Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018, but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His Inman column is published every Wednesday.
Sometime just after the Dark Ages came to a close, I got my first managerial position. Young, sometimes dumb, but eager to move my career forward, I was lucky to have a great mentor. He sat me down the first day and provided some sage advice.
There are three things you need to remember to successfully lead and manage people: First, hire the right people, and never stop training and developing your team members. Second, recognize their efforts, and don’t take credit for their success. Third, never, ever, screw up their pay.
Having sat in a meeting watching my manager take full credit for a project I’d just completed, I totally understood point two. Going through gyrations to correct a bungled paycheck more than once made point three obvious.
Training and development? That was pretty new to me. I was working on a semiconductor manufacturing line that utilized very complex machines to process products and was well aware that pushing the wrong button could literally ruin a batch of product worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Clearly training on machine operation was important.
We had very structured training. Load a product batch like this. Monitor the software like that. Go through process checklists. Step A, then step B, then step C. In short, training is when an employer teaches their employees how to do their jobs.
Development goes beyond training. Training is typically short-term where development is long-term. Development entails learning new skills, gives workers deeper knowledge and understanding, and allows them to grow in their careers.
We could masterfully train someone to operate one piece of equipment. We could develop them further by training them on multiple equipment sets, teach them what the machines are actually doing to the product and help them develop “soft skills.”
Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people and include things like communication, problem-solving, decision-making, leadership and teamwork.
Training and development take time and money. It’s time and money well-spent, as numerous studies show training and development not only increase employee (and independent contractor) retention, but it is also proven to attract talent.
From semiconductors to brokerage ownership
This semiconductor manufacturing example from my pre-real estate life carried forward to my real estate broker life. Licensing classes teach very little about how to actually close a transaction or be successful in a career selling real estate. That critically important task falls to the broker or team leader.
There is certainly the need to train agents on things like listing entry, CRM software, lead generation and more. Developing soft skills, and translating those skills to sales, may be even more important.
But what if I train them and they leave?
In countless chats with brokers and team leaders about training and developing their agents, I often hear something like this:
“So I spend a bunch of time and money developing an agent, then they bolt to another brokerage! Why would I do that?”
There’s an easy response to, “What if I train them and they leave?” and that is, “What if you don’t, and they stay?”
“When a cynic asks, ‘What if we train them and they leave?’ winning organizations respond: ‘what if we don’t train them and they stay?'” — Peter F. Drucker
Sure, it may be somewhat cliche, but it’s true.
Never abandon training and development on the basis that an agent (admin, transaction coordinator, copywriter, marketing pro — anyone in your organization) may leave. A solid training and development program is quite likely to improve retention, as well as attract new talent.
Sure, you may lose someone occasionally, but you’re also going to have happier, more satisfied agents — as well as clients — working for and with you.
Long after I left the semiconductor industry and was deep into real estate, Sir Richard Branson summed up the “What if we train them and they leave” conundrum best.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” — Sir Richard Branson
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life, he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.