The Collaborative Edge broker collective: Amy Bernstein, Amy Garvey, Audrey Gourguechon, Keki Cannon and Kelli Gould

'Collaboration over competition' fuels Chicago broker collective 

The Collaborative Edge is a group of five brokers who manage their own client relationships but share time and resources to help one another succeed.

June 26, 2023
4 minutes

Key points:

  • The brokers had already been working together out of the same @properties office in the Chicago suburbs.
  • Members offer each other support in the form of strategy and expertise as well as client coverage.
  • Trust is important, and so is committing to their principles and mission statement of winning together, they said.

It's not easy to be in real estate right now. As the market continues to cool, agents are forced to compete for a limited supply of listings — and conventional wisdom would suggest that downturns are moments where it's every person for themselves. 

But the members of The Collaborative Edge — a team of five veteran brokers located in and around Chicago's North Shore suburbs — don't see it that way. The group is composed of Amy Bernstein, Amy Garvey, Audrey Gourguechon, Keki Cannon and Kelli Gould, who are all affiliated with @properties Christie's International Real Estate.

"This industry had, for the past many decades, grown to be very competitive and cutthroat, and we're just not interested in that," Gould told Real Estate News. "There is a newer mindset, globally speaking, of 'let's do this together and let's win together.' Collaboration over competition is something we try to live by."

The makings of a broker 'collective'

Formally established earlier this year, The Collaborative Edge is not a team in the traditional sense, said member Amy Bernstein. There is no team leader, each broker maintains their own client base and listings, and members have equal say in decisions.

"It is essentially a collaboration between independent brokers," Gould said. "We all still own our own client relationships, but we call each other in for support and expertise where needed. Think staging, marketing strategy, and all the different areas that we as individuals have different strengths." Cannon and Gourguechon used to run separate staging companies, so they share tips and assistance with the rest of the members when preparing listings for sale.

Collective members also provide backup for each other. If one of the brokers has a listing and is unable to show it, for example, another collective member would provide coverage for them. There's also a shared social media presence

The inspiration for the collective came from the Bond Collective in LA, the group said, a merger of two teams whose members appeared on the popular reality shows Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles and Buying Beverly Hills. 

While The Collaborative Edge members all regularly saw each other and had coffee out of their shared office, it wasn't until attending a conference earlier this year that the five brokers decided to formalize their collaborative effort, Cannon said.

"In one of our coffee talks, I just kind of threw it out there and everyone's like, 'Why don't we do it? Why don't we try it? And how will it go?' So we were meeting weekly and brainstorming, and in those moments, we knew we needed a business plan, a concept and a marketing strategy," Cannon said. 

Managing challenges by focusing on clients as the north star

While the prospect of forming a new agent collective was exciting, the group knew there would be some challenges. While all five were committed to collaborating and helping one another succeed, there are, naturally, going to be questions about how to handle tricky situations. 

But this is where trust comes in. By committing to the effort, the members are putting their own businesses — and their reputations — on the line, but they also worked to first ensure there was mutual agreement and understanding around the core philosophy and principles of winning together.

"We were very purposeful about the people that we wanted to be in the collective," Bernstein explained. "We wanted people that worked hard and were dedicated yet had a little bit of competition. But at the core, we all believe, and it's in our mission statement, that there's room for everyone to be successful."

The group discussed situations or scenarios where there could be friction, Bernstein added. As an example, if two of the members of the group were going into a listing presentation, then all five would go into it as co-listing brokers. In other situations, it's about simply providing coverage when needed and making sure clients are taken care of — because ultimately, agents' and brokers' careers live or die on referrals and repeat business. 

"We feel that as long as we keep our clients' best interests in focus that will result in the best decisions for everybody," Bernstein said. "And the only way we're going to continue growing is by building relationships with every single one of our clients," Cannon added.

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