What does it take to run a successful real estate brokerage in today’s highly competitive marketplace? Based on the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) Membership Survey of 4,356 of its members and interviews with a cross-section of 25 California female brokers, it comes down to 15 key factors.
Even though the real estate industry is predominantly female, women are underrepresented in leadership positions at the brokerage and senior management levels. The primary goal of the 2018 C.A.R. Women’s Initiative is to increase the number of women who hold brokerage leadership positions and to uncover best practices, strategies, and tactics that can assist them in growing in their leadership roles.
Here are the 15 most important factors for building brokerage success in rank order.
1. Build trust
Act honestly and ethically, and always do the right thing.
Honesty, integrity, and doing the right thing were the most cited factors in building trust and a successful brokerage.
Crystal Narramore, President of Podley Properties, shares how she approaches difficult decisions at her company:
Our company’s core values were established long before I joined the company. These four core values are Integrity, People, Innovation and Excellence; but of these, integrity is the most important.
Bill Podley takes integrity very seriously. When I’m facing a decision, I can always go to the decision that holds the most integrity, and he will always support that, even if it costs more money or is more difficult to implement.
2. Create a collaborative team
Treat your agents, staff, affiliates and clients with utmost respect and professionalism.
Becky Blair, President and CEO of Coldwell Banker Commercial Blair Westmac, explains why working as a team is one of her company’s most important core values:
Of course, a person needs skills to succeed, but working as a team and building a sense of trust is also an important core value. This fosters an environment where agents help and support each other.
To build that atmosphere of trust, businesses must promote ethics, partnerships and working together. Businesses need to see the entire company as a team effort. Individually, you need to be skilled, but everyone needs to use their talents to contribute to the overall success of the company.
Mia McLeod, owner and broker of record for McLeod and Associates, shares how she approaches team building at her brokerage:
When you own your own brokerage and have your own team, you have a responsibility to develop your team and to grow its leaders. I didn’t know that early on, and I truly believe that is a requirement to run a successful business.
There’s an African proverb that I’ve always liked that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.
3. Organize, systematize and standardize
Create structured, standardized systems with clear-cut policies and procedures, cross-train and never do “special deals.” Use technology to strengthen these systems.
While no one disputes the importance of having clear-cut policies and procedures and standardized systems, many companies would benefit from making sure that their staff is cross-trained. Furthermore, making unique commission deals is a quick way to lose agents over special deals.
Marty Rodriguez, owner of Century 21 Marty Rodriguez, explains the rigorous systems at her brokerage:
My daughter runs the company. Everything is organized, systematized, computerized, color-coded and labeled. Every position has a manual and all positions are cross-trained. Cross-training gives us the ability to give outstanding customer service.
If one of our team members isn’t available to answer a question, someone else can step in to handle it because we all have knowledge of all the roles in the company.
4. Have a learning mindset
Only hire people who are committed to learning, and provide them with the training and education to help them grow.
The 2012 and 2015 Texas Association of Realtors Survey of New Agent Success showed that having a learning mindset was not only the predictor of new agent success, it was also associated with top production.
As one broker-owner observed at one of my speaking events: “My top agents were all in the first three rows. The people who really needed to be here didn’t even bother to show up.”
Joanna Odabashian, CEO and team leader of Keller Williams Fresno, attributes much of her brokerage’s success to the robust training they offer:
Our high closing rates have been a direct result of how much time we spend educating our agents. Our company provides 12-15 training sessions per week, including a contract strategy class. That class helps our agents hold their transactions together.
We have very high standards for the types of agents we bring into the company; we want agents who are learning-based, ethical and who are team players.
5. Stay a step ahead
Use forward thinking and innovation to outpace the competition.
One of the most cited reasons that female brokers started their own companies was that being with a larger company made it difficult to keep pace with the rapid rate of change.
Melissa Zavala, broker owner of Broadpoint Properties, described how moving from a franchise provided the flexibility she needed at her brokerage:
I enjoy learning about new technologies. If I locate a technology that I think we may want to try, I discuss it with my husband and a couple of key staff members. If we think it’s a good tool, we can implement quickly without having to jump through all the hoops at a franchise, such as gaining permission, allocating funds, etc. If it doesn’t work, we dump it.
6. Build your agents up
Listen to their concerns, communicate often and be available to support them when needed.
While numbers matter, virtually all the women interviewed emphasized quality over quantity. Service to their clients and to their communities are what matters most, as Marion Henon, the broker and co-owner of Marvin Gardens Real Estate, explains:
Our clients are our biggest priority. We support our agents so that they can support their clients. When I first started in real estate, the office I worked in was all top down and was focused exclusively on the numbers and how many deals can you do.
What we emphasize in our brokerage is helping our agents to help their clients and their community. For us, it’s not all about the numbers — it’s about the quality of service.
7. Strive for excellence
Constantly strive to exceed expectations by growing your team’s professionalism and providing concierge-level service on every transaction.
After attending the 2017 WomanUP! event, Barbara Betts, the CEO and broker of The Betts Realty Group, decided to launch her own brokerage using “core statements” rather than “core values”:
Rather than having core values, our company has core statements. If our core statements do not resonate with an agent, they’re not a good fit for our company. Our core statements are:
- Be honest and have integrity.
- Be a proud and active member of our industry.
- Create and maintain relationships.
- Be extraordinary.
- Exceed expectations.
- Be innovative and forward thinking.
- Treat our clients and team as family.
- Have fun.
8. Be authentic
Show up as who you are, be objective, and be open to receiving feedback.
Now a “Realtor Emeritus,” Annette Graw became an office manager at an early age. She made a point of building strong relationships both inside and outside her firm by getting to know people personally.
Once I obtained my broker’s license, that opened up positions in management and association leadership. I was in my 30s and most members of the board were in their 60s. It was very scary for me. I had good training and good mentors to talk to. I figured out that the best way to be a good manager was just to be me.
9. Completely commit to what you are doing
Work hard; persist; have a positive, never-give-up attitude; and surround yourself with people who support your commitment.
Brokerage success requires much more than just hard work, as Chris Kutzkey, the broker-owner of John L. Scott Yreka, observes:
To run a successful brokerage, you must have perseverance, drive and a never-give-up attitude. You must also embrace your role as the leader by staying positive, not being offended and not letting anything turn you back.
10. Hire to your company’s values and culture
Seek people who are strongly aligned with your values and your company’s culture. Place them in the right roles, and be quick to fire when necessary.
Regardless of the size of their brokerage, the vast majority of the women interviewed used terms such as “business family,” “work family,” “business mom,” or “Momanager” to describe the tight-knit, family-like culture they seek to create.
Not only do their agents and staff work together, they play together as well.
Mary Lee Blalock, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services California Properties, shares her approach to building culture at her company:
The first step in building a cohesive work family is to get the right people on the bus in the right positions, doing the right things. All levels of the organization must also believe that you are going in the right direction. If you have that, you can achieve anything. The culture will follow.
Building a culture doesn’t happen overnight — it morphs and changes. There are always challenges in large organizations. The only way I know to handle those challenges is one relationship at a time coupled with consistent messaging and setting clear expectations.
11. Know your priorities
Recruit, retain, build profitability and put the customer experience first.
Many business models make recruiting their primary purpose, often to the detriment of retention, profitability and customer experience. Myra Nourmand, principal at Nourmand and Associates, is crystal clear about her priorities for her company:
To be successful, you must be able to effectively recruit and retain agents, develop and train new talent and be financially disciplined. Personally, I have always enjoyed being involved in recruiting and training. Every day I get to meet new people and I love that. You never know who you’ll meet next.
12. Embrace your role as a leader
Constantly work to improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills, create a compelling vision, and set a positive example in all you do.
Brent Thomson, COO of Pacific Union, shares her insights about becoming a leader:
You need passion and energy. You also need people who are committed to the end game. Leadership sets the tone for the company. People will emulate and follow you all day long if they know that you put their best interests and the best interests of their clients above your own.
13. Be active in your community
Whether it’s your local community or organized real estate, be of service through the causes you and your brokerage support.
Regardless of their age, virtually all the women interviewed actively serve their communities, supporting other women to grow in their leadership roles. In fact, Joanie Young, the former owner and President of Young Realtors — which was acquired by Sotheby’s International — believes that everyone has an obligation to serve both their community and their industry:
I was very active in my community, worked with C.A.R. and have done a lot of mentoring over the years. I was also on the founding board of REBS (C.A.R.’s Real Estate Business Services arm) when we were taking the industry from a paper industry to where we are today.
I really feel like I got more than I gave. I encourage people to be part of their community and industry. I feel everyone has an obligation to serve the industry at some point. Get involved. We haven’t had enough women leaders, but I’m certain we will as we move forward.
14. Embrace change
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Today’s rapidly shifting real estate environment requires flexibility and a willingness to quickly adapt. Lisa Schulz, COO of HomeSmart Evergreen Realty, explains how she approaches this challenging issue:
You must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you’re being presented with something that you’re uncomfortable about, ask yourself, “Why don’t I like this idea?”
With all the constant change in the industry, leaders must be able to adapt. When you’re uncomfortable, that means you’re growing.
15. Never sell your family short
Work to align your job and your family, and never lose sight of what matters most.
Meeting the conflicting demands of work, leadership and family is challenging no matter who you are or where you work. Sabrina Brown, broker-owner of Brown & Brown Real Estate, shares why it’s important to never sell your family short.
The lesson is that life is short. I used to be consumed by my work. I didn’t spend the time with my family like I needed to do because my focus was always on work. Then my mom had a stroke and I became her primary caregiver. That made me realize that I needed to slow down and look at what’s really important.
Not only can I still work and be successful, but I can have time with my family as well.
The C.A.R. WomanUP! conference will be held at the Los Angeles Marriott, June 28-29, 2018. For additional information on the conference or to download the 2017 WomanUP! white paper, click here.
Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.