The real estate agents at Dorsey Alston don’t need to be in the office daily. Instead, they’re out showing homes, meeting buyers and sellers, and evaluating new listings.
But when they come in, company president Michael M. Rogers wants to provide an elegant workplace and opportunities for his growing staff to collaborate, learn and socialize.
Dorsey Alston, Realtors, which began in 1947, is the city’s oldest privately owned residential real estate company with officers in Buckhead and Cobb County.
Rogers’ father, E. Paul Rogers Jr., bought the company from founder Roy Dorsey in the mid-1980s. When Rogers’ father died in 2000, the company had 26 real estate agents. Rogers, who returned to the company in 2008 after earning his MBA from Stanford, has grown Dorsey Alston from about 55 to about 240 agents, who work as independent contractors.
The company in 2012 bought a three-story building that is adorned with marble floors, ornate meeting rooms, an expansive terrace and a cobblestone driveway off prestigious West Paces Ferry Road and next to the Atlanta History Center. The Buckhead building, modeled after a Virginia estate, won the adoration of agents used to selling luxury homes and gives a sense of cache among clients.
“The building kind of symbolized the reputation that we were hoping the company would aspire to,” he said.
The workplace arrangement, corporate culture and employees’ personalities create an environment where agents say they feel comfortable sharing information and asking for advice. Rogers turned the former owner’s private office into a classroom and renovated workspaces to remove some existing cubicles and give agents room to connect and collaborate.
“I love that there are lots of agents that come to the office on a regular basis. You can pop into the workroom and just kick out a question, and it’s real easy,” said agent Erin Yabroudy, who joined the firm in 2013. “Real estate is a competitive business, and you don’t feel that by sharing information you’re giving something away or losing out yourselves.”
Broker and vice president Patrick Wood’s desk is next to a table and seating area for agents to chat and work. Sometimes they discuss the pricing on a home or when to hold open houses and caravans for real estate agents.
“The collaboration here really is awesome,” he said. “Agents come and sit and just work, and we talk back and forth and pick my brain, and I help them through things. I get to hear what’s going on, get to talk to them. It’s just fun.”
Wood joined Dorsey Alston in 2008 as an agent and became a broker and vice president in 2015. The company gave him the platform to identify his strengths and evolve his career in an organic way.
“It’s what I love to do,” he said. “I’ve gone my whole life looking for what I want to do and I found it here as a broker.”
In Rogers’ tenure, just four agents have left the firm.
“I come in here thinking about what we’re going to do to support the agents every day,” Rogers said. “Our staff treats our agents almost like they’re our clients. And we want to adopt the Ritz Carlton level of customer service when we’re dealing with our own team.”
Leading and learning
The average Dorsey Alston agent has over 18 years of experience, Rogers said. The mix of younger, tech-savvy agents and brokers, and seasoned veterans gives the opportunity for shared knowledge in informal and formal settings.
Frequent training sessions at the Buckhead office and a second office that opened in east Cobb County in February 2014, cover topics from technology tools to contract changes to insight from experts with law firms and mortgage companies. Continuing education classes and Q&As with senior agents about best practices also are offered. About 55 agents and brokers are involved in one-on-one coaching.
The leadership holds regular free lunches to ask agents for feedback and suggestions. Seasonal parties, such as a Halloween costume party, also have evolved from staff requests.
The Buckhead office’s perks include a gated building for security and covered parking. When it’s rainy or cold, and agents are picking up signs or other marketing materials from the office, parking is easily accessible, Wood said.
But beyond the glamour is what employees and leaders at Dorsey Alston say it a true supportive setting. When an agent had a listing go on the market at the same time as an out-of-state family emergency, she approached Rogers in tears because of the support she received from the staff and agents. The marketing staff finished her flyers and then a fellow agent picked up the flyers, drove them to the Decatur property and manned the open house.
“She was just totally moved by that level of dedication and support,” Rogers said.