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History of Crye-Leike

Milestones in the History of Crye-Leike

Select an excerpt from the list below or scroll down for the complete story.

The company's beginnings.

The Crye-Leike success story begins in Memphis, Tennessee when friends Harold Crye and Dick Leike decided on December 6, 1976 to leave the real estate firm they were were with and start their own business together.

They committed as partners to build a real estate company that would be results-oriented, professional and would provide superior service "above and beyond" what any other company could offer.

"We were naive enough then not to know what wouldn't work so we went out and made it work," said Harold.

Harold and Dick first met and became friends and colleagues while working together at the Memphis real estate firm, The Sterling Company. Dick had left his job at International Dairy Queen and started selling real estate in June 1973. Harold had joined the same company earlier in the year. In the winter of 1976, Dick had become the top producer and Harold was sales manager and the No. 2 producer.

"When we began discussions about starting our own firm, I can remember saying to Harold that there were things that I did not like about running a company and his reply was, 'You take care of the things you like and I will take care of the rest,'" recalled Leike.

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The telephone company story that named the firm.

As Crye and Leike were quietly setting up their new business while still employed at The Sterling Company, their start-up plan got an unexpected boost.

"We had inquired with the local telephone company about what it would take to get an active business phone line," said Dick.

"No deposits were made. But, one day, quite unexpectedly, the phone company called Barry Sterling's secretary and asked when they wanted the Crye-Leike, Realtors' phone line installed. This call immediately started a fast pace of events that terminated any further relationships with The Sterling Company and sent us Crye-Leike boys walking out the door."

So, with that episode behind them, Harold and Dick walked out one door and opened the next into their own real estate company, Crye-Leike, Realtors.

"After first hearing the telephone company call our new business by name, we decided it had 'a nice ring to it,' and kept it because Crye-Leike sounded better than Leike-Crye," said Dick.

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Company Colors Selected.

The philosophy behind branding the company with it's recognizable "big red" logo and signage was influenced largely by Dick Leike. Before his career in real estate he worked for International Dairy Queen, Inc. which used red and white in it's signage and marketing. Dick has also previously lived in Atlanta, Georgia, world headquarters for Coca-Cola, another widely recognized brand with red and white in its corporate logo.

"We decided that since two successful companies were using red and white in their company logos, then we should, too," said Harold.

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First year in business.

Operations began in December 1977 in leased office space in the Poplar Towers office building in Memphis, Tennessee, along with the opening of Crye-Leike's first branch office in Bartlett, Tennessee.

"We signed a contract to lease 3,500 sq. ft. of office space, wondering how the two of us would make ends meet," said Dick. "We even joked that if other agents didn't come to work for us, we might have to move our families into the office space. Having had a good rapport with fellow agents, luckily it wasn't long before folks came to work with us."

"We both lived off of our sales commissions for a number of years, and plowed profits back into the company to continue growth and success," said Harold. The company generated $19 million in sales that first year and "today we have individual sales associates who make that much in one year."

In three years, largest firm in Memphis.

Crye-Leike's success has been sudden and non-stop. By 1980, Harold and Dick found themselves managing the largest real estate company in Memphis. As new branch offices were added and over 600 sales associates joined the company, Crye-Leike became the largest real estate firm in Memphis within three years, with operations expanding into West Memphis, Arkansas and North Mississippi.

"I can recall, early on, how one of our first agents and top sales producers, Stanley Mills, encouraged Harold and I, to keep recruiting; that we could and should recruit up to 300 agents, at a time when we were at the 150 agent mark," said Leike.

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Innovations - Bringing order and consolidation to an unstructured industry.

Harold and Dick took the company to new heights by utilizing the one-stop shopping concept that has set Crye-Leike apart from other firms. With their full service approach to real estate, they opened a relocation division, a commercial property division, a property leasing and management company, an insurance company, a home improvement division and an auction division.

Harold and Dick further became known as innovators in commission structure and marketing, credited for bringing order and consolidation to an unstructured industry.

During the company's early beginnings:

  • They instituted a highly competitive sales associate commission plan where all Crye-Leike associates receive the highest and best graduated commission splits in the business. Top producing agents have the opportunity to start each year as high as 80 percent on their splits and increase from there. Credit is also extended for what they've earned elsewhere (year-to-date) so they remain at a higher split until the end of the year. Further, Crye-Leike does not charge its sales associates franchise or monthly agent desk fees.
  • They established a fully automated and staffed appointment center to capture every sales moment. The first of its kind in the South, Crye-Leike's appointment center makes it easy for sales associates from all real estate companies to coordinate showings 13 hours a day, seven days a week. Crye-Leike's centralized appointment center receives an average of 1,000 calls daily from diverse real estate agents, throughout the South, who want to show a Crye-Leike property.
  • They also organized Crye-Leike's full service marketing department to put the power of its exclusive marketing services and high impact marketing programs at the fingertips of each Crye-Leike sales associate. Crye-Leike associates can choose from the many different tools, techniques and services available from its in-house marketing department. Harold and Dick's goal is to help their sales associates sell a home for the highest possible price in the least amount of time.
  • Harold and Dick also saw the importance of being vested in technology. They organized an in-house team of Information Technology (IT) specialists who harnessed the technical and global power of the Internet to reach homebuyers. They made substantial capital investments to provide their sales associates with the latest and the most advanced technological tools, giving their agents a competitive advantage when serving buyers and sellers.
  • Crye-Leike's founders recognized that real estate is constantly changing, so state-of-the art in-house training programs were organized to help sales associates to keep their professional edge. Crye-Leike College was founded in September 1988 and continues to offer new Crye-Leike sales associates free comprehensive real estate training as well as continuing education for experienced associates.
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Landmark year in 1988: Crye-Leike becomes nationally ranked.

The year 1988 marked the beginning of Crye-Leike, Realtors achieving a national ranking in the real estate industry. REALTrends ranked Crye-Leike No. 34 among the Top 500 real estate companies in the nation.

Expansion efforts grew company to No. 1 in Middle Tennessee.

In the early 90's, Harold and Dick both decided that it was more cost efficient to move into new markets rather than continue seeking a bigger share of the hometown business.

"We decided to expand beyond the Memphis market when sales were stuck at $1 billion," Harold recalled. "Once you get to a certain level, it gets incrementally harder to get another percentage point of the market share."

Harold Crye launched the company's first expansion efforts in 1992 establishing a new regional hub office in Nashville. Crye-Leike became the #1 provider of real estate services in Middle Tennessee within one year. Operations in the region has since grown to include more than 26 branch offices and more than 1,000 sales associates.

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Pivotal year in 1995: $1 billion mark.

In 1993, Crye-Leike surpassed the $1 billion mark in sales over a one-year period, achieving a $1.01 billion annual sales volume. The year 1995 was a pivotal year for Crye-Leike when it moved up in national rankings from #31 to the 15th largest among the Top 500 real estate companies. The sales volume that year was $1.58 billion and 14,356 transaction sides.

"It was only after coming to Nashville that we dramatically began to increase our sales numbers," said Crye. "Once we saw our program had legs and could grow, then we saw that expanding into the Chattanooga market was doable. Then Johnson City became doable."

Crye, an Osceola, Arkansas native, set his sights on Little Rock, Arkansas in 1997. He approached several existing real estate agencies as a means of entering the metro area. Finding no sellers, he and Leike shifted their focus to the Chattanooga, TN market.

Crye-Leike opened its third regional hub office in Chattanooga in 1997, by acquiring the four offices owned and operated by Huffaker, Realtors. Four years later, Crye-Leike of Chattanooga became the #1 market leader in the number of closed transactions. Agent agent growth and sales volume more than tripled. Growth in Nashville real estate and Chattanooga real estate is attributed to the company's natural expansion of its tools, systems and services.

Surpassed $2 billion mark.

In 1998, Crye-Leike surpassed the $2 billion dollar mark in sales over a period of one year hitting $2.5 billion in sales volume, and moving it's national ranking to becoming the 10th largest real estate company in the nation. One year later the company reached the $3 billion milestone at $3.02 billion in annual sales volume.

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In pursuit of growth.

Crye-Leike expanded its regional presence in East Tennessee by opening a branch office in Johnson City in 1999. In 2000, Crye-Leike opened its first Georgia office. The company's fourth regional hub office was established in Little Rock, Arkansas in June 2002, with Harold having ambitions of making Crye-Leike the largest in central Arkansas in three years.

Being more aggressive in their pursuit of growth, Harold and Dick included as part of their expansion strategy the buy out of major competitors, like Folk-Jordan in Nashville; Huffaker Inc. in Chattanooga; and Pyramid Realty in Memphis.

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Franchising the Crye-Leike brand.

The other component of Crye-Leike's expansion strategy is real estate franchising which began operations in 1999 under the name of Crye*Leike Franchises Inc., a subsidiary of Crye-Leike, Realtors. The division focuses its marketing efforts on establishing franchise territories in smaller populated areas within Tennessee and those states surrounding Tennessee.

Franchise operators have joined the Crye-Leike network, creating awareness of the Crye-Leike brand in territories where it would not normally open a company office because of market size and location. Introduction of the franchise concept has allowed Crye-Leike to broaden its market presence into the eight-state southern region of Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

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One-stop shopping concept expanded.

In 2001, Crye-Leike established its Home Services Division, a concierge service that further illustrates Crye-Leike's one-stop shopping concept. Crye-Leike customers can access, free of charge, a network of home services that provide home buyers and sellers personalized service, convenience and savings for all of the activities and transactions associated with home purchases, sales and homeownership.

Crye-Leike Home Services puts homeowners together with various companies such as moving and storage exterminating, painting and housekeeping services. Home Services can arrange for such services as moving assistance, coordinating home repairs, and even switching on electricity, telephones and cable TV.

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Perspectives from our founders 25 years later.

Crye-Leike Home Services is but one example of how the company founders seek to always keep Crye-Leike on top in terms of customer service, providing the most variety as well as the best and most innovative services available in today's marketplace.

Through the vision and leadership of Harold Crye and Dick Leike, Crye-Leike, Realtors grew in 2007 to become the 4th largest real estate company in the nation and No. 1 in the Mid-South. With no plans to slow down, the founders continue to focus on growth with a focus on customer service and a commitment to providing the highest quality of real estate services.

"Looking back, our company was built upon a mutual respect for each other's talents, coupled with our desire to succeed," said Dick.

"There are a lot of people who become successful and then stop. They're happy with their level of success," said Harold. "If it came down to just working for money, then Dick and I would have quit a long time ago. We work now because we enjoy what we're doing. We see all this potential and we just can't get to it fast enough. We understand how this business works."

"When Harold and I first decided to start a real estate company, I don't think that we wanted to be the biggest company, but we did have a sincere desire to provide the best real estate sale services around," said Dick. "Our growth was a result of just that. "Since ours was a true service business, providing the best service caused our company growth."

"With 25 years of service behind us, we have developed a customer base that has come to know and trust the name 'Crye-Leike,'" said Harold. "Our loyal customers and the strength of our dedicated sales associates and staff have made Crye-Leike No. 1 and we are eternally grateful."

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The Next 25 Years.

After establishing its presence in Jonesboro and Blytheville, Arkansas, Crye-Leike directed its attention again on the Little Rock market, trying in early 2002 to buy one of the city's larger real estate companies. But a near-deal with an unidentified company fell through, forcing Crye-Leike to either continue seeking a seller or build its presence from the ground up. Still, no existing real estate agency would sell.

"Since it didn't happen that we could buy someone, we decided to go in and open up one on our own," Crye said. "We don't necessarily have a preference, but sometimes I think we come out better not buying anybody."

Crye-Leike was able to buy into the Hot Springs market in November of 2002, acquiring Lakefront Real Estate and adopting its 13-person staff. In less than one year, they grew to six offices and a sales force of over 200. Experiencing phenomenal sales growth during 2003, Crye-Leike of Arkansas was ranked by Arkansas Business as the fourth largest residential real estate firm in Arkansas in 2003. Today, the company is #1 in Central Arkansas with a sales force of more than 500 Realtors and 12 offices across the region.

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After 30 Years in Business

In 2006 Crye-Leike achieved a record $6.1 Billion in sales. In 2007 Crye-Leike continued its expansion with regional branch offices located in Northwest Arkansas, Atlanta Georgia, and Jackson Mississippi.

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After 40 Years in Business

Entering the 40th year in business, Crye-Leike had just again achieved a record high sales volume of $6.36 billion. Harold Crye and Dick Leike both still own the company and work every day to keep growing it more. There are no plans to stop anytime soon. Looking forward to growing our market share, recruiting and retaining talented and driven associates and making sure that excellent customer service stays in the front.

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