OpinionAgent

5 things your assistant is afraid to tell you

  • Assistants are usually not the loudest voice in the room, but they have a lot to say. And agents should listen carefully.
  • If you hired a talented assistant, micromanaging is the easiest way to lose him or her.
  • You get what you pay for, and it's not always about the money.

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As a consultant and educator of real estate assistants around the country, I have a unique vantage point. Not only do I have the opportunity to engage with many bright, successful wizards behind the screen, but I also get to do so as an insider.

You see, I’ve been in their shoes for over 20 years. So when I work with them and teach classes for them, they often open up to me in a way they don’t with the agents they work for.

Here are five things your assistant wants you to know:

1. We can do it better than you can

You probably hired an assistant because you realized you couldn’t do it all yourself. You hit a ceiling where there’s not enough time in the day. And if you hired the right person, you probably hired someone who is the opposite of you because success in sales requires very different skills than success in administration.

Now we know that you did our job before you hired us. We know it’s your name on the line and that you take pride in your work. Here’s the thing: so do we. And the reality is when it comes to paperwork and detail and project management — guess what — we can do it better than you can!

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So get out and sell homes. Build your business. Focus on income-generating activities, and let us do the rest. We got this — really.

2. Don’t micromanage us

Working for an agent who micromanages is the pits. In fact, if your assistant is true talent, this is the No. 1 thing that will cause him or her to leave. Tell us what you need and when you need it. Then let us make it happen.

3. Money matters, but it’s not all about the money

Money matters. Most of us need the money we earn, and we expect to be paid a fair wage. But unlike salespeople, who are often primarily motivated by dollars, assistants often have other things that rank high in importance.

I have more than once hired an assistant who took a pay cut. Heck, I took a significant pay cut 20 years ago when I became an assistant. I had a job I loved, but I was working 60-80 hours a week. With two kids at home, there wasn’t much balance in my life. So I left my job and came to real estate.

It offered something more important to me: time. Cooking dinner and reading bedtime stories to my girls were more important than money. And being an assistant allowed that to happen.

There are lots of other things your assistant might find valuable — unlimited vacation for example; or working from home or flexible hours. Sometimes even a handwritten note can mean way more than money.

When was the last time you showed your appreciation for your assistant with thought-out, meaningful words? Do you know your assistant’s love languages? If not — you might want to learn. Money matters, but it’s not all about the money.

4. Don’t call us assistants

When you’re dealing with your attorney or other professional about something important to you, do you want to talk to the attorney or the assistant? Well, your clients and other agents feel the same way.

The word assistant has a not-so-great connotation. It harkens back to the old days when “secretary” was the word. How about giving your assistant a title that is empowering — both for the assistant and for the clients and agents talking to them?

Maybe it’s client care manager, office manager, director of client services, marketing manager, chief operating officer, administrative manager, client specialist, client care coordinator, director of operations. Or maybe lion tamer would be the best choice?

5. You get what you pay for

Many agents want to hire an assistant. And they want to pay the least amount possible. And what we assistants know is you get what you pay for. Pay minimum wage, and you get minimum talent.

I love what Gary Keller says in “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent,” “Many of the discussions I’ve heard at real estate seminars and classes on the subject can be boiled down to this philosophy: ‘How little can I pay someone and not have them leave?’ I’d like to advocate the exact opposite approach: When you make it your business to hire talent, I want you to ask yourself, ‘How much can I afford to pay them, so I can keep them as long as possible.'”

I have made it a practice each time I hire to do a salary survey of other top teams for whatever position I am filling. Then I pay at or above the upper end of the pay scale — and it pays off in spades. If you pay average, you get average.

If you treat your assistant as your respected partner — your relationship and your business will grow a long way.

Christy Belt Grossman is the chief operating officer at The Belt Team, Keller Williams Realty. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Email Christy Belt Grossman.