Brokerage

Rebecca VanderKolk: ‘The variety of emergencies allow me to show my problem-solving skills’

A Keller Williams Vice President of Operations talks business

Learn the New Luxury Playbook at Luxury Connect | October 18-19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel

Inman is profiling office managers. Here’s Rebecca VanderKolk, Vice President of Operations at The Ramsey Group | Keller Williams Realty.

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

I was in hotel management, catering and convention services in my prior life. I choose to be a stay-at-home mom when we started having children. In my “spare time,” I got my license and did some event planning for a team that we used to buy our house. It grew from there.

How many agents work out of the office you manage?

There are six agents on The Ramsey Group, and looking to grow every day.

How many brokers?’

3 essential tools that will 10X your real estate marketing
Smart landing pages, a synchronized database and automation generate results READ MORE

In our state, all agents are brokers. So six.

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

Our team strives to keep 15 active listings at all times. With under-contracts and pendings, that number is upwards of 30 to 40.

The office

The Ramsey Group office.

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

We have two main rooms. The Listing Department is in one office, to allow for them to close the door when the leads generate. The Admin (also licensed agents) is in the outer office. Our Buyer’s Agents have spots in this part to work when they are in the office. We prefer them to be showing properties rather than sitting with us.

The office has large floor-to-ceiling windows, that let in lots of natural light. We have 2 accent walls that are painted in “Keller William’s red.” We have several inspirational posters up on “attitude,” “teamwork,” “leadership” and so on. We have an LCD screen that does a slideshow  of our teams’ progress to completing all of our individual goals.

What CRM does your office use?

We currently use Market Leader Business Suite for lead generation. We are making the move to InfusionSoft. The startup on that is slow. We use TopProducer as our past client CRM.

What email system does your office use?

We use a masked Gmail account, in conjunction with iMail. Our entire office is on Macs.

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

We use Google Voice for our main office lines. Who answers depends on the numbers that are called. All of the lines ring into the Admin office and are answered by us after at least four rings during normal office hours.

The Ramsey Group office.

The Ramsey Group office.

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 have a listing manager, Cindy Bowman, who is my saving grace. She manages the listings and helps me when my plate is too full.

Are you involved in the social media strategy? How so?

I used to be. That is a job that I have gifted over to my Listing Manager, Cindy. She enjoys it. We do discuss, and I offer input when she considers making major changes.

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

I am licensed to do so; however, I have no interest in being a listing or buyer’s agent. My talents are much better used in the office, leading and growing the team.

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?

I start my day with affirmations and positive music. You can often find me dancing around my bathroom. When I get to the office I have an hour or so before everyone else comes in. I LOVE this time to get a handle on what is going on for the day, where everyone is at, potential fires that may flare up.

My day is loosely time-blocked to make sure that I can focus on the important parts of my job, and not allow the day to pass me by. At the end of the day, I do a last run through each of the files to make sure there is nothing outstanding and check the calendar for the team tomorrow. Any prep work that needs to be completed before I go gets done.

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

My favorite part is my quiet time in the morning before everyone comes in. It allows me to control how my day is going to go, not allow the day to control me.

My least favorite is how real estate “emergencies” can derail your day so easily. I really dislike the derailment…yet I love the challenge of emergency itself. The variety of these emergencies allow me to show my problem-solving skills and prove to the clients why they hired a team of specialists who are professionals. We can become the hero.

The Ramsey Group office.

The Ramsey Group office.

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

I choose most of the time to eat at my desk. I would rather leave earlier than take a lunch break.

I do get up and move around the office and market center every hour. So I am not sitting at my desk the entire day.

How do you support agents after hours and on weekends?

I monitor emails for emergencies; however, most “emergencies” are not real emergencies that cannot be handled during office hours. I am there for questions, concerns and advice.

As a team of professionals, we treat the business as a business. Expectations with the clients are set up from the beginning.

Would you recommend this career to someone else?

Yes. You have to be OK with change and challenges…yet I cannot see myself doing anything else.

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

I have taken more of a leadership role within the team. I am driving to hire more agents and take on a larger market share of our area. With this commitment, it brings on more responsibility and more focus to advance the team.

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

We are a team of professional specialists that are highly efficient with more than 50 years of real estate experience. We have engineers, MBAs, attorneys and marketing professionals on our team.

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

I might swing over to the law. I believe that I would make a great paralegal. If time and money were not an obstacle, I would love to go to law school.

Are you involved in any technology investment decisions?

Yes! I am a tech geek! Got the Apple Watch the day it came out! I make most of the suggestions, proposals and purchases that are tech-related.

Do agents rely too much on you to handle things?

Yes and no. I am a self-proclaimed control freak. I take on too much sometimes. I have “taught” my agents to rely on me for things. The agents are all capable of doing all the things that they rely on me to do.

To what extent do you help with closings?

Right now, I am the closer and I do the entire contract-to-close activities, including negotiated repairs. With my focus on hiring, I will be hiring my replacement soon.

What broker or agent habits drive you crazy?

Nothing, really. I have learned that we are all different. We all have habits and tics that can be “annoying.” However, I am sure that I can drive them crazy, too. Some of the things that drive me crazy are what make them great agents…and they can do things that I don’t want to do or can’t do very well.

Example: I am a pretty direct person. My team says I talk in bulletpoints. I don’t know how my buyer’s agents can talk to clients on the phone for an hour about what seems like insignificant things. I realize that this is how they build the relationship and respect with the client. How they “win them over.” I respect that!

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

Could I clone myself? Even if for just a day. If my clone could work in the business, I could focus on working on the business. It is the on the business that gets pushed to the backburner during peak times.

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