Meet Steven Halpern

In November of 2013, Steve Halpern took a big risk on a brand new start-up called Urban Compass

He wears the badge of commission agent #1 at Compass very proudly. He’s even more proud of his contribution to create a collaborative culture to the foundation of Compass’ principles.An industry leader famed for his innovative marketing, Steve recently sat down with us for a session of Agent Talk to discuss his career, his early years with Compass, his techniques for crafting compelling, eye-catching creative marketing, and how agents can perfect their marketing game, too!

On Why He Joined Compass

You were one of the founding agents of Compass, back when it was still a newcomer to the industry. Why did you decide to join Compass back then?

So I had the honor of becoming the first commissioned agent at Compass, back in 2013 when it was still Urban Compass. At the time, I was doing really well at my former brokerage, I was getting some massive accolades, like launching the first $100K/month rental in New York. But I knew I was ready to take my brand to the next level and really work with a brokerage that understood my creative energy and what I brought to the table. I met with Robert Reffkin right when Compass was pivoting its model from salaried to commissioned agents, and there were only like 40 people total at Compass. For me, it was like this instant connection with Robert, with the people at Compass and with the company culture. I knew that this is where I belonged and that I had the chance to get in on the ground floor and help build this company.

Your choice to join Compass has obviously paid off for you, but how did you come to terms with the risky decision you were making in joining a start-up company?

You know, I feel like I’ve realized over time that where there’s risk, there’s also reward. And I knew that if I joined now and if the company grew in the way that I was envisioning, the reward pay-off would be huge. I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker. When I was still thinking about joining Compass, I called up my Mom to get her advice, and she said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard you this excited about something.” That was kind of a sign that going to Compass was the right move for me.

On Compass's Early Years

What was the atmosphere like at Compass in those initial years, when it was still just a core group of agents and engineers?

I always compare it to what Google must have been like before it took off. Just a bunch of people in a room, working hard to get this company off the ground. It was a really electric type of energy, lots of collaboration, lots of creativity. And everyone had the chance to put in their perspective. You know, at one point, we were trying to figure out this real estate problem, and one of the engineers got involved and totally changed the dynamic of the conversation. That’s how it was back then, everyone pitching in and helping out, even if it was not their area of expertise.

How has Compass changed since then?

Well, you know, obviously it’s gotten a lot bigger. There are now something like 20,000 agents at Compass. But the collaboration, the creativity, and the energy of those early years are still there. They’re part of the culture of our company and they’re why people still want to work with us today.

On the Value of Coaching

Why did you start coaching, and why did you choose Chirag Shah to be your coach?

I feel like, as a general sense, always growing and learning is the sort of thing that keeps you engaged, and there’s so much more to life when you can actually keep growing and doing better. And then, of course, you know Chirag has a totally different perspective on what we do as Compass agents than any other real estate coach out there. It’s the reason I chose to work with him as opposed to other coaches, he knows Compass and he offers a personalized, dynamic approach to coaching. He’s also a great resource for connecting with other Compass agents. His event in September, Accelerate LIVE!, is going to be a great opportunity for all of us to get together and collaborate in person.

How has coaching helped you in your business?

Chirag has helped me bring structure and clarity to my business. He’s also given me the freedom to hire people more confidently. You know, when you’re putting together marketing content, you need help, and Chirag made me realize that it’s okay to hire somebody that will help you create consistency in your business and your creative output.

On His Unique Creative Marketing

What is the philosophy behind your unique creative marketing?

I feel like a lot of agents try to separate who they are as individuals from the image they project to clients. That was never going to work for me. I feel like, in anything you do in life, you have to be authentic and true to yourself. That’s what I convey in my marketing. I try to connect with people in a way that’s true to myself, my interests, my likes and dislikes, and I think that’s what makes it stand out. It’s real in a way that simple listing marketing posts wouldn’t be.

Your social media presence is about a lot more than just real estate or your business. How do you strike a balance between posting about listings and deals and posting about yourself?

I know a lot of agents who just use Facebook or Instagram to advertise their listings. It’s like strictly a business feed, and I get that. But that’s boring to me. So I always try to build my marketing and posting around the things that are personal and important to me. You know, sometimes that’s rap music, sometimes that’s my favorite spots around the city, sometimes I even get into politics and social justice. I know that that might risk losing me some followers, but I don’t really care because, at the end of the day, it’s important to me, it’s true to who I am, so I’m going to post it. Now, my team also runs its own Instagram feed, @thehalpernteam, and we do post listing promos there, but even then, usually we try to make it more about the owners of the property, more human interest than just listing photos.

On How Agents Can Get Better at Marketing

What advice would you give agents looking to improve their marketing output?

I think you first have to decide what it is you want to give to the world. You know, what is it that you want to put out there? Then, from there, you can better determine what content you want to produce and how you want to distribute that content to your targeted audience.

You have three pillars that you use in developing your marketing strategy. Can you share those with us and explain how agents might use them as well in their own business?

Sure. The three pillars encompass the whole of any marketing strategy. So, you know, the first pillar is mainly about the agent. You start with thinking about the things in your life that you want to share with people; your interests, likes, dislikes, personal stuff. It could be food, it could be animals, social issues, community involvement. But make it something other than, you know, listings. So that’s pillar one. Pillar two is about determining your target audience. You have to know who you’re targeting with your marketing (their location, age range, income bracket, etc.) in order to craft compelling content that speaks to them. Pillar three, the final pillar, is all about distribution; figuring out how this content is being distributed. In some ways this connects to the target audience. You know, if your audience is primarily young people, then social media would probably be the best place to distribute content. From there, you and your team can develop a plan to distribute content in the most effective way possible.

Meet Sofie Langhorne

Meet Sofie Langhorne One of the founding members of the Compass Montecito office and Co-Principle of the Langhorne Group, Sofie Langhorne is one of the

Read More »

Meet Levi Meyer

Meet Levi Meyer A top-producing South Florida agent, and the founder and president of the incredibly successful Meyer Group, Levi Meyer is an expert when

Read More »

Meet Stacey Froelich

Meet Stacey Froelich A top-producing Compass New York agent, and the founder of her own team of dedicated agents, Stacey Froelich is a real estate

Read More »

Meet Beth Butler

Meet Beth Butler The Regional Director of Compass Development Marketing, and a 35 year real estate veteran, Beth Butler has made a name for herself

Read More »

Meet Tom Dunn

Meet Tom Dunn A top real estate producer specializing in the sale of luxury properties in the Vail and Beaver Creek resort markets of Colorado,

Read More »

Meet Terrence Harding

Meet Terrence Harding A top-producing New York agent and a member of Compass’s Sports and Entertainment Division, Terrence Harding has made a name for himself

Read More »

© 2021

Sign Up To Join Our Newsletter List

Adrianna Nava

Coach & Advisor
Expert in Compass Tools; Business Modernization; Prospecting

The first real estate deal Adrianna put together was unusual in several ways: she was only 17 years old; her parents were the listing agents; and (strangest of all for an agent) she did it for free! Since then, Adrianna has nurtured a lifelong passion for real estate, and learned the value of commissions! Wearing many hats throughout her career, Adrianna spent 20 years managing her own portfolio of real estate properties; 10 years as a licensed real estate agent; and the past four years working with Compass as a Senior Agent Experience Manager. It is in this last role that Adrianna has made her mark on the Compass brand and transformed the lives and businesses of Compass agents throughout the country. 
Adrianna previously worked as a Senior Agent Experience Manager at Compass and has over 8,000 hours of training Compass agents on using the Compass platform, as well as honing their strengths and skills, to grow their businesses. Now, Adrianna is the Hamptons real estate market and transaction expert, founder of, contributes a weekly market update column to Behind the Hedges and is the author of Hamptons Real Estate Showcase’s Market Watch feature.

Ethan Leifer

Coach & Advisor
Real Trends Top 100; Expert in Team Building; Lead Generation; Client Outreach

It’s fair to say that Ethan Leifer is something of a Compass fanatic. Ethan joined the Compass family in 2017 after being blown away by a combination of the firm’s incredible suite of tech tools and its obvious dedication to its agents. Ethan left the brokerage he was at, signed up with Compass, and hasn’t looked back since. But fresh starts are nothing new to Ethan. His first career was as a cantor singer in Jewish worship. But after falling in love with the real estate business, Ethan decided to radically switch gears, first making a stab at being a Long Island agent before finally settling down in Manhattan.
It’s in NYC where Ethan has truly made his mark, dominating the city’s luxury real estate market and presently leading one of Compass’s most successful agency teams. According to Ethan, the secrets to his success are as follows: relationship building; tremendous focus; and a certain type of chutzpah (he is a ‘cold calling’ master, after all). As one of our 360 Mastermind coaches, Ethan specializes in leading weekly role playing exercises with agents.

Haneen Hayder

Coach & Advisor
Real Trends WSJ #212; Expert in Property Flipping; Farming; Lead Generation

Compass agent Haneen Hayder began her real estate career in 2012, and quickly rose to the top 3% of all realtors in her brokerage nationwide and internationally. She attributes her success to excellent negotiation skills, which she considers her client’s biggest advantage.

Before becoming a realtor, Haneen earned a masters degree in Chemical Engineering, and gained international corporate experience in the field of engineering. With extensive access to off-market listings, Haneen offers buyers a multitude of avenues for achieving their real estate dreams. Her technical background is particularly advantageous in this market, helping her provide innovative and unique marketing strategies to engage potential buyers.
Haneen strives for unparalleled customer service and commitment to both buyers and sellers, giving her clients an extra edge in competitive markets. Haneen is renowned for her dedication, integrity, and first-class customer service in the Bay Area real estate market. No detail is overlooked utilizing her full-service sales approach, impact marketing campaigns, and powerful local, national, and global networks.

Amit Bhuta

Coach & Advisor
Expert in Marketing; Social Media; Brand-Building

Amit Bhuta loves his job; his passion for Compass and Miami’s luxury real estate market is contagious—just ask any of his nearly 80,000 social media followers. As the leader of the All in Miami team, and a nearly 16 year industry veteran, Amit has a deep understanding of the sales, communication, and marketing skills it takes to succeed in this business. Brand-building and storytelling are Amit’s specialties; and as a coach, regular fixture on Workplace, and co-host of “Ask Me Anything,” Amit is committed to helping his fellow agents grow their own brands, and earn more money by doing things they really enjoy. His goal is to help each realtor love their jobs too.

David Severance

Chief Learning Officer & Coach
Expert in Leadership; Team Building; Business Strategy

As the son of a Westchester real estate agent, David Severance was exposed to the world of sales at an early age. He witnessed first hand the dedication, grit, and relationship-building skills that go into the job. Around this time, David also developed an interest in psychology, specifically the way our perceptions influence our choices and outcomes. When he eventually moved to Japan during college, David really started thinking about many of his own beliefs about relating to others and the makings of a life well-lived. David believes that success comes from our ability to profoundly connect with and influence those around us.
For 15 years David rose through the ranks of one of the world’s biggest airlines, where he applied his psychology background to studying what makes teams effective and how they get derailed. His work inspired international companies to find new ways of working together, both internally and publicly.

In 2005 David became a certified coach and started working with leaders in Fortune 500 companies, where he’s been at the cutting edge of leadership theory and practice. Now David brings his expertise to small teams and startups, and teaches leaders how to relate more effectively with teammates and clients.

As a coach at CSC, David runs our Leadership Mastery program, as well as leading GCI Accelerator sessions each week and working with individual clients. He looks forward to working with agents who want to grow as team leaders and find more fulfillment in their lives and jobs.

Chirag Shah

CEO & Founder

By working with Chirag Shah you can expect effective, results-driven coaching, or as one of his clients said, “you can learn more from three months with Chirag than you can in three years on your own.” Whether it’s creating systems, structures, and processes that help you grow your business; building out your team, or learning to enforce healthy work/life boundaries, Chirag wants to help you bring your vision for your future to life. As a life-long learner, people-person, and curious problem-solver, Chirag has been a student of real estate coaching since he got his realtor’s license in 2007.

In fact, Chirag is a self-described ‘real estate training seminars obsessive,’ because he loves innovating ways to help agents maximize their potential.

Chirag’s drive to inspire transformation in his colleagues made him a natural fit for Compass’s Director of Coaching and Training, a position he held for two years. While at Compass, Chirag spent over 5,000 hours training Compass agents; he created Pitching Compass, which became the gold standard for agents’ pitches, and developed both regional and national trainings that helped share Compass’s value proposition—and not just what Compass does, but how they do it.

“The How” is big for Chirag, who believes if you’re going to tell someone to do something, you need to give them steps on how to do it. This coaching philosophy guides the work he does with his clients, which include teams and agents that are featured in Real Trends Top 100 lists, and rank amongst the top 1% of realtors in the country. Chirag spends time understanding what is most important to each individual, the direction they want to take their businesses and lives, and then he creates a custom roadmap, with step-by-step processes to help get them there.