Dorsey Alston ‘seems more like a home than an office’

Dorsey Alston employees enjoy a catered lunch during a break in continuing education classes at their Buckhead location.
Dorsey Alston employees enjoy a catered lunch during a break in continuing education classes at their Buckhead location.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Nearly 3,000 companies were nominated or asked to participate in the 2020 Top Workplaces contest by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its partner, Energage. Employees across the metro area responded to print and online solicitations that began appearing in September. 

Using survey results, a list of 150 workplaces was compiled, consisting of 22 large companies (500 or more employees), 63 midsize companies (150-499 employees) and 65 small companies (149 or fewer employees). 

» See all the AJC Top Workplace winners for 2020 here

Carson Matthews is Senior vice president and managing broker at Dorsey Alston.
Carson Matthews is Senior vice president and managing broker at Dorsey Alston.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Real estate agent Carson Matthews still remembers the sales pitch Michael M. Rogers used in 2017 to persuade him to work at Dorsey Alston, Realtors.

“He told me about the family environment, and that really spoke to me,” said Matthews, now the managing broker and a senior vice president at Dorsey Alston, the city’s oldest privately owned residential real estate company and the AJC’s 2020 Top Workplace in the midsize category.

“I wanted to be in a place like home, where I loved the people I was around every day and where the leadership was overwhelmingly supportive,” Matthews said.

Rogers, president and owner of Dorsey Alston, gives much of the credit for the company’s success to the late Spalding White, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient he hired in 2008 as a senior partner.

“Spalding’s model of servant leadership and the loyalty it fostered among his team members reshaped our culture,” Rogers said.

He recalled that White, when he was first hired, was pessimistic about being able to recruit agents to come to work at Dorsey Alston.

A week after hiring White, Rogers looked out his office window.

“There was literally a moving truck backed up to our front door. The truck was filled to the ceiling with closed files and legal papers,” he said. “Agents were following in their cars.”

Dozens of agents who had worked with White wanted to follow him to Dorsey Alston. They knew White and knew he still lived by the philosophy he’d had in the military: If his troops were working, he needed to be working.

“It created this underlying level of loyalty that he had grossly underestimated,“ Rogers said.

Dorsey Alston’s army of real estate agents swelled that year from 55 to 110.

“That set the stage,” Rogers said. “That was the proverbial tipping point for us.”

Today, the culture at Dorsey Alston is all about supporting the selling agents. Three senior managers and Rogers are always at the agents’ beck and call.

“We view our agents as our clients and exist only to support them in any way we can,” Rogers said.

In 2017, Dorsey Alston became the first real estate firm in metro Atlanta to offer its real estate agents, who are independent contractors, a health insurance plan.

“That was something I really underestimated the value of,” Rogers said. “Every year at renewal time, I get notes from people saying what a blessing it is in their lives.”

Also unusual in the real estate business: The firm does not charge its agents a monthly or annual affiliation fee, just the customary share of the agents’ sales commissions.

» Servant leadership puts agents first at Dorsey Alston, Realtors

Dorsey Alston president Michael Rogers said the firm's slow growth has been deliberate so it doesn't "jeopardize what we already have."
Dorsey Alston president Michael Rogers said the firm's slow growth has been deliberate so it doesn't "jeopardize what we already have."

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Company has deep Atlanta roots

The firm was founded in 1947 by Roy Dorsey, a close friend of Michael Rogers’ grandfather. Rogers’ father purchased the company from Dorsey in the mid-1980s and ran it until his death in 2000.

Rogers, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School, then took over. The firm had 26 real estate agents at that time, 55 agents in 2007 and 110 agents in 2008. Today, it has 250 real estate brokers and has been the No. 1 individual sales office for Buckhead home sales since 2009.

Agents are based out of three offices: East Cobb, equipped with a Peloton stationary bike and unisex showers; a three-story building in Buckhead with marble floors, ornate meeting rooms, an expansive terrace and a cobblestone driveway; and a new office in Virginia-Highland.

Rogers said the company “treats our staff members like mature adults.

“There’s no micromanaging,” he said. “They can set their own hours, and we don’t track vacation days. Our philosophy is as long as you get your job done …”

Rogers said the company’s growth has “been slow and deliberate.

“We don’t want to grow too fast and jeopardize what we already have,” he said.

» Meet the remaining top five midsize companies

Kristen Bates, senior vice president of operations, has worked at the firm six years.
Kristen Bates, senior vice president of operations, has worked at the firm six years.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Kristen Bates, who has worked at Dorsey Alston for six years and is its senior vice president of operations, said she doesn’t think she’ll ever leave the firm.

“It feels like this is where I am supposed to be,” Bates said.

“We have fun every day. We laugh every day. The building seems more like a home than an office,” she said.

Austin Landers, who joined the firm last year, said he came to Dorsey Alston primarily because of the work culture.
Austin Landers, who joined the firm last year, said he came to Dorsey Alston primarily because of the work culture.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Austin Landers, who joined the firm in June 2019 after working six years in Atlanta real estate, came to Dorsey Alston primarily because of the work culture.

“I wanted a smaller firm, a boutique firm — family-style,” Landers said. “It’s really the camaraderie at Dorsey Alston that I’ve not seen at any of the other firms in town. We really, truly feel like a work family.”

READ MORE ABOUT THIS COMPANY AND OTHER WINNERS

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» Meet the remaining top five small companies

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