Several of my friends and business contacts own small real estate brokerages. One thing I keep hearing from them that is that they are looking for ideas on how to keep their agents engaged with the company.

In most cases they are talking about social activities or office projects. I keep thinking that they are working with or looking for the wrong agents and that a brokerage can and should be successful without having social events or events beyond selling real estate that require agent participation.

Several of my friends and business contacts own small real estate brokerages. One thing I keep hearing from them that is that they are looking for ideas on how to keep their agents engaged with the company.

In most cases they are talking about social activities or office projects. I keep thinking that they are working with or looking for the wrong agents and that a brokerage can and should be successful without having social events or events beyond selling real estate that require agent participation.

There are agents who sell real estate to make a living and who don’t join companies or offices because of affiliation needs — those who may not have the time or interest in "belonging" to something and who already belong somewhere and who have a social life outside of and beyond their work.

Some of us join brokerages big or small for business reasons only. There are agents who need to go into an office and want to participate in events and parties or to have other agents to socialize with, but the need is not universal.

One office I worked out of used to make a big deal about having barbecues in the parking lot and Friday evening happy-hour gatherings for the agents. It was nice that they did it, but only a small group of agents participated.

Is there any evidence that camaraderie among agents in an office improves sales? Don’t most of us make our sales by being outside of the office with clients?

Office social events are opportunities to network with other agents, but does networking with competitors get us as far as networking with people in our communities who might have real estate needs?

It is possible to network with other agents without ever going into a real estate office.

There is the popular concept of having an office work with or donate money to a charity. Most real estate offices seem to have these types of office projects.

Each organization, social network and real estate office presents yet another opportunity to donate money to some cause. It gets complicated for people like me who already donate money to a couple of causes and are stretched to the limit with volunteer activities. …CONTINUED

Giving back to the communities that we sell real estate in is good for business and can be done without any involvement from a real estate office or company.

There are some things that most agents do want from a real estate company, big or small. Most would like to get a check as soon as a sale closes. Most appreciate it if their listings are put on the multiple listing service quickly, and most like having a copy machine that works and someone who is professional answering the company phones.

A good commission split and low fees are desirable, too. Other than possibly the copy machine, I would think even the smallest of real estate companies could manage to provide those services.

What is it that agents really want? Does an agent decide to leave a company because there are not enough parties, or is it for other reasons? Will an agent stay with a poorly run office because of the parties and events?

There are agents who seem to never miss a happy hour or office party. Perhaps those are the wrong kind of agents for some companies. There are agents who just want to sell real estate and are not looking for a brokerage to fulfill any other need.

There are agents who already have offices and don’t need another one to get the job done, and who don’t want to pay for another one.

A small brokerage that is well run is a wonderful place to be. Choosing a brokerage is a business decision, and I couldn’t see leaving one because it did not provide enough opportunities to socialize and bond with my peers.

But I can see myself leaving one where someone forgets to cut the commission checks or makes mistakes that compromise my credibility with my clients.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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