Spyglass Realty owner and team leader Ryan Rodenbeck was sent reeling when his top producer quit. Less than two years after that wake-up call, the team won a citywide best workplace award. Here, Rodenbeck shares what he learned and how it enabled him to build a stronger, more collaborative team that works hard and plays hard together.

Building a world-class sales team can be tough. I’ve made every mistake in the book in the past, and last year, I lost my highest producing agent, at the time. That was a real wake-up call for me.

As with every big mistake I made, I tried to evaluate what it was that I needed to do to prevent that mistake from happening again. I dove deep into the cultures of top producing teams and tried to pick from the lessons that were relevant to my brokerage.

Fast forward to a year and a half later, and we’re sitting at the Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work awards ceremony. We submitted our entry and were told we won a spot, but we had no idea where we would rank.  The ranking is done based on the survey of your entire team. They ask several pages of questions, and your team submits the answers anonymously.

Our category was for a company size of 10 to 20 people. There were 12 of us sitting at the table, and they announced the winners from No. 20 to No. 1. Before it started, my goal was to not be last.

They called out No. 20, and we all made a small cheer and smiled, simultaneously thinking “yeah, we’re not last.” They called out No. 15, and we got even more excited.

Again, when they called out No. 10, we were really getting excited. And then when they got to No. 5, we were outright ecstatic, trading high fives left and right. We ultimately made the No. 3 spot, and we were the highest-ranking brokerage in our category.

To have come from a moment that felt like failure in losing my top producer to this pure elation was eye-opening. Reflecting back on what it was that allowed our team to rank so highly, I come to you with six tips that can hopefully help you make your team stronger.

1. Never be too busy to take the time to help your agents when they need it

Looking back, I set up a hierarchy in the company by having a sales manager and an office manager, and I was still a top producer. I would tell everyone that they could always come to me.

But some of the feedback I got from the agent who left was that I had this tone and look on my face that said “I say I can take your call or talk at anytime, but I’m really not that available.”

Now, I’m very aware of how I react when an agent needs something, and I do what I can to not only be available, but also to be present.

2. Set up a culture of collaboration

We use Workplace by Facebook, and I encourage agents to ask questions and answer questions in the relevant groups.

We also have a common area in the office with four desks that can sit up to 10 people. I had an “executive” office in the back, but I gave that up to always sit where someone can come and sit with me.

Little things that encourage the group to help each other go a long way with building a solid company culture. When we set up our office, our goal was to do it in the form of a shared workspace where collaboration can occur, and we think about that all the time.

3. Elevate your team to teach what they know

I’ve always done training. I love it, and it comes naturally to me. But when I was trying to create a more collaborative environment, I realized that I had a really solid group of agents with a wide variety of knowledge.

At our meetings, I started tasking people in this group to teach what they know instead of having to listen to me the entire time. I need to be the facilitator of these meetings but not necessarily the head trainer. The results were amazing.

My presenting agents not only met my expectations — but far exceeded them. And not only was I impressed, the entire team was blown away. They all came away thinking “these guys rock.”  And what’s more, they raised the bar for the next training.

4. Hold meetings (but not ‘death by meetings’)

We have a 20- to 30-minute video huddle call each week where the agents can log in from wherever they are. We try to keep it short and to the point. I prepare for it as best we can.

If I don’t have much to say, I’ll cancel it. But we also have a once-a-month two-hour meeting where we do our big trainings. And not only do I have my agents give a training segment, but I also sometimes call in an outside agent.

Having been a conference junkie for the past 10 years, I’ve formed deep relationships with top team leaders across the country, and I often call on them to talk about different subjects that they are great at.

I’ve had Joe Herrera from Vegas talk about database mining, Jay Marks talk about how he taps into a referral base, and at our next meeting, we’re having Amy Youngren talk about goal-setting and how to complete the year without losing steam.

These are impressive team leaders, and my agents are always awed to hear from such a talented and diverse group of team leaders and brokers from across the country.

5. Work hard, but play hard, too

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to accompany a friend of mine to the weekly happy hour at Dropbox. Every Friday at 5 p.m. they hire a bartender, bring in food and do a happy hour from 5-8 p.m.

The Austin office has a full recording studio with instruments, and I watched five employees rock out while a good 10 more sat in the room and listened. It was true Silicon Valley culture.

Well, we obviously don’t have the budget for that, but we started implementing a twice-a-month happy hour at the office where we have an open bar and snacks from 5-8 p.m.

I invite outside agents as well, and it’s not about recruiting. We have two pool parties a year at my house, a huge client appreciation party and a quarterly offsite happy hour.

My people work hard, and I genuinely love hanging out with them. Bringing them all together has them forming deeper relationships.

6. Don’t rock the boat with the wrong person

Recruitment is a huge goal of mine, and I want to grow, but what I’ve realized it’s more important than growth is making sure my company culture stays intact. We look for personality traits that are similar to our existing team and a very hard work ethic.

And we do not want to hire an agent with a victim mentality. According to Psychology Today, “The victim grates on you with a poor-me attitude and is allergic to taking responsibility for their actions.”

The wrong personality can cause discomfort in your team and when you have a good thing going, you want to do everything you can to maintain that momentum and energy.

Ryan Rodenbeck is the broker-owner of Spyglass Realty and Investments in Austin. Connect with him on Instagram.

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