Meet Teresa Mack of Pacific Playa Realty
Hi Teresa, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am a second-generation entrepreneur who would have never guessed that I would co-found the largest 100% Black-owned, managed and operated real estate brokerage in Los Angeles. My background as a Certified Public Accountant and an attorney suggested a much more structured professional career. I am a mother of three thriving young adults who were kids when I started my journey into real estate and my business has become a part of their lives also. The merger between life and business occurs very early in most entrepreneurial journeys and mine was no exception. I fell in love with real estate 15 years ago, on a quest for independence and income and a real opportunity to contribute to my community. Not wanting to pursue graduate school any further than law school, I left my very stable job with the federal government and went about getting my real estate license which at that time seemed like a simple way to the road to riches and independence.
Naturally as soon as I had my feet under me in real estate sales (selling about $3 million dollars in volume), fresh out of sales training and with a large national franchise – the real estate industry underwent a full-blown crash that was the catalyst for a national economic downturn that turned the entire industry on its head. In that challenge was the greatest opportunity for growth and talent development. My business partner and I became masters at distressed sales and helping homeowners maintain their real estate – we were creative, knowledgeable and we were not afraid to look at problems from new and different angles and with the understanding that there was no more “business as usual.” As my sales grew to $12 million per year, I brought 14 new agents to my office, I began to think about my next step, my business partner and I contemplated starting a real estate team but that felt “small.”
In 2010, we won the bid to open a national franchise office in Los Angeles. We selected a site in Westchester outside of our “comfort zone,” we opened the office with six rented desks and a manager that we fired within the first three months. Growth was slow because we were learning and growing at the same time, recruiting agents and building a business while still selling real estate to keep the lights on and the rent paid. I was known as the number one agent – primarily because I was the first agent in our brokerage. I was also the first broker and later became the general manager – yes we wore every hat there was to wear in the business but ultimately grew it from 1 agent to over 250 agents in 2015. Because we grew our business in the midst of a recession, we kept our expenses very low, not to mention paid ourselves nothing for several years reinvesting everything back into the business.
In the franchise system, we were thriving, the only problem was that we felt like a cog in a wheel. We had a strong company culture and a mind for doing things differently, we believed in business simplicity, strong routines and personal accountability with a community emphasis, Our priorities and values were not the priority of the national franchise so in 2015 when our franchise agreement was up for renewal, we took an unprecedented step and we declined to renew our franchise agreement – we went independent. For the last five years, we have intentionally trimmed our ranks to 80 agents who are all focused on extreme excellence, community contributions, client service and professional development. We have a daily coaching program that incorporates accountability, celebrations and up-to-the-moment training tips. We stay connected to our agent body, our staff and our clients – daily. In this age of technology and separation, our corporate culture and coaching has kept us on track, profitable and cohesive.
As an entrepreneur, it is critical that your product or service is excellent and that you have developed and operate an efficient and high functioning business. The franchise experience taught me a structured way to run a brokerage and allowed me to be free to add creativity, corporate culture and to tailor our services for our local market. Some experiences are necessary both to build business muscle and to create opportunities to learn but learning from the success of others and building from their experiences can save a business person key time and often money – in my case, the franchise start was a big boost to my understanding of an industry that was relatively new to me when I started. Creativity, mastery and consistency are most important factors in the development of my business to date, $30+ million in personal production with a small but smart team of buyer specialists; well over $100 million in brokerage sales with an agent body of 80 and the development of a master training program and a daily coaching program called MPower Live that is broadcasted on Facebook and YouTube. I believe in pushing the limits, learning from mistakes and seeking opportunities to fail and succeed – hopefully not in that order.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
There are no “smooth roads” to entrepreneurial success, the journey is bumpy, hilly and a wild ride – but entrepreneurs like that kind of journey because the rewards are huge and satisfying and the struggle… well that’s where the growth happens. The first struggle was that great recession of 2007 with real estate in the forefront. In addition to my business being affected, my household was affected and many of my family’s investments were devastated. Another challenge was learning to recruit talent and manage staff. In my prior careers (CPA and Attorney) did not require me to manage or motivate people that I worked with and my success as a professional often only required me to do my job well.
As an entrepreneur, you have to lead, motivate, manage and often sell at the same time. A final challenge was learning to create our business structure and be courageous enough to try new things and constantly re-evaluate our operations. Learning to prioritize activities, maintain consistency and push new limits are all critical for growth and sustainability in trying times. A solid daily routine, a commitment to mastery, integrity and client service and a positive mindset in the face of challenges help, a strong team is also critical and that team requires daily nurturing and systematic accountability. We have two calls every day to calibrate our schedules, talk about current issues and connect. Once a week, we have a project update meeting to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and we make weekly calls to every agent in our brokerage. These systems help us overcome challenges and stay on track.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
We are an urban luxury real estate brokerage specializing in Los Angeles residential and small commercial real estate sales. Our competitors are generalists largely not focused on Los Angeles’ urban neighborhoods. Our brand is set apart from the smaller single agent professionals because we have contemporary branding, a solid brand presence in urban areas, an understanding of the nuances that distinguish neighborhoods in Los Angeles, local business, educational and community resources, unexpected gems and transitioning areas that have great promise in the future. I am most proud of the quality professional agents that we produce and support; our training programs are not cookie-cutter, they are focused on current real estate issues, current best practices and the subtle changes that have to be made to master the market for our clients. Our company is large, 80 agents, but we are like a family, helping each other, collaborating and offering advice and support.
Our clients get superior service because of our company culture and often newer agents outperform experienced agents in our markets because they are well prepared and supported. Real estate is normally the most significant asset in a person’s financial picture or the opportunity to purchase real estate can be an extraordinary opportunity to build wealth and stability – these are important steps in the lives of our clients whether they are first-time homeowners or experienced investors/owners. We approach every transaction with care, mastery and commitment that is optimal. Our clients can rest assured that they are our first priority, they will be well educated about the process, well-protected through the process and they will hopefully be clients for life. The relationships that we build with clients last a lifetime span several generations and touch a large sphere of influence. From the top of the company to the bottom and in every nook and cranny, we are committed to helping our clients accomplish their real estate goals.
What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love the diversity in our city and the way that communities are interrelated. I love the sunny, mild weather, the fact that we can enjoy the mountains, the desert and the beach all in one day if we like. I like that the city and its suburbs offer many lifestyle options and the diversity in architecture makes every neighborhood a little unique. I love the innovation and opportunities for creativity that exist at every corner in business, art and education. I could use less traffic and better air quality – but we are working on those!