If you’re debating connecting with a small brokerage, here are nine things that you must consider to not only protect yourself but also to provide the highest possible level of client care and effectively compete in an arena with much larger players.

Although many real estate agents appreciate the opportunity and security that comes with being under a large brokerage’s umbrella, others love the idea of “small.” 

Whether working alone as a solo brokerage or joining a small indie company, it can mean independence from oversight and structure, freedom to embrace personal ideals, and in some cases, more income. On the other side of the coin, however, there can be some significant challenges. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Pay attention to the big guys 

Although large brokerages might seem to have countless rules and regulations, those practices have evolved from lessons garnered over high numbers of transactions. 

You can count on one thing for sure: Behind every major brokerage is legal counsel retained to keep the liability footprint as small as possible. Put simply, many of the rules and regulations are in place to keep everyone out of court.

Just for the record, that is a good thing.

The current pandemic illustrates this: As endless rules and accompanying forms descended from our state’s Realtor association, the larger brokerages in our area responded very quickly with webinars to their associates outlining detailed practices and procedures. 

The forms were changing every week. We quickly saw a dividing line in compliance. Many individual agents and smaller agencies seemed to not understand or not care about the new procedures, especially among buyer’s agents. 

Those of us with larger numbers of listings grew increasingly frustrated with the blatant disregard for COVID-19-related rules, the use of outdated forms, and in countless cases, the apparent inability or even refusal of agents to read critical directions.

Bottom line: Pay attention to what the large brokerages are doing, and adopt similar practices as necessary to keep you and your clients out of court. The butt you save might be your own. 

2. Stay on top of current regulations

Our contractual forms are continually changing as our industry strives to comply with evolving local and state regulations and a morphing market. 

Larger brokerages, understanding the necessity of remaining current and staying in compliance, usually provide ongoing training events to ensure their agents understand the new or changed forms. 

As one broker suggested, “Every paragraph in every form is there as a result of a lawsuit.” Our purchase agreement alone has changed a few times this past year, with the latest addition being a Fair Housing and Discrimination Advisory as a result of the racial tensions gripping our nation.

Agents who do not have the advantage of in-house compliance education need to connect with local MLSs, Realtor associations (both local and state), marketing groups, and any other entities that can help agents understand any changes in forms and regulations. 

As a part of a larger brokerage with an internal compliance department, we frequently find ourselves reaching out to agents on the other side of our transactions with requests to either use the correct forms or fill them out correctly.  

3. Secure access to legal counsel

Larger brokerages typically have in-house legal counsel or access to counsel on a retainer. Although our state’s association of Realtors has a legal hotline, it can frequently take a few days to get the answers you need. 

Those flying solo or in small groups need to be purposeful about legal counsel, beginning with state Realtor associations’ free assistance and developing other relationships as necessary. I have discovered over the years that when you need legal advice, you need it sooner than later. I confess that in-house access to an attorney spoils me.

4. Develop the habit of continuous learning

A few years back, we hit the ceiling in our production and could not break through. After discussing our situation with our brokerage, we knew we needed to move to a different company to gain the skills and support we needed. 

Once we made the switch, we not only connected with world-class education, training, and models, but we also gained access to large teams across the country who had blazed the trail before us and were willing to mastermind and provide help. 

We managed to quickly blow through our previous ceiling, and we doubled our business in just two years.

Smaller entities who do not have access to tools and training must develop their own tracks. Training is widely available, but it usually comes at a higher cost than that provided within national brokerages. Additionally, lacking the ability to mastermind with peer agents and companies can make it more challenging to determine which training is worth the investment.

5. Foster accountability relationships 

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, if I need information on systems, strategies, technology and so on, I simply pick up the phone and call teams within our national brokerage across the country. These teams have either solved the problems we are dealing with or are willing to mastermind with us and other teams to determine best practices. 

I can also dive into private Facebook peer groups set up within our organization that provide access to the country’s top teams. This resource in and of itself has value beyond measure and has been a massive help in propelling our organization to higher levels.

Agents who wish to succeed must build accountability relationships with others who will, in an iron-sharpening-iron fashion, help each other hone skills, find effective tools and systems, and consequently grow. 

It’s much harder for small indies or individual brokers to find and build these relationships, but they are critical for long term success.

6. Get effective coaching

Every major athlete submits to coaching. Almost every mega-producing agent I know has at least one coach, and many have more. A coach can help build your business in ways you never imagined. Coaches have an outside view and can frequently see things you cannot. 

Some national brokerages have coaching organizations inside their umbrella of services: This is a massive advantage because they know the systems and models that have been most effective within that organization.

As an individual, it’s critical that you get coaching and that your coach is right for you and your business — it may take some trial-and-error to find a solution that works effectively for you. 

7. Build a national referral network

Those of us inside national brokerages have the benefit of access to well-established referral networks. We can not only outsource referrals to established agents and teams across the country, but we also receive a steady stream of incoming referrals. We even have an app that helps us track everything.

Indies must develop their own networks. There are several options: referral groups on Facebook, coaching companies that provide access to their network and organizations such as RRC (the Residential Real Estate Council) that have referral directories.

8. Attend national real estate events

Most national brokerages provide yearly events where agents from all corners of the country (and even the world) can network, hear inspiring keynote speakers and access training. These events frequently provide the spark agents need to reignite their passion and drive forward. 

Even with the current COVID-19 restrictions, I just took part in one of our brokerage’s national events attended online by over 35,000 agents. The keynotes were excellent, the breakouts were outstanding, and I signed off at the end of the event inspired and better equipped to manage my business in today’s transitioning market.

Indies need to develop their own networks to gain access to events and training that are national in scope. Inman’s Connect Now is a great option, as are events sponsored by NAR (The National Association of Realtors), state associations, designations such as RRC’s Sell-a-bration, and coaching organizations such as Tom Ferry or Brian Buffini.

9. Partner up

If you are a solo agent who likes the idea of being able to go on planned vacations or you want to take an occasional break to deal with life’s curveballs, you need someone who will cover your back. We have a few solo agents in our region who have “buddied up” with other single-agent brokerages who then work as a team when necessary. If you have a decent book of business as a solo agent, you must develop partnerships, or you won’t have much of a personal life.

Although not for everyone, some thrive on “small” — if that is you, make sure you take these nine critical suggestions to heart and build them into your organization. Although you might be an independent person who loves to work by yourself or in a small company, that does not mean you need to be alone.

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

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