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Along with exceptional properties and discerning clientele, the luxury real estate space has another distinguishing trait: the best agents and brokers in the world, some of whom have decades of experience. Mentorship, whether one-on-one or as part of a team, is a great way to ensure a new generation of luxury agents benefits from the wisdom of their established peers.
“I enjoy working with new agents and helping them build their business,” says Jeanne Posillico Leonard, Associate Real Estate Broker with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “I love when the agents I have recruited call me to discuss their deals.”
For Leonard, who joined a friend’s real estate agency in 1986 after selling her cosmetics salon, it was the support, encouragement, and education she received from her colleagues that led to a successful 34-year career in the industry.
“I was lucky to land where I did. The manager and team all embraced me as the newbie and mentored me for several years. I would literally write down everything they taught me so I could review it and repeat it to the clients I was working with.”
Her story is shared by many. “Mentoring is important to me because I’ve been blessed to have generous mentors who literally changed my life,” says Linda Guy, Broker Associate and CRB at Sotheby’s International Realty – Pacific Grove Brokerage and 36-year industry veteran. “I’ve remained available at any time for questions, suggestions, and words of encouragement.”
On that note, here are five pieces of advice that Leonard, Guy, and other seasoned experts would give to would-be mentors.
1. It doesn’t always have to be formal
A structured mentorship program is a plus, but so is making it a natural part of your culture. “My door is always open to help or answer a question, and I have always been very active to help new agents whenever they need it,” says Leonard.
“I often field questions from agents who know I’m an associate with decades of experience and enjoy helping,” says Lorraine Hunt Kopacz, ABR, Broker, and Associate at Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby’s International Realty with 43 years of experience. “Great mentoring is listening and jointly formulating a strategy that the new agent can adapt to the issue at hand.”
Even when there are policies and programs in place, mentorship is an art, not a science, and it should be molded to suit individual needs, preferences, and personalities. “The new agent I’m mentoring now is a smart, connected, serious self-starter, and I haven’t called her in a couple days—not since her first transaction closed,” says Bill Bluhm, Broker Associate at Sotheby’s International Realty – Pacific Grove Brokerage who has been practicing real estate for 48 years. “I’ll touch base soon and see what she’s been up to, but I want her to be in charge—she should be driving, and I just help her stay on the road.”
2. Lead—and teach—by example
Mentorship in real estate isn’t about blocking time on calendars—agents learn their trade by working hard everyday, and sometimes, the best form of mentorship is simply letting a new colleague be your shadow. “Even a self-starter either studied the ways of successful people, or observed from afar,” notes Guy.
“I was very fortunate to have been mentored by three very dedicated, successful, and wonderful women when I first entered the business—I would sit next to them and just listen to them talk to their clients on the phone,” recalls Leonard. “I doubt I would have lasted and had success without that opportunity.”
3. Mentors shouldn’t be doing all the work
Leonard points out that she made this possible as a motivated mentee. “I wanted it. I worked and listened and learned; mentoring can only work if you have a generous mentor and a willing student,” she says.
Seeing rookies gain knowledge and confidence is one of the great benefits of being a mentor. “An agent’s results are often measured quantitatively—but during the process, it’s the ‘I’ve got it and I understand it!’ that is so fulfilling,” says Hunt Kopacz. “As a mentor, you look for that throughout.”
4. Set expectations around each role
For Bluhm, building a relationship with a mentee begins with asking the right questions and establishing guidelines around what both parties want. “If I’m going to be an effective mentor, I need to define the role I want to play. I need a job description and a series of questions for the mentee so we know what our expectations are and how to achieve them.”
This results in concrete goals they can work towards together, with clear, measurable markers of success. “You need to have a plan for the agent and then hold them accountable—it’s easy to get distracted in this business, and following the plan is hard,” he says. “I think the mentee really has to want to be successful and be willing to take direction. And I think a true mentor needs to hold the mentee accountable like a trainer.”
5. Embrace empathy and humility
While mentors may be in a position of seniority, mentorships should operate on an even playing field. “For me, I never want to forget how I felt as an agent both in the beginning and as I gained more experience,” says Aldo Congi, VP and Sales Manager at Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco’s Marina office, who has worked in real estate for 41 years. “Humility is just as important as belief in self.”
He recommends keeping an open mind, appreciating your mentee’s views, and remembering that neither of you has all the answers. “This business has many mysteries, given that we are dealing with something as important and emotional as homeownership. What’s crucial is to keep learning, and mastering the things we can control.”
“There are times I wish we had videos of each of us when we first began this amazing journey, to serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come,” adds Guy. “Those of us who’ve had the privilege to be a mentor will never forget those who were willing to come along with us. I encourage you to send a thank-you note today—you’ll be a better mentor as a result.”
In luxury real estate, providing meaningful mentorship opportunities is not only vital—it’s somewhat straightforward. In what other profession does young talent have easy, everyday access to accomplished veterans, each of whom has closed millions of dollars’ worth of sales? Mentorship adds value to your company and sets the next generation of luxury agents on their own personal growth journeys.
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 1,000 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.