Choosing a brokerage is about so much more than money or splits. Having a broker who embodies these crucial traits could make the difference between your success or failure in this business.

New to the industry? Get started with everything you need to know about the early decisions that’ll shape your career, including choosing a brokerage, learning your market, creating an online presence, budgeting, getting leads, marketing listings and so much more. If you’re a team leader or broker-owner, New Agent Month will be jam-packed with resources to help your new hires navigate.

Scroll through Facebook groups for agents or listen in on a conversation in a real estate classroom, and you’ll likely hear discussions of which broker is best to work for. This is a subjective discussion; A broker I think is great might be someone you absolutely detest.

That said, there are a few ways to spot a great broker. Not all brokers are created equal — even within a same franchise or brand. If you’re looking to join Company A because you heard that another agent in a different city loves their brand, know that the broker who controls the office you work for is more important than the brand itself.

You may have a fantastic broker in a franchise office in Philadelphia and a horrible broker in charge in another office of the same brand across town. So, don’t choose your office by brand alone.

You are also interviewing the broker and staff — and to some extent your office mates as well. You pick your office and have to work with all of these people, so you want make sure it’s a good fit. But most importantly: Who is the broker, and how does he or she operate?

1. They want to know your motivation

The best brokers ask you about yourself, and your big “why.” What is your motivation for selling real estate? Why do you get up every day and work the business? If they don’t ask about you in the interview or seem to not really care about the answers, move on.

Once, a former manager called me and asked what my next year’s goal was. I replied in an offhand way. No, he didn’t meet with me in person or delve any deeper. He just hung up after I gave him a dollar figure for gross commission income (GCI). Then I thought about it and realized it was too low of a goal. I called him up and told him I wanted to raise my number.

He didn’t ask why — in fact, he tried to talk me out of that goal. He said the numbers didn’t even mean anything, just that he had to submit a report to the owners of the company. Wow, what a terrible office manager and broker. He didn’t know me or my “why.”

2. They recognize excellence

Great brokers recognize excellence. Did an agent go above and beyond the call of duty to close a transaction? Did a staff member stay late or come in early to make sure something was taken care of properly?

Yes, maybe that’s their job, but these days, mediocrity seems to be the rule. The best brokers don’t just notice — they recognize and reward their people for delivering excellent customer service.

Rewards can come in many different formats, and not all are monetary. Recognizing other company members is important. It may be a public “atta boy” or a social media post. Each staff member or agent may desire a different level or type of recognition. Part of understanding someone’s “why” is knowing how they want to be recognized for excellence.

3. They foster transparency

Great brokers aren’t afraid to answer your questions about the company. One agent I know took a risk management course that recommended agents review their company E&O insurance policy and the company policy and procedures manual to understand how complaints are handled.

The woman returned to the office and asked the broker to please explain both to her. The broker refused, stating it was private information and would be addressed if there was a claim. She explained she was simply asking to see what the deductible was per claim and how the company would handle the situation. He again refused.

I’m not sure what his rationale was, but this sort of situation would involve her financially, and she had a right to understand what the process was for filing a claim and what her liability could be.

I’m not saying brokers need to open the books to agents or explain every decision to them. But if a broker operates under a culture of secrecy, and if agents don’t understand how things work (especially when they could be on the hook for paying into an insurance or legal claim), then the salesperson should wonder what is going on behind the scenes. A culture like that doesn’t foster trust.

4. They have your back

When the world goes crazy and it all hits the fan, the very best brokers always have your back. Always. If you are wrong, they won’t be afraid to tell you where you messed up or could have done better. They support you and help you fix whatever mess you are in.

I’ve had agents come to me crying because they did something wrong — not on purpose, but it still was an error on their part. My reply is not, “Why did you do this?” or “What were you thinking?” Instead, my attitude is: How can we fix this right now with the facts we now are faced with?

Last week, an agent came to me with a mess she didn’t in fact create but was now in the midst of due to another agent’s mistake. We don’t dwell on the past, but on “How can we fix this right now?” — no matter who caused the train wreck or what happened previously.

A former boss of mine once said, “You made the mess, now go clean it up all by yourself.” I won’t ever say that to an agent, even though some brokers might. In my opinion, the best leaders will guide their agents through the thickest sludge, helping them learn problem-solving skills along the way.

It’s so much more than about the money or the split. Yes, that’s one part of choosing a brokerage. I read Facebook groups every day where agents are asking legal and technical contract questions on a public group because their broker isn’t available.

I see posts where agents complain about lack of support or transparency, but they like the low fee models. They can’t get a broker on the phone in a timely manner, so they crowdsource to the wisdom of the internet.

Choose not just your brokerage or brand — but your broker. It could make the difference between your success or failure in this business. Choose a broker who exhibits strong traits rather than someone who just collects your checks.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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