Barbara Wichman is godmother to the daughter of her real estate agent. “We consider her a member of our family,” said the new vice president of talent development at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, an exclusive network of independent brokerages.

  • The real estate is, at its core, run by entrepreneurs.
  • Real estate agents should be proud of the multiple skills they need to succeed in the industry.
Barbara Wichman

Barbara Wichman

Barbara Wichman is godmother to the daughter of her real estate agent.

“We consider her a member of our family,” said the new vice president of talent development at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, an exclusive network of independent brokerages.

That’s what can happen when you have a great agent who gets you, understands your needs and does her job with passion and creativity, she said. It creates a bond of trust.

“Homebuying is a personal and emotional experience. To have someone working with you, with such focus and amazing qualities, is really important to have a positive experience.”

In her new role at LeadingRE, Wichman will oversee learning policies, programs and the talent development strategy for LeadingRE, whose members comprise 525 independent real estate companies around the world. The LeadingRE Institute offers over 250 exclusive courses, including programs such as the Maestro Leadership Certification.

An interesting time to be in real estate

Wichman, who has more than 20 years working in learning and development in industries including telecommunications, consumer goods and retail, thinks her timing of coming to real estate is excellent.

“All the experiences of my professional life have prepared me for this particular role,” said Wichman.

“This is an industry that has been built with an extraordinary level of focus, passion and spirit, and this has led the industry to now being on the cusp of transformation for the future. It provides a space for creativity, for innovation, that I don’t think would ever be present in any other industry as it is in real estate.”

The level of sophistication in the industry is getting higher, she said.

“The requirements of what it means to be successful are much greater — part-timers are dropping off,” she said.

The entrepreneurial spirit of independent brokers trumps a formal degree

The former corporate executive has been struck by the entrepreneurial spirit of the independent brokers she met at the recent LeadingRE Conference Week.

With low barriers of entry to the industry, is there a reason for real estate brokers to still have a chip on their shoulder about how they are perceived by the public?

“The professional image that I think about is not a formal degree, business experience or a grey suit. What I really think about, is looking at someone who has qualities reflective of a great entrepreneurial spirit, who is focused and passionate, which drives success,” said Wichman.

The multi-skilled broker

Broker leaders today have to be multi-talented. They need to be able to understand business planning, marketing, finance, communication and be able to use finely-honed personal skills with agents, clients, financial and legal professionals, Wichman said.

“They have to be able to read people. They are dealing with couples who may be getting divorced, married, going through illness, foreclosure, there are so many things they are handling on a daily basis. ”

And they have to be on top of today’s technology; they need to have websites, social media communication and be adept with visual imagery.

“I don’t think it’s about holding a degree, it’s the ability to be educated in these areas. You put someone in a brokerage and they don’t have a general counsel to go to internally; they don’t have people just sitting in their business waiting to perform professional services,” said Wichman.

Agents also have to learn lifestyle trends, the schools in their area, data about their market, research trends and the local laws.

“Think about all that coming together.  It’s an amazing industry populated with people who are truly dedicated to being successful, ” Wichman said.

It may be easy to enter the real estate market, but it becomes apparent who is going to make it and who is not. You have to have drive and self motivation, she said.

Teams, the future of real estate

Wichman has been learning about the sea change going on in real estate with the popularity of teams. She sees their appeal.

“Teams are a way for brokerages to build their volume and capture market share using resources while providing an effective way to recruit and train new agents,” she said.

The learning and development expert has seen teams in a number of industries. When they work well, they will provide better solutions through the sharing of ideas and collaborative efforts, she said.

They also lead to a leveraging of skills and talents across a wider scope of influence, she added.

The evolution of teams is leading to some interesting questions for the industry to ask itself, she said.

Wichman is already asking some tough questions.

“As the business changes, does it make sense to implement team strategies? That might be one of the questions coming up more and more. Is the model of individual agents still the best model?”

Brokerage firms need to answer that question for themselves, she said firmly.

“There are some amazing questions coming up. It feels like the real estate industry is on the cusp of transformation, a shift of how they are doing business — I feel that’s really catching hold.”

The future of independent brokerages

What about the future of the independent brokerages she represents in a consolidating world that includes such “super: real estate businesses as Realogy and Keller Williams?

“Transformation does not have to solely focus on consolidation or being the biggest,” said Wichman.

“Retail is a case in point. Big boxes were the wave of the future, transforming the world. In some ways they have — in many ways, they have been rejected. Consumers want personal experiences.”

Independent brokers will play a role in transforming the industry based on how they transform the experience, she said.

“For example, by providing innovative ways to market, sell, capture clients, build their agencies and impact their community. And following through using technology and a laser focus on the customer’s needs.

Independent brokerages are often highly involved in their communities and driven by their entrepreneurial spirit — a powerful combination that continues to “elevate the experience for the consumer,” said Wichman.

“That is how they continue to transform the industry — one experience at a time.”

Email Gill South.

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