While the industry as a whole has an attrition rate of about 80 percent, one brokerage lost only eight agents (out of 50+) over the past four years (mostly from life circumstances). Marcus Larrea, co-founder of Palm Paradise Real Estate, gives his winning formula for keeping agents happy and engaged.

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It almost seems like a universal law: If you own a brokerage or lead a real estate team, agent turnover is going to be sky-high. Blogs across the internet highlight an industry attrition rate of more than 80 percent.

But what if there were a 50-agent brokerage that only lost eight Realtors over the course of four years?

There is one! I know because I co-founded it.

We achieved such a low turnover rate by intentionally setting out to build a different kind of brokerage. We worked to create a company culture that makes people want to be here, and the result is that we spend a lot less time hiring to replace workers who left, and a lot more time selling properties.

Most often, you can trace people’s job dissatisfaction to their company’s culture. An unhappy culture yields unhappy workers. The lesson seems clear: If you want to attract and retain good agents and stop having to constantly hire just to replace Realtors who left for the agency down the street, start by taking a critical look at your brokerage’s culture. 

Good company culture starts with the recognition that team members are all in it together. People have different roles in an agency, but if you cultivate an attitude that everyone is important — everyone matters — you’ll suddenly find yourself on the road to having happier workers who stay with you. 

How can you turn your company culture into one that makes people want to work for you? I’ve got four tips to get you started.

1. Hire deliberately

There’s a simple rule of thumb in the real estate brokerage game: More agents equals more revenue. That’s why many brokers hire as many people as they can, as fast as possible. But they may not realize they’re setting themselves up for a self-defeating, endless chain of hirings and separations. Why? 

It’s almost impossible to maintain any sort of coherent culture if you’re constantly flooded with new people. That doesn’t mean don’t grow, but it does mean grow deliberately.

Instead of focusing on getting as many bodies in the door as you can, focus on whether applicants will be a good fit for your company’s culture or where you want your culture to head. That makes it more likely they’ll want to stay, so you won’t have to rehire their position next year. This approach helps you grow with almost every hire instead of having to backfill before you can expand your team.

2. Be humble

One sign of good company culture is that all of your workers, from agents to receptionists to janitors, feel valued not because you send out emails telling them they’re valued, but because you also show them you recognize their value.

Workers should feel they have a stake in the company — that their contributions matter, and that everyone is needed to make the brokerage successful.

One way to do that might almost be considered sacrilege in our industry: Get your name off of your company. Unless you’re a one-person show, naming your company after yourself only emphasizes that you are the important one — everyone else is an also-ran.

That’s why our firm is named Palm Paradise Real Estate. Naming a brokerage after yourself works for some people, but for us, going the opposite route has produced everything we hoped it would when it comes to culture.

Yes, our brokerage has co-owners, but that doesn’t mean we’re the only ones here worthy of recognition. The agents we work with are just as important to the success of this company, and since we can’t fit 52 (and counting) names on the sign, it’s better to name the agency for where it is and what it does. 

This is also a forward-looking way to ensure your brokerage’s survival after you’ve left. If you name a brand after yourself the brand lives and dies with you. But if you name it after what you do, that can carry on for generations.

3. Be supportive

It’s not just agency-hopping that causes Realtor turnover. Realtors quit the business altogether at remarkably high rates, largely because they aren’t making enough money. That can often be attributed to brokers hiring brand-new agents and then failing to give them the tools they need for success.

We run an extensive training program we call Palm Paradise University. Every new agent gets onboarding and ongoing training, plus a mentorship program to guide them through their first few transactions until they’re comfortable with the process. We continually update the university training materials to stay current with emerging market conditions.

We have a wealth of administrative support for our agents, whether new or veteran, to help them with transactions, and we have a dedicated customer care team to help with lead follow-ups and nurturing.

Plus, we focus heavily on recognizing our agents’ wins. In our twice-weekly meetings, we highlight agent success stories while making time to discuss lessons learned from things that didn’t go as we’d hoped. There’s no shame or blame in these discussions. We focus on how we can approach the situation differently next time. The team’s success is the ultimate goal.

This year, we implemented monthly competitions. Agents who post the most improvements on their metrics are awarded great prizes — first place gets them a two-night stay at a nearby resort of their choice. Second and third places get great prizes too — a nice dinner out and a spa day package.

That costs us money — up to $4,000 a month. But it’s worth it because it gets our 50-plus agent team to perform at a higher level. If the competition causes just one more transaction a month, it pays for itself while also keeping agents happy and eager to work with us.

4. Culture first, money second

It’s not enough to know your agents want to make money. You need to know why.

Maybe one has a kid, and she’s saving for college. Another might want to make enough for a down payment on a house. Learn about your agents’ dreams and wants. Try to help them achieve their goals where you can.

You often see the people you work with more than you see your family. Make sure you’re nurturing your work-family relationships just like you would for your wife or husband.

This idea cuts another way, too. Don’t let agents get away with damaging your work environment just because they bring in lots of money.

We actually let a top-earning agent go for not being a good fit for our culture. The money brought in wasn’t worth the hit to our workplace happiness.

We’ll make more money in the long run — one high-earning agent isn’t worth the morale problems and associated decreased productivity from all the other agents. But more importantly, our agents will be happier and want to remain on our team.

Conclusive results 

These programs really work.

Earlier, I mentioned our low turnover rate. Of the eight agents we’ve lost over the past four years, some left because they had to — health reasons and other things we couldn’t control. For three of those four years, we didn’t lose any agents at all. 

The best compliment we get — and it happens often — is when an agent interviews for a position and tells us how different we are. One prospective agent said, “Every other office I interviewed in the last week was like a college team. You guys are the NFL.” That put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

You can experience this same kind of joy and consistency by bucking the industry trend of high agent churn. Focus on your company culture first rather than madly hiring agents as fast as you can.

Concentrating on making your brokerage a place where agents want to work will get results. You’ll perform better as a business, and your team members will be happier and far less likely to leave the brokerage.

Marcus Larrea is the co-founder and team lead of Palm Paradise Real Estate based in Fort Myers, Florida. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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