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Building a Team Part 2. The Sub Brokerage

sub-brokerageIn my last blog post I talked how teams are becoming a popular option for experienced agents in Toronto. Operating a team is not for the faint of heart. Successful team leaders need to have faith in the abilities of their teams and give them free rein to work for the benefit of the team, while poor team leaders spend more time managing than doing what they do best….sell.

Ultimately leaders build teams for two reasons; increase awareness of their brands and make more money. The sub-brokerage model, currently being developed in Ontario, might help teams with the second point but does nothing to help point one. So what is a sub-brokerage?

To explain sub-brokerage one needs to have a brief understanding of the Tax Fairness for Realtors Act, 2014. The proposed act would allow real estate salespeople to form personal corporations just like Ontario doctors, lawyers, social workers, architects, engineers and accountants. While Realtors are allowed to incorporate in other provinces, the Ontario Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 currently prevents salesperson incorporation. Despite intense lobbying by both OREA and TREB, the Real Estate Council of Ontario isn’t close to changing their position in the immediate future. To speed up the process, some brokerages are offering a hybrid model which would allow an agent to set up their own brokerage but use the services of the parent brokerage such as accounting and trust accounts. Imagine I currently work for ABC Realty Inc Brokerage, under the rules of a sub-brokerage I would incorporate a new brokerage called “ABC Realty Mark McLean Team Ltd, Brokerage”. Confusing? As the only shareholder of this corporation I have many of the tax advantages of a corporation. For a top performing agent, a sub-brokerage allows a team leader to retain money in their business as a tax deferral strategy.

But Team Leaders need to recognize that sub-brokerages may in fact create confusion with the public. Using the example above, I have worked very hard to develop “The Mark McLean Team” at ABC Realty. This is MY brand. Now I am striking out on my own as the Broker of Record (if you are a sales representative you will have to complete your brokerage course) of a sub-brokerage of ABC Realty, Inc. Legally my brand name has changed. It is still too early to tell if additional problems will arise since we are only now entering into unchartered waters with the sub-brokerage model. From the outside it seems like a complicated process. The team leader will have to essentially build a brokerage from the ground up with the exception of hiring front and back office staff or managing trust accounts.

Like my first post, my concerns revolve around team management. Creating a sub-brokerage means that you are now responsible, on every level, for your team. While the “parent” brokerage might look after your accounting you may take on additional responsibilities. In addition, the parent company might want some say in how you run your business, that very request could create an added tension. Understanding the additional challenges should be an important factor is your decision.

In the third, and last part of this series on team building I will talk about choosing your team.

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.


Building A Real Estate Team? Part 1

In theory building and running a real estate team seems like a pretty good idea. You are getting more leads than you know what to do with so you bring on a junior agent as your buyer agent. You give them good quality leads and if they sell the client a home you take a percentage of their commission. The more junior agents you have working for you the more money you make. Sounds awesome.

The reality is that when you run a team you agree to take on a lot more responsibility. Not only are you a selling agent you are now a manager, a leader, a trainer, a mentor and an engaged human resources director. If you cannot lead effectively, or over-manage the team you will ,in effect, spend more time managing and less time doing what you do best…selling. But when you dive into the relationship even further a few dichotomies surface. As a sales representative you are working as an independent contractor for your broker, your team members also work for the brokerage but report to you. Hopefully you have the same values as your brokerage and are on the same page when it comes to business goals. With any luck your team members are well-trained and share your ethics too. But what happens when a team member does something wrong? Your brokerage is on the hook to clean up the mistakes even when, for example, the mistake was made because they were following the team leader’s direction. So the question remains, who is responsible for the team members? The team leader or the brokerage? With teams these two entities are fundimentally at odds with eachother. The brokerage provides services essential to the agent (The ABC test of who controls the services) vs the team leader who supplies the leads ( the economic reality test). The real estate brokerage is, in many ways a unique creature. It is statutorily required to provide certain duties, like oversee agents, provide accounting and practice risk reduction. 
Compensation based on commission.

Here is something else to consider. There are currently three separate cases before the courts in the United States that are challenging the very nature of the agent and team member relationship. The outcomes could very well force team leaders to re-evaluate how they build their teams. In each of the cases the team members are arguing that they were hired as buyer agents but were also required to perform tasks for the leader such as pick up and deliver cheques, meet appraisers, sit agent open houses, home inspections or even write blogs or post stories on social sites. The very nature of these tasks, it is argued, presumes an employee/employer relationship and if that is the case then wouldn’t the team member deserve the benefits that an employee would receive, such as employment insurance, medical and dental?

If teams are here for the long-term then, in my opinion, it is important for brokerages to develop a policy and procedure manual and some standards of service. Team contracts need to be more than just a handshake agreement or a quick email. The reality is that no two teams are the same so a blanket agreement is just not going to work. Have a lawyer draw up a binding agreement and make sure that it works within the laws of REBBA 2002.

Certainly brokerages need to understand that teams are developing at a fast and furious pace and there is yet another complication….the sub brokerage. I will talk more about that in part 2 and then later in part 3 I will talk about the finer points of developing your team.The reality is that as the team concept evolves, more questions and complications will develop. In the meantime the best you can do as a team leader is to have a written agreement which sets a tone and understanding of the relationship, achnowledge that compensation is based on commission, list tools and materials supplied for day to day efficiencies as well as who is responsible for their maintenance and upkeep, include clauses on sick leave, vacation time, desk duty (if required) and above all else have a system that will have solid arbitration mechanisms. 

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.


It’s Time To Play The Objection Game.

huddleSometimes you need to have a little fun with the meetings and to be honest, the more people who attend, the more fun it is. Yesterday’s meeting got everyone engaged and if you are ever stuck for a good meeting topic please do me a favour….steal this one. Especially if you have a group of over 20 agents in a room.

Every active agent will tell you that whether they are working with a buyer of a seller they always come across objections. I’ve done a past blog about objections which you can read here. How you deal with that objection will be the difference between success and failure. So in today’s meeting I asked the agents to tell me all the objections they have faced over the last year. Not surprisingly, I got a fairly substantial list. We then went through the list and ranked them in order. For the purposes of the meeting we determined that the top four were; commissions, fear of over-paying for a home, not wanting to get into a bidding war and the classic “my uncle is a Realtor”.

With our top four objections in hand we broke the group up into four smaller groups and gave each one of them an objection. Each group picked a team leader and over the next 10 minutes they had to come up with as many arguments as they could to kill their objection. The group discussions were pretty lively and after the 10 minutes was over each leader read out their list. What I loved about this game was that even after every counter argument was pointed out there was always others in the crowd who had more points to add. In my books anytime you get a discussion going in an office meeting you’ve had a great day.

I won’t go through the agent’s arguments today because your office might have completely different objections. It’s just fair to say that this meeting got everyone involved. For new agents it’s an opportunity to develop new talking points with clients and I have to say that a few, more experienced, agents even learned a few tricks along the way. This was a great meeting, a great discussion, awesome team building and helps solidify our office culture.

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.


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