If a real estate agent has hit a point when it’s necessary to scale in order to accomplish goals, it’s time to start building a team. It’s an exciting phase for an agent, but it can also be scary: A larger team means a bigger raft to keep afloat. By helping agents through the selection and onboarding processes, real estate managers can play an important role in easing the growing pains for agents who are bringing on other agents or assistants.
The greatest benefit of growing a selling group is the production increase that comes when team members use their talents to complement one another. Agents in a team can work under the firm’s umbrella and use its assets — including offices, employees, and technology — for only a fraction of the cost they would spend on their own. With luck, everyone ends up with a little extra time to have a life outside work. For the agency’s part, having teams of agents will likely result in more agency signs in yards, a larger market share, and more satisfied customers.
A good team leader should be able to produce enough leads to keep a team of three to five people busy. A well-functioning team will divide tasks according to members’ strengths and weaknesses: Perhaps the leader becomes the “rainmaker” by finding and nurturing leads while her teammates show homes, make follow-up calls, or run the marketing. The real estate manager’s goal is to support an environment in each team where the energy and synergy create a more productive culture.
Within our office, the “teams” are small. We have only husband-wife teams and high-producing agents who each have a licensed assistant. Our largest team is a high-producing agent, her son, and a licensed assistant. When an agent feels ready to take on an assistant, we provide training and support for hiring someone who will be an asset to both the team and the office in general. We coach the agent on expectations, delegation, and leadership. Even though we also provide new hires with training and support on contracts, selling skills, and office mindset, we always respect the hiring agent’s leadership position on the team.
It might be tempting for real estate managers to take over the hiring of an agent’s assistant, but it’s important to realize that the manager’s role should be strictly advisory so that the assistant feels that his "boss" is the agent who hired him, not the real estate manager of the office. Follow these five tips to optimize the process for the new hire, the agent, and your office.
1. Help evaluate the need.
The real estate manager should work with the agent thinking about starting a team to evaluate his business and determine what kind of support he’s looking for in a new hire. Think about these questions: Where does the majority of the agent’s business come from? How can an assistant or team member complement the agent’s strengths and compensate for the agent’s weaknesses? Create a list of the top three things the assistant or new agent should do for the team.
2. Build a job description and assist in hiring.
When you’ve determined what the agent needs, help her craft a job description for the new position and start finding candidates. Encourage the agent to use the answers from the previous step to inform decisions during the hiring process. The real estate manager should provide assistance with the interviewing and selection processes, especially if the agent has never sat on the hiring end of the table before. However, the manager should make sure the agent is in total control of decisions.
3. Finagle the fine print.
Help the agent create an intake strategy for hiring the new team member as well as an exit strategy in the event the hire doesn’t work out. Encourage the agent to consider all variables: Should there be a probationary period? What is the new hire’s legal status: employee, independent contractor, or simply a licensed agent handling the team leader’s overflow? At Windermere Group One, we ask for an employment contract as well as the necessary paperwork we would require of an agent.
4. Set the cultural tone.
The real estate manager can play a role in acclimating the agent’s new hire to the office culture. Alongside the hiring agent, set expectations regarding attending meetings, training sessions, and being considerate of other agents’ time. At our office, for example, it’s important that assistants attend office meetings and company functions to feel like part of our company.
Remember, an agent who has never had an assistant before might need coaching on how to be a manager. This doesn’t mean the real estate manager should step on the hiring agent’s toes, though.
5. Give grace — lots of it.
Help the hiring agent give some grace to the new hire, especially if that person has never worked in real estate. This is a combat sport, and it can get a little uncomfortable at times. The manager should be the biggest cheerleader for the agent and the new hire as they figure out how to play together. Work with the agent and the new hire to create an onboarding timeline that seems fair and is accepted in writing by both parties.
Real estate managers can provide valuable ideas and feedback on realistic expectations for new employees, whether they be agents or assistants. But always remember that the hiring agent should run point for his own team. And be sure to extend that grace to the agent, as well, as she learns how to manage and grow a team of her own.
It’s an exciting time when agents find themselves ready to scale, but mistakes made along the way can impede their growth. Help them take their time, give (and take) good advice, and you’ll all end up with top talent that will expand the profitability of everyone’s business.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One. WGO is a member of Windermere Real Estate, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.