If brokerages want to remain profitable in the future, they have to go back to basics—especially when it comes to agent recruitment and retention. A panel of four powerhouse real estate veterans discussed strategies for better supporting agents during the Idea Exchange Council for Brokers at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Chicago on Friday.

Leigh Brown, ABR, CRS, broker-owner of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Concord, N.C., pointed out that it’s getting harder to get agents to come to the office. “Frankly, that’s on us. We haven’t given them anything to show up for,” she said. Brown entices her agents with useful education and hands-on training tools, such as scripts and dialogues that they can’t get from their agent peers on Facebook. And when it comes to teams, her company policy is that team leaders must be a broker-in-charge in order to take on new licensees.

Echoing Brown’s sentiments, Steve Murray, president and co-founder of REAL Trends Consulting, advised brokers to “recruit talent, develop talent, and spend less money than you have coming in. If you don’t do this, nothing else you do matters.”

Perhaps just as important as training agents is providing them with a company culture where they’ll thrive. “Millennials are drawn to companies that have a well-defined culture,” said Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Figure out what your brokerage stands for, how you’re going to give back to the world, and who you are as a company and brand.

The next generation of agents is far more educated, says Greg Carlson, broker-owner of Five Star Real Estate in Grand Rapids, Mich. That means brokers have to step up their game. “They’re coming in stronger, and they’re not looking at how we used to do things,” he said. But they also want accountability, Chris added, which by definition is “noticing without judgement.” Hold your agents to a certain level of professionalism and productivity, she advised.

Carlson, who manages 13 offices, only has five onsite branch administrators. Instead, his company supports agents with “Deal Doctors.” These managers are available 24/7 to help with anything and everything, from transaction questions to advice. They’ve also created a “preflight checklist” for their agents to go over with clients before writing or accepting an offer.

If you’ve gone all-in with your company culture and you want to update your office to reflect that, Murray says take it slow. “Don’t go full-on café style unless you do it gradually,” he said, because you’ll have agents who aren’t comfortable with an open layout. Think about what type of firm you have and who your competitors are. If you change your office model too quickly, then plan on having to recruit new agents who crave that atmosphere, he added.

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