First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrew Hurlburt: Our family has been doing well. We added a beautiful little girl in April, which was an unusual time to have a baby, and our three-year-old son is thriving in the only world he has known. As it has been for so many people, it has been a little isolating, but we welcome isolation from time to time!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bozeman Real Estate Group.
Andrew Hurlburt: My real estate career began in Bozeman, Montana, in 2004. Initially, I was just interested in building a rental portfolio to provide some passive income. That morphed into a career in real estate brokerage when I met great mentors like Tony Wastcoat and Jason Basye. Both had wonderful visions of how to build a business by supporting the community that supports our business. Out of that vision, Bozeman Real Estate Group was born in 2017 as a community-minded, local real estate brokerage.
How does Bozeman Real Estate Group innovate?
Andrew Hurlburt: We take the lessons we learned from working with a major franchised corporation and apply them in much more focused and efficient ways. We have the right people in the right places that are never satisfied with the status quo, and also don’t accept ‘that is the way it is’ as an excuse.
That being said, the real estate industry has always been an ‘innovative’ space. It often looks like salespeople scrambling over one another for the next gimmick, hoping to find a competitive edge. We have spent a lot of time getting back to the basics and have found that to be the best strategy. In a time where everyone is trying to automate, integrate AI, or otherwise remove the human component from a transaction, we are putting increased emphasis on relationships, unique personal communication, and quality of service.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andrew Hurlburt: Having been through tough markets before, I empathize with the pain that businesses feel in other markets or industries. For our real estate market, the pandemic, as well as other political and social factors in our nation, have been a boon for business. People are taking this opportunity to move out of their urban or more populous areas and head out to the mountain west. We have been seeing the trend for years, but now we see it with increased vigor in the current environment.
Bozeman Real Estate Group has gone through several operational adjustments, and we continue to reassess how we operate regularly. Mostly we think about best practices regarding physical space. Protocols regarding meetings, office time, staffing remotely, and how to meet with clients have all changed numerous times in the last six months, and will again undoubtedly in the next. Like most, we look forward to recapturing some degree of normalcy post COVID. We love the people who work with us, and we have a remarkable office culture based on getting together. That has been eroded this year, and we anxiously await the opportunity to rebuild that critical foundation of our company.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrew Hurlburt: There have been some tough choices, but one choice that never had to be made was how to take care of staff. People come first, and it was never a question that we would take care of them.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Bozeman Real Estate Group in the future?
Andrew Hurlburt: We go to great lengths in our office to determine the source of the stress and decide if it is positive or negative stress. If the stress is negative, we try to find ways to turn it positive or eliminate through reorganization or goal-specific tasking. The positive stresses have to be embraced and are what propel us and provide the pressure to implement quality business practices and make the best choices for our people. Stress is a reality and is ultimately unavoidable. We make a point to use that stress to our benefit. If that doesn’t work, sometimes a whiskey helps.
As far as the future, our company has established a strong foothold in the Bozeman real estate market. We intend to continue to grow our presence through the same fundamentals that got us where we are in the first place. It was never our goal to have a huge team, but we hope to have the best. As for me, I will keep working as long as my mind is able.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrew Hurlburt: In our market, there is no shortage of competition. We have an extremely high office and salesperson count per market capita. This is correlated with the low entry barriers into a real estate sales career and the high volume of market activity.
If we continue to hold our agents and staff to a higher standard and not to be satisfied with meeting some of the low bars set in the industry, we will continue to stay ahead of the competition. If, in doing that, we push our competitors to be better and raise those bars along the way, then everyone, particularly the consumers, will benefit. We also believe that by becoming an integral part of the community, it will continue to support our company in return.