LOS ANGELES—Four months after taking the reigns as Lee & Associates interim president and chairman of the board, Jeff Rinkov is officially named the firm’s permanent CEO and chairman of the board. Rinkov stepped into the position in November after the former CEO, Ed Indvik, stepped down. In this new position, Rinkov will lead Lee’s ongoing and noteworthy national expansion. To find out exactly what this expansion entails, we sat down with him for a one-on-one interview.
GlobeSt.com: What are your major goals as the new CEO and chairman of the board for Lee & Associates?
Jeff Rinkov: The number of goals is numerous, but I think they all fall under a handful of categories. We’re looking to do things that help empower our agents and create better resources for clients, and that is really the thrust of our focus. So, we’re looking to develop better marketing materials and better marketing methods and processes, both on the national level and to assist local offices. Expansion continues to be a large-scale goal for Lee & Associates, and we are really focused on strategic market expansion. The brand identity is going to come from promoting the number of specialties that we offer. We have and are continuing to develop a number of specialty practice groups and disciplines that will do a very good job going forward of messaging to the market and to our clients, and we think that ties in to our national presence and helps us create targeted expansion.
GlobeSt.com: On which geographic regions are you focusing your expansion? Any news you can share about new office openings in other markets?
Rinkov: I am going to be a little coyer than I would prefer, but what I can tell you is that in the next 90 to 100 days, we are going to have some exciting news about office openings. The thrust of our expansion is going to be focused on eastern-located markets, so Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. We would like to be able to create there what we have here in Southern California, which is a great brand identity. We have excellent agents in all of our offices throughout the country, but we would like to be able to dot the map and give them the strength, comradery and the standardization that we have here on the West Coast. We are going to look hard at Boston, Cleveland and Columbus and southern markets like Miami, which is a very important market to us in every discipline. There are also markets further west that are important to us, like Houston, Minneapolis and Denver. Even on the West Coast, we are looking to fill some spots in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco proper.
GlobeSt.com: Is broker recruitment also on the front burner? And if so, can you describe the ideal candidate for recruitment?
Rinkov: Ultimately broker recruitment is always important because that is how we connect with our clients. We believe that our ability to attract top-level talent that is entrepreneurial and best in class in their geography or their discipline is the way that Lee & Associates is going to grow. I have been fortunate in my new role that I have been able to support some recruiting efforts. The typical Lee & Associates broker that we are looking hard at recruiting for a senior-level position is a market expert, definitely entrepreneurial minded, someone who wants to have control over how they service their clients and who wants to leverage a strong national brand.
GlobeSt.com: Lee & Associates has made a name based on the broker-owned model. As you expand, how do you plan to keep the brand identity while continuing to give brokers entrepreneurial freedom?
Rinkov: It is probably the structure of our model that gives us the greatest opportunity because it is the structure of our model that allows us to get the top level talent, achieve the excellent relationships we have nationwide with clients and that allows us to be completely focused on our clients. We don’t have a shareholder group that is addressing expansion needs in certain markets; they aren’t addressing revenue goals in certain markets. Our sole focus is to provide best-in-class services in all of the disciplines we operate throughout the country. So, we believe from a national perspective that our brand identity will continue to be enhanced as we go out and have targeted expansion both for geographic locations and individual agents or teams. We also believe that our ability and the necessity for us to continue to create and innovate branding materials, including market reports, capability brochures and all of the things that describe to the market and our current and prospective clients about what Lee & Associates does from an operational standpoint, will help grow that tie and that bond that all Lee brokers have throughout the country.
GlobeSt.com: Other than opening new offices, what other new programs are developing as part of the company’s expansion?
Rinkov: We think it is important that our clients know that we are experts and we have specialty groups with designated professionals. Those groups include logistics, corporate solutions, retail practice groups, senior housing and multifamily. One other group that we are not yet known for but that we think is an important component of Lee is our appraisal and valuation group, which is headquartered in Atlanta. So, we believe the importance of those groups is to help service our clients better and support our brokerage activities and to help us compete for new business. We also have a large-scale technology goal this year. In a collaborative way, we will roll up our data from all of the 49, and soon to grow to over 50, Lee offices nationwide, and use the aggregated data to help develop national market reports, help in our expansion and recruiting efforts and also to show the size and scale that Lee & Associates has achieved.
GlobeSt.com: As part of the expansion, would Lee ever consider taking the company away from the broker-owned model to go public?
Rinkov: We have no interest in using outside capital to grow our brand or to help with our expansion. We are not anticipating a one-time capital event that would take Lee & Associates away from its broker-owned model. We think that it is very important for the continued success of Lee & Associates that we offer this investment opportunity for professionals nationwide into new markets, so I don’t envision a point where we take on another group, other than the producing brokers, to help us direct the company.