At the point in a real estate agent’s career that his or her lead generation system consistently produces too many leads to handle personally, that agent has to decide what represents the optimal way to respond to this exhausting abundance. And because every agent and every circumstance is different, there’s no one right answer.

This Spring, Inman is obsessing over helping you to tune-up your listings business, with actionable insights, the best advice from top agents, and hundreds of helpful stories from all over the world. Interested in sharing your advice and insights with us? Reach out to me at

Don’t forget that we’ll also be focusing on how agents and brokerages can all move Faster, Better, Together this July at Inman Connect San Francisco. Not got your ticket yet? Buy it here, and remember that Select members get a $100 discount. Thinking of bringing your team? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy those tickets together too. Just contact us to find out more.

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At the point in a real estate agent’s career that his or her lead generation system consistently produces too many leads to handle personally, that agent has to decide what represents the optimal way to respond to this exhausting abundance. And because every agent and every circumstance is different, there’s no one right answer.

But there are a limited array of choices:

  • Do I hire an assistant so I can do more?
  • Do I keep referring the less desirable leads out?
  • Do I take on one or more partners or join/form a team?
  • Do I create my own team?

Which option (or hybrid of options) an agent chooses comes down to what each agent values most. Some agents value their autonomy above all else. Others actively dislike managing multiple employees or answering to partners.

But for agents with abundant leads who crave the challenge of creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, only a real estate team will do.

It’s a business model that produces the greatest opportunity for its members to thrive — professionally and financially — to a degree they could not on their own.

But to achieve that goal takes planning and an ongoing commitment to the team’s development and satisfaction. So be prepared. Here are six steps you must take to start a team.

1. Run the numbers to create a sound forecast  — and keep running them

You know how many leads you generate in an average year, what percentage of those leads you convert and how many transactions you can handle alone or with an assistant on average.

With that information, you — and/or a trusted financial adviser — can calculate a workable framework for the team of today and project the growth necessary to create the team of your dreams.

It’s key that team leaders keep their eyes on their numbers and how they correlate to team goals.

2. Be certain you’re in a brokerage that supports teams

Some brokerages encourage cooperation and teamwork and have systems in place to facilitate team formation. Others don’t have the first clue about how to even handle a team.

Even brokerages that welcome teams in theory may not have the necessary support systems for a team to thrive.

You can have the greatest team on earth, and if other agents of the brokerage think you’re getting an unfair advantage over sole practitioners or treat team members like “the other,” you will not have a happy and productive team there.

If you’ve evaluated your current brokerage and found it wanting, make any necessary moves before you start serious team-building.

3. Define roles of team members and when each will be added

The key person to add first isn’t a buyer’s agent or even a listing specialist as many prospective team leaders think.

The first addition should be a crackerjack administrator who:

  • Will help you stick with your business plan and goals
  • Keep your database, referral, farming and lead generation systems running smoothly
  • Make sure listing presentations are up to date and transaction management is handled to your standards
  • Assure that financial reports and forecasts are submitted to you regularly

When all your systems are up and running like clockwork, then add agents/staff to the team as specific skill sets are required and finances permit, whether they’re listing agents/specialists, buyer’s agents or showing assistants.

4. Set up a just compensation system

That’s no easy task, and again, there’s no one right way to structure compensation. Some teams provide leads and team materials and establish a minimum and maximum commission “split” for agents on the team.

Some offer a lower “split” but charge desk and materials fees. Some teams offer a higher initial “split,” don’t charge a desk fee and lower the split when certain goals are met.

Staff members often draw a salary with bonuses when they surpass set benchmarks.

There’s no one right way, and there are endless variations on possible structures. Involve your financial person early, revisit your compensation system often, and invite feedback from your team members.

In this way, you’re sure to find the best path for your team.

5. Bring the ‘right’ people onboard

Although you can create any vision of the team that works for you, your vision must translate into a culture that supports that vision.

If your vision is a team the works hard and plays hard, the culture must reward both. And the people you hire must buy into your vision and contribute to the culture that supports it.

Their work ethic, their ability to hear constructive criticism and course-correct, their commitment to providing excellent client service and playing hard afterward, and their chemistry with existing team members matter!

You can teach skills — you cannot teach responsibility, flexibility, joyfulness or team chemistry.

Also bear in mind that not every contributor to your team’s success has to be a permanent, on-site team member. By including virtual assistants, photographers, graphic artists and other outside consultants, specific skill sets can be accessed on an as-needed basis.

These resources do not create a permanent financial commitment and only need good chemistry with the members of the team they work with directly. So if a consultant can provide what you need now and in the future, it’s a no-brainer to keep them in your resource bank.

6. Hang onto the right people

When you’ve gone to the trouble to find a good fit for your team, it pays to spend the necessary time to train and develop each team member so they can make the maximum contribution to your team’s success.

Doing this is a major investment on your part.

You also need to set aside time to nurture this now hugely valuable asset. Find out not only what makes them happy but also what will keep them happy.

Setting up a compensation structure that works for you and your team-members is job no. 1.

However, money alone rarely guarantees happiness, and each person’s most meaningful non-monetary reward is apt to be different.

So it pays to touch base with each team member regularly to learn how things are going for him or her, if the team is meeting its expectations, if members think leads are distributed fairly, if your materials work for the team, what other resources they need to reach their maximum potential and what else would keep them involved and stimulated.

Reach out — whether by phone, email or in person — on a predictable schedule so they know they’ll have an opportunity to talk with you on a specific day about anything that’s important to them.

Make these six steps your priority when setting up a real estate team, and you’ll have the supportive framework to take your team to the highest levels of success.

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.

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