Smires and Associates Real Estate staff stand outside Dolce and Clemente’s in Robbinsville prior to their April 16, 2015 staff meeting. (Staff photo by Joe Emanski.)

When Smires and Associates opened for business in 2010, there were doubters in the local real estate community: could a new independently owned and operated agency — even one run by experienced pros who knew the territory well — succeed in a crowded market dominated by corporate powerhouses like Re/Max and Berkshire Hathaway?

Five years later, the question is no longer “can Smires succeed?” It’s more like “how far can the company go?” Trend MLS data shows the company sales volume has grown from $35-million in 2010 to $87-million in 2014, an increase of 248 percent. This from unit sales of 357 in 2014, up from 135 in 2010.

The real estate market has been better overall in recent years, after cratering in 2008. But Smires and Associates hung their shingle out at a fairly bleak time for the industry. Ed Smires admits to feeling a little trepidatious when he and co-owner Justin Reed struck out on their own.

“When we first opened, I was nervous,” he said. “What I didn’t expect was for the public to be so supportive right off the bat. But they liked that we were local, they liked that we live here. They knew with us they wouldn’t just be another number. I think that’s been great for us.”

From the beginning, Smires has been a hands-on manager. He’s out there selling his own units, as well as assisting his agents with their sales. If he drives by a Smires for-sale sign that has been put in disarray, he gets out of his car and fixes it up.

“I’m on appointments, I’m meeting everyone’s clients every day,” he said. “I do it because I believe this is the service we offer. I don’t want to be some guy up on the fifth floor making decisions from on high, saying ‘This is how we’re going to do things.’ I’ve always been out on the street.”

One factor contributing to the success of Smires and Associates has been the agency’s ability to recruit experienced agents. While some of their 60-some agents are newer to the industry and still developing their networks, many have been in the business for years, having left other agencies to join up with Smires.

“They realize that this is a company that’s here to help them do a good job,” Smires said. “I understand what they need to do to be successful.”

One key to success, Smires said, is keeping the right team together. Some agents sell more units than others, it’s true, but volume is not the only factor Smires cares about when it comes to the makeup of his staff.

“I judge everyone on the quality of the transaction, not the quantity,” he said. “Some people here only sell a couple homes a year, but what I want to know is, did their clients have a good experience? Are they going to be repeat customers, are we getting referrals? That’s what’s really important in this business: relationships.”

Kelly Rein is a client service manager with Smires and Associates. She refers to herself as a processor, and said the agency has recently hired a second client service manager to help keep up with the sales volume.

With the processors back in the office getting listings online and filing paperwork, the agents are free to spend more time with their clients, helping them to buy or sell their homes.

“Everyone is very team oriented. Everyone helps each other out,” Rein said. “This is a very nice environment to work in.”

Smires and Associates also looks to help staff provide high levels of customer service, for both buyers and sellers, by keeping its website up to date with listings and area resources. Recognizing the growing influence of social media on their business, Smires tasked associate Wayne Giquinto with boosting the agency’s presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram.

Giquinto said these efforts have met with good results.

“We know some of listings on Facebook have been seen thousands of times, because the agents are posting them to their agent pages, their personal pages,” he said. “We’re finding that a more personal feel to your page brings more exposure to listings and the office.”

Business has been good enough that the agency is preparing to make a move of its own, from its current location to a new, larger office. Smires wouldn’t say where the new office would be located, but he said it would be an improvement on their current accommodations and have a more professional feel. An announcement is expected in the next few weeks.

“What we’ve done in five years, no one’s ever done,” Smires said. “The question now is, what are we going to do in the next five years?”

Smires and Associates is located at 2355 Route 33 in Robbinsville. On the Web: smiresandassociates.com.