Joy and Chris Daniels don't mix faith and fear.
“You can’t start a business and be fearful,” said Joy, who took her team at Re/Max Realty Professionals Inc. and launched her own brokerage — Joy Daniels Real Estate Group Ltd. — in 2010.
In a down housing market that continues to recover, the Susquehanna Township-based company grew from $32 million to nearly $90 million in closed-sale volume last year.
Joy Daniels was the top-selling team in the region and No. 5 in the state, based on 2012 sales figures in a Real Trends Inc. report.
The expectation is $110 million in closed-sale volume this year.
How? Faith, hard work and timing, said Chris, Joy’s husband and the company’s CFO.
“Part of eliminating fear is having a plan,” he said.
The couple poured $1 million into its Old Post Road operations — from office equipment to a colorful logo and prominent signage — to “create the perception” that the business was “not going to fail” as many real estate professionals were leaving the industry.
They used Joy’s likeness and status as a top regional agent, as well as that income, to brand and market their team-oriented business. That includes about $12,000 per month in advertising, with endorsements from national talk show host Glenn Beck and local radio personality R.J. Harris.
“Most signage identifies with a company. It’s generic,” Chris said. “Branding individuals in a large company atmosphere is difficult.”
Perception is reality, he added. But ensuring that perception is a positive one — which will ultimately get them to their goal of financial freedom and independence — also requires mentoring and training team members. Agent support is a big reason for the team’s success and organizational strength, the owners said.
“I have a team and I can depend on them,” Joy said.
Growth and adversity
The gamble has paid off. Sales have grown exponentially each year, and an original team of seven, including three agents, has grown to nearly 40 employees. That includes 17 agents, office staff and the company’s adjacent title firm.
Joy Daniels also has its own photography, staging and sign installation to ensure total control and quality of listings. Some members of the team work just with buyers, others with sellers.
“I think service is what we’re selling,” Chris said. “Maybe it’s because we like to think we’re just a little bit better on the little details.”
Also in the plan was tapping into the West Shore audience.
“It was a big leap of faith,” Chris said, as Joy Daniels expanded to a second office on Market Street in Hampden Township, site of the Harrisburg area’s top brokers, in 2012.
Again, no fear.
“It’s hard to make money the first year. You need to plan for growth and growth takes time,” he said, admitting sales were not strong enough to support a second office then. “The timing of that was a little premature. (But), it’s ultimately what will propel us to the highest level.”
In the company’s $110 million sales projection for 2014, Chris is expecting $40 million on the West Shore.
“We’re thinking this year we’re going to pop,” Joy said, with market demand on the upswing.
The goal is a 50-50 split between the offices. The couple hasn’t ruled out the possibility of further expansion into other midstate markets but said there is no timetable.
There is a lot of joy and flexibility in being an independent broker, Joy said. Not having to answer to corporate bosses is a major advantage, she said.
Of course, being a small but growing real estate business opens the company up to frequent inquiries from larger franchises about joining forces.
Like many independents, Joy Daniels fields those calls, but its owners have rebuffed offers. They said they want to continue to grow the business slowly and organically, even if sales rise at a faster clip.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 56 percent of real estate professionals are still affiliated with an independent, non-franchised company. Brokers and broker associates are more often affiliated with independent companies — about 62 percent — while sales agents are more evenly split.
Sharing the knowledge
Staying on top of technology and having a dependable team is important to business growth today, Joy and Chris said.
But sharing knowledge might be just as critical to the company’s future success.
Through their church, Lives Changed By Christ, or LCBC, the couple mentors young adults through a program called Emerge. It’s a one-on-one program aimed at helping 20-somethings achieve their leadership goals — personally, spiritually and professionally.
“It’s designed as nine months to draw out leadership potential that’s in a 20-something and challenge them to say there are many opportunities to lead,” said John Zeswitz, the LCBC’s executive director of ministries.
The program also has a reverse mentoring effect, he said.
“By interacting with a 20-something, you begin to see how they think about life, opportunity, how you find a path forward, how they use technology or view relationships,” he said.
The transparent nature of the program is applicable to the workplace.
“This helps a business owner understand where a 20-something workforce is and the kind of questions they are asking,” Zeswitz said. “Some of those questions tend to be incorporated into how we treat 20-somethings and also identifies areas where the 20-something needs to grow.”
Two years later, the Dauphin County brokerage opened a second office at 3800 Market St. in Hampden Township.
The company has grown revenue 172 percent since 2010.
2010: 161 closed sales, $32.5 million in closed-sale volume and $951,237 in revenue
2011: 195 closed sales, $42.02 million in closed-sale volume and $1.24 million in revenue
2012: 314 closed sales, $70.74 million in closed-sale volume and $1.97 million in revenue
2013: 404 closed sales, $87.48 million in closed-sale volume and $2.59 million in revenue