What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved so far with Imagine Real Estate?
I reestablished two national contracts with REO companies, signed off one broker and released two employees. I signed on four brokers: two of which are seasoned, high-producing buyer brokers with large web presences, one newly-licensed broker seeking international markets and one broker seeking re-entry after several career shifts. On a personal level, I regained health and vitality after a medical setback.
And what milestones are you looking forward to?
I’m currently looking forward to growing a synergistic team for my business brand. I want to Attract five or more unique producing brokers with niche markets and strategic alliances within the industry to my firm. I want to become a venture capitalist, open a larger office space, provide classess to the public, and even offer internet cafe style business options for brokers and small business owners.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a business venture?
Seek out competitors outside of your market to collaborate with before you launch your business. Overestimate your start-up costs; it’s best to have more than enough when it comes to paying expenses. Set up your books before you start to incorporate your business plan into the mix.
How has writing a business plan helped you in your venture?
It’s helped immensely! I needed this level of detail and a guide to follow every step of the way. I love the educational aspect incorporated into writing the business plan. It helps me consider the questions that a prospective client might ask.