NORMAN — The No. 1 sales-producing real estate company in Norman and Cleveland County began in 1989 in a small office with three agents, a secretary and what some in the post-housing market crash of the ’80s would have called a pipe dream.
Only fools have the folly to start a real estate business during a period of high interest rates and industry decline, but Mike Dillard, Charlie Bowline and Steve Williams believed in the vision they shared and have triumphed, building Dillard Group Real Estate into one of the most respected real estate firms in the area.
Now Dillard Group’s network and technology database and services are enlarging exponentially as the company enters a ground-breaking partnership with McGraw Realtors — the largest independent real estate company in Oklahoma.
A Tulsa-based company, McGraw has been in business for more than 70 years.
Dillard Group will not change its name or its location. Charlie Bowline, Darlene Bowline, Steve Williams and Mike Dillard will remain partners, and they welcome the new McGraw partners including Joe McGraw, John Woolman, Luke Strawn, Bruce Milner, Jade Noles, Bill McCullough and Steve Murphy.
Milner, McGraw’s business development specialist, will move to central Oklahoma to facilitate the partnership.
“I’m excited about becoming the director of operations for the Dillard Group in Oklahoma City,” Milner said.
Milner said he very likely will live in Norman and will serve the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area in particular. That’s territory where Dillard and McGraw want to expand.
The alliance will be used to build close-knit relationships across the state.
“We are now partners,” Milner said. “From our perspective, in bringing two strong companies — in each of our individual markets — together, it enhances our services to our customers and clients and especially our agents.”
Mutual benefits: The advantage of a shared technology will be an asset for clients and agents.
“As our real estate market continues to evolve, utilizing our skill sets in both markets, we’re able to help our agents do a better job and perform better for our clients,” Milner said. “Technology is driving all of us. There’s a lot of technologies that are being utilized better, and we have to use that as a consultant.”
“From the current Dillard Group ownership, we see it definitely as a positive,” said Darlene Bowline, Dillard Group manager. “McGraw is the No. 1 independent real estate company in Oklahoma.”
McGraw has the technology already in place, so partnering with the No. 1 real estate company in Norman and Cleveland County is a big boon for both firms.
“We’re going to provide the structure for our agents to provide the best service to our clients,” Milner said. “From a business perspective, it’s very cost effective.”
There will be training for agents and a bundling of services.
“We are in a relationship building phase right now, but we will have a ribbon cutting event to kick off the relationship on Jan. 3,” Milner said.
Dealing in cyberspace: Milner said making better use of technology and partnering is a smart way to expand the networks of two locally owned, independent companies.
“What’s interesting about the marketplace today is that a lot of marketing now exists between 6 p.m. and 2 in the morning,” Milner said. “People are using technology to access information.”
As many as 96 percent of people go online to search for a listing, he said.
“One of the areas where McGraw got very aggressive some years ago is being on the edge of how the consumer searches,” he said.
Serving those clients is not just about building a website. It’s knowing how to use that website to better serve those clients.
“We’re a split society today,” Milner said. “I know some agents now that have completely sold homes via text.”
While the human connection — agents who listen and get to know their clients well to better serve them — is still key to most real estate transactions, there are transactions that take place completely in cyberspace and through phone contact.
“How do we do that better? The key is the communication of all the resources you have available,” Milner said. “If they are all talking in the same language, it’s so much easier for the agent to serve you.”
Creating a stronger network between two locally owned independent brokerages is the best of both worlds — real human understanding, knowledge and experience married to the tools technology can provide.
Milner said the business continues to evolve, and with that, agents and how they serve clients will evolve, allowing lead agents to take on a team.
“They’re independent contractors growing their own business under the umbrella of the brokerage which supplies a network of support services,” he said. “We have some incredible agents.”