In a time where “bigger is better” seems to be the motto for many real estate teams, it’s easy to believe that success can only come with an expansive leadership team and hoards of agents spread across multiple offices.
In this two-part series, we’ll explore what some of the top duos in the country have to say about choosing the right partner, splitting responsibilities, handling conflict and creating a brand able to stand the test of time.
Missed part one of this series? Check out it out here.
Knowledge is power: Kevin Kauffman and Fred Weaver
When Kevin Kauffman and Fred Weaver met 12 years ago, they had no idea they’d become co-leaders of their own multistate team. Instead, the men, who specialized in short sales, were simply looking for someone to help negotiate with banks.
“We didn’t set out to form a partnership. We were both looking for help and support,” Kauffman said. “Negotiating with banks can be hard to do alone. So we thought it would be nice to have some there to help out.”
Kauffman and Weaver began renting an office together and even hired the same assistant, who happened to be Weaver’s brother. As they saw each other in action, securing, negotiating and closing deals, they soon realized their partnership could go to the next level.
The duo got to work creating their business, which required them to do everything from scratch since neither one had an established marketing or branding plan.
“Luckily for us, neither of us had much,” Kauffman explained. “We had our own listings and signs … but we both employed the same person part-time as our assistant.”
“We were both just trying to make it happen month to month, so we ended up creating a lot of it from scratch as opposed to us both having established teams at the time,” he added.
Beyond drafting the blueprint of their day-to-day operations, Kauffman and Weaver spent plenty of time researching learning behavior, which explores how people connect with themselves, others and the work they do.
Kauffman said taking the time to research learning behavior alongside other business psychology principles helped the duo ensure their vision, goals, talents and working styles align.
“Considering things like vision, strengths, habits and so many more things aren’t usually done but should be,” Kauffman said. “For example, if partners don’t have the same vision, its never going to work.”
The men say their psychology-based approach to managing work dynamics has enabled them to “divide and conquer” and trust each other’s decisions.
“The thing is, we don’t ‘deal’ with each other’s personalities, we are aware of our behavior (we’ve taken so many courses on hiring and learning behavior),” Kauffman explained. “We’re comfortable with ourselves and each other. Personally, if [dealing with each other’s personalities and working styles] takes a lot of effort, I think the partnership is in jeopardy.”
“We don’t [need to hold each other accountable],” he added. “We are accountable people. When we do divide and conquer, we’re clear on who needs to do what.”
“In fact, we know each other so well; it’s not even a verbal conversation.”
Kauffman and Weaver said they keep their relationship and business secure by holding twice-yearly planning sessions, regularly scheduled “thinking times” for brainstorming and continuing to share an office, just like they did 12 years ago.
“There have been ups and downs in our business over the years, but never in our partnership,” Kauffman said. “I think regular communication has helped make sure this happens. To this day, we share an office.”
“Not because we have to, but because it allows us to hear each other’s conversations (one of the biggest benefits to having a partner) and allows us to essentially have an ongoing conversation with each other all day.”
Kindness is key: Samantha Rose Frith and Joel Moss
Several years ago, Samantha Rose Frith went out on a limb and asked Joel Moss to join her at the Food and Wine Festival’s Beer and Burger Bash. After all, she’d just scored two free tickets and wanted to know more about Moss, who she exchanged friendly, yet brief “hellos” with at the office each day.
“I couldn’t think of one girlfriend who would truly enjoy all-you-can-eat burgers and beer with me, what with one diet or another, but I knew of Joey as a cool surfer girl, so I asked her to come with me, and we had the most amazing time together,” Frith said. “We ended up eating and dancing our way through Manhattan and became instant friends.”
Frith’s kindness not only gained her a new friend but a new business partner when Moss asked for help with a huge deal.
“From our first night out on the town, I knew I had made a new friend,” Moss said. “Soon after, I took over sales of the remaining sponsor units at 315 Seventh Avenue and knew I would need help, so I asked Sam if she had time to help. Lucky for me, she said yes.”
Since then, Frith and Moss have become a formidable duo, with kindness and compassion being at the center of how they interact and conduct business.
“Having a partner not only divides your workload but also shoulders the emotional support of everyday business stresses that can pop up,” Frith explained. “Joey and I both have families, and the additional support is essential to a happy work-life balance.”
“It might seem like a small thing, but Joey and I make each other laugh, and that’s a big thing for me, to go to work with a smile and to have a little fun,” she added. “I think a partner who is motivating and energizing is also key.”
The women said their dedication to maintaining a positive mindset has helped them survive the New York City real estate scene, and it has helped them navigate disagreements and misunderstandings.
“Sam is genuinely the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Moss noted. “Real estate in NYC doesn’t make being nice an easy thing to accomplish on some days, but Sam always manages.”
“In the years we’ve worked together, we’ve only had one disagreement,” Frith added. “We had one fairly large deal and didn’t discuss our commission split upfront (we assumed we knew).”
Frith and Moss talked through the issue while taking a stroll near the office and quickly came to an agreement on how they’d handle commissions from that day forward.
“It was the first time we’d ever disagreed, so it was a little stressful,” Frith said. “The lesson we learned is that commission or any other expectations you might have should be addressed upfront.”
“No matter how well things are going or how close you are to a person, it’s always best to know what is expected in your partnership and of each other, to avoid any potential issues,” she added.
Tag-teaming life and real estate: Steve and Heather Ostrom
Four years into his real estate career, Steve and Heather Ostrom realized they had a critical decision to make for their businesses and their family.
“We both had our own businesses we were overseeing,” Steve said. “[I had] real estate, and Heather had her graphic design company.”
“It became obvious there was more money to be made in real estate, rather than graphic design,” he added. “So Heather started working with me to make all my marketing look better.”
“It also put us on the same page with work and with the kids.”
Heather was entirely on board with the plan because it allowed her to be adequately compensated for her time and talent.
“I was on my own with my graphic design company, and people were offering to pay cookies or trade for my awesome logos and design work,” she said. “Champagne designs on a Fiverr pay-scale? Yeah, I’m good.”
“Plus, Steve’s marketing stuff was ugly, and it was driving me nuts,” she added. “I knew there were some great opportunities for a salesperson (Steve) and a marketer (me), both in techniques of reaching current and new clients, video work and blogging, and also our blend of personalities.”
Heather’s marketing and graphic design savvy helped Steve build a solid presence online just as the internet we know today was just getting started.
“The internet was just starting to take off,” Steve explained. “Heather was so much better at dealing with internet business generated than I ever was (I’m more of a phone guy).”
“She was an early real estate adopter on Twitter and was active on Trulia Voices,” he added. “I’m more of an in-person Realtor, while she dominated online presence and saw the opportunities doing video work and showcasing our talents and specialized skills as a ‘two-for-one’ duo.”
As the years ticked by and their business expanded, the couple has continued to revisit their roles and responsibilities in the office and how that impacts their ability to enjoy time at home.
“For us, it was knowing the strengths of each and trying to cater to that,” Steve explained. “More importantly, it was knowing what didn’t work.”
“At first, Heather was helping me with paperwork, but we quickly realized that was not going to work,” he added. “It became sort of a nagging issue, so we quickly hired a transaction coordinator that handles all paperwork.”
In addition to streamlining their responsibilities, the couple has created strict guidelines on how they handle disagreements at work.
“We’ve defined ‘no-no zones’ including where and when to talk about work,” Heather explained. “[However], venting happens, [so] get used to it. But if someone can’t decipher what’s a real problem and venting, say hello to troubleville.”
When venting sessions arise, Steve and Heather use what they call “word Vaseline.”
“We both are great at speaking objectively to one another when we can improve on communication, negotiations and also personality management (when things get stressful), but the key is great ‘word Vaseline’ and not attacking one another,” Heather said. “We present alternative options without calling one another a ‘stupid head’ or ‘cotton-headed Ninny Muggins.'”
The couple is now 14 years into their joint-venture, and they don’t see themselves stopping any time soon.
“We were cautioned to be careful working together, but as we added more kids, and we loved seeing each other and working together,” Heather said. “We have never regretted our merge of business worlds. It’s the best thing for our family and sanity.”
Maximizing results: Nicolas Paredes and Gill Chowdhury
When Nicolas Paredes first met Gill Chowdhury, he’d just joined Warburg Realty after his previous brokerage shuttered operations.
In search of a new start, Paredes was looking for an opportunity to work in a team setting that would allow him to collaborate while growing his brand.
Several coworkers suggested Paredes reach out to Chowdhury, but before he could, Warburg’s sales director connected the two men. One dinner meeting later, Paredes and Chowdhury realized they could make a successful duo.
“We got dinner, liked each other’s vibes, and made a promise to each other to start working hard and getting better,” Paredes said.
From there, Paredes and Chowdhury began creating a business plan that enabled them to maximize their potential earnings by focusing on a handful of niche services.
“The ultimate goal is to make money, and there are various avenues in which you can do so in real estate,” Paredes explained. “Whether you are focusing on working with buyers, building your resale business or accessing investment opportunities, you can always improve to further maximize results.”
Beyond figuring out the best tactics to improve their bottom line, the duo also focused on providing each other with honest and constructive feedback about their strengths and weaknesses.
“When you have a partner, you get a lot of free intel on what you look like and how you perform based on their perception, so it’s a great way to put a mirror up to your actions and figure out ways to improve them,” Paredes added.
From there, Paredes and Chowdhury were able to split their responsibilities based on what each did best — Paredes took over the creative side of deals by planning photoshoots, creating visually striking marketing materials and beautiful staging. On the other hand, Chowdhury used his business acumen to keep the listings coming in.
“Regarding buyers, keeping track of properties across different market segments can be difficult,” Chowdhury explained. “Nicolas makes sure I don’t miss any property that comes to market, drops in price, etc., which could be a good opportunity for our buyer.”
Outside of work, Paredes and Chowdhury are careful to give each other space to avoid burnout.
“It’s important to know your boundaries and actively speak up when necessary. Gill will work round the clock, and I sometimes have cutoff times where I need to reboot,” Paredes said. “Working with someone, you usually speak with them more consistently than anybody in your life.”
“So it’s important to know when it’s too late to answer an email or when you need a break, when it’s time to speed things up, and when it’s time to catch up and plan for the future,” he added.