These days, team-building activities are the name of the game, with brokerages of all sizes investing time, resources, and energy into attracting and retaining successful real estate teams.
According to James Jared, CEO, founder and sales trainer at Jared James Enterprises, brokerages have become a lot more open to teams than they were five years ago because they are realizing that agents want to do more than just “run around.” Dividing responsibilities allows team members the advantage of being more effective with their time.
“Teams used to be a last option for most brokerages,” says James. “Now they are recruiting teams to join them because they realize the value they bring to their brand.”
Indeed, many of today’s brokerages are investing in building better teams and supporting those teams in a myriad of ways. Chris Arienti, broker-owner of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Franklin, Mass., says that as more agents compete for a piece of the shrinking real estate pie, recruiting new, skilled agents and retaining top producers has become an even more critical part of the broker’s game plan for success.
“We are seeing more and more agents being approached to join teams, and more who also want to start their own teams,” Arienti says.
In order to attract and retain teams, Arienti says that it’s in many ways like cultivating consumer leads into profitable clients: You must highlight the distinctive characteristics of your firm compared to others and clarify why you’re the best fit for their needs.
“As you market your company to potential candidates, one of the most important things to convey is your brand, which is composed of your business’ values and focus. Consider what makes your brokerage unique to build an attractive value proposition,” Arienti says.
Erin Ward, MRP, team leader at HRVA Homes with Keller Williams Town Center in Virginia Beach, Va., says there are more teams than she has ever seen. Team leaders are able to leverage a lot of the traditional overhead costs covered by the brokerage itself while still having some control in how they manage their agents, she says. “My brokerage really affords me the flexibility to guide my team down a successful path, and that freedom has really made a big difference,” Ward adds.
For a brokerage to not only attract but also retain strong teams, brokers need to embrace the differences that teams bring. For example, as James explains, most teams are going to need a dedicated space to operate.
“The more things a broker can provide as a value-add for that team, such as training or office support, the better the chance is that the team will stay with them,” James says. “Having said that, a strong team is also going to want some independence in how they manage their technologies and in other areas, such as having their own dedicated phone line.”
Tools to Attract Teams
For Long & Foster Real Estate in Chantilly, Va., teams are a vital element to the company’s success. In order to further the collaboration within the company, Long & Foster expected to introduce team websites by the end of 2019. The sites are intended to help real estate teams customize content that can highlight their agents and share information with consumers.
According to Gary Scott, co-president of general brokerage at Long & Foster Real Estate, the company chose to create and offer team websites for two reasons. One of them is agent feedback. “We often hear from agents that they are not pleased with the website options and pricing that are available for them to purchase from third parties,” Scott says. So they decided to create a product that meets their agents’ needs: simple, cost-effective, attractive, and customizable.
“The second reason is that we’re always looking for ways to make our agents’ lives easier. We knew we could offer our teams—and all our agents—modern and responsive websites directly from us at no added cost to them,” he says.
As Larry Foster, co-president of general brokerage at Long & Foster, further explains, team websites help the company highlight the work and the visibility of Long & Foster teams while saving them time and money. Team leaders don’t have to search for a vendor to host or build their web site, and they have Long & Foster’s tech team on hand to help them through the process of setting up and personalizing their site.
While websites and separate phone lines are a good place to start, what many teams are also looking for—especially for their newer agents—is general support.
“That's the one area that most team leaders struggle with because they are working hard to run the team,” James says. “In many cases, brokerages will even offer to split costs on training the team’s agents with companies like mine, and in return, the teams are expected to sign agreements to stay with the brokerage for a specific period of time—so both sides win.”
Arienti suggests brokers include links on the company’s main website to its teams’ sites as a way to get teams noticed and attract potential leads. Also, leverage social media at events, and post public congratulations or acknowledgments of team members.
“Ask the head of the team to teach classes about team building, and make them feel a part of the growth culture of the office. And for sure, give them just due,” Arienti says.
Other strategies include offering a team cap, where the team only pays a certain amount of money into the main brokerage and then is free of any fees and expenses. Also, assist the head of the team with training and recruiting, Arienti says, and allow the team to leverage the power of the brand and the brokerage to attract top talent from the area.
“Having an overall team cap absolutely is an incentive when coupled with additional support and mentorship. It allows me to build my leadership skills and navigate non-real estate related issues that come from the management aspect of my team,” Ward says.
Building a Culture Where Teams Thrive
Culture also is a vital factor of engaging and attaining new team hires. As Arienti explains, across industries, data shows that supportive workplace environments lead to more fulfilled and productive workers.
“Obviously, you don’t want to encourage an environment where nothing gets accomplished, but it’s important to create a space where employees and agents are happy to be there and share an overall enjoyment that comes from being part of that group,” Arienti says.
Consistency when working with teams should be the same across the board. Ward advises that when bringing in new teams, they should be treated with the same level of support as the teams already working within the brokerage.
Long & Foster has a corporate goal to make life easier for teams. That means thinking about the tools and resources they need, the team-specific training they need, and the support to help them consider and plan for the future of the team.
“In many ways, you help your teams to operate like their own brokerages within your brokerage—teaching them how to hire the right team members, grow their teams through acquisitions, and even sell their teams when the time comes to retire,” Foster says. “The latter is something we’ve enabled our teams to do through our Agent Succession Plan.”
In addition to giving agents the ability to reach new career heights, having a team-friendly atmosphere offers a lot of benefits for individuals, teams, and the brokerage as a whole. “A team can mean that each member is able to focus on the things they do best, whether that’s pitching to potential sellers or handling marketing and advertising needs,” Scott says. The shared workload can also help agents spend more time with their families because they have built-in support.
“Also, the broker should have a good idea of what is included in the team agreements ensuring that they have a solid exit plan for each team's agents as they move on,” Ward says.
Like any good business, brokers and teams need to make deals where both sides win. Too often, James sees teams making deals with agents that don't make financial sense for them, or he sees brokers making deals with teams that don't make sense for the brokerage on a long-term basis.
“They need to have a frank conversation and go over the numbers and see what works for both sides to be profitable so they are both always coming from a position of strength and can offer training, support, and software to the agents on the team that makes sense for everyone involved,” James says.