By Diana Mosher, Editorial Director
Voda Bauer is a new, full-service real estate firm based in Brooklyn, N.Y. with headquarters at the WeWork Fulton Center. Established by real estate veteran Avi Voda and Jason Bauer, the founder of Crumbs Bakeshop, the company is aiming to change the way business in the industry is conducted. The founders believe that the secret to greater productivity for all lies in employee collaboration. So far so good. Within the first 10 days of its launch, the company signed 11 exclusive sales listings that totaled over $22 million. One of the listings is a loft-like apartment at 65 East 76th Street off Park Avenue that’s listed for $4.895 million. Three of the 11 listings are already in contract, less than one month after the launch of Voda Bauer. MHN recently interviewed Jason Bauer about his new business partnership and the ingredients for real estate success.
MHN: What lessons learned or best practices from the cupcake business will you bring to real estate?
I think there are a lot of similarities between the two businesses actually. At Crumbs the reason we had 75 different varieties of cupcakes every single day is because it’s so subjective—what you like, I don’t like. So we try to offer something for everybody and the goal ultimately was to know your customer and provide them a product they want. In real estate our job, our goal as good brokers, is to provide the product that our customers want so we need to be inherently familiar with market conditions and make sure that we’re constantly providing not just the level of service, but also the product that our customer wants. At the end of the day it’s about product and it’s about people. I’m sure there are many lessons and many other experiences at Crumbs that will lend themselves well to the business such as making sure you have the right systems and the right foundation. At the end of the day it’s about people, product and process.
MHN: Tell us about your revenue sharing model.
Bauer: I think one of the benefits I have jumping into this business is that I don’t have a traditional real estate background. I have a business background. I’ve run many successful businesses and any successful business is all about it’s people—its employees—so we were trying to find a way to reward our agents, our brokers, our team for collaboration. We’re all about collaboration. This is how we work; it’s a very collaborative environment. Like other real estate companies where each agent is typically looking out for themselves we wanted to find a way to build some team camaraderie. If our agents are successful, the company is successful. And if the company is successful, why not reward the agents so what we came up with was a program that allows us to give back some of our revenue each month to all of our agents who had deals that month. So, every month we will take a portion of the revenue off the top, not from the agents’ portion, but from the company’s portion—the house’s portion—and give that back to our agents. So if you represented 10 percent of the deals, or dollar volume, a particular month for the company, you will in turn get 10 percent of this pool that’s accumulating each month. Not only do you get to keep your 70 percent on your transaction, but you also get a percentage of the house’s 30 percent based on your productivity. So the more successful you are, the more of that pool you’ll represent. It’s a way for us to reward our agents; but, it doesn’t come for free, right? What do the agents need to do to participate, to benefit from this? They need to share best practices. They need to collaborate. So every week at our sales meeting, we go around the room and it’s up to an agent to share some best practices with the group, help the group, help them grow, help them learn. It could be as simple as showing someone how Twitter or Facebook have helped build their business. It could be something as simple as hearing from an expert at getting the customer to pay six percent when they really want to pay five percent. Share that with the group. Share your best practices, and in turn we’re sharing with you. It’s all about giving and receiving.
MHN: How many agents do you currently have?
Bauer: We launched on day one with a dozen agents. We’re inundated with agents who believe in our approach, in what we’re doing, believe in Avi and myself. And we’re meeting with agents as quickly as possible and hope to bring many more on. Our goal is to have 100 agents by the end of the year.
MHN: Have you been hearing feedback from competitors in the marketplace about this revenue sharing model? Are you the only ones doing this?
Bauer: I have not. We looked high and low to see if there’s anyone out there doing anything similar and there’s not. Not that we were able to see. And if there is, it’s a very small company that flies below the radar. The big or mid-tier or boutique firms aren’t doing anything similar.
MHN: Was the revenue sharing model done as a way to set yourselves apart so you can attract the best talent?
MHN: Will you be focusing primarily on New York City?
Bauer: Yes. Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.
MHN: What are the benefits of having your headquarters at WeWork?
Bauer: I think there are benefits for both agents and the company. From an agent perspective, if you were to close your eyes and picture what it would be like to work in Google’s headquarters or Facebook’s or Yahoo’s headquarters, this is the environment that the WeWork people have created. There’s so much energy here on my floor alone at WeWork. There are like 50 different companies. And people are energetic and they’re working early and they’re working late collaborating and sharing ideas and helping other people on the floor. It’s just incredible energy.