Clicks and Mortar All Over Again

Once upon a time while working at Charles Schwab, all of us received a copy of CEO Dave Pottruck’s new book, Clicks and Mortar. In it, Dave discussed the changing face of business and how a physical presence was becoming less and less necessary.

It dealt largely with the brokerage front (or so I gathered from the dust jacket, since I didn’t actually read it), how consumers were less impressed with a physical office than online ease of access.

More or less common sense now, when you think of it, but revolutionary as hell back in 1999. Oh, and by the way, then the Tech Bubble burst, NASDAQ crashed, Pottruck left (sadly, I was outed the week before and didn’t get to hear the reaction) and the notion already had become a touch of an inside punch line.

Fast forward to the present day … and here I blatantly piggyback on top of a post written by my broker about consumer expectations/desires for physical real estate offices.

I’m now a full fiscal quarter into my switch to Thompson’s Realty from RE/MAX, which is significant mostly because when I departed I told my former owners if the move wasn’t working out as I had foreseen I would know within a quarter or so and would beat tracks back to the balloon.

So far, it hasn’t worked out as foreseen … it’s been quite a bit better.

Some has been due to the new office – two of the escrows I’ve already closed came from office leads and that helped in the transition, and the relative ease of paperwork has made life simpler (sort of, kind of, given the volume of late).

Some has been due to what seems to be the natural reaction when changing offices, the sink or swim instinct that tends to get agents hustling a bit more.

Some has happened to be timing, as past clients are reaching the point where they are looking to make a change or finally convincing friends it’s time to make a move to the sun.

Having said that, it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses.

I’ve had to explain more than once that I know precious little about Gilbert (other than it seems to sprawl on forever); my office address is there, but I’m still here in Glendale just as I’ve been for most of the past 20 years.

Not having a physical office has made perfect sense to current clients who already know and like me. New clients? They’re nodding when I explain it all to them – not worth spending what I was spending to have an office I rarely used, the Internet allows me to work anywhere there’s WiFi, etc. – but I’m not sure the words always are sinking in, if you know what I mean.

Jay mentions RETT East … there’s nothing like it on this side of town, though I do have an escrow company that has an empty office for me should I ever need one. (And they’re good with escrows, too.) I’m out here on a virtual island, pun somewhat intended. There is one other agent with my brokerage on this side of Central, the next closest agent is a mile or so east of that.

It’s mostly just me. And Tobey.

And … well, that’s okay. When I was at Century 21, I often found myself in the office just to see who wanted to head to lunch. When I went to RE/MAX, I found myself in the office if I had to meet clients, check mail or pick up a check. Rarely did I stop in just for the heck of it all – maybe once a month, tops.

Now, I’ve embraced my inner curmudgeon. Lunch is spent with my Kobo at one of my regular haunts and, other than the fact I’m pretty sure the beagles are speaking back to me, I think I’m handling the changes fairly well.

(I’m joking. … What? … C’mon, Tobey, they’ll think I’m crazy … yeah, you’re right.)

Bottom line … if I wanted a fancy office to call home, I could have it again tomorrow. I’m not an outcast or a reject; in fact, I’m pretty damn good at this job. And I’m running the business essentially exactly how I want it run (well, except for having Petra Nemcova or Olivia Wilde as my personal assistant.)

Offices are nice but it’s what you do inside those walls – or, in my case, outside – that really matters in this business.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • BawldGuy 7 years ago

    Funny how we evolve. Though I still maintain an office, the next client I meet there this year will be the first. That’s a bit misleading as 98% of my clientele has come from outside my local market the last several years. So why keep the office?

    Now marketing again to locals. I suspect having an office is more important to my investment clients than to house agents’ clients. Or, that distinction could be erroneous. I still like having the option of spending office time working undisturbed in a ‘work’ atmosphere. Yeah, I know, it’s in my head — but it works for me.

    Regardless of the virtual office trend, and what many consumers say, my experience is an office conference still sets the tone for professionalism. That said, I’m convinced, again through personal experience, that meeting at Starbucks hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference, with one exception.

    If I meet them for the first time in the office, it feels like the client reaches their comfort zone with me a bit sooner. Make sense?

  • teresa boardman 7 years ago

    I have been working exactly the same way myself for almost two years and there isn’t a downside for me either. I know how hard you work and I am really happy that this is working out for you. It should get even better as time goes on.

  • Another Investor 7 years ago

    I agree with Bawld Guy that an office is important in the investment world. I’m on the client side of the business, and I’m sure as heck not going to discuss my net worth, available capital, or investment objectives at a local Starbuck’s. In addition, I think investment brokers need the image of stability and success an office projects. I want to know an investment broker, who, if he or she is any good is also an investment advisor, is someone whose advice should be given weight. An office presence is part of building my confidence in that person.

  • Jonathan Dalton 7 years ago

    Understandable but not universal … I recently met an investor at a Starbucks in Anthem, have since turned him over to Jeff Brown for future investing purposes. There absolutely are going to be some clients who want to meet in an office but given the extremely small percentage who have wanted/needed that through the years, it didn’t make any sense to carry that overhead pointlessly.

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