Erica Ramus, a self-professed tech geek, runs a “small but mighty” indie brokerage in Pennsylvania. She’s been in the business for 15+ years, has a master’s degree in real estate, and shares that wealth of first-hand experience as a regular columnist on Inman and as the author of the 10th Edition of Dearborn’s Real Estate Brokerage: A Management Guide.
Most brokers and managers spend so much time recruiting new agents into the company that it can be easy to overlook your current flock. And we all know it’s much better, easier and cheaper to retain talent than it is to constantly be recruiting new hires.
Here’s a list of seven ways you can show your agents a little appreciation.
1. Gift cards
Gift cards come in all kinds of denominations so this is a really easy way to show your agents some love. One tactic is to include a small gift card from a shop you know they love.
Some agents are constantly running to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, so a broker could buy a bunch of $10 cards for the local coffee shop and give their agents a little caffeine. Drop one in the envelope with their commission check or — even better — give them a handwritten note with the card.
If you know an agent’s favorite shop — such as where they get their hair done or their go-to restaurant — gift cards will be much appreciated. Cards from Amazon, the local gas station or grocery store are also good and practical.
Stock up on a few types so you have them on hand when you catch someone going above and beyond the call of duty or just as an “atta boy” gesture.
2. Pick your own gift
I use an online service called Loop & Tie to send gifts to referral partners, past clients and my own agents. You go on the site and pick a price (ranging from $25 to $500) and the service sends them an email card inviting them to pick their own gift from the site’s inventory.
If they don’t want to pick a gift, they can even donate it to one of the charities highlighted on the site. I love this one and typically buy a block of credits early in the year to spend as the year goes on.
3. Food and wine
One thing I started in 2021 was sending gift baskets to my agents’ houses on their anniversary of joining the firm. I’ve sent wine gift baskets, meat boxes and other types of food in 2021. This year, I intend to keep up this tradition, as it was a really big hit.
Pick two or three types of vendors (depending on what you think your agents would like best) and mix it up for fun.
At Christmas, I sent the group gourmet soft pretzels and dipping sauces that they could bake in the oven at home. I thought they would enjoy them with their families, and the feedback was excellent.
4. Travel vouchers
If you’ve got a little more money in the budget, buy a few travel vouchers from a travel agency or tour group. You could have a listing contest and use them as the winner’s reward.
Some companies even go so far as to take a handful of the top agents every year on a vacation. This may be out of your budget, but you could get creative and look for closer-to-home options, such as a weekend at a bed and breakfast.
5. Car lease
I’ve heard of brokers who will set up a lease and pay the monthly fee for some of their agents as an office perk.
If you’re in a high-end market, an agent may really value having their Mercedes or BMW lease covered by the company. It may seem a bit pricey, but one broker I spoke to said he thought it was worth the investment in his agents.
6. Gift of knowledge
Speaking of investing in your agents, why not give them the gift of knowledge? Offer to pay for a designation course that they’ve expressed interest in.
One year, a broker friend sponsored a two-day training session in her office and invited my agents to join in, at a fraction of the cost it would have been if I had hired the trainer myself. I extended the invite to all of my agents and said if they would take the time to attend, I would pay.
This was probably the most expensive perk I’ve ever paid for with an agent, but it was well worth helping her take the next step up in her career (yes only one of my agents at the time agreed to go to the event).
7. Surprise them
One of my agents spends hours every day in the office — even on weekends. He’s a top producer, closing 65 sides in 2021. When he mentioned to me that his desk chair was a bit wobbly, I heard him.
I ordered him a “big-and-tall-sized” executive chair. He didn’t ask for me to buy him a better chair, but I know the hours he spends at the office will be more comfortable with that chair than the standard chairs I originally purchased for everyone a few years ago.
Do things like that out of the blue, and your agents will know that you listen to them and are aware of their needs. This could actually be the eighth item on this list. It’s so basic and costs nothing: Just listen to them.
Show them you hear them when they voice concerns or sometimes just call to complain. Show them their opinion matters. Don’t gloss over their feedback (positive or negative). It takes your time and empathy to slow down and listen, but doing this will pay dividends.