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In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. Askowitz is the broker-owner of South Florida’s largest RE/MAX office, and a working agent who sells more than 100 homes each year.
This month’s situation: A successful and seasoned agent has been invited to join a team of colleagues in her own office whom she really respects. However, as a lifelong solo practitioner, she is leaning toward declining. Although she knows that teams are the wave of the future, her autonomy is just too important to her.
How can her broker help her evaluate the pros and cons of being on a team, while mitigating the real challenges this pairing could mean to his own office?
Shortly after I attended an educational session about the value of team building (organized by our state Realtor association), I was approached by the leader of one of our office’s most respected teams and formally invited to join them. The timing was impeccable, as I had never even considered being a part of a team until I sat through that session.
My first reaction was feeling honored that this group of professionals considered me a good fit for their team — followed immediately by my second reaction, to politely reject the offer (which I have not communicated yet). This would be a major career decision, and I need some time to really consider it carefully.
Fear of change can paralyze any human being, and I am certainly no exception. I’ve built this business on my own for decades, and the idea of having to consider someone else’s opinion or share decision-making responsibilities is completely foreign to me.
What if my partners want to spend money on marketing that I think should be spent on better technology, and I simply get outvoted? What if I can’t take a vacation when I want because it would overlap with another partner? What if my partners insist on hiring someone I can’t stand? I’m just not sure I can live with the surrender of so much autonomy or the risk of losing my good name in the industry.
I do realize there are some positive “what-ifs” to consider as well: What if this is an amazing success, where we complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses? What if we get the more desirable listings through our combined selling power? What if something happens to me, and I can sleep easy knowing that my partners have my back?
But honestly, the concerns about splits, working relationships, decision-making, etc., just overpower any optimism. I’m not going to make a change of this magnitude just to be “OK.” It would have to be a dramatic improvement in revenue, opportunity and freedom for this to make any sense. My broker has always encouraged team development in our office, so maybe he can help me see this from another angle.
This is a highly complicated situation. Having one of my top producers join an already-established team within the office is not the best scenario for the company. We definitely encourage team-building, and I do talk often about the benefits of teams. But we want our agents to build teams, not join them.
Adding a team member from another company increases the team’s profitability and aids the company financially. Conversely, rolling an in-office agent onto an established team may sound like a winning proposition for all parties, but the opposite is often true: When two powerhouses join forces, there is often a net reduction in overall productivity, as everyone tends to stop working quite as hard, assuming they can rely on others.
This becomes detrimental to the company as well, with fewer competitive entities in the marketplace vying for business.
So, do I advise this agent to do what may be right for them, or for what is best for the company? As a broker, my agents are my primary customers and responsibility, and they should rely on respect and honesty from me that is not tainted by personal interests. And, lest we forget, there is a very successful team in my office to consider, who are eager to add this amazing colleague.
If I advise the agent to join the team, I hurt my company’s profits and take the risk of the fallout that occurs if she is not a good fit. If I advise the agent to reject the offer, I will anger the team leader and its members. So many interests at play here, and someone is going to be unhappy with the result.
How to resolve
The first thing the broker should do is create a company policy that only allows for external team recruiting, to prevent repeat occurrences of this messy situation. In lieu of that, the best course of action is for the agent and broker to rely on facts, tell the truth, weigh the pros and cons of all decisions, and make informed decisions.
They should have a private but candid discussion that anticipates how the agent will function as a team member and explore every conceivable scenario:
- Will the agent be comfortable with the proposed split package?
- What happens to existing business, leads, and contacts if the agent leaves the team or if the team breaks up entirely?
- Does the agent have an attorney on standby to look over the contract?
- What about vacation policies? Office sharing? Adding new partners in the future?
- And most of all, what’s really important to the agent: Money, recognition, freedom, or some combination of the above?
Accordingly, the broker should be open and transparent about how the agent’s decision will impact the company while striving to remain an objective adviser.
Answering these questions may not be easy or comfortable, but they will provide the clarity needed to move forward. For example, if the agent decides to accept the invitation, they can do so with accurate and realistic expectations. (The broker may not like the financial hit the company assumes from this arrangement, but it at least mitigates the chances of a nasty breakup.)
If the agent declines the invitation, they can proceed with a clear mind and tactfully justify the decision to their colleagues.
There may not be any “win-win-win” scenarios from inter-office recruiting, but good communication can lead to acceptable “win-win-no damage taken” results.
Anthony Askowitz is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in Hollywood Beach, Davie, Miramar, North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, where he leads the activities of more than 190 agents. Follow Anthony on Instagram.
NOTE: Anthony Askowitz is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.