Let’s recap the natural progression of hires when building a real estate team. Usually, the order goes something like this: administrative and operational support professionals (usually in the form of a transaction coordinator, listing manager, operations coordinator, or some combination of the three), then buyer’s agent or showing assistant (support on the buy-side), then the listing agent (getting close to being fully leveraged), and then finally entirely replacing yourself with a CEO or team lead.
A CEO/team lead (for the sake of this article, I will be calling this person the CEO) is not someone who simply runs your sales division. That could be a director of sales or a lead agent who takes on additional accountability and coaching or training responsibility for your sales division, for a small override on the agents’ production.
What I am talking about here is hiring your replacement to run your real estate team so that you can move on to other opportunities. Your involvement would be minimal, as you act simply as the owner.
Sure, you might still be casting the vision, getting monthly reports and overseeing any major capital expenditures. But beyond that, the CEO is responsible for handling all day-to-day sales and operations of your team to continue building the company and growing profits.
In an ideal world, you would have groomed this team member over several years to help them grow as a leader and move into the CEO role. But, as we know, that scenario doesn’t always happen. Rather, you might end up hiring from another brokerage or team, or even from outside the real estate industry altogether, to find the right fit to make your team thrive.
Remember: Be patient. Even if you hired an experienced real estate team CEO, they won’t be able to replicate you and your leadership overnight (and yes, profits might go backward for a few months or more). This is all part of the challenge of moving from having a job (you as the listing agent or CEO) to owning a business.
For example, I hired a CEO for my Vermont real estate team (the first team I started, which really launched my entire career) about three years ago. He was not new to the real estate industry but was a bit newer to leadership.
My president of Hergenrother Realty Group randomly started chatting with him at a bar after a real estate conference in Texas. She connected us. I relocated him from Alaska to Vermont. And now my team, under his leadership, is consistently in the top five in New England.
My point? Talent is everywhere — if you know what to look for. And when you’re hiring someone to replace yourself as team leader, the search might take a while — the stakes are higher. And that’s OK. Stay consistent, and find the right fit. And then you’ll be on to your next business (ad)venture.
Here’s what you should look for (in no particular order) when hiring a CEO to run your real estate team:
1. Influential leadership
Leadership is nothing but influence. Though, too often, those who are newer to leadership rely on positional power or control to lead. When looking for a CEO, look for someone who leans on influence — someone who challenges others to grow, role models the behaviors they wish to see in others and teaches people how to think.
Whether or not the individual you are interviewing has ever held a formal leadership position, you should be able to get examples from their life where this type of leadership has shown up before. Leadership is influence.
2. Emotional intelligence
Remember, emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and handle interpersonal relationships with understanding and empathy. CEOs might not be dealing directly with clients like buyer’s agents and listing agents are, but they will be dealing daily with their agents and staff members.
As a leader, clear decision-making and communication are a huge part of the role. Emotional intelligence is critical because leaders must be able to make unbiased decisions and stay neutral in the face of crises, change and tough decisions.
3. Critical thinking and strategic thinking
It’s important to know what your CEO thinks — opinions, knowledge and ideas are great. But it’s even more important to know how your CEO thinks.
“Critical thinking is short-term analysis while strategic thinking involves planning and looking at futuristic outcomes. Critical thinkers will use data at hand to fix an issue or figure something out while the strategic thinker will look at how that problem is part of a bigger issue,” according to Critical Thinking Secrets. Both are musts for a successful CEO on your team.
4. Clear and consistent communication
Three of the most important things a leader must do are:
- Cast the vision
- Provide clarity and focus
- Remove roadblocks
All of these require exceptional communication skills in multiple formats so that team members are not confused about the company’s vision, values, and culture, goals and priorities, and where the focus and energy needs to go. Clear and consistent communication is powerful.
5. Committed to their personal growth
The speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. The CEO must be able to see ahead of their team and staff to cast the vision and provide clarity along the way.
Furthermore, you want your CEO to be dedicated to their personal growth so that the whole team continues to elevate both personally and professionally. Pay attention to what podcasts, books or classes your candidates are consuming when interviewing. A CEO’s output is only going to be as good as the input.
Bonus points: How are they implementing that information or sharing it with others (another trait of an influential leader)? Also, take note of their emotional resilience, emotional intelligence and overall thought process. Are they adaptable? Growth-minded? Learning-based? All essential qualities for a CEO.
An ideal CEO is:
- Takes ownership over their work
- Self-motivated and self-directed
- Seeks career fulfillment inside of an organization
In short, no matter how entrepreneurial they are, they still want a “job.” Ideally, those in leadership roles in my company will stay for the long term. I invest in them, and they, in turn, invest their time and expertise in the company. True entrepreneurs will never be satisfied having a “boss.” And that’s OK! Because for a CEO, I’m looking for a true intrapreneur.
Thinking about hiring a CEO or hired one recently? What might you add to this list of what to look for when hiring a CEO or team lead? Please share in the comments section below.
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Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s holistic approach to business here.