Inman is exploring what the future of real estate leadership should look like through a series of articles, Q&As with industry pros, and an upcoming five-part series called Leadership Week. Please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a leader who wants to join us for our exclusive Disconnect in The Desert event on March 26-28, or want to recommend a colleague, send a note to email@example.com explaining why.
If the real estate community had a magic wand that could change one thing about the real estate industry, improving industry leadership would be at the top of the wish list for many, as would raising the barriers to entry to becoming an agent in the field, increased transparency, and better benefit offerings from brokerages, according to a conversation that unfolded on the Inman Coast to Coast Facebook group.
As Michelle Poccia, associate broker at Keller Williams Capital District put it: “(It is) an industry so full of titles, yet so (de)void of the kind of leadership it needs.”
National, state and local associations are often a “hot mess of (un)business like practices,” with too many separate entities creating an environment of slow change, she said. Brokerages were operated or influenced by the “volunteer leadership flavor of the year.”
Worthington, Ohio-based Keller Williams Capital Partners’ Jodi Beekman, a member of her branch’s agent leadership council, told Inman that creating strong leadership from top to bottom at a real estate company is a challenge. Beekman appreciates the proactive leadership from Keller Williams’ co-founder Gary Keller, but with independent contractors and a sprawling franchise network, it is hard to maintain these standards throughout the company, she said. “The independent contractors say, ‘I can do whatever I like,’ so it’s like herding cats,” she added.
In the Coast to Coast exchange, Beekman disagreed with a number of calls for higher barriers to entry in the industry. “A higher barrier to entry only makes it more difficult for the next generation of agents. What do we do about the ones already licensed that are wreaking havoc today?” she asked in the comments.
Talking to Inman later, she said: “I don’t think the problem is in the brand new people. It’s the people who have been doing it forever who don’t want to accept that their way could be done better.”
Meanwhile for Lisa Sevajian, an independent brokerage co-owner of Bentley’s in Andover, Massachusetts, her wish would be to see brokerages offering retirement plans, insurance plans, disability plans and childcare options, for starters.
“Agents work for years and years helping our clients make smart choices, yet we rarely do so ourselves when it comes to building lifelong income, family wealth, investment opportunities,” she commented on Coast to Coast.
Sevajian and her business partners are providing their 34 agents with leads for free and bringing in experts to help them make savvy investment and personal finance decisions.
Talking to Inman, Sevajian, who worked at Coldwell Banker and Re/Max before coming to Bentley’s, said she was raised by her grandmother, a broker and agent who was selling well into her 80s because she couldn’t financially afford to retire, even though she was one of the highest producers in the market.
The broker-owner wants her agents to be earning good six-figure salaries so they can build “legacy careers,” she said. And to be clever with their commission checks.
But maybe “what does the industry want?” is the wrong question, said Mary McKane, managing broker of Levi Rodgers Real Estate Group at Re/Max Military City, in San Antonio, Texas. Surely the more pertinent question is, “what would the consumer like to see if they had a magic wand?” she suggested in Coast to Coast.
Speaking to Inman later, she said it was easy for those in the real estate industry to get “tunnel vision.”
Consumers have more information in their hands than ever before, and often they become overwhelmed.
“They need someone to guide them with the process, and collectively we don’t do a very good job of that. We protect information, worried about where it goes, yet we are a customer service industry, this is their biggest investment and the process needs to be very transparent,” she said.
The system would work a lot better if people collaborated and helped everybody rather than “hoarding information,” she said.