Brokers in Focus: Education, guidance key to agent success
Natalie Grubb Campbell, who manages Village Properties alongside her mom, makes sure her agents are "equipped to handle any situation" in a changing market.
"I basically feel like I've been selling real estate since I was 7 years old," said Natalie Grubb Campbell, whose 27-year career unofficially kicked off a few years later in 1996, when her mom, veteran agent Renee Grubb, co-founded Village Properties (Grubb is now the sole broker/owner). Grubb Campbell and her sister, Erin Burns, were at the front desk, helping out and answering phones.
Within the first week of Village Properties' opening its Montecito, California-based doors, 25 top-producing agents walked through them, ready to join the firm. Today, Village Properties is the largest independent brokerage in Santa Barbara County with more than 185 agents and $20 billion in real estate sold since inception. Grubb Campbell sells as part of a top-producing team with her husband, Brian Campbell, while managing the brokerage alongside her mom.
Why do you think those first 25 agents were attracted to an independent brokerage like Village Properties?
My mom moved to Santa Barbara in 1983, and her [former] partner was born and raised there, and they had great reputations in the community. Back then, there was a lot of moving around within the big brands. Agents realized, "I'd rather work for my friend — someone I know, have done transactions with, and trust."
All these years later, how would you define the culture at your brokerage?
Everyone competes but nobody backstabs. It's unbelievable. We give each other total support. What's also unique about us is that agents can pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk to the owner of the company. There is no corporate manager. We have full-time sales managers who can answer questions all day, every day, which has created this community where agents know we have their back.
Another thing that's really indicative of our culture is philanthropy. Our agents are involved with more than 38 nonprofits. My mom also started the Teacher's Fund in 2002, which has donated over $2 million to local classrooms over 21 years.
How have your strategies changed over time, and how much of that is driven by the state of the housing market?
They change a lot. Right now the market has turned. We were in a Covid market where it was like holy moly. You didn't need flyers, brochures or showings for houses to sell. Now, it's back to a market where we have challenges — low inventory and high interest rates. So, we're always educating. With interest rates, we'll have lenders come in and talk to our agents. We want them equipped to handle any situation because the market changes every month.
What's one goal you're focused on over the next 12 months?
We're constantly figuring out ways to help our agents be successful and happy. We want them to have balance, personally and professionally. Yes, we would love to be No. 1 in sales volume, but more than anything, we want to be No. 1 in quality of life.
Integrity is huge for us. Sometimes we have to tell agents, "Let it go. I know it's a big paycheck, but let me tell you where this may lead …" And they listen. My mom has over 40 years of experience. I have over 27 years of experience. [Sales manager] Bob Curtis has over 30 years. We've seen it all and can be great advisors to our agents, which trickles down to them being great advisors to their clients and the community.
How do you define success for your business?
You take care of your clients and they'll take care of you. That's success for us. It's not, "Oh you sold $100 million." Great. And it is great. It's lovely. But it's not how we operate. We want a happy, balanced agent who is taking care of their clients and their clients are happy with them.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Renee Grubb was born in Santa Barbara. Her business partner was born there, but she moved there in 1983.