Thinking small can lead to big success

Thinking small can lead to big success

In a small town, your business actions speak louder than words.

“You have to watch and put your full effort into every transaction because if you do wrong to one person, then everyone is going to know about it,” says REALTOR® Seth Goodman, a broker with ME Realty in Lincoln.

Goodman has been Logan County’s top producing agent for three years running. He’s based out of Lincoln, a city of about 15,000 located on Interstate 55 between Springfield and Bloomington. This year, he was chosen for REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 Under 30” contest, which spotlights rising real estate stars from around the country.

In 2011, Goodman set a sales goal of $10 million. He hit $12.8 million. He has set his goal higher this year – $15 million. He dabbles in a little of everything: residential, commercial, multi-family and mobile homes.
Goodman is one of a number of Illinois REALTORS® who prefer—indeed thrive on—being big real estate players in smaller markets. They have found that to succeed in a close-knit community, you have to be willing to get involved if you want to get your name out there. Illinois REALTOR® spoke to Goodman and two other REALTORS® whose offices are among the top producing in their communities.

REALTOR® Janet Mandis, managing broker with Realty Central, Inc. in Carbondale, has been licensed for more than 20 years. She says you have to have a passion for working with people and donating your time to the community.

The best way to make yourself stand out from the crowd in a small town is by being active in the community and in local civic organizations, she said. It is important to get involved in volunteer activities, specialty groups and other organizations because those relationships are what build referral business, Mandis said.

That also extends to building strong relationships with the area’s largest employers. In Carbondale, that would be Southern Illinois University and the local hospital. Find a group or a cause you enjoy and get to work, whether it is volunteering with a hospital committee or pitching in with fundraising for the university.

The key is that the community sees the office and agents getting involved, whether it be painting fire hydrants, serving up pancakes or joining a club, Mandis said.

Her market covers Jackson, Williamson and Union counties in southern Illinois. It is not the case in every small market, but Mandis said it also helps that in her area there is a congenial attitude among the agents there even though they are working in competing offices. In a small town, you can run into brokers from many offices during the course of a day. They all work well together which helps the professional environment, she said.

Another way to stand out? Find a niche or offer a unique service.

REALTOR® Michelle Janczak, a managing broker and co-owner of Pease Real Estate Inc. in Kankakee, focuses on foreclosures. For Pease Real Estate Inc., which she co-owns with her mother, Cindy Pease, foreclosures account for about 60 percent of their business. They are the leading Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) listing brokers in the area.

There is a lot of work that goes with foreclosures but they are a big part of the current market and specializing on that segment has opened doors for repeat business, Janczak said. The relationship she builds with a foreclosure buyer can lead them to later contact her when they are ready to buy another foreclosure or a traditional “move-in” ready home.

Janczak has been selling real estate for 10 years and says one of the best business investments she has made is her website. She still advertises in traditional in publications, but she said believes that her online presence has been a bigger business driver whether it is local buyers looking for a property or investors shopping for a foreclosure deal.

Goodman says technology has been an important tool for his success. He has his own website, but also uses Facebook as a more informal way to connect with potential clients. Staying in touch is important whether it is a message with a text or phone call. He contacts his active buyers every day.

“I work 24/7. I don’t have any other commitments right now. School’s done, I’m not married,” he said. “Right now, it’s real estate every day, all day.”

Being available and accessible is important in a smaller market, particularly when you frequently run into clients. People in town know that they can contact Goodman anytime and he will respond. Days are filled with showings and appointments; weekends with open houses.

“I can’t imagine having a 9-to-5 job,” Goodman says.

Born and raised in Lincoln, Goodman says he had an advantage that people in town already knew him as the kid who was always interested in real estate. When he got his license at 21, he quickly started getting calls from interested clients and business grew. As it is in many smaller markets, referrals and your reputation for customer service can shape your business success.

“In Lincoln, if you take care of one person the right way, that word travels very quickly so a lot of people will call and say, ‘You sold my friend’s house and they really liked the experience, so would you sell mine?’” he said. “Here people look at the volume you sell and the relationships you make.”

Three REALTORS® share their tips on building a business in a smaller community.

Michelle JanczakMichelle Janczak
Managing Broker and co-owner of
Pease Real Estate Inc. in Kankakee
Market: Kankakee, Iroquois, Ford, Livingston, LaSalle, Grundy and Will counties
2011 Sales: $2.4 million

Janet MandisJanet Mandis
Managing Broker, partner & president of
Realty Central, Inc. in Carbondale
Market: Jackson, Williamson and Union counties in southern Illinois
2011 Sales: office $20 million / individual $1.5 million

Seth GoodmanSeth Goodman
Broker with ME Realty in Lincoln
Market: Logan County in central Illinois
2011 Sales: $12.8 million


  • Be available when consumers are looking for an agent. Be responsive, be accessible and you’ll be the one to get the call for business. Send e-mails, send texts and stay in touch.
  • Make sure people know you are a REALTOR®. Market yourself through traditional means but don’t forget to add social media such as Facebook.
  • Get involved in the community. People in small communities expect you to get out there and give back. Goodman is president of the Main Street Lincoln revitalization program and is involved in the local hot air balloon festival. Sponsor a youth sports team, join a group, pick an activity you are interested in.
  • Build relationships with the area’s major companies. These businesses will have employees moving in and out of the area who will be looking for housing.
  • Carve out a niche. Find an area of the local market that needs attention. In Janczak’s community it was the foreclosure market.
  • Customer service is key. In a small market, referrals and word of mouth are everything. In a small town you will run into current and past clients all the time. Stay in contact with them and don’t forget about them once the transaction is done.


Copyright Illinois REALTORS®. This content cannot be reprinted in parts or in its entirety without expressed written consent to Illinois REALTORS®.