REach selects a truly diverse set of companies each year, and they select based on potential rather than just your current footprint. This means that while some REach members may be established companies that are trying to expand into the real estate vertical, others may be products in earlier stages of validating their market potential.
But no matter where you stand compared to your fellow "classmates," remember you were hand-picked from hundreds of entries by the thought leaders at NAR, the REach program and its mentor network who believed in your potential to disrupt and/or enhance the industry. Regardless of your growth stage, REach will help you focus on your strengths, meet you where you are and arm you with the tools you need to grow and succeed.
2. Know where you want to go
The best way to get the most out of REach is to have your key goals and your biggest challenges identified at the outset so you can work diligently to overcome them over the course of the program.
Our two main questions for the team at NAR and Second Century Ventures were:
How can we scale our business through complementary products and new business models?
How can we grow faster by broadening our exposure and reach (no pun intended) with the key decision makers and influencers of the industry?
The REach team and its mentor network helped us explore and vet new product ideas and business models, many of which are well on their way to becoming a reality. They provided their expert insight and industry knowledge that would otherwise have taken months or even years to garner. Besides being mentors and brainstormers, they were our biggest champions. We trusted their opinions and that has already started to pay off.
We owe a large part of our momentum gained in 2014 to REach — we grew sales almost 35% and revenue by 40%. We landed more than $14 million in growth equity funding. We "spread our wings" to several brokers and franchises at the highest levels. We were invited to speak at major industry events and tradeshows on the hottest topic of these times: how big data and analytics can be leveraged to strategically grow a real estate business. And that's just the icing on the cake....
3. Ask… and you shall get
Like with any such program, you will "get as much out of it as you put into it." But know from the start that no one is more committed to your success than the team at NAR REach and Second Century Ventures. So feel free to ask, and they are more than happy to do everything they can to help. When we wondered how to get coverage in certain publications and trade shows, how to get acquainted with certain industry leaders, or if we could vet our financial model, we weren't shy about asking the REach team for guidance. We were always pleasantly surprised with what they could do for us.
We not only met some fantastic clients through our REach connections, we also became friends with many innovators who transparently shared ideas and experiences with us to keep us motivated. REach went out of its way to schedule back-to-back mentor meetings at industry shows, and these discussions were worth every minute. First off, it's somewhat of a miracle to get 15 to 20 mentors to talk to the REach companies all in one day. This goes to show the "clout" REach has within the industry. Plus, these mentors were totally committed to the meetings, willing to answer any questions and followed up on action items after the fact. To get the most mileage out of these mentor meetings, do your homework. Read up on the mentors and come prepared with a list of topics to discuss.
4. Do the work
My last piece of advice is to not take this year for granted. Once your business starts to take off, a year goes by in the blink of an eye. Stay active and engaged, and accept the daily guidance offered by your advisors, mentors and the REach team.
Try not to say no to any opportunity to meet a new contact, and don't turn down meetings even if you're not sure how it could relate to your success. Part of making it to the top of an industry is being a humble leader who is willing to share your success strategy, contacts and time.
I truly believe that by taking full advantage of the REach program, you can catapult your company to its most successful point. You'll also meet incredible people who will become your venture's biggest champions and brand ambassadors.
To the NAR REach Class of 2015: Welcome aboard! Get ready for your best year yet.
SmartZip is the leader in big data and predictive analytics for the real estate industry.