When Jennifer Staats started her career in real estate 14 years ago, she learned quickly that real estate professionals’ favorite part of the job is selling and working with clients.
“It’s not managing or creating systems,” she says.
That wasn’t true for her, though. As a broker and an agent, Staats, MRP, found that she loved the operations side of the business. She realized early on that streamlined, robust operations made it easier for agents and brokers to focus on the heart of the business, which also doubles as most professionals' favorites. Six years ago, she started Staats Solutions, an operations management company dedicated to helping brokerages fine-tune their processes and infrastructure so they could better support their agents and scale their businesses.
Step 1: Evaluate and Set the Vision
Specifics are important, and you must know your starting point. To figure that out, an in-depth evaluation of where your business is right now is important. It’s important to take a deep-dive approach, Staats says. The more specific you get, the better the blueprint you’ll have to move forward. ≈
Look at the following metrics:
- Lead flow: your top lead sources and where you nurtured them
- ROI from these sources
- Conversion rate: how many total leads you need to convert to a sale
- Performance: how your agents are performing individually and collectively
Once you’re clear on the current state of your business, you can transition into envisioning the future. What’s possible if you had no limits? Remember that your vision should be clear and actionable. You will want a clear understanding of how many agents you need and the numbers they need to produce to reach your goals.
It’s also important to remember that a new vision means change. Your business model might need to change to meet your goals. For some, change is uncomfortable, and you’ll need to plan accordingly.
“You will be sharing your vision with the people you bring on. Agent turnover comes from a change in the business model,” says Staats. “Agents who subscribed to the original vision but can’t get with the new model is where turnover happens.” If your plan is to retain the agents that are currently with the brokerage, make sure to bring them along with the new vision.
"Get them excited about it. Talk about it with them first. Let them know what you’re working toward and show how it will help them. When you're ready to start moving forward, offer training around the new vision and give them a very methodical approach to follow."
Step 2: Implement Systems
A big vision can’t succeed without robust systems to back it up.
“After working with top-producing agents all over the country for the last decade, we have noticed a distinct pattern. Each and every high-producing team has some variation of these three systems in place.”
Transaction tracking, a maintained and organized CRM and a task management system help keep brokerages on track, Staats says.
For transaction tracking to work, it has to be a task performed to completion and with consistency, Staats says. It needs to be more robust than a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. She recommends systems like Sisu, which offer customizable dashboards and metrics.
A well-maintained and organized CRM can create transaction workflows for specific accounts and make it much easier to keep track of following up, keeping in contact and maintaining relationships. Staats likes Follow Up Boss, which is empowered with automation, organization and operations capabilities. No matter how robust the CRM, though, it will work only as well as it’s maintained.
Task Management System
Individual and team accountability are essential to move the needle forward. Task management systems make accountability tangible. Online tools like Asana, Trello and Monday allow brokers to schedule projects well in advance and break those projects down into tasks. Tasks can be assigned to agents and team members as needed.
Task management systems are great, Staats says, because they act as an assistant that’s always on top of projects and reminders, which helps keep the business on track.
She adds an important note on systems, recommending that brokers pick one and stick with it. If your CRM is working, don’t change it. If you really like using Monday over Asana, great.
“We all have a bit of ‘shiny object syndrome,’” she says, “but when you’re constantly switching systems, it affects the agents because they want consistency. Agents need to build their business so if something is working, they don’t necessarily want to pivot to the next shiny new thing.”
Step 3: Create Infrastructure
With a vision outlined and systems in place, it’s time to build the infrastructure to support your growth. Staats says that, just like the rest of the scaling process, infrastructure is unique to the brokerage’s needs.
You might not need a brick-and-mortar location, but you might find that a one-stop shop for marketing materials makes sense, for example. Take inventory of your needs and invite your agents to chime in.
Once you understand the kind of infrastructure you need, figure out its financial requirements. If you need to hire staff or contractors, make sure to factor that into your original vision.
Step 4: Finalize Plans and Budget
Having a clear and tangible vision is part of the process. To bring it to reality requires a number. Once you’ve outlined a plan and figured out what you need to bring your vision to life, you have to consider the cost. The trick is not to let your current budget talk you out of your plans.
Remember that you’re looking at the end goal and coming up with the numbers that reflect your dream vision, so you’re not expected to have that kind of financial bandwidth now. That said, knowing where you want to end up is a powerful tool. It helps you get clearer about the kind of support and systems you’ll need as you grow.
Consider the phases to get there, Staats says. For example, phase one starts with the essentials you’ve identified. Whatever is absolutely necessary to scale—a CRM and task-tracking system—you invest in now. Then, after you’ve grown, initiate phase two, which could involve implementing a marketing budget and bringing on a couple of new people.
Remember too, Staats says, that unexpected things will happen. Creating a five-year plan is meant to provide a blueprint, but flexibility within that blueprint is important.
“When looking at a long-term plan, budgets and markets will change. You want to be consistently keeping an eye on your budget and make adjustments when needed,” Staats concludes. “Yes, you are in production and moving fast, but schedule times throughout the year to look at your business from the holistic standpoint. That way, you’re not surprised at the end of the year.”