Robin Mancuso DeLuna, a second generation owner at one of the top Coldwell Banker franchises in the nation, doubled down on technology to not only keep the family business afloat, but to propel it forward.

Robin DeLuna grew up in Bucks County, daughter of a small business owner. Little did she know, those dinnertime business chats were preparing her for her future as a co owner of a major real estate brokerage. Angela Giovine,  Owner of Happenings Media and host of Extra/Ordinary Small Business podcast visited Robin at her headquarters where she shared her story of working through the ranks at a young age and running a business with family, all in a time when the industry was shifting beneath their very feet.

Below are some excerpts from Angela's interview with Robin Mancuso DeLuna. To listen to the entire interview, click HERE. It is Episode #2. 

Today, Coldwell Banker Hearthside has 10 locations throughout Bucks, Montco, Lehigh Valley and Northampton with over 400 realtors. The company was started by Robin's father.

Angela Giovine:
How old were you when, your dad started the company. Do you have any memories of it?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna: 
I do. So I was about seven years old, and we had just moved to Upper Makefield from Trenton, New Jersey area. And one of our neighbors owned a real estate company in Bristol. And his name was Bill Manyoni, and my dad became really good friends with Bill Manyoni. And he was in Bristol selling real estate. My dad was in Trenton selling real estate. They both lived in the same development in Upper Makefield and they decided to start an office called Manyoni-Mancuso. And they started it, again when I was probably in elementary school, and they started in Upper Makefield one office, and over the course of my elementary and middle school years, they grew the offices to probably about five. And it was in Yardley and Newtown and Richboro area. And again, the original one was in in Upper Makefield in Washington Crossing. And then when I was probably around a junior or senior, they ended up selling the company and decided just to take different ventures go on different paths. And then, that lasted a couple years, they both got little bit crazy and said we got to get back in the real estate business.

Angela Giovine:
They miss it.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
That's in our blood. Right. So that's exactly what they did. And Bill opened up his own real estate company in Yardley, and my dad decided to open up a Coldwell Banker franchise. And the reason why he decided to stay away from the Mancuso name and switch to Coldwell Banker is over the course of the years, he saw that the area was really becoming a huge hub for relocation. We were getting a lot of people from New Jersey, from Philadelphia, from New York. It was really a relocation area and he said nobody knows Mancuso, unless you were from here, you were raised here, you're going to know that name because we've been in the real estate business for a lot of years, but it's not gonna resonate with a client or a customer who's coming in from New York or coming in from California, but they do know Coldwell Banker. Coldwell Banker is a popular name. It's in every city. It's in every state. It's in, you know, it's in. I don't know how many countries, but it's just a well-known brand. That was in 1990… oh my gosh, two?

I think it was in 1992, 92-93. And he started that and my older sister just gotten done college and she went with him to California. And they sat and they met with everybody from Coldwell Banker. And they thought it was just going to be a really good fit, and they thought it was time to bring a national name to Bucks County. And that's what they did. And it it took off, obviously. I started working for him. Gosh, probably maybe a year after he started, he opened up the business? And basically I was, an assistant to some of the agents. I started a conveyancing team within the company and conveyancers help the agents, they give a lot of support to the agents to get them through the transaction with the buyers and the sellers and the mortgage companies.

At this point, Robin had graduated high school and had to choose between going to college or going into the work field. She went into the work field, and actual worked in the travel industry for a year or two. That's when her dad asked her to come work for the company in real estate. A few years later, her younger brother Jamie, who's now her business partner, joined the company.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
So when I started in the business with my dad, I was not allowed to sell real estate. I was not allowed to compete against other realtors. Um he didn't feel it was fair. He's very agent-oriented, my dad. He didn't want any of the agents to think that I was pulling deals from them, I was competing against them. He said it was hard enough as a salesperson, and then to add me into the mix.

It just wouldn't be a fair a level playing field. So I had the choice of going to what was I going to do? Was I going to… get out of the business altogether or would I find another option within the company? So I had a couple of people that we dealt with that were in the title business, and I decided to move in that direction into the title field, and I didn't know anything really about title. But I worked with a woman who worked for a competitor and she was about maybe 20 years older than I was at the time and knew everything about title. So, I met with her for lunch and I said, how about we start a title company, you teach me everything you know about title. And I know this is gonna sound really crazy to my- everybody I work with, because I'm not 100% techie but back then I was like, I'll bring technology. So I was one of the first title companies that showed up at the settlement table with like a laptop,and portable printer and I was all software, because in the beginning, when we I started title, it was a pencil and a calculator and a HUD sheet. And I didn't want to do that. I said, I know I can bring other things to to the title business, if you can just teach me. And that's kind of how our relationship started. And I started the title company and I had the trust from the realtors because I work with them. And believe it or not, the first agent who gave me a piece of title business, still works for the company today.

Fast forward to 2008. Robin is running the title company, and her brother is running the real estate with their dad. The market is tanking.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna: So my dad, was feeling like the markets tanking, we've 20 locations, I think I want to get out. My brother's like, I'm young, I'm going to stay in, but I'm going to need somebody to help me run operations. My brother's an amazing salesperson. He's an amazing coach. He adds so much value to the real estate company, but needed somebody to do day to day operations with which I kind of excelled at. So we talked about it and he said, why don't we just join forces bring title into the real estate and let's just do it together. And we did!

And it was like a work in progress. Because we didn't really know where we both stood. We were both trying to jump in as my dad is getting out. And and my dad couldn't turn over the keys quick enough. He's like, “Bye! good luck. Market's horrible.”

And we and were like, “Okay, what are we gonna do?” And you know, it's really… to take a market that was bad and to say, I'm really going to try to make this successful. I mean, it was like an uphill battle. And we just every day, just kept just kept at it. And we really developed our work relationship in the worst time of the market. But I think for us, it really worked. Because in the beginning, when I started, I was very serious. I was very um… you know, I woke up, there was no, I had to do a job, I had to do it, right. I had to dot my i's and cross my T's.

Angela Giovine:
It's very structured the title part of the process – the operation.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
It was structure and stressful, and I had to make sure everybody got to closing and.. it in it, it was just a whole different way of working. When we got together. It just things opened up for us. We ended up not taking each other so seriously, not taking ourselves so seriously. We thought we have a business to run and we're both going to screw up. We're both going to make mistakes, but if we have each other's back, we're gonna get through it. And there are things that he is so passionate about, that I'm like, oh my gosh, seriously? And I just support him because his passion is so great, I know it's going to be successful. And if it's not, we're going to figure out how to make it successful, or we're going to move on to something else.

Robin and Jamie both brought different strengths to the table. But one thing they had in common was being incredibly agent-oriented. They focused their efforts into doing things that would help the agents grow and become more successful. The realtors, the agents, are all independent contractors. They own their own business. But Robin and Jamie's role is to help them and support them.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
We want to give them as many tools, as many services, we want to continue to to grow their business. Eventually grows our business. So yeah, we're we're all about the agent.

While you'd think that things could get competitive between agents, Robin states that it's actually like a big family. Out of the 400 agents, it's not competitive in a negative way. Everyone respects each other and wants what's best for each other.

Angela Giovine:
Is that a culture that you have to actively maintain in order to keep that healthy rivalry, that healthy competitive nature, or is it something that it's sort of instilled here?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
I think it's instilled and I think it's who we hire. We definitely hire employees for culture, I will tell you that we're probably up to about 52 employees that fully service the agents. I think we figured it out to be like a staff of like three or four employees per agent that helped them with every transaction. So it starts with the foundation. It starts with, I think, our employees,  and the culture our employees have, and I think it goes through with our real estate agents. And I will tell you, we do interview agents, even though they're independent contractors, and they have their own business. If we interview an agent, and we don't feel that they're a right fit for our culture here. We don't ask them to join our team.

Angela, who's also the daughter of a small business owner, asked Robin if she felt like this was in her DNA. Was the small business bug instilled in her at a young age?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
I actually thought about this recently, about, you know, what, what would my life look like if I just went into a different path? What if I didn't go into real estate? What if I decided to be a stay at home mom? What if I decided, you know, to go to a different career? I don't know. I think that, I love what I do. I wake up every morning, happy and excited to come into work. I love working with my brother. I love working with the staff that we have. They're they're an amazing group of people. So I I wouldn't change anything. And I think it's just, it's always been there.

When Robin's dad handed over the keys, it was during the recession. Real estate was one of the hardest hit industries. They had 20 offices, and they had to figure out what they were going to do to turn the business around.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
They were like little offices in in all different boroughs. So you would go into Yardley, and there was an office there, you would go into Newtown, there was an office there. And they were just these little real estate offices. So here we come in and say nope, the markets bad, we need to clean it all up. And how are we going to clean it all up? And my brother is an amazing out of the box thinker. Amazing. He loves change. So to him, this was like, this was not going to

Angela Giovine:
Licking his chops. Ready to go.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
Yeah. He was so excited. I mean, did we both sit and be like, oh my god, I can't believe we're doing this! Yes. But he just had such passion. He's like, we, can turn this around. And he did. What he decided was, let's do corporate centers. So let's close all the little mom and pop offices. Let's roll them into corporate centers. And let's be able to give the agents more technology. A tech lounge, in our offices. Uh you know, the big TVs, the new computer systems. Let's do corporate locations. And we started here, and we took like five or six of the surrounding offices, and we put them all in Newtown into our corporate center. And I have to say, I think it was the best move we could have made. I mean, he was like dead on with this vision that he had, and it couldn't have been more successful.

They were able to cut costs by consolidating rents, but more than that, it improved the culture. While Robin was focused on the numbers, Jamie was thinking about the people.

Angela Giovine:
There's a yin and yang.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
Right. He saw we can make this a really great thing. So and that's what and that's what he saw and and he was totally dead on and it did. It change the camaraderie. You know, it what's difficult about having all of those locations and even now we're we went from 20 to about 10. You know, you still get the offices that feel like, oh, we're left out or oh, they don't see us. We don't see them. We try, as so hard to get into every office and to be involved with every agent and we have more programs that have been developed and started to bring all of us together. You know, we do everything from like cocktail parties, to training seminars that Jamie and I are completely involved. We do what's called a roadshow, we go out to the offices, and just give updates on what's going on within the company. We really try to be at all the offices as much as we can. But it's so hard. So can you imagine if we had 20, it would have been impossible. And everybody, at some point feels left out. So by making them corporate offices, and by pulling people together, I feel like it's it's been huge. Communication wise, camaraderie wise, team building wise, it's been a it's been a great thing.

Big changes were happening, but Robin and Jamie were confident that every change they made was for the benefit of the agents. They were doing everything they could think of to move forward with the times, get agents paid faster, process the work quicker, and still provide the best customer service. And they're still doing that today. It never stops.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
We can't. We don't have a break to say, oh, okay, we're good. It's constantly okay, what can we do next? And what we could, what can we do next? You know, some of our best ideas are best things we've implemented, have really come from the agents. And, they know they have an open door with both Jamie and I, there's no middle. So they come right to us. Hey, did you think about this? Or hey, did you thought about that? And we're like, no, we haven't. Right, let's just try it. And we're constantly okay, let's just try it. And if it fails, it fails. But we're going to fix it.

Along with changes in the way the offices were structured, technology has also changed just about everything in the business.

Angela Giovine:
What are some of the biggest changes in technology that you've seen in your industries over the years?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
Oh my gosh. What what what hasn't there been? Tech wise with within the company? I mean, we've changed everything from when we started. It's very funny because we still use this story all the time. My dad was like, do we really need a fax machine? Do we have to do a fax machine? So I remember that being really big that was very funny back then, listening to him at the dinner table and he would say that. But tech wise – everything. Everything we do is is technology based. From searching your home, you know, with the app on your phone, our website, you know the way we handle agreements of sale, the way a customer can, we can sit down with a customer and do a listing presentation.

I mean, there really is isn't a need for a piece of paper at all. So, operations wide technology is huge. On a customer standpoint, we need to get their house out there to everybody as fast as possible. So sure, it's gonna be all tech base.

In addition, the days of looking up real estate listings in the newspaper are basically over. Everything is online.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
So now, not only are we in real estate, and not only are we in title but we have our own marketing company. 

That solely markets the properties that these that the sellers are are are selling. One of the first things the marketing person who's running our marketing department said to us was, you know what, let's just do Facebook for all our open house heads. We're like, okay, done. So and she's been extremely successful with that. Of course technology is, but without that marketing piece, it's not going to do anything once you put it up online. So you need the marketing piece. And the marketing goes from marketing the agent, branding the agent, coming up with an agent's logo, to marketing the home, taking pictures of the home, brochures of the home.

Angela Giovine:
There's probably a million different technologies you can use. How do you decide when to hold what you have and when to make a change? And do you see a lot of things changing on the horizon?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
So I would say, that this is where we really depend on our amazing group of employees and our staff that we have and our leadership team. Because they're the ones that keep bringing things to us. Um and then they are constantly testing everything. They they they bring things to us, they hash it out, will it work? Won't it work?They put research into it, we try things, we test more things. We always say, we'll beta test, we'll beta test, we beta test everything that comes down the pipe to see if it will work for us. And I really have to say that it's our leadership team. So the group that Jamie and I work with, are an amazing group of people that never stop and they treat the company like it's their own company, and they want that for the agents also.

When you're a small business, you need to be willing to try things …

Angela Giovine:
I think that's one thing that makes small business so amazing, is that you can just try something and you know, move on if it doesn't work or double down if it does.

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
We just always have so much in the pipeline. There's always so much that we're doing. It's amazing to me. And I have to say, Jamie is so creative. He's got that creative brain. So he just keeps things they'll bring something and he'll be like, why can't we do this? and why can't we do that? So it's great, I think between the art like I said, our leadership team and Jamie always outside the box thinking, just works.

And you're always looking ahead.

Angela Giovine: What is your vision for the future of the company?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
We want to continue to grow and we want to continue to embrace technology, embrace the marketing. Real estate isn't what it used to be so, and we got that.We just want to be the go-to for the realtors. So what does my future look like, what does our future look like for the real estate company, for the Coldwell Banker Hearthside? We're still going to be here, we're still going to have our feet planted, we're still going to be a local business owner in our footprint and hope that the agents trust us and know that we have their back and we want their continued success and growth.

Angela ends every Extra/Ordinary Small Business interview by asking two questions.

Angela Giovine:
Finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today, if not for…

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
Work wise, I won't be standing here if it wasn't for my brother. It's we have an amazing work relationship and I love coming to work everyday so I would not be standing here, in this position if it wasn't for him – if it wasn't for Jamie.

Angela Giovine:
Okay. And what is one piece of advice that you would tell your eighteen year old self?

Robin Mancuso DeLuna:
Probably not to be so serious. It's all… you know things happen every day and you just can't get stuck on one thing. You just have to keep moving and those, you just not to be so serious.

What you've read here are excerpts from Episode #2 of Extra/Ordinary Small Business Podcast. In the full interview, Robin also shares more about having a family business, her mentors, being a woman business owner and more.

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For more information about the Extra/Ordinary Small Business Podcast, please head to extraordinarysmallbusiness.com

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