Brokerage

Brian McKenna: ‘I try to improve at least a little in each area each day’

An office manager talks tech decisions and administrative support

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Inman is profiling office managers. Here’s Brian McKenna, Branch Manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake, Realtors.

How many agents work out of the office you manage? How many brokers?

I manage two offices with approximately 90 Realtors; approximately a third are associate brokers.

How many listings does your office manage at any given time?

Sixty to eighty.

Describe your office. What is the floor plan like? What is the decor like?

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The two offices are quite different from one another. Our Clifton Park office is part of a one floor office building with about a dozen businesses. Our space is the older, traditional style with smaller offices and meeting rooms on the perimeter and a “bullpen” of sorts in the center.

We are beginning the process of revamping this space, and we’re collecting estimates and ideas. It will undoubtedly change to reflect the needs of today’s Realtors. This will include more emphasis on collaboration and technology and less on “ownership” of a cubicle.

Have you ever managed an office outside the real estate industry? What kind? How did you make the transition to real estate?

Yes. I was an elementary school principal for eight years. I completed my Ph.D and a prep program to become a superintendent when it became increasingly clear that the higher I went in administration, the farther I went from the students and the classrooms. When the chance came to change careers, I took it.

What CRM does your office use?

Our company has recently transitioned from Prudential to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and one of the perks has been the contact management system.

What email system does your office use?

Gmail.

Do you have a live person answer your phones, a messaging service or some other way to manage phone calls?

Interesting question! Whenever possible, we have a live person answer our phones. From roughly 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., we have office administrator with agent support and back-up, and then the phones roll over to live customer service folks until about 8 p.m. and for select hours on the weekends.

Do you have any office manager assistants, or are you doing it all yourself? If so, how many and how do they support you?

I am blessed with a terrific team. I have an assistant manager, Lisa Roth, who balances her own business and helping me manage. Lisa brings a lot to the table. She is very tech-savvy and brings her “Gen-Y” perspective to my “Gen-X” DNA.

Lisa and I have three office administrators between the two offices who support us and the agents with many aspects of their business. They are super-critical to our mission and do a great job.

Are you involved in the social media strategy? How so? If not, who manages social media for your brokerage?

This is a shared responsibility. We have purposely tried not to assign a gatekeeper for social media. Instead, we have created an environment where we have established our “minimum desired level of social media engagement,” expect everyone to share good examples of social media integration from other companies and support each other’s efforts with great enthusiasm.

Have you ever sold real estate? If not, do you have any interest in selling real estate yourself?

I sold real estate for a few years before transitioning to management. I really enjoyed it (most of the time! Ha ha.) and learned a ton.

In our company, we’re allowed to list and sell while in leadership positions, but most of us don’t. I choose not to in order to not compete in any way with the professionals I train and support.

Walk us through a day in your life. What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office and the last thing you do before you leave? What happens in between?

The best thing about my job is that it’s really a little different every day. First thing I do is usually connect with Lisa and our admins — Marj, Jaime and Beth — to make sure we’re on the same page about our day and our goals. This isn’t nearly as formal as it sounds, and their contributions are every bit as important as mine.

What’s your favorite part of the day? What’s your least-favorite part?

I love the early mornings and the very late afternoons and early evenings. Realtors rarely work a consistent schedule, so I run into lots of productive people while getting a lot done!

What does lunchtime look like for you — do you leave the office for lunch or eat a brown-bag at your desk?

It’s a mix of the two. Most of the time I’ll eat running between offices, but lately I’ve tried to schedule more working lunches and it’s been pretty fruitful.

How do you support agents after hours and on weekends?

I think there are two keys to supporting agents outside the typical workday and week.

First, it’s been important for me to create an environment of interdependence. For us this means creating a setting where agents are comfortable using each other as resources. This comes little by little as trust grows — and competition, while always present, doesn’t crowd out cooperation. This interdependence means that there are usually multiple sources that can answer many typical questions.

The second key to this is simple. If they really need help or support, I do my best to be accessible on off hours. A vast majority respects the balance we all seek between work and family life, and usually people reach out only when it’s really necessary. If they need help, it’s my job to try and provide it.

Would you recommend this career to someone else? Why or why not?

Yes — if that person is OK with being flexible, caring, thick-skinned and enjoys being a problem-solver. I am very, very fortunate because the agents I support are among the very best people I’ve ever known. The satisfaction that comes from helping — often in very small ways — a colleague succeed is terrific.

What has been the biggest change to your job over the past year?

The biggest change other than joining BHHS is that the CEO of our entire company — Gino Blefari — has taken the time to coach me. From our sessions and his drive, I have learned and applied things that are significantly ramping up our production. I am very grateful for his leadership.

What sets your brokerage apart? How do you differentiate yourself?

Our local franchise is owned and operated by the Christiana family. They quite simply do the right things for the right reasons.

How do I differentiate myself? I simply write my goals out every morning and try to improve at least a little in each area each day.

If you were forced to work in any industry other than real estate, which would it be and why?

I would, if forced, probably return to teaching elementary school in a rural or small city district. Teaching is probably the most important profession out there, and every good teacher makes a real difference.

Are you involved in any technology investment decisions?

I try to defer to the experts among us for these decisions. I try instead to clearly delineate what I’d like to accomplish through technology and count on them to choose how best to accomplish it.

Do agents rely too much on you to handle things?

Most of the time the answer is “no.” If the answer too frequently becomes “yes,” it usually means that I’m doing something wrong. Either something hasn’t been explained well enough, we’ve tried to introduce too many things at once or someone is simply going through a tough time and I need to look a bit closer.

To what extent do you help with closings?

I very rarely help with closings. We help process closing bills and may very rarely help problem solve a last-minute dilemma, but that’s about it.

What broker or agent habits drive you crazy?

The habits that drive me craziest generally don’t happen here too often. Realtors fight really hard to create and maintain our profession as a profession, so the few bad apples that cut corners, are driven maniacally by ego or believe that the systems and standards in place don’t apply to them are a pain in the rump. (Oops.)

If you had a magic wand that would grant one wish related to your job, what would it be?

I would like to magically add an extra day to each week where we could all just relax and enjoy our friends and families. These are the people who support, love and encourage us in this great but crazy business. One extra day each week to hang out and recharge would be great.

After a month or so of these extra days, our friends and families might give the days back! Ha ha.

Are you an office manager who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.