Becoming a broker-owner is tough, no matter who you are. However, women face added barriers in their journey to the corner office — such as sexism, a lack of resources and leadership training, and finally, self-doubt — that keep them on the sidelines of the industry.
“I cannot tell you how many times in my career I have talked myself out of an opportunity because of imposter syndrome,” Namazi Real Estate Resources founder and Laurel Real Estate Resources co-founder and broker-owner Lori Namazi told the California Association of Realtors WomanUP! crowd on Wednesday. “I realized early on in my career that I was terrified of people figuring out that I wasn’t as good as they thought I was, having mostly male bosses my entire career.”
Namazi said becoming a broker-owner wasn’t on her radar, although she’d climbed her way from being an agent to a c-suite executive at First Team Real Estate all while raising a daughter and earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“My family asked me if I planned on opening my own brokerage since I was getting my broker’s license. My response was ‘No way,’ she added. “Well, I’m here to tell you never say never. You never know what your future self will decide to do.”
Namazi, who opened NRER in 2018 as a brokerage consulting firm, said the process of opening an independent brokerage is daunting, but not impossible with the correct training and mentorship, business and financial planning, and the chutzpah to follow through. “What most people realize is that it isn’t too difficult to go out on their own if they already have a broker’s license, but the biggest thing is the fear of the unknown,” she said.
Namazi said the first step to a successful launch is making sure you have the correct licensure to legally own and operate a brokerage. Even if you’re not sure about becoming a broker-owner, she said it’s worth gaining a brokers’ license the next time your licensure as an agent is up for renewal.
“Having your broker license gives you options. It’s like having the proverbial dime in your pocket in case you need to make an emergency phone call,” she explained while noting a brokers’ license allows you to go solo, which is a valuable option if your current brokerage closes or is acquired by a company you don’t want to be part of.
The process takes up to nine months — six months of courses, two months for application processing, and a month to schedule a test date. “You don’t have to do this tomorrow,” she said. “But make it part of your career plan.”
From there, Namazi said it’s important to do some soul searching, establish a “why,” and build a support system that can help guide you through the process. “In no way am I suggesting that everyone should eventually open their own brokerage,” she noted. “That’s a very personal decision.”
The soul searching process, she said, should include thinking about the rewards and challenges of running a brokerage. Do you want to supervise other agents? Does the idea of recruiting make you cringe? Can you handle being held liable for an agent or staff member who makes a major transaction error? If the answer is no, Namazi said going solo may not be the best option.
However, if you’re ready for the challenge of building and leading a team, Namazi said it’s important to have a support system of experienced professionals to help you through the not-so-glamourous part of founding a brokerage, such as creating a system that works, building a reliable tech stack, writing a business and financial plan, filing the correct paperwork with the state and federal government, and one of the most important parts — knowing how you’ll pay for it all.
“When you run your own brokerage, you set the rules. You use your systems, your policies and your procedures, you create the culture, you make the decisions,” she said. “You are the accounting department and the marketing department, you are the responsible broker when there’s a legal issue or a daily inquiry.”
“The buck stops with you and no one else,” she added. “This is both liberating and intimidating. I want you to understand that with anything, growth presents new opportunities and new challenges.”
Once the nuts and bolts are in place, Namazi said it’s important to be patient during the hiring process and resist the temptation to hire the first people who come your way.
“You may want to have 50 agents in 12 months, but it might take you 12 months to hire your first agent,” she said. “You don’t know what you don’t know at this point. So take it slowly. It’s smart to plan and feel prepared.”
Namazi also said broker-owners must learn to expect the unexpected and have the correct systems and assistance — such as a legal advisor and compliance officer — to weather legal complaints from consumers or competitors. “If you do find yourself on the receiving end of an inquiry or investigation, I want you to have confidence that you are equipped with policies, procedures and systems that demonstrate you run a solid office,” she said.
Although launching a brokerage is nerve-wracking, Namazi said it can be a lot of fun to bring your wildest dreams either as a solo broker or company leader to life. She said creating a company name and brand should be a team effort that helps you capture the essence of who you are and what you want to bring to your market.
“What does [the name] say about who you are and who your company is? Imagine the name on the sign in the homeowner’s yard. Does it resonate with the public?” she said. “Ask your friends and family to weigh in on your thoughts, get their input and ask for some constructive feedback and their ideas too.”
Namazi said the launch process includes at least 20 different steps, all with varying levels of difficulty. Staying organized with productivity apps or choosing an old-school method, such as sticky notes, will help you balance your professional and personal life, and make time to dedicate to your development as a future leader.
“Each year, my sister and I create a plan, and we coincide it with the number of the year,” she said. “So in 2020, it was 20, things to do in 2020. And for 2021, it’s 21 things to do in 2021. Within that, I have a layer of fun development.”
“I’ll take a class that’s more of a hobby versus something that’s professional development. It keeps life interesting,” she said.
Lastly, Namazi said aspiring broker-owners should consider adding an advisor to their launch team who can offer dedicated troubleshooting and support.
“[Opening a brokerage] it’s a very personal choice and there’s no right or wrong answer, and there’s no perfect time — the right time to do it is when you feel ready,” she said while noting she also offers advisor services. “[It’s an advisors’] job to dispel some of your fears, some of the myths and get you on a path to achieving your dreams.”
“There are amazing women in our WomanUP! community who have done it,” she added. “They’ve gone out on their own and they have been successful.”