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[IMGCAP(1)]LOS ANGELES-Lee & Associates has launched a national expansion that could mean up to 30 new offices in the next two years and has hired former Grubb & Ellis Co. exec Phil Royster to spearhead the push. Mike Tingus, who oversees four Lee offices as president of Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura, tells GlobeSt.com that the company views the current economic and commercial real estate environments as very favorable for the expansion of the firm because the Lee platform puts brokers in charge of their own offices and provides some of the biggest commission splits in the industry.

Although Tingus has engineered the expansion of the Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura operations, he says that a national expansion requires someone who is dedicated to that task alone. He says Royster, who will be based at the Sherman Oaks office of Lee LA North/Ventura, fits that bill because of his 35 years in the industry and his experience in leading expansions.

[IMGCAP(2)]Lee, which is headquartered in Corona, CA, now operates 33 offices with more than 500 agents located in California, Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Wisconsin and Idaho. Its expansion will include new offices in California as well as in the East, the Southeast, the Southwest and the Midwest, according to Tingus. He says that although the company already brands itself as a national firm, it is looking for a stronger presence in markets where it is not as well known as it is in California, where Bill Lee established the firm in 1979.

Tingus tells GlobeSt.com that Lee typically attracts brokers with 10 to 15 years of experience because of the appeal of the company’s business model. “We’re a broker-owned company, which means that in your particular market you do what you need to do to execute your business plan,” Tingus tells GlobeSt.com. “If you don’t need appraisal, you don’t have appraisal, if you don’t need a finance group, you don’t have one, if you don’t need corporate services, you don’t have it.”

Tingus says that the Lee model means that the individual offices don’t have to worry about someone in corporate management cutting services or shrinking staff in down times because the individual offices determine their own levels of staffing and services. “Our revenues are off this year versus last year, but that doesn’t put us in a position where we have to cut any support staff or marketing materials or open houses,” Tingus says. “In other words, we don’t need to shrink the profitability.”

Tingus notes that Lee has opened 15 of its 33 offices in the five years, with a 16th soon to be announced. He says that the firm has identified a dozen or more offices that are within four to six months of opening, part of a total of 20 to 30 that could possibly be opened in the next 12 to 24 months.

“It takes a lot of time and expertise to put these offices together, and when Phil became available, we saw an opportunity to have someone dedicated full time to the task,” Tingus says. Royster, who left Grubb & Ellis after that company’s merger with NNN Realty Advisors last year, has joined Lee & Associates in the newly created position of president of strategic growth.

Royster will work with a Lee expansion committee including Jim Planey, president of Lee & Associates-Chicago; Jon Savoy, president of Lee & Associates-Michigan; Jim Watkins, managing principal of Lee & Associates-Phoenix; and Ken Wesson, SIOR, managing principal of Lee & Associates-Dallas/Ft. Worth. In the Lee & Associates business model, these company presidents from around the country act as facilitators, identifying successful brokers in their respective markets.

Royster, whose 35 years in the industry includes 25 years with Grubb & Ellis, from the early 1990s through 2003 created and developed the company’s affiliate program. The affiliate program recruited top-ranked independent real estate services firms as partners providing integrated consulting, strategic planning, management and transaction services to multi-market clients across the US and Mexico. Royster joined Grubb & Ellis as vice president and managing director of the L.A. South Bay office and held positions as senior vice president, regional manager and president of the Western Region.

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