At the most basic level, there are three functions that run a business. To bring this into context for a real estate team, here’s a breakdown of the responsibilities in each area (operations, finance, and sales and marketing) — plus, four tips for clearly defining roles and ensuring team members are best equipped for success.

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When new agents are just beginning their real estate careers, they are usually responsible for all parts of a real estate transaction, from procuring a lead to following up after the sale. 

They are the real estate agent, the administrative assistant, the marketing manager, the closing coordinator, the event planner, the finance manager, the IT specialist, the HR manager, the courier — and everything in between. 

But as the team grows, there becomes an incredible opportunity to define new roles and set expectations to succeed through others.  

3 business functions to cover first

At the most basic level, there are three functions that run a business: operations, finance and sales and marketing.

To bring this into context for a real estate team, let’s look at how you might break this down into responsibilities we are familiar with in the real estate industry: 

Operations

  • Customer/client support 
  • Listing management
  • Transaction management
  • Administrative management 
  • Technology management 

Finance 

  • Human resource management 
  • Budgets and forecasts 
  • KPI tracking 
  • Financial statements

Sales and marketing 

  • Advertising 
  • Social media management 
  • Listing marketing 
  • Client events 
  • Lead generation 
  • Real estate sales 

Clarity is vital as you begin to add team members and grow your business. When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, something is bound to burn. Having clearly defined lanes of responsibility will keep everyone effectively moving in the right direction and delivering results. 

Some of your first hires may be responsible for all the tasks under a particular function. In fact, that’s not a bad way to begin. If you focus on three critical hires initially — one to handle operations, one to handle finance (even if you outsource it), and one to handle sales and marketing — you’ll be ahead of the game as you start to build and scale your real estate team. As mentioned before, clarity is key. 

Obviously, there are overlaps between the aforementioned departments, but just one individual must own the results. 

For example, your director of finance might work closely with your director of operations to gather the listing and pending data to then use for detailed monthly forecasting and expense management. However, the director of finance is ultimately responsible for the budgets and forecasts. 

Now, you might be surprised to hear that many people don’t go through any of the steps below. Why? Because it takes time, and it isn’t usually something that fast-paced visionary entrepreneurs don’t want to do. 

Instead of slowing down and creating a model and system for hires, leverage, employees and growth, we approach it from a purely entrepreneurial angle. And that might serve you just fine — for a time. 

People always want to know how to grow a company. You first start by building out the below, which provides a clear roadmap for where to go. Stop just hiring and hoping it will work out. Create a streamlined, predictable and repeatable system that will allow you to scale.

4 ways to clearly define team members’ roles

Here are four ways to set clear expectations and define the roles on your team. 

1. Write and distribute clear job descriptions 

The first step to clearly defining roles is to put them in writing in job descriptions. 

  • What will this individual be responsible for on an ongoing basis?
  • What projects or results will they be required to deliver? 
  • Who will they report to? 
  • Will they have any direct reports? What are the key tasks for the role? 

Those items should take up the majority of the job description. However, I like to add further clarification by highlighting the top 20 percent of the role. The top 20 percent is based on the Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 Rule), which states that for many outcomes, roughly 80 percent of the results (output) come from 20 percent of the causes (inputs). 

Therefore, we want our team members to focus on the 20 percent of the role that will make the biggest impact (the 80 percent). 

For example, a director of finance’s 20 percent would be to ensure a 20 percent profit margin, while a real estate agent’s 20 percent would be to lead generate for three-plus hours a day. Those two activities would have the biggest impact on their respective jobs. 

Once you are clear on the job description and the top 20 percent, it’s essential to make sure everyone on the team is also aware of this position, its deliverables and how their role impacts the team at large. Communicating and understanding all the players ensures clearly defined roles and expectations. 

2. Set clear expectations for the first 30, 60, 90 days and beyond 

When you are adding a new team member or even when you rehire for a position, always start with clear expectations for the first 30, 60 and 90 days — in writing, of course. This gives your team member a roadmap for what is expected of them as they get started. 

For every 30 days, you will outline three to five key objectives that your employee or team member should hit by the end of that period. By outlining this upfront, there is no question whether your team member is meeting or exceeding the expectations.

Doing this benefits your team members because they can clearly see how to win. And it’s great for you because you can clearly see if your employee will be up to the task. 

After your employee has hit or exceeded the expectations for the first 90 days, then you can begin to have conversations about what’s next. At that time, they should be owning their role and consistently handling the projects, tasks and results outlined in the original job description. 

3. Determine the KPIs for the role 

At this point, your team members know what their roles are and what is expected of them on a consistent basis. The 90-day mark is an excellent time to layer in specific and measurable results by which you will evaluate them throughout their time in the position. You should reevaluate KPIs (key performance indicators) annually, as they will change based on the goals and growth of the organization

A KPI for a marketing manager might be the number of new leads added to the database per month. A KPI for a real estate sales professional might be the number of pendings or listings they generate monthly. 

The KPI for your director of finance might be the team’s profit margin or keeping the monthly expenses below a certain dollar amount. Tie everything back to a number as much as possible so that it is clear and measurable. 

Every team member should know what numbers they are responsible for and own the results in their role. When you set clear expectations around KPIs, there is no confusion about what each person and position is accountable for delivering. 

4. Delegate decision-making 

Finally, it’s essential to define the role, set clear expectations and measurable results, and delegate decision-making as a leader. This is one of the final steps in creating an independent yet collaborative, accountable and responsible team member. 

Your employees and team members will truly be able to own their roles once you have delegated decision-making authority. So, what exactly does this look like? It’s different for each position (why the first three points mentioned above are crucial). 

For example, you may delegate decision-making authority to your director of finance on any financial decisions under $5,000. Anything over that, you want to be a part of the approval process. 

For your administrative support, you might decide that any time during the hours of 8 to 11 a.m. and then 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, they have free reign over scheduling and managing your calendar. For any appointment requests between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Thursday or Fridays, you require that they be run by you. 

This significantly cuts down on the daily decisions you have to make once the decision-making parameters have been put in place. It also allows your team members to understand the “guardrails” in their position while simultaneously empowering them to make decisions and own their roles. 

Let’s recap: The most basic way to define roles is by first hiring team members to handle one of the basic business functions: operations, finance and sales/marketing. 

From there, creating clear job descriptions, sharing them with the team, setting clear expectations, determining KPIs, and delegating decision-making will help you create a high-performing team that can grow and scale with you. If you want a comprehensive guide to the various positions that might exist on a real estate team, check out “Team structure 101: Breaking down 21 positions.”  

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.

agent advice | teams
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