• When building a team, hire an admin first, then sales and then marketing. 
  • Develop a well-articulated brand for your team so you can share its attractions well to new recruits.

Keller Williams team leader, Vija Williams didn’t go into real estate saying she wanted to build a team. “It’s not something you want to do, it’s something you need to do to execute a big business plan,” she said.

Williams, team leader of Keller Williams Eastside’s Vija Group, which serves Greater Seattle and Eastside, said she was doing $10 to $12 million a year for a decade before starting a team, and her group is now doing $70 million this year.

Building the team in the right order

Making her first hire, an administrative assistant for her team, felt like a big responsibility, she said.

“The biggest leap we take as entrepreneurs is that first admin’s salary. Someone has quit their jobs to join your team. You are responsible for their mortgage — feeding their children.”

Of course, getting that right can be the first challenge.

“I hired five admins in 18 months til I got the right one. No one trains you how to hire. You just fail forward quickly and big and celebrate them. You are bumped and bruised and move on,” Williams said.

The order you build your team in is important, she added. She recommends first the admin, then sales and then marketing.

“It’s much healthier and cheaper to be sales-based and marketing-enhanced. There are a lot of overheads for being marketing-enhanced,” she said.

Williams’ advice, meanwhile is to hire the best. “I hire people who would crush it on their own, yet they choose to do it on a team. These are not people who need to be propped up by a team,” she said.

Attracting talent to your team

Fellow team leader, Keir Weimer, president and founder of The Keir Weimer Team of Select Sotheby’s International Realty based in upstate New York, explained his method of team building.

What’s important is articulating the team’s vision, explaining the business statement and goals, said Weimer.

“Then it’s about finding the right people in the market who can get behind it,” he said.

Weimer is looking for the right attitude and disposition in a team member, he said.

The tricky problem of keeping top producers on your team has to be handled with delicacy.

“I think it’s important to show a vision, to be able to articulate the team’s attraction,” said Weimer.

It’s about explaining the value of the team that it is far greater than the sum of  individual agents, said Weimer.

“It’s about getting people to buy into that. Explaining that everybody has a place, this is a special, deeper breadth of experience in the way we help each other grow.”

“I think the team is the structure of growth for the future and only expect it to continue. That cost structure — the team structure — is the vehicle for success,” Weimer added.

Retaining team members

Retaining key team members will always be a challenge, the two team leaders admitted.

Williams, who said her team is built more like a mini brokerage, said, “No one will stay with us forever.”

She strives to be “in tune with their wants and needs” so they don’t want to leave.

In the case of one of her high-flyer agents, she is looking for a new office for the agent because she has said she wants to expand.

“I love them, I want them to stay with me,” she added.

It will be a challenge to retain agents when they see an opportunity to set up on their own, said Weimer.

“We are working to prepare a plan for those days and the inevitable talks ahead,” he said.

Team culture will be crucial.

“Our team is under 35 — we are very hungry. We are working in under-served markets, which has given us the opportunity to present our brand platform. This has resonated with sellers of high-price properties. It’s fun — it’s a lot of fun.”

Email Gill South.

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