A real estate veteran in Oregon shares tips for getting new agents started at your company.

In any industry, adding new talent to the team can help spur more ideas for innovation and success. In the real estate space, many newbies come from other fields and bring a fresh approach to the business.

Sandy Garner, founder and president of Harcourts The Garner Group Real Estate in Bend, Ore., who has worked in real estate for 30 years, shares how she prepares new agents for their roles and discusses her own experience entering the real estate industry in this Broker to Broker Q&A.

You hire a lot of agents who are new to the industry. What do you like about working with them?
Many new agents come from other industries such as banking, mortgage, and even performing arts. They bring a skill set to the table that is unique and can give our whole team insight into improving service for our clients. I encourage them to capitalize on that skill set. Some of the agents I work with are young, and real estate is their first job. I love their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn the business.

Do you have an interview and onboarding process?
I often have informational interviews with people either before or after they’re licensed. I want each person to understand what it means to become a real estate practitioner. Whether or not the person chooses to work at our firm, I tell them what to look for: an active, supportive office; a brokerage that really shows an interest in his or her success; and an experienced broker who can act as a mentor. There was a time when real estate agents jumped from agency to agency. I think it is important to make a good choice at the beginning of your career and find a place where you can become established with the support you need to create a name for yourself.

When a new agent joins my team, we begin the formal training. About two years ago, we made the significant move to become a franchisee of Harcourts, an international real estate company. This move built upon our position as a well-known independent firm in our community. One of the reasons I chose to go with Harcourts is because of their stellar training programs for new agents and ongoing education for existing agents. These formal training programs include a huge library of accessible information, online training, and in-person workshops led by industry experts. This type of formal approach to career preparation can help give a leg up.

In what other ways do you help new agents succeed?
I encourage new agents to create a business plan — not just to jot a few notes on paper but to sit down, use a template, and create a full-fledged plan with goals, objectives, and strategies. How many hours do you want to work? What are your personal and professional goals? Then I show them how to track those goals.

I also tell our agents that they have to treat real estate like a career. Even though they work for our real estate company, agents are still in business for themselves, and that requires a high level of motivation and determination. The economy does play a role in an agent’s success, but most are limited by their own willingness and motivation to put in the time and work. You need to show up. You need to put in the hours. Some of our newer agents take every open floor shift and work every open house they can just to get the experience. It pays off in the end. One of our newest agents just won the Rising Star Award from Harcourts Northwest, as she has put a lot of time and effort into creating a niche and name for herself.

How did you get started in real estate, and what did your experience teach you?
Before I became a practitioner, I worked in the local school district so my schedule would lend itself to raising my daughters. When I decided to make a change, my kids were school-aged. I really needed to understand what I was walking into, and I was lucky enough to have a mentor who helped me see the hard work and commitment that a career in real estate would take. My mentor also taught me strategies to manage my business while also being a mom. My experience showed me that becoming an agent is a family decision, and I let my agents know that. You have the potential to make good money, but it takes time, commitment, and constant availability to your clients. For me, it was a calling, and now, both my daughters work with me, along with my granddaughter and many other family members.

Do you have any tips for other brokers who are hiring fresh faces to the industry?
Understand the individual skills that each person brings to the table, and use those skills in your approach to customer service. Brand-new agents provide a unique opportunity to expand your client offerings. Find out where that person excels, and marry that with the goals he or she sets forth in the business plan. But the biggest thing a broker can do is create an education-rich work environment that offers opportunities to both new and existing agents. If your agents are successful, so is your agency. It’s that simple. So invest in your agents first.


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