By Al Barbarino
Jennifer Johnsen, executive director of sales at MNS, moved her family to Manhattan three years ago from Seattle, Washington, as the nation crept out of recession.
By many accounts New York was spared the deep declines that the rest of the nation endured, thanks in part to tourism, and in part to new residents like Johnsen, who continued to view New York as a “land of opportunity.”
Johnsen began her real estate career 20 years ago as a mortgage loan officer. “Having grown up in a family of builders, developers and agents, it was in my blood,” she said, adding, “It was just a natural fit and it always made sense.”
After nearly a decade in the mortgage world, she began building her sales career in the late 1990’s, having worked for brokerage giant NRT and joining the then fledgling Town Residential upon her arrival in New York City.
But it was Johnsen’s background in mortgage that gave her a deep understanding of many of the financial instruments that would ultimately be exploited and blamed in large part for the recession, allowing her to recognize the opportunities that came forward as the picture became less and less gloomy.
“At the end of the day, I came from a foreclosure market background and my viewpoint coming here was that this is the land of opportunity,” she said. At MNS Johnsen will oversee the sales and rental divisions and supervise managers and agents at the firm’s flagship Manhattan location.
At Town Residential and later at Citi Habitats, she mentored agents and managers, aggressively recruited new talent, and contributed to sales increases at both companies, providing another launching pad for her new role.
She referred to her stints at Town and Citi Habitats as “incredible experiences coming into Manhattan from the west coast,” but added that “MNS is where I plan to be long-term,” citing CEO Andrew Barrocas as an inspiration for “everything that he has done” to expand the MNS’ business and brand.
In her own management role, Johnsen will call upon her past experiences as a broker to give her agents the tools they need to succeed. Agents need more than just resources, they need ongoing training to put those resources to good use, she said.
For that reason MNS has a training facility at its corporate office in Gramercy, as well as ongoing workshops at its branches that do not a dictate a “one size fits all” strategy. “I look at things from an agent’s perspective and, when you do that, you can help them through the struggles and make a much more significant impact on their growth and success,” she said. “You’re always looking for agents to be best they can be, and as a company we have to offer more than what others do. You can have a great salesman who isn’t a great marketer, and you have to realize that.”
“A lot of bosses say things like, ‘our agents are our clients,’ but I don’t think that’s the way to look at it,” she added. “I’ve learned over the years that your agents are your partners.” The current market climate seems to provide a win-win situation for brokerage firms that service renters and buyers equally, an idea that Johnsen pushes while encouraging collaboration among her agents.
“You have to treat every client that you have like it’s a client for a lifetime, whether they are renting or buying,” she said. “Our agents are incredible and they love being at this company.
“The message I learned very early on that I tell our agents is that you should always do what’s in the best interest of clients and the money will follow.”