Earlier this spring in Palm Springs, California, I joined an amazing group of real estate innovators, leaders and influencers at Inman Disconnect to join in a collaborative effort to improve the consumer experience. By the end of our journey, we had created a real estate manifesto called the Parker Principles, a compilation of 12 principles believed to be the key to accomplishing this goal.

Although I’ve adopted every principle, I’d like to elaborate on no. 4: “Strictly enforce ethical standards to increase professionalism.” This principle reads as follows:

We as a profession owe it to the consumer to establish — and maintain and enforce — the highest standards of ethical behavior. We must invest in mid-level real estate manager training; refocus culture and policies toward quality and service above recruiting and retention in the brokerage; and establish better peer-based enforcement mechanisms to weed out bad apples.


While brainstorming ethics, the group kept circling back to the topic of accountability. “Whose job is it to make the standards?” we’d ask. Those in charge of multiple listing services (MLSs) want to be told how and what to enforce, and brokers insist on rules and higher standards, but there’s no accountability.

At the end of the day, accountability belongs to everyone, and it all boils down to good hiring decisions. Like Jim Collins, author of Good to Great said, we must “get the right people on the bus in the right seats.”

Increasing professionalism

Brokers’ hiring standards have been extremely low for far too long. This is because agents work from a sphere of influence, and brokers believe that if they don’t hire these agents, their neighbor will. Some call it an industry secret, but it seems to me the cat’s been out of the bag for a while now.

The downside here is that brokers are taking a shot in the dark — there is no way to tell which agents will perform, and professionalism suffers as a result.

If we want to increase professionalism in our industry, the hiring process must change — and thankfully it’s starting to.

I’ve had conversations with several female brokers recently, and I’ve discovered that they are taking a different approach by leading with their values. They are building training systems and hiring passionate professionals, much like the world of sports handles team building.

They are taking time to identify the strongest skills in each individual, and they are encouraging their teams to support each other rather than competing politely with each other. This method has proven to increase scalability and profitability for each professional.

They want compassion, care and quality to reflect in everything they do. They are fine-tuning this message, and as a result, they have been able to maintain a high quality of professionalism.

Entrepreneurs don’t want to live by someone else’s rules. Who would want to be a professional in this business without being able to create and live by their own value system? The industry can’t drive professionalism because it starts with the individuals. They need to own it and deliver it.

Authenticity and value comes from being professional. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great at something. We need to do our best at every opportunity and always stick to our code, practice it and get those 10,000 hours in. This means we must keep our clients’ best interest at the forefront of our business.

Improving our future

What I saw at Inman Disconnect was 150 committed professionals who want to make a positive change, and I am proud to count myself among them. I want us to continue creating wonderful experiences for homebuyers and perpetuating the idea that being a homeowner is a core part of the American experience and the American dream. And I want to do it right.

As part of a company that offers a collaborative sales platform for real estate professionals, I want to elevate the industry through company competency, exemplary ethics and exceptional service provided to the real estate professionals we advocate for.

In itself, being professional at what you do means providing great service and upholding strong values. And it’s the differentiating values of the broker that should attract and retain the agents.

Los Angeles-based Anne Sperling is the chief visionary officer and Collabra Technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her to Twitter.

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