You’ve probably been told that if you don’t hire an assistant, you’ll end up being the assistant. According to broker-owner Teresa Boardman, the truth is more complex, so making an effective first hire involves more thought and strategy than you may expect.

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Real estate agents are taught that if they do not hire an assistant they will be the assistant. The end result is that agents who don’t need assistants or know how to hire or supervise an assistant, hire them anyway.

Those assistants tend to slow things down and make more work for other agents and assistants in the transaction.

Just because someone is a salesperson, team leader or broker doesn’t mean they know how to hire an assistant or how to work with one. I have seen many failures over the years and a few successes, too.

Understand the monetary value of a good assistant

Right now people are having trouble hiring assistants. Assistants and administrative staff are often paid low wages and their skills are undervalued. Workers are asking for more money than real estate professionals want to pay and some prefer to work remotely. The market has shifted and workers have choices. They can and will decide how much money is enough.

If I go online and look at the job descriptions for assistants the jobs don’t look very appealing.

“Looking for someone who can multi-task, be detailed-oriented and prioritize their responsibilities. Must be self-motivated and able to work independently and within a team. “ All that for $15 an hour.

“The position requires a multi-tasker who is well-organized, personable and flexible with a desire to work in a professional but friendly environment.” I don’t even want to know what a “friendly” environment is.

When I see “multi-tasking” as a requirement I imagine a job where there is so much work and so little time that the only way to do it all is to do a few things at once. Who wants to work like that for minimum wage?

Create flexibility through smart outsourcing

Hiring an assistant isn’t always the best solution for agents who have too much work. There is a seasonality to home sales and for most, the workload fluctuates.

Sometimes outsourcing tasks is more cost-effective and flexible. There are businesses that offer a variety of services including marketing, printing, bookkeeping, social media, photography, sign delivery and removal, and managing client files. Having someone who can run errands and measure rooms and add or remove signs and lockboxes is very helpful when things get busy.

Bringing on buyer’s agents who work on a 100% commission basis is also a great way to expand a business. Homebuyers are a lot of work, especially when houses are only on the market for a day or two and each buyer will need to make offers on a few or even several houses.

Have a plan for effective workflow and communication

How to work with, supervise or hire an assistant isn’t being taught in real estate companies. Agents and brokers are just taught that they need one, or that they cannot be successful without one.

Sometimes the assistant and the agent do the same work and kind of trip over each other. The agent may sell a house and then turn the file over to the assistant. He then tells the other agent to copy the assistant on every email and remember to use “reply all” when responding to emails.

The assistant may have a checklist and begin sending emails and asking for things that are not needed but are part of the administrative process for the agent with the assistant. The assistant makes requests that add to the workload of people who do not have assistants.

Assistants will send out forms to fill out and request keys to a house before the closing because that is what they are told to do. They generate extra paperwork, phone calls and emails.

It doesn’t take long before we all feel as though we are working for someone else’s assistant which is probably why agents are told that if they don’t hire an assistant they will end up being the assistant.

Please don’t hire an assistant because someone who was selling real estate in the 1980s couldn’t get by without one. Hire an assistant because there is work that needs to be done and you have the ability to hire the right person and provide supervision and you can afford to pay them enough while at the same time increasing profits. Don’t expect people to work for less so that you can make more.

Still think you’re ready to hire an assistant? Don’t overlook these steps:

  • Have a job description in mind from the beginning.
  • If you have to create more work for others in order to have enough work for an assistant, then you don’t need one.
  • Be open to the idea that some of the best assistants may want to work remotely and do not need to work under your watchful eye to get the job done. In fact, if your assistant needs constant direction you hired the wrong person and haven’t really gained anything.

Don’t buy into one-size-fits-all solutions for getting the job done or the idea that the job can’t be done without an assistant or that people who don’t have assistants are assistants. The technology we have today is wonderful and sometimes it can do the work of several humans if leveraged.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

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