In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
After a long and successful tenure, an office’s broker has decided to resign her position. How should her inner circle of top agents respond?
Building this company into one of the area’s most productive real estate offices has been the pinnacle of my career. The owner and I have worked hand-in-hand to establish a vision and set of core values; recruit talented agents who fit our profile; give them the training, tools and freedom to do their jobs well; and pass on the rewards to our agents, staffers and customers.
It has been an amazing experience, but I am ready to take on the next challenge of my career.
In all honesty, if I had my druthers, I would start my own office or take on a similar position with another company right away — but I signed (and will honor) a two-year non-compete agreement on my most recent contract, which has become standard in the industry.
The owner wisely insisted on this condition, knowing that I might join a competitor and recruit agents from his office if I ever left and bet on my eventual replacement’s ability to gain their confidence over time.
In the meantime, I will probably hang my license temporarily at another firm, return to selling homes (a practice which falls outside of the non-compete) and simply bide my time until the contract’s clock runs out.
Two years can go quickly. This seems like a smart way to stay connected to my colleagues and get to know who I might look to hire — when I return to management.
Relationships are a huge part of this business. The nature and extent of our relationships with prospects, customers, brokers and colleagues dictate almost every aspect of our ability to buy and sell homes. You might be unhappy with many facets of your office, but if you like and respect your broker, chances are you will stay through challenges and difficult times.
The opposite is also true: You might love all the perks and benefits of a well-managed office, but if you can’t stand your broker and colleagues, you will always have one foot out the door — and eventually two — which is why I have very mixed feelings about this broker leaving our office.
It was she who recruited me when I was just making my way in real estate, encouraged my growth and mentored me through all the ups and downs. My office is perfectly fine, and I appreciate it, but my loyalty has really always been to her and not it. And I know I’m not the only top agent here who feels this way.
She hasn’t told me directly, but I believe she will be looking to get back into real estate management (or maybe even ownership) once her non-compete period ends.
If and when that happens, I’ll have a tough decision. What if she recruits me? What if I’m happy with the new broker at this office? Lots of questions for something that might not even happen, but that underscores my original point about the intense power of relationships.
How to meet halfway
Management-labor relationships throughout the business world have changed dramatically over the past generation, and real estate is no exception. The bonds between agent and company used to strengthen over time, with both sides investing in each other and reaping the benefits, leading to tenures that would literally last a lifetime.
Today, with so many options and opportunities at their disposal, agents have become far less tethered to their companies, and brokers are following suit, albeit to a lesser extent.
As managers, they are typically bound to stricter non-compete agreements that limit their flexibility to change offices and recruit once they do.
These safeguards protect brokerages on a micro level, and the entire industry on a macro level. They force brokers to be conservative in their career choices and encourage a level of stability throughout the industry.
While these protections might seem overly authoritarian, a real estate world in which brokers switched offices as freely as agents (and agents switched offices to an even greater extent) would appear highly unstable and untrustworthy to the average customer.
Conversely, deliberate managerial mobility encourages professionalism throughout the industry.
To ensure smooth transitions before, during and after brokers depart, real estate agency owners should be a consistent and positive presence in their offices and maintain a high level of morale.
Agents are quick to talk amongst themselves and raise questions when major changes take place, but an approachable, trusted and transparent owner can ensure stability during these times.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s “Agents’ Choice” Awards.