In our industry, the importance of “protege building” is not widely discussed. In a day and age when the competition is tough and egos run high, how do you find the right mini-me to pass along your wealth of knowledge to?
Some of my favorite movies of all time are from the Austin Powers series. I love all the characters including Fat Bastard, Dr. Evil and, of course my favorite, Mini-Me, the protege of Dr. Evil.
Allow me to clarify that the use of the term mini-me in this article is not to infer that we, like the ego-driven Dr. Evil, are to find a direct replica of ourselves to sustain our business.
Instead, my reference is to make the point that one element in building a sustainable real estate practice is finding a protege that can help you maintain your business today and, more importantly, sustain your business in the future.
I believe that we must incorporate the mentor-protege sustainability formula now more than ever to both keep an avenue of revenue streaming for our future, as well as bring up young professionals whose contemporary strengths will position them to make a footprint of their own, on the heels of a well-established business.
This topic is important to our industry because for the most part, agents don’t have official retirement dates. Meaning we don’t show up to work one morning and have a stupid cake and maybe a Timex watch waiting for us for all our years of service.
The reality is that, as the years go on, we fade away and eventually stop doing deals because we are no longer relevant or contemporary enough to compete in this ever-changing and challenging market.
There’s no doubt that the concept of finding a mini-me is not new to the business world.
For example, young doctors who serve under seasoned doctors take over well-established practices all in good time. Parents pass on to their children established companies once they have proven their ability to successfully manage and grow the business.
For our industry though, the importance of “protege building” is not widely discussed.
This gap in information exists probably because most young and hungry agents are not necessarily eager to sit in the student seat.
Most want to be their own boss, to have their name on the door, to make the bigger split of the commission and not be accountable to anyone. I believe part of the reason is that the perception of what we do seems easy and effortless when the truth couldn’t be more opposite.
The question then becomes, in a day and age when the competition is tough and egos run high, how do you find the right mini-me?
In a previous article, I addressed the basic elements of mentoring. This time, I want to step deeper into the subject by giving you some protege principles that can lead to long-term partnerships, with the goal being that when you are ready to step into your retirement, you will still have residual income from your clientele that now is entrusted to your capable hands of your protege.
As I reflect on this subject, I am reminded of a very successful real estate team within the Surterre brand that started working together in 2010.
It is one of the top producers in the Laguna Beach, Orange County luxury market, and to this day, the team is still working together in a reduced capacity; even after the senior member moved away and only comes to town for a few selected deals.
Their names are Michael Gosselin and Frank Hufnagel. Their brief history is that Gosselin took Hufnagel under his wing in 2010 as a mentor, and Hufnagel in return was an incredible asset to the team as an ambitious mentee.
As the years passed, the compensation and responsibilities eventually shifted, to where Hufnagel became the primary force behind the team and Gosselin was able to move away yet still receive benefits from the group. This success story is a perfect example of creating sustainability, as it shows that with the right formula everyone wins.
So, what is that winning formula? It contains four elements.
Having had both unsuccessful and successful proteges over the past 30 plus years, here is what I have discovered are the four important elements to building sustainability.
1. Find like-minded proteges
Begin by finding a more contemporary or younger protege who you are willing to take a risk with, and just like mini-me, do make sure they are very similar to you.
If both of you are similar in age, it defeats the purpose of being able to take a step back and focus on more personal goals. Your protege should be at least 10 to 15 years younger to continue the business and the relationships you have developed and take them to the next level.
Your clients might be getting older as well, but they still want to have it all: a relationship with you that they trust and can depend on and the knowledge of you being contemporary enough to handle the ever-changing market — and that is where your protege comes in.
As much as you need to embrace some important differences in the two of you, such as the approach to technology, social media and marketing, it is paramount that your core values are aligned and that the approach that made you successful remains the primary focus.
2. Make sure your mini adds value
Once you find that mini-me, make sure they bring attributes and qualities to the table that are different than you.
I have found over the years that I don’t know what I don’t know, meaning that I get very set in my way of doing business, and I realize that I don’t look for new and improved ways of servicing my clients.
That is where your protege can lead you into being the best version of yourself that you can be.
3. Foster loyalty
Create an environment that fosters loyalty on both sides as your clients will eventually become your joint clients; and eventually, his or her clients.
Trust and loyalties are not only earned but take time. It will take time for you to trust that this is not a quick stop over for your protege but a long-term commitment that will eventually lead to you and your protege being interchangeable in your clients’ eyes.
At the same time, your protege must feel that you are 100 percent committed to this partnership and are vested to the point that they are empowered to do the tasks that will lead them eventually to being recognized as an equal.
The fruit of this give-and-take is that one day their name will be added to the door, and eventually, your name will be removed as it becomes their journey now, with residual income still coming your way.
4. Define early if this is an internship or a potential future partnership
If it is an internship, have a beginning and an end date, and don’t get too attached. Give the best you have to offer to the intern, and utilize their quest for experience for your daily tasks.
If it is a relationship that will grow into a partnership, be prepared to put your ego aside, and be a mentor. Encourage your protege to swim in the deep end of the pool instead of the shallow end where they might have been hanging out prior to meeting you.
The value that you have and will continue to deposit into your mini-me will all return to you by keeping you sustainable when it comes to evolving your brand into a market that is constantly changing in terms of technology, automation and the ever-growing social media presence.
I love what I do, and I hope to be doing this for many more years to come, as doing deals is in my blood and gives me a reason to get up in the morning.
However, eventually my time at the Moana Surfrider in Honolulu or at our place in Greece will become more extended, and I need to make sure that I have a mini-me in place who will not only allow me to remain vital and involved, but will also cover me when I am away.
So, let’s choose wisely when it comes to whom you let into our “house” — I hope you will all find your mini-me in your pursuit of future relevance.