For the most part, a lot of the topics I write about are inspired by the goings on of my daily life. Today is no different. At my office meeting this morning, I brought to everyone’s attention the recent successes of two of our workmates. Both are relatively new to the business, but not knowing any better, dutifully and thankfully, sat open houses, cold called and door knocked. Their hard work paid off quickly. The one working at an open house, met a client, negotiated a successful sale for them, and listed their condo. On top of that, he picked up another buyer client and another listing. The other agent had spent months perfecting his delivery. He was cold calling and door knocking. One cold day, he was rewarded with a terrific opportunity. He listed a perfect house for a builder and sold it in two days, in multiples and above list price.
Great stories indeed but now comes the hard part; make sure they stay motivated enough to build on their successes. In my 20+ years in real estate, I have seen it enough. Agent sells house. Agent gets money. Agent goes on trip. Agent starts all over again.
The key to longevity in any business is to continually invest in it. I don’t mean just money, because it is easy to throw out a couple hundred “just sold” cards. I am talking about time. Selling a house or condo has given you something to talk about. Cold calling is now warm calling. Door knocking is now networking. One success does not mean you can sit back and relax. Your job is to build on your successes, and keep creating opportunities for yourself. It doesn’t matter if those successes are five years away. I am reminded of a great distance runner named Jim Ryun, who said that motivation is what gets you started, but it is habits that keep you going.
This morning I had a meeting with a new agent who will be joining our office next month. We had a couple of interviews and I even invited her to one of our sales meetings so she could get a real feel for the office and the agents. We were talking about company branding and she mentioned that one of the things that really solidified her decision to join was that while our company name was synonymous with professionalism, knowledge and experience in the Toronto market, it was the fact that the agents actually believed in the company and that their enthusiasm showed.
Believe it or not, this didn’t happen by chance. The management group in our company strives to foster a sense of belonging, fun, mentoring, collaboration and even family. It is a strategy that has served us well. We have a high retention rate, our agents are passionate about their careers and that passion shows. They help spread the word to those out there that are missing these key ingredients.
What I am talking about, of course, is our office culture. Simply speaking, it is our personality, our values, our ethics and our behaviour. For our company, it is best described in a few simple words, delivered by our president at the start of every new agent training session- Have fun and make money!
Many career experts rank corporate culture as one of the key ingredients of high productivity. Studies have proven that comfortable and unique surroundings keep employees at the office longer. It can foster competitiveness and increase the probability of employee interaction. And while environment is important, a good office culture also includes excellent training and skills development, and interaction with top management.
There are some agents out there, who don’t care about their physical surroundings or who they work with. Some are good producers who have home or mobile offices, while others just do a few deals a year. At the end of the day they are simply looking for a high commission plan and a place to hang their licence. The brand they work for is not important to them. They essentially work on their own and are left to their own devises. This has not been a model that ever attracted me. I need the camaraderie that exists in a busy office. I thrive off the interaction and exchange of ideas. If I have questions, I know I can get immediate answers because I have built rapport with my office mates.
The bottom line is that companies don’t grow and prosper solely based on commission splits, likewise for beautiful magazines or glossy brochures. They thrive because their agents talk about how much fun they are having and really, isn’t that the key?
I couldn’t start my first posting of the year without wishing all my friends and family a very healthy and happy New Year. Last year was fantastic and this year is going to be even better. My office, to put it in Queen St parlance, is rocking. We have worked hard to create an office culture that is the envy of organized real estate in Toronto. We have improved our social media assets and our advertising and marketing efforts are reaching a broader audience. One of the unique benefits of all the work we are doing is that a lot of downtown agents are taking notice. When we opened the office in September, we had about 12 agents. We have since grown that to 30. I have been lucky enough to recruit a solid mix of new agents as well as some seasoned veterans.
I have been in a management role for a few years and have interviewed a lot of people but lately I have noticed a fundamental shift in the questions I get asked during the interview process. These days, agents want to know what the company will do for them. They want to know what training is available. They want to know how often meetings are held. They want marketing and administrative support. They want to be pushed. They want a strong management team that will deliver on their promises. Most importantly, they want to feel like they are part of a team. They want to make a difference. The shift is evident. Agents want a great (and supportive) brand behind them or their personal brand.
Twenty-five years ago, there was one real estate model; as an agent, you worked for a company that did everything for you and you would receive 50% of the commission you earned. When the pay for service model arrived, agents saw an opportunity to keep much more of their commission, sometimes up to 95%, except that they would be billed everything from photocopies to desk fees. For a lot of agents out there, the fee for service model works well but there is more to this business then a larger gross commission.
Legal and policy changes aside, the real estate business has gotten increasingly more competitive and complicated. The ‘pay as you go’ model, by its nature, puts more onus on the agent to spend time managing their day to day business and less time on client service, education, marketing and networking. While there are rare exceptions to every rule, at the end of the day, it make more sense to leave the ‘heavy lifting’ to a company that has the organization and depth of knowledge to support you so that you can do what you do best; sell property.
The views of this post may or may not reflect the views of Bosley Real Estate, Brokerage