I’ve been in the real estate arena for 13 years now, and early on, I realized that if I wanted to achieve the levels of success I had envisioned, I would not be able to do it alone.
When I graduated college, I started working as a commercial underwriter (which only lasted about six months before I was fired) and joined another company as a financial controller. The new job was great. I was a recent college graduate, and I had an assistant right away. I wasn’t exactly sure how to navigate that relationship, and I often had her fetching me coffee, filing and faxing documents for me. At the time, that’s what I thought assistants did.
I was at that job for about a year and a half, but there were limits that came with working for someone else, at least at that organization. I needed to be free to think, explore and experiment with my own ideas and my own business. I needed to be in control of my life. So I did what every sane person would not do in late 2006, during one of the biggest, if not the biggest, real estate bubbles in history: I quit my job, became a Realtor and started building a real estate team.
When I began my career in real estate, I really started to understand the importance of leveraging a great assistant. It wasn’t just handing off miscellaneous tasks — it was creating a mutually beneficial relationship. I focused on sales, and my assistant focused on her strengths — handling marketing and client services and creating systems and processes to make my business run smoothly, which was good for business for both of us.
Over the next four years, as I was building my real estate team and later launching a real estate franchise, I went through several assistants, none lasting longer than eight months. It was a combination of my relentless drive, incredibly fast-paced and impatient attitude and overall lack of leadership skills, as well as the assistants falling more in the reactive rather than proactive category.
I didn’t really understand how to properly hire talent back then, and I paid for it with high turnover — until 2010, when Hallie Warner (who is now my chief of staff) and I joined forces.
The first, and arguably the most important, hire you should make as a real estate agent or entrepreneur is an assistant. It’s your first point of leverage. This hire allows you to start working in your strength zone and on the 20 percent of tasks that make the most impact on the bottom line of your business.
If you’re on the fence about hiring an assistant, don’t be. A great assistant will force multiply your activities and the business. In fact, a great assistant should bring four times their annual salary in revenue to the business. What are you waiting for? It’s an investment you can’t afford not to make.
Still not convinced? Here are five ways agents and assistants can achieve more together:
1. Increase productivity by operating in their strength zones
You’re probably not great with details and implementation. Assistants are generally not great at sales. Perfect. That’s why you have each other. Get more done in less time by focusing on your strengths and allowing your assistant to focus on theirs.
While you’re pounding the pavement and making calls, your assistant will be holding down the fort, dealing with the daily minutia of the business and putting systems and processes in place so you and the business can continue to grow.
We know you’re going to be working hard while you build your business, why not at least be working on the things that you love? When you’re in that flow you will be even more effective without having to put in any more time. The same goes for your assistant.
Believe it or not, all those things you hate doing are your assistant’s strengths. Allow them to own those responsibilities and get out of their way. Agents and assistants achieve more together when they are both operating in their strength zones and staying in their own lane. Do this, and watch the company thrive!
2. Push each other to grow
As an entrepreneur or business owner, you hear “yes” more than you should. Your assistant is someone who should be empowered to disagree with you, slow you down and tell you no. Assistants who challenge their agent’s thinking and share a different perspective will help them make the best decision for the organization.
On the flip side, agents can help their assistants gain confidence and grow by pushing them outside of their comfort zone. While a generalization, most agents are going to be much more risk-tolerant their than assistants.
Assistants might need that extra push to take on a new project or host a webinar. Let them know that it is OK to fail, and building confidence comes by trying new things. We all know getting uncomfortable is how we grow (whether that is a speaking engagement for the assistant or being told to slow down and focus on one thing for the agent).
Agents and assistants achieve more together by being the counter balance and sounding boards for each other so that neither one remains in the status quo.
3. Become stronger leaders
Leadership is not all it’s cracked up to be. When you are just starting out, you can feel very alone – making decisions, creating systems, learning about contracts, dealing with clients and just trying to figure out how to make it through the day. And that’s as a single agent! When you make a decision to start building the business, you’re likely making that up as you go too.
Your assistant, your first hire, will help you begin to hone your leadership skills. You don’t know what you don’t know, but a great assistant will tell you (loud and clear!). An assistant will give you leverage so that you are no longer working in the business, but on the business. And that means spending time working on growing your leadership skills.
As the agent begins to increase their leadership lid and role model the behavior of an influential leader, your assistant — if they are the right match — will rise to the occasion and begin to match and mirror your leadership style. Better yet, they will be on this leadership journey with you, attending the classes you do, reading the same books as you, honing communication skills and more.
Again, agents and their assistants achieve more together because they are pushing each other and challenging each other to step up — and that starts with leadership.
4. Maximize the company vision
As agents and assistants grow and become better leaders, inevitably the company is going to start growing. And with growth comes opportunity to bring more agents and staff onto the team. In order to attract talent, you’ve got to communicate the vision consistently and clearly.
We know you, the entrepreneur, have a massive vision. How are you distributing that to your network? How are you marketing your team’s mission? How are you sharing the company story? Enter your assistant. They will take your wild and crazy vision and distill it into powerful talking points, compelling social media posts, and guest blogs or podcast opportunities.
As the company grows and becomes more complex, your assistant will need to turn those skills inward. Instead of communicating the vision outward to candidates, potential business partners and clients, they will also need to ensure your vision is clearly and consistently communicated to employees, other agents on your team and investors.
Your assistant will also create systems around communication and prep content so there is a cadence to company messaging. Consistency is so key and assistants follow through. Agents and assistants achieve more together by sharing the vision across multiple channels and to internal and external stakeholders.
The ripple effect is real and will increase brand presence, reputation and above all ensure all parties are operating with a clear direction and focus.
5. Implement technology
Technology has changed the landscape in which we do business. We need cutting edge technology to stay ahead of the competition, to enhance the service we provide and deliver the experience that consumers now expect.
Agents should be focusing on building relationships, honing their market knowledge and executing their fiduciary responsibilities. Meanwhile, a kick-ass assistant will be behind the scenes researching the best systems and tools to streamline your business operations and generate more leads.
No matter how tech savvy you are, you and your business will be better served by leaving the technology and system implementation to your assistant. And they’ll thank you for it because they’ll be able to do their due diligence on finding the right solution and take the time to set it up right the first time, without being distracted by the next shiny tech tool.
Agents and assistants can achieve even more together by collectively leveraging technology.
As the real estate industry continues to shift, it is even more important for agents to focus on three key areas: the relationship with their client, their knowledge (local market, industry trends and global economy) and their fiduciary responsibility. Everything else is just a distraction. Yup, technology too. That is why it is so important for an agent to partner with an assistant who is a strategic thinker, a creative problem solver and an implementation guru.
Agents, find your assistant. Assistants, find your agent. Without a doubt, together, you will achieve more.