What I Learned… in Real Estate with Roger Barr from ICrossing

The advertising industry attracts talent from all over the world. Our What I Learned… series explores the remarkable stories of our industry’s leaders. Today we sat down with Roger Barr, Chief Digital Officer at iCrossing UK, who swapped real estate for digital.

Hello Roger! Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you are doing now.

Hi. I have been working on the agency side since 2006 and co-founded my own agency in 2010 which was fully taken over by iCrossing UK in 2021. I’m now Chief Digital Officer at iCrossing, where we combine the skills of a digital transformation consultancy with the enablement expertise of an agency. I lead the digital transformation consulting offering and play a leadership role within the agency. My job is to evangelize for the use of world-class technology, data, frictionless customer experiences and digital product innovation.

And above all – real estate?

Career paths are rarely linear, and mine is no exception. After completing an MSc in Management of Protected Landscapes at Aberystwyth University, I missed the opportunity to become a national park manager and entered the world of software engineering. One day while walking the dog with a friend, he pointed out that he thought I was good at sales. So, at the age of 29, with a newborn and a wife who was a full-time mom, I quit my perfectly respectable IT career to become a commission real estate agent with a US franchise called Remax.

What was it like to completely retrain at 29?

I had never intended to be a real estate agent, nor did I know much about real estate. I was drawn to a potentially disruptive US model where individual agents pay the agency owner a fixed monthly fee and then own their own sellers as well as their own home seekers. Since all commission goes to the agent and there is a one to one customer service model I figured it might work in the UK. Whilst working with experienced agents I spent the first few months learning as much as I could from them while battling for property sellers and buyers in the local areas.

What did you take with you from the real estate industry into your digital career?

I only lasted 12 months in the role, but I learned an incredible amount about myself: how not to run a business and how empathy and caring for people can be your strongest career card. Ultimately, the Remax model didn’t work; In 2005 the market was not great and the franchise owners ran out of money. Mentally it was a difficult time, but I was just able to make a living.

I can imagine that you train pretty well with pure contract work when it comes to everyday life?

Working only on a commission basis meant I had to constantly find leads and close sales. It taught me the importance of the monthly income statement, proximity to KPIs and ultimately how not to run a business. The owners of the franchise did not have a realistic business plan and were overwhelmed from a cost and cash flow perspective. You take calculated risks and then you have reckless behavior. This has served me well in my 12 years as head of a digital agency.

Would you recommend the real estate business to a young friend or colleague?

As your career progresses, don’t be afraid to try something new. Developing skills and experience across many areas of business makes for a much more well-rounded person, and as you rise through the ranks it will help you stand out from the crowd. It will also help you decide what you enjoy and are good at. That can only be good.

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