Top Workplaces No. 1 Small Company: Matt O'Neill Real Estate
By Amanda Capps
Matt O’Neill Real Estate — condensed to an acronym, the company name immediately indicates what agents and clients can expect: MORE.
Anyone who enters the firm’s Mount Pleasant office notices a sign announcing one thing there is more of: hugs. That may sound odd for a multimillion-dollar real estate agency, but it’s part of the value system O’Neill’s mother instilled in him. Those values were reinforced by Jack Mitchell’s bestseller, “Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results.” Some hugs are literal; others are metaphorical, but both come from a culture steeped in service.
Real estate titan Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying he and his associates would “own the world” if everyone followed the advice in Mitchell’s book. O’Neill and his team seem to be doing just that. Due to Covid, most hugs were virtual last year, but MORE’s growth was an undeniable reality. In May 2020, the staff moved to a newly constructed building on Old Georgetown Road and managed to increase their 2019 sales of $200 million to $300 million despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic.
“Basically, it means treating people like human beings, not profit centers,” O’Neill said.
The service exemplified by the MORE team begins with O’Neill’s service to them. He believes in the philosophy and practice of servant leadership and understands the rigorous support his people need for optimal performance.
“Real estate is a challenging career. It’s easy to get into the muck when a deal is not going your way,” O’Neill stated. “This past year was mentally trying. Agents have to have a positive mindset, so we went out of our way to bring a message of hope.”
Even prior to Covid, O’Neill established and perpetuated a strong culture through consistent contact and feedback. The company’s 125 people maintain close connections by meeting regularly in smaller groups. O’Neill meets with agent leaders one-on-one, and “pods” of six to eight associates gather frequently via Zoom to discuss goals and challenges.
Agent Betsi Green said, “Matt O’Neill not only gives more to his clients, he gives ‘MORE’ to his entire team weekly with new energizing ideas that help us give our all to the clients.”
Some of those fresh suggestions stem from O’Neill’s passion for learning. Every morning for over a decade, he’s gotten up before 5 a.m. to read, and he devotes time to conferences and other events that allow him to learn from leading experts in marketing, investing and other areas that will benefit his team.
On a quarterly basis, the MORE Executive Committee assembles and reads prolific notes they actively seek from the team. Since Covid, surveys have inquired about emotional well-being and have traditionally called for
feedback on what associates like, what could be done better and what charities the company should support. The Charity Committee chooses a nonprofit each month, and associates not only deliver a check, but also support causes with physical labor. A portion of every commission earned through MORE goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
MORE employees also have the Culture Committee, whose members O’Neill calls “the brightest, happiest, most outgoing people in the world,” to thank for the vibrant atmosphere the “hug sign” promises. Their focus on fun is a deliberate effort to promote bonding outside the normal responsibilities of work. From Easter egg hunts with “golden eggs” to St. Patrick’s Day bashes with barbecued brisket and a resident accordionist, the festivities often include costumes, great food and music as evidenced by the multiple Alexa units throughout the office.
O’Neill noted that associates need not be the life of the party to succeed; they come from an amazing variety of backgrounds but all share the “hugger” mentality. MORE was founded on five core values: integrity, accountability, solutions, learning and hugging. O’Neill said those who don’t fit in tend to violate the latter.
“Culture is the number one thing we’re looking for . . . are you a genuinely caring, kind human, who wants to be great, the type of person who won’t step on someone else to get to the next rung, who will pick people up when they’re down,” he said. “Our people are competitive, but it’s the kind of competition that makes everyone better.”
Erika Janitschek, executive assistant, Flip Division and REALTOR®, said the culture and all that comes with it make MORE one of the best places to work in the Charleston area — and the entire country.
“The support system we have here is unparalleled. MORE is more than success and a great place to work . . . it’s growth, it’s a feeling of fearlessness, limitless opportunity, positivity and potential,” she said.
Living in Colorado in 2005, O’Neill knew he wasn’t on the right path. He chose to use his top skill, sales, to do the thing he loved most, helping people, and by the time he helped his first client sell a home in Charleston in 2006, he was certain of his future.
“I couldn’t see a service greater than helping people find the place where they’re going to raise their families,” he said.
Agent Christopher Smith said working for MORE is the best decision he’s ever made, as O’Neill has bolstered him to become one of the top agents in Charleston in just four years. Agent Susanna Lee said when she interviewed with MORE, she was asked to write five goals she hoped to be celebrating in five years. She achieved three of them within six months.
“I had no idea I could accomplish so much in such a short amount of time in my career. MORE is dedicated to their agents, which makes us want to be the very best we can be in all aspects of life. We are living the dream,” she said.
O’Neill said being named one of the “Top Workplaces” has been a dream on his bucket list. With a check by this distinction, he and his team are already working for more.