the rest of the company how I did them. They
said yes, and pretty soon I was doing training. Then I said, “Why don’t we o;er a service
guarantee?” If ever we don’t do what we say
we are going to do, clients can cancel their
agreements with us with a 24-hour notice. So
we adopted that. Over time, I became more
and more involved, both selling and managing, and became one of the owners.
By 2004 our company had grown to 650
Stock Plan Draws, Retains Talent
agents in 9 o;ces, and we sold to Sotheby’s
International Realty. I served as senior vice
president and managed the Brentwood o;ce
for four years. Then four of us stepped down to form Partners
Trust. We began with one o;ce and 35 agents.
We wanted to di;erentiate ourselves from other real estate brokerages and attract top agents in the area to work with us. One
of the first things we did was develop an equity ownership plan.
We carved out 10 percent of our company to be gifted over the
first four years to those agents and sta; who were willing to
take a shot with our startup company.
We gave out 2 percent the first year, 3 percent the second
year, 3 percent the third year, and 2 percent the fourth year. So,
anyone who was with us the first year got a share of the 2 per-
Dividend Checks Are Awarded
cent, based on their contributions to the company. The second
year, they got a share of 3 percent, and so on. The earlier you
came to work for us, the bigger the bite of the collective apple
you got. The equity ownership plan is in addition to the tradi-
tional commission structure.
Associates receive annual dividends based on company profit
and the amount of stock owned. Last year we awarded the first
dividend checks. Some people got $1,000. One person got a
check for $16,000. Several got $9,000.
As we expand, each new o;ce is organized as a separate limited liability company, and 10 percent of the stock is set aside for
the same ownership program for those associates. Associates
have to stay with the company to keep realizing the dividends. If
they leave, that stock reverts back to the company. If we were to
sell the company, everyone would share in that.
Giving away 10 percent of the company stock means the
founders own a smaller number of shares. I like to think I have
a lesser portion of a greater good. Of course, we want to be
profitable because that keeps the doors open and lights on, but
we believe we have a vehicle that creates a better company and
raises the integrity of the people we work with.
The Case Against Bonuses
Sure, we could have given out bonuses instead of stock, and
that might have been easier and simpler. But stock is more tangible. It has more impact. It says that we’re all part of something
You do have to manage expectations. People who are coming
on board need to understand they won’t have enough money in
three years to buy a second home. It’s really about giving them
skin in the game that creates loyalty and a cohesive group of
We’ve now grown to seven locations and more than 180
agents. Everyone has an ownership interest, and our retention
rate has been tremendous. It’s north of 95 percent.
By Pamela Dittmer McKuen
“It’s really about giving them skin in the game
that creates loyalty and a cohesive group of people.
Our retention rate has been tremendous.
It’s north of 95 percent.
Company Partners Trust Real Estate
Brokerage & Acquisitions
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Number of o;ces: 7 residential, 1 commercial, all in the
Los Angeles area
Number of sales associates: 186 total
2013 gross sales: $1.6 billion with 904 transaction sides
2014 estimated sales: $2 billion with 1,200 transaction sides