The glue that holds the many moving parts of a brokerage together isn’t always made with the same formula — or so we learned when publisher Brad Inman undertook an epic road trip. Among his many conversations with readers, industry partners and the like, Inman asked brokers about their company philosophies and, in response, got two opposite versions of success.

  • On a cross-country road trip, Brad Inman asked brokers about their company philosophies and, in response, got completely opposite versions of success.
  • The first management style involves a company brand that is "systematically delivered" to every agent with a huge emphasis on culture. The other fully supports agent autonomy.
  • At Global Connect, brokers Roh Habibi and Ryan Serhant as well as Compass CEO Robert Reffkin discussed their personal philosophies and when an agent is ready to take off independently.

The glue that holds the many moving parts of a brokerage together isn’t always made with the same formula — or so we learned when publisher Brad Inman undertook an epic road trip that included stops in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Among his many conversations with readers, industry partners and the like, Inman asked brokers about their company philosophies and, in response, got two completely opposite versions of success.

The first management style he heard about involves a company brand that is “systematically delivered” to every agent. There’s a huge emphasis on culture, which agents live and breathe. Unwavering support is provided to everyone under the brokerage wing, and that consistency delivers results on a personal level all the way to the top.

The other philosophy strongly cultivates the individual agent brand, fostering an empowering sense of autonomy and individuality. The broker serves as a home base without necessarily telling agents what they can and cannot do.

Inman discussed these diverging philosophies during a Global Connect panel last week and prompted expert panelists Roh Habibi (broker, Million Dollar Listing San Francisco), Robert Reffkin (CEO, Compass) and Ryan Serhant (broker, Nest Seekers, Million Dollar Listing New York) to weigh in.

When does brand trump independence, and vice versa? Do fledgling agents stand a better chance with a more hands-on approach?

It seems the answer depends on an agent’s preferences, personality and career stage.

Robert Reffkin, CEO, Compass

Reffkin stood for an agent’s identity above the brokerage brand unequivocally.

Robert Reffkin

Robert Reffkin

“My personal philosophy is the only thing that matters is the brand of the agent,” Reffkin said. “I believe the greatest trick the brokerage firm ever played on agents is getting them to sell against themselves.

“The future of the business will all be around agent brands and agents becoming companies themselves.”

Reffkin pointed to his fellow panelists as well as Ken DeLeon and Tami Pardee as examples.

“They’re their own companies but they’re also an agent — it’s the same thing.”

Roh Habibi, The Habibi Group

Habibi pointed to the different phases of an agent’s career and encouraged taking advantage of whatever resources happen to be at your disposal. That might be your compelling personality — or maybe it’s just the immense reach of your brokerage.

Roh Habibi

Roh Habibi

“I think it’s an important as an agent, no matter where you are within your agent lifecycle, to leverage what you can,” he said.

“If you’re working for a big powerhouse brokerage, but you haven’t done quite as many deals or transactions to be able to promote yourself as your individual brand, I think you need to leverage the brand that you’re working for as much as you possibly can, and say, ‘Hey, you know, we have currently right now over 100 million dollars in inventory; we have this amount of marketshare,’ and point out all of the definite draws to the brokerage so that can get you the listing or to work with that specific buyer.

“But if you have built your own personal brand, and it’s a powerhouse in itself, then your brokerage is the backbone. So it depends on where you are.”

Ryan Serhant, Nest Seekers

Serhant dipped his toes into the real estate realm slowly, unsure if it was what he wanted to do — but totally sure that he needed to pay the rent.

“I think when you first start, if I were to go back in time to September 15, 2008, which was the day that I started … [he admits, this wasn’t a great day]. I would probably tell myself, you know, maybe think about, one, joining a team so that you have support: emotional support, because the first three years in real estate totally suck. It’s a complete roller coaster.”

This is especially true if you’re new to a city, he said.

Ryan Serhant, Nest Seekers

Ryan Serhant

“And be with a group where you feel proud running around all day long saying, ‘Listen I’ve been doing real estate for like six hours, but I’m with a really great group and a really great team the company’s really awesome — because you need something to sell.

“If you’ve only done a couple deals … you’ve gotta be able to walk into a room and say something awesome.”

What’s your philosophy as a broker, or your preference as an agent? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below. 

Email Caroline Feeney.

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