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
These days I am occupied with building a new office for the company I work for. In our new neighbourhood, there is a bit of a buzz from local agents. We are building something unique. It hasn’t really been done before in the city. Over the last few weeks I have met with many agents who are interested in what we are doing. While they see the value of what we are creating, their main motivation in talking to me is less about being part of a new brokerage and more about getting away from the office they are working in now. This led me to consider the notion of agent retention and how to avoid losing good agents to the competition. There are many reasons agents leave. Some you can avoid, some you can’t. Here are some in no particular order.
- The agent has moved their principal residence and doesn’t want to commute. This is more likely to happen to the agent who comes into the office regularly.
- The agent has a conflict with another agent in the office. This is a big issue to tackle. As a manager/owner, it is your job to make sure that conflicts are dealt with fairly. Agents should always come away from a dispute knowing that, regardless of them winning or losing, you have looked at the facts accurately and explained your position clearly.
- Management issues. Believe it or not, some companies don’t get the fact that the agents are the clients, not the public. Our job is to provide agents with the tools to do their job well. Whether it is through training, front office support, advertising, etc, agents will abandon ship if you are not supporting them.
- Office aesthetic. The office should be current, clean and functionally laid out. Agents not only need a good work environment but they need a place to bring clients. Torn carpets, dirty bathrooms, and poor maintenance issues need to be addressed quickly. Agents will maintain a clean environment when they are proud of their surroundings.
- Commission structures. It is a reality of life that agents are looking for the best splits. Let’s face it, no one has yet to build a business model where the agent gets 100% of their commission and the office personnel does everything for them. The key is to simply be progressive and ahead of your competition. The difference in the take home commission of a mid range earning agent is negligible when you look at pay for service brokerages versus the full service models.
- The fun factor. Many companies, for whatever reason, lack office camaraderie. Managers and owners should make it part of their mantra to plan events and have fun as a group. Everyone should feel like they are being treated as a key part of the team. Our offices actively participate in golf tournaments, mini ski trips, social events and barbeques.
- Education and weekly office meetings. Management needs to be proactive in making sure agents are up to speed on current topics, policies and procedures. Presuming agents are doing it themselves will land your brokerage in a heap of trouble.
- Offices are too big or too small .I talked to a couple of agents who felt that they were simply lost in the shuffle. When they first started working at their brokerage there where fewer than 50 agents. Within 6 years, the company had grown to over 300 agents. Regularly there was a line of agents that formed outside the manager’s office. All of a sudden, asking a simple question became an hour long ordeal. I met with another agent who worked for a terrific little boutique company but there was no one even answering the phones. The few agents that worked there had to do everything from clean the offices to confirm appointments. There is no advertising budget and no one to update the website.
- Technical support. A strong brokerage needs a solid online presence. The web site needs to be constantly maintained, accurate and updates.
- Agents overstay their welcome or get fired. Surprisingly, many companies don’t check with the governing bodies to see if a potential new agent has complaints laid against them. There are agents out there with absolutely no respect for rules and regulations. You should avoid them at all cost as they are surely to be repeat offenders.
- Finally, there is something to be said for being part of something progressive and different. The day of the cookie cutter mentality is long gone. Agents today want to be a part of something unique.
It is a reality of life. Agents will move around but hopefully, if you are aware of the reasons why they leave, you can take steps now to eliminate or minimize the disruption to your office.
The views expressed in this blog may not represent the views of Bosley Real Estate, Brokerage, Ltd.