Managing for Growth
Budge Huskey is now president and COO of Coldwell Banker's Florida West operation.
By Sean Roth
Real Estate Editor
The biggest real estate agency in Florida has a new local face. After several years of trying to handle the state's growth and her corporate duties, Judy Green, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc., has moved on to serve as a senior vice-president of NRT Inc. At the same time, NRT officials decided to split Green's region into three and to have the Florida West president and COO oversee the Sarasota home office.
Southwest Florida is now under the purview of Budge Huskey, 44, the former regional vice-president for Coldwell Banker Residential, Orlando.
"Six months ago, prior to the promotion, my wife and I were talking about developing a grand plan where we would somehow aspire to have a small place on the West Coast," Huskey says.
With the new strategy, Huskey will make decisions for the residential and commercial brokerage, mortgage, The Condo Store, real estate school, Previews (luxury) and title divisions from Panama City south to Marco Island.
Scratch Huskey's career choice to modeling. Huskey's father, Everette, has been a Realtor in Central Florida for half a century. In 1967, Everette Huskey founded Orlando's Huskey Realty.
After completing an MBA at Wake Forest University in 1984, Budge Huskey returned to Central Florida and went to work at his father's firm.
"There was nothing really exciting about working for my father when I was 24," Huskey says. "Most kids don't aspire to work for their family. But I was the only family member who had the business training. Most of my family members are college professors or school teachers. I became a little more drawn into it when I got involved in development and the new homes sales side of the business."
The majority of the Huskey Realty's work dealt with brokering residential real estate, but the realty company also did single-family and multifamily residential development of its own.
"He was a seven-day a week salesman," Huskey says of his father. "I learned a lot from him. At one point (in the late '80s and early '90s) we were the largest realty firm in the Orlando market. But like a lot of markets, the competition became more fierce. We no longer had the resources and the capabilities to keep up with the larger firms - firms with national branding and a huge scope of services."
It was Judy Green who introduced Huskey to the Coldwell Banker organization. The two met at a Realtor Association meeting eight years ago. After his father decided not to sell the company, Huskey left his father's firm for Coldwell Banker.
"My father wasn't ready mentally or emotionally to sell the company," Huskey says. "I split off from my father and went to work for Coldwell Banker, and 18 months later, we went back and acquired Huskey Realty."
Huskey started as a branch manager for a high-growth Orlando office. His management talent was quickly recognized. He was promoted from branch manager to district manager and on to regional vice president.
In 1998, the Orlando Area Association of Realtors recognized him as the Realtor of the Year for his management of the Longwood office and past service in various positions with the association.
So, when Green was ready to move into the NRT role full-time, it provided Huskey the opportunity for advancement and a move to Sarasota.
Coldwell Banker combined its eight local operating companies in Broward, Central Florida, Miami-Dade, Northwest, Palm Beach, Sarasota Bay, Southwest, and Tampa Bay into Florida East and Florida West.
"We are the largest realty company in the state by sheer numbers - volume of transactions - and geographic reach," Huskey says. "Our coverage area stretches all the way from Panama City to Key Biscayne. There is a huge wealth of talent in a company of our size."
Ultimately, Huskey is charged with charting the course of the company's regional operations. His role will be two-fold.
He'll get out in the field and work with senior regional vice presidents, branch managers and agents, he says, adding, "This week I'm going to an agent advisory sit-down with some of the most talented agents. My job is to bring back that information on where the markets are going and utilizing that to improve the quality of our services."
Sue Lewis will continue to oversee operations in Manatee and Sarasota counties, he says.
Secondly, Huskey oversees 130 employees in the Sarasota home office, which handles a wide range of support services, including marketing, legal, facilities and computer technology, for the state.
Asked about the competitiveness of real estate and how the large corporate giant competes, he says: "One of the best things about NRT is that it has grown just by competing day-to-day in the streets earning business and through acquisitions. This is a very entrepreneurial company; it doesn't exercise a true corporate structure. Real estate is still a very local business."
The primary advantages of a company the size of Coldwell Banker, according to Huskey, comes mainly in the area of national marketing. "We are considered the premium brand," Huskey says. 'This is because of our national advertising. We have a company-wide approach to the Internet through floridamoves.com. It is just more of an institutional nature. We provide the individual agents an image."
In addition, Coldwell's size allows it to keep costs per transaction lower than average.
The structure seems to be working - every Coldwell market in the state has experienced double digit sales increases. Most of the seven markets have experienced more than a 30% increase in sales from 2003 to 2004. The lowest increase was metro Orlando, which grew by 10.6% from $1.995 billion to $2.206 billion.
"We have clearly all been the recipients of a phenomenal five-year run," Huskey says. "It used to be that people could go on vacation for three to four months. But we are clearly intent on aggressive growth. We are expanding our marketing. We are also growing into new geographic areas, and we are looking very aggressively at acquisitions."
Although, by most measures, Coldwell Banker's structure is considered traditional - focused more on services rather than the lowest price- Huskey says it hasn't limited the company from expanding into new areas quickly, particularly on the Internet and in the changing local market.
"We have been very proactive and aggressive in how we address national changes in the demographics," Huskey says. "We want to be able to mirror the communities we serve. This is not just the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do for future business."
NRT has hired a vice president in charge of diversity to put systems in place to ensure the company is hiring agents who can best service its customers, he says. In Florida that means preparing for the huge growth in the Hispanic market.
"We have a keen sense of awareness that this is a very diverse market," Huskey says. "We are not just going to be painting with a broad stroke to the entire Hispanic market. There are great differences in people based on their country of origin. We have some creative programs that were developed in the Miami area that we could move over here in the near future."
Coldwell Banker Residential has about 8,000 sales associates in 164 office locations statewide. On a combined basis, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc. was responsible for $18.9 billion in closed sales volume and 75,585 total units sold in 2003.
Closed Unit Volume September - August
Southwest 1,762,684,000 2,349,089,000 33.3%
Sarasota Bay 1,449,567,000 1,934,684,000 33.5%
Tampa Bay 2,439,273,000 2,985,786,000 22.4%
Northwest 287,136,000 432,088,000 50.5%
Orlando 1,995,462,000 2,206,021,000 10.6%
Palm Beach 3,017,274,000 3,708,837,000 22.9%
Broward 2,836,956,000 3,690,676,000 30.1%
Dade 2,652,150,000 3,682,199,000 38.8%
Total Florida 16,440,502,000 20,989,380,000 27.7%