We reached out to the nation’s top teams — small, medium and large — to learn what strategies they’ve used to weather the storm over the past few months and how they’ve become stronger. Here’s what they had to say.

This July, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — what it takes to build and join one, how to optimize your team for summer 2020, and even when to consider leaving one. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.

As part of Teams Month here on Inman, we wanted to check in with top teams across the country to find out how they’ve pulled together despite uncertainty.

Using the rankings from June’s Real Trends + Tom Ferry in The Thousand, we reached out to the nation’s top teams — small, medium and large — to learn what strategies they’ve used to weather the storm over the past few months and how they’ve become stronger. Here’s what they had to say.

Small teams

Darren Sukenik, managing director, Sukenik | Glazer Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

Sukenik: We have four people.

When did you create your team?

Sukenik: In 2003.

Darren Sukenik, Benjamin Glazer and David Eisenberg of the Sukenik | Glazer Team

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from the pandemic?

Sukenik: It hasn’t, it just gave us some extra time to work on super creative marketing projects that we never had time to deep dive. [We’ve learned] that at the end of the day, if you are a service business, you better be a people person and indispensable for at least three reasons.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Sukenik: We think, we dream, we work harder than everyone else, and we work for our clients, not ourselves.

James Harris, partner, and David Parnes, partner, Bond St. Partners

Inman News: How big is your team?

Parnes: There are six of us total. [Me] and James as the lead agents, Michelle Ficarra is our director of sales, Fred Dapp is our director of marketing, Alana Mesica handles social media, calendar and showings, and Alex Vichinsky is an additional agent on our team who works with many of our buyers.

When did you create your team?

Parnes: It really grew gradually over time. We brought on one person as soon as we could in our early days, then as our business grew we slowly added people in individualized roles.

Harris: It’s like a family and we’re all in it for the long term. We’ve been very selective as we only want the best people who share our work ethic.

Clockwise from top left, David Parnes, James Harris, Alex Vichinsky, Fred Dapp, Alana Mesica and Michelle Ficarra of Bond St. Partners

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Harris: We all share one large office at The Agency, so having to separate and have everyone working from home had its challenges. We are a small and very close-knit team. We have a group text where we chat all day long. We also have a team email so we are all cc’d on everything. We started to implement team Zoom meetings and once things started to open back up again, we’ve been having socially distanced meet-ups at our local park so we can spend time together face-to-face. We started sending a weekly email blast to our database to keep in touch. We realized that we had to stay positive and focus on the daily tasks at hand.

Parnes: Our motto has always been “Divide and conquer, then come together and celebrate,” so we all independently continued to work in our roles. Amazingly, we had absolutely no down time during COVID. We continued to stay busy, and have closed several escrows and taken on several new listings.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Parnes: For our team, staying small allows us to have much better focus and quality control. Each person on our team excels in their area and has total autonomy in their role. When we take on a new listing or open an escrow, each person knows exactly what they need to do so there is never any confusion. We all share the same work ethic and we support each other which is very important.

Harris: With our amazing team in place, David and I are able to focus on generating new business, handling showings, interfacing with buyers and sellers and negotiating deals. Everyone on our team is incentivized so we all have a level of interest and motivation, plus a sense of accomplishment when we close an escrow. We have learned that team morale not only goes a very long way for us personally, but it’s an energy that translates to our clients who can see how professional, thorough and completely committed each of our team members are.

Mauricio Umansky, founder, Mauricio Umansky Team

Members of the Mauricio Umansky Team at a kickball outing

Inman News: How big is your team?

Umansky: The Umansky Team consists of licensed members — Mauricio Umansky, Eduardo Umansky, Farrah Brittany and Alexia Umansky. Mauricio’s sister, Sharon Umansky Benton, joined in 2020. We have an amazing executive assistant who helps keep the team on track, and we also have the power of The Agency’s public relations, marketing, creative and digital team supporting us.

When did you create your team?

Umansky: My father (Eduardo Umansky) and my daughter (Farrah Brittany) and I have always worked alongside each other, but we officially became a team last year. Another of my daughters, Alexia Umansky, joined us recently, as did my sister, Sharon Umansky Benton.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Umansky: Since we’re already a close-knit team and family, we were lucky that we were able to share time in quarantine together under the same roof, unite and work together through this unprecedented time. Instead of holding team meetings in our Beverly Hills office, we organized meetings at home and via video conferencing.

During this time, it was very important to be there for clients every step of the way — from showing to closing — as we would in normal times. We organized ways to be virtually present during all steps of the homebuying process. There’s no question that COVID-19 changed the way we do business. While there will never be a replacement for in-person meetings, interactions and one-on-one face time, there are some practices my team and I adopted during this time that I’d like to maintain.

We found virtual tours for clients to be incredibly useful in the buying process. While it’s important to see and experience a property firsthand, a number of our clients were able to eliminate or decide to move forward on a property with a virtual tour. Although we had conducted these in the past for our international and long-distance clients, saving time for local clients is always a great idea.

Additionally, an impromptu video tour for a client at a house you may be previewing may also be a great opportunity. My team and I also realized the importance of having a polished, professional social media presence during this time. We’re going to make sure that the time we spent curating, interacting and posting on social media remains a focal point. I firmly believe that social media will continue to play an important role in our business.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Umansky: Adjusting swiftly and safely has allowed our team to keep operating and serving clients to the very best of our ability. Having a strong foundation, open communication and a tightly run operation was a valuable asset during this time. Given that we already have a strong digital platform and proprietary CRM system we’ve been using since The Agency’s inception, having streamlined internal systems and the latest tools and technology already in place was a huge asset for our team.

As people are continuing to look at properties from the safety of their homes and as we enter into the next phase, we continue to engage existing and prospective clients to let them know we’re here, working to provide service and support and be a valuable resource for them. Our team has remained fiercely committed to fostering a positive, supportive and dynamic team environment.

Medium teams

Erin Krueger, team lead, The Erin Krueger Team

The Erin Krueger Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

Krueger: We have seven licensed agents, two licensed admins and two unlicensed admins, for a total of 11 members.

When did you create your team?

Krueger: Six years ago.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Krueger: We learned that we can do more real estate interactions with our clients virtually than ever before. While we were in shelter-in-place, we sold 10 homes in 60 days to people moving to the Nashville area. To put that in perspective, we sold nearly 550 homes last year, and five were bough sight unseen. So, 10 in 60 days was incredible, as these buyers never saw the home before they bought it.

They were moving from New York City, California, North Carolina and Dallas, to name a few. We did everything virtually with video, FaceTime, etc. Completely new way to buy real estate. We ended up creating systems and processes on virtual buying that will help us moving forward.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Krueger: They were open to change and pivoting with our systems and processes. We also had several Zoom team meetings to keep up on what everyone was doing and make sure, mentally, we were strong to serve our clients.

Adelaide Polsinelli, vice chair, and Ronda Rogovin, vice chair, Adelaide Polsinelli and Ronda Rogovin Team at Compass

Adelaide Polsinelli and Ronda Rogovin of Compass

Inman News: How big is your team?

Rogovin: We’re not really a “team,” we’re a commercial division. Each broker is individual. It’s a new division for Compass.

Polsinelli: We’re closer to six [members], but now, unfortunately with COVID, we’re going to be down a few people.

When did you create your team?

Polsinelli: We started August 1, 2018.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Polsinelli: What we’ve learned is that we actually have the tools we need to work remotely. Joining Compass for us was exceptional because they were built for this. On top of that, we’ve been doing this for over 30 years each, and our clients trust us. A lot of it is relationship-based. As far as the team, we have a couple of junior team members who have decided to move out of state and will probably take salaried jobs. This is probably our fourth cycle [facing a crisis]. This, to us, is just another cycle.

Rogovin: The thing that we’re expecting, just as we did after September 11th, is a price correction. To say how much of a correction it will be, nobody knows.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Polisnelli: Definitely longevity. Experience, depth of relationships.

Rogovin: Track record.

Polsinelli: And having trust with our clients. We have relationships that go back three decades. Ronda could go on vacation for a month and come back and do a $250 million deal. And it’s nice to have a reach that’s not just in New York — we have the flexibility of transacting everywhere.

Joyce Rey, owner, The Joyce Rey Team

The Joyce Rey Team

Inman: How big is your team?

Rey: I have eight outstanding partners and an excellent support staff of five.

When did you create your team?

Rey: Approximately 10 years ago. But I have always enjoyed working with partners on transactions throughout my career.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Rey: Thankfully, The Joyce Rey Team was able to adapt quickly to what has become our “new normal.” I think the biggest challenge is not being able to conduct our team meetings in person. We have been holding meetings online and it has really helped to keep the fabric of the team together, but there’s just something about sitting in a group in my living room and discussing the market and what each member is dealing with in their respective business. I consider my team my second family.

I think the most important lesson is to always be ready for anything. No matter how many sellers or buyers you have, anything can happen, even something as unexpected and challenging as a pandemic. We must always be ready to adapt and pivot as necessary in order to service our clients properly. In addition, with the initial slowdown of the market in March and April, it gave us all a chance to think about what’s really important in our business, and that is client communication.

You don’t have to discuss real estate every time you speak with a client, just a ‘check-in’ to see how they are can be very effective and appreciated. We have also found that working from a home office eliminates boundaries; now the work day is from sun up to bed time. As I had anticipated, the luxury market is now extremely active due to the exceptional focus on one’s home environment.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Rey: For the most part, my team members and I all share the same fundamental beliefs on what it takes to build a successful real estate business. We all know that there is no substitute for hard work! I am very lucky that I have a group with very diverse backgrounds. One comes from the construction and development business, another from entertainment, a third from the fitness world, and so on. Together, we use our respective skills to help one another to succeed.

Large teams

Ryan O’Neill, team leader, Minnesota Real Estate Team

The Minnesota Real Estate Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

O’Neill: We are a team of over 150 professional Realtors.

When did you create your team?

O’Neill: In 2005.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

O’Neill: The real estate business for each of our agents and our team is all about people — caring about others and showing kindness and concern to each member of our community. We believe there is a lot more to this business than simply making another sale. Each year the business and market has so many challenges to overcome. COVID has once again shown us that there are so many things we cannot control. However, we can still control our daily attitude, our effort and how we treat others. This is what we do our best to live out each day.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

O’Neill: Our team focuses on building meaningful relationships one person at a time and doing what is in the consumer’s best interests. This business is all about the client. We look to fill a need by providing helpful information, value and honest, low pressure representation to each client (in a kind manner).

Lastly, our team is respectful of all our fellow agents and brokers. They are our partners in the industry, and by working together, we achieve a positive outcome for all. We are a group that shares ideas and best practices with each other to help each team member succeed. We are persistent, motivated, committed to doing our best, positive and hopeful. Simply stated, we work hard and we play hard.

Trent Corbin, president and CEO, The Redbud Group

The Redbud Group

Inman News: How big is your team?

Corbin: Currently, we have 81 people on the team, which includes 39 producing agents, 40 W2 employees and two virtual assistants.

When did you create your team?

Corbin: I started The Redbud Group in August 2015 after being an agent on another team for two years.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Corbin: The pandemic has not changed our team that much, except for the fact that we don’t see each other nearly as often, which has been a challenge because of the close-knit culture of our team. Aside from a short-lived dip in production in late March, we have been able to get back to our expected levels of production, having some of our most productive weeks of the year in the last two months.

That said, the safety of our clients, our community and our team remains our top priority. We now do as much as possible to utilize virtual options to minimize everyone’s risk, and we provide all of our agents and clients with masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for use in the field.

As far as what we’ve learned from the pandemic, I have been very impressed by our entire team’s response to this unprecedented challenge. We hire for culture first, and our people really stepped up during this crisis not only to ensure everyone’s safety, but also to make sure we kept our foot on the gas and to keep everyone in the right mindset.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Corbin: First and foremost, our culture and our people are the most critical components of our success. That was the biggest thing I got wrong initially when I started the team, and only in the last two years have we really seen the benefits of focusing on culture and people first. I attribute much of our success in that regard to our leadership team and our Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) implementer, who, in combination with the EOS system, has made a significant difference in how our team operates.

Additionally, we have always believed that our data and tracking of key metrics gives us an advantage in our market. Our weekly scorecard and EOS planning helps us forecast our near-term, intermediate-term and long-term performance so that we can budget appropriately and scale quickly.

Tal Alexander, co-founder, The Alexander Team

Oren and Tal Alexander of The Alexander Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

T. Alexander: We like to think of ourselves as a family office. Oren (Tal’s co-founder and brother) and I are doing the majority of the business, and Oren has a showing agent in Miami, and I have a showing agent in New York that helps, and we both have full-time assistants and full-time marketing people as well. I also have an additional three agents in New York City.

When did you create your team?

T. Alexander: Oren and I started in the business right out of college in late ’08, early ’09, so we’ve been at this going on 12 years. The Alexander team started about eight to nine years ago.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

T. Alexander: The only thing that’s changed is that I’m used to living in New York and running our business in New York. I moved to our house in Miami [when the pandemic hit] and really helped all our clients in New York that were coming down here to Miami looking for places.

We weren’t that busy in New York, but we were very busy in Miami and Palm Beach. I was working just as hard or maybe a little harder [than before] just because clients were scrambling to find housing once New York City was shut down. We were very fortunate that we naturally operate in multiple markets.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

T. Alexander: We have a lot of market share, a lot of exclusive listings in the ultra-high end market between New York, Miami, the Hamptons and Aspen, so what we continue to notice is between all those markets, it’s all the same clientele. Also, knowing who the buyers are, what they’re looking for and where they’re coming from.

We work 24/7 — we never really turn it off. So, not only do I believe we work smarter, but we also work harder than everybody else. I think our youth also gives us a competitive advantage because this is the biggest thing we’ve got going on in our lives … we’re married to our business.

Nick Glant, founding partner, NWG Team

NWG Team with founding partners Shawn Filer, Brad Cahill, Steve Curran and Nick Glant in top row from left to right

Inman News: How big is your team?

Glant: Our team is comprised of 20 brokers, six executive client managers (licensed to perform brokerage assistance to two to three brokers) and a director of operations.

When did you create your team?

Glant: Formerly an independent brokerage, before being acquired in 2018 as the launch partner to Compass in Washington, NWG was founded in 2007 by [me] along with Pat Suarez. Brad Cahill was a founding broker of NWG in 2007 and shortly after, Shawn Filer and Steve Curran joined the team after leaving Coldwell Banker Bain. All three became partners/owners by the end of 2011.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Glant: In a lot of ways, it has reinforced the high-touch and creative problem-solving that led us through the financial crisis from 2008-2011. We have learned that in times of uncertainty and angst, there will be a flight to quality. Your team needs to be ever more committed to responsiveness, acting with confidence and elevating marketing in order to receive and execute for buyers and sellers.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Glant: Collaborative spirit is the backbone of NWG. We are built much differently than most other real estate teams. Having the DNA of a company that was built with linear expertise, low ego and high drive, NWG is built with top performers in various sub-markets. We focus on the clients’ needs of expertise above the individual’s production level or ranking. As such, our brokers partner with each other on nearly every transaction to ensure the client has a personal relationship coupled with local acumen of the specific area they are buying or selling. Our team also values the opinions and ideas of all team members equally.

Rob Ellerman, team leader, The Rob Ellerman Team at ReeceNichols Real Estate

Members of the Rob Ellerman Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

Ellerman: We’re around 100 agents.

When did you create your team?

Ellerman: Around 2004

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Ellerman: I would first say that Zoom has been a blessing for us, for sure, so now we’re running the sales meetings on Zoom. We also ran a program where we have a few of our top agents and it was kind of a get-to-know-you-type Zoom meeting. Different agents have different skill sets, and our team was able to get to know somebody on the team better.

Obviously, [we’ve made] a change in the safety standards of our open houses and even just showing has changed, and following the CDC guidelines has changed. But as far as what we’ll do in the future, Zoom is going to be the big thing we take out of this, and realizing we can do a lot of training and things online. Even if we do things in-person again, I can see us recording it on Zoom. We didn’t do a lot of that before, and now it’s pretty standard.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Ellerman: When we hire, from the beginning we look for someone who is going to take care of the client first and foremost, so everything we do is based around the client having a good experience. If we have an agent who makes a human error in the process, we fix it. I think there are a lot of agents out there who make a mistake, and want to make an excuse.

Also, honesty, being helpful and integrity [are other qualities that help us find success], as well as our reputation in our area being as good as it can be. That’s something we’re pretty proud of. And we get that by taking care of the clients and making sure we’re a good co-op.

Butch Haze, San Francisco partner, The Network Group/Khrista Jarvis Team

The Network Group / Khrista Jarvis Team

Inman News: How big is your team?

Haze: 12 agents, three staff.

When did you create your team?

Haze: 2018.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your team? What have you learned from it?

Haze: Now, more than ever, we are challenged collectively as real estate professionals and we learn new ways to thrive in this strange era of real estate marketing. Working smart is essential to our success. One key tip we can share is the way we bonded together with key agents in different markets to share resources and implement super market knowledge quickly, like the movie Matrix where you download knowledge fast. We combined forces with key out-of-area agents so we could be experts now in multiple areas. This new way of doing business is shaping a new future of real estate. It is the start or evolution of “Super Teams.”

Clients no longer have one place/one home. Now everyone has a home, but they also want a retreat, a sanctuary. Our clients want to keep their house in Danville but also want a second home in Tahoe, Napa or Pebble Beach. Instead of referring and losing my relationships with my clients as they move to other areas, we stay engaged and guide our clients as trusted real estate advisors regardless of where they buy. Clients love it, and it allows us to keep the trust and long term relationship we hold so dear. We help them be successful in all aspects of their next purchase. It is fierce competition in areas like Napa and Pebble and Tahoe now. Clients love that we can help them outside the area without being a fish out of water.

We’ve learned that virtual tours like Matterport are critical. We are just learning to do live virtual agent tours to connect with our fellow agents on live broker tours to get agents engaged. We learned to involve a collaborative environment with multiple agents from multiple markets. We have a $25 million listing in Santa Ynez and we brought on multiple agents from different markets to make exposure priority one. It is a new way of helping clients.

What qualities do you think help your team succeed?

Haze: Hard work. Never been anything else. But also working with new ideas. Never stop trying new things and new ideas. I compare it to restaurants — you see some hustling hard and others staying closed or being slow to rebound. Success comes from seeing guidelines and rules and working within those, but turning on collaborative ideas to make things happen.

There is more business today than ever before; it is a “happening” and global mind shift that we have never seen before. It is all revolving around real estate. We can either watch from the sidelines or lead the way and it is uncharted. We love the idea of helping to lead and help people change their lives for the better right now. What a blessing to be in real estate right now!

Email Lillian Dickerson

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