Owners of successful real estate companies discuss strategies for retaining their best and brightest.

Happy, successful agents are crucial for growing your real estate company and increasing brand awareness. That means brokers need to focus on recruiting, retaining, and training agents while providing tools to best serve clients.  

Easier said than done.  

Besides the decisions involved in owning and operating a brokerage, you face a multitude of options for delivering value to your agents. Do you choose this transaction management platform or that? Do you pursue more ancillary services? When and how do you recruit agents who best fit your culture? Should you hire an in-house coach or a tech trainer?  

“It comes down to the services you’re delivering constantly,” Matt Widdows, founder and CEO of HomeSmart International based in Phoenix, said at the RISMedia Power Broker panel during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo Friday in Orlando, Fla. And if an agent leaves, he will go to great lengths to find out why. “I want to know what we did right and what we did wrong.” 

HomeSmart has more than 11,000 affiliated agents in 17 states and 55 markets. Widdows considers the teams in those offices to be mini brokerages, so his company offers management tools to team leaders for tracking transactions, streamlining reports, and providing transaction coordinator assistance. The services his company provides agents, he says, helped his brokerage grow throughout the economic downturn.  

Robin Dickson, executive vice president of J. Rockcliff REALTORS® in the San Francisco-East Bay area, oversees six offices and 500 agents. They’re near the Google and Facebook campuses, close to Oracle, Tesla, and other major tech companies. Her top agent—who’s a team leader—will make $4.5 million in commission this year. So she’s focusing on retaining rather than recruiting and growing. 

Three-fourths of Dickson’s agents have been with the company for 20 years or more. “We want to make sure people aren’t forgotten and that we’re providing them with the tools and education they need,” she says. That includes a technology trainer who visits every office—at no cost to the agents—who goes through CRM, teaches video, assists with DocuSign, introduces new apps, and is available for one-on-one appointments. Dickson says her top producers are also willing to share their time, knowledge, and expertise with other agents. So, they conduct a lot of panel and group discussions.  

For Peter Galbraith, president of Coldwell Banker Select in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, his company’s real estate school has been at the heart of their successful agent recruitment—which took off after they started offering daytime classes. “We noticed an increase in the caliber of agents coming out of the school,” he says. They also developed a training program with special attention on amping up agents' technology skills. Because the average sales price in their market is $165,000, buying is almost always cheaper than renting. “We’re very fortunate for that,” Galbraith says.  

Brokers benefit from a strong network of other professionals who are mutually supportive.  Rei Mesa, president of Florida Real Estate Services and president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, says it’s important to  “surround yourself with great people” who are empowered to push back if you get off track; people who can advise you and keep you in check.  

Also in the Florida market, Craig Beggins, president and CEO of Century 21 Beggins Enterprises, starts each morning with a conference call meeting from 8:30-9:30, which is open to all of his 180 agents in five offices. He focuses on practical advice and asks others to share their experiences, too, noting that turnout for the meetings is tremendous.  

A culture of collaboration is also encouraged at Marti Hampton’s brokerage, RE/MAX One Realty in Raleigh, N.C. “We’re a company that’s team-friendly,” she says. “We have really smart entrepreneurs who are developing their teams.” And, with 10 top-producing teams in one building, those leaders are able to bounce ideas off one another, she says.  

But brokers should also think of themselves as team leaders, Beggins says, by taking the busy, administrative work off agents’ hands and setting the stage for a strong, unified culture in their offices. 

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