Six years ago, I was transferring my license away from a traditional, local brokerage and the broker/owner, in a last ditch attempt to keep me on board offered me a large corner office (the one right down the hall from all of the yellowing pre-printed contract forms that I never used). I didn’t need the space. My team was just fine in our little office. We were going paperless as well, so the wall space for the old paper files was no longer at a premium. The agents on my team were working remotely and we had just brought on a virtual assistant. And yet, somehow, it was tempting to have a bigger and more prominent spot to call home.
Ten years earlier, that same corner office “carrot” would have been a huge tool for the broker to retain me. Ten years before that, I would have been very hard pressed to say no to the coveted corner office. But in 2011, it took all of about 30 seconds to dismiss the perceived need for it. Fast forward to 2017, and the office is a non-factor. My sales team works remotely: one admin lives in the Philippines, my agents all have home offices, and our transaction coordinator is in the middle of a three-month stint in Europe doing remote work as she travels.
These days, brokerages are doing the best to house more agents in less space. As they see their margins shrink, their focus is on reducing overhead, and space is one of their largest expenses. As costs rise, something has to change, so I am sympathetic to their dilemma. But what if we, as brokerage owners, looked at these changes as a real opportunity to innovate for the good of our agents?
I think that these changes force us to think outside of the box. They force us to focus less on providing the best space or the most space, and more on helping agents maximize their productivity, inside and outside of the office. If you believe, like me, that the function of ownership and brokers is to act as leverage for agents who want to grow their businesses, then how is today’s brokerage able to achieve this with agents working remotely, and space costs rising?
Here are my suggestions for brokers:
1. Use technology to stay in touch
Staying in touch with email does not cut it anymore. You are more likely to get ignored via email or a voice message than ever before. Sure, supplement communications with these mediums, but you’ll have to incorporate apps like Slack to stay in front of agents with your company culture and virtual whiteboards like Trello if you want to keep them engaged with office competitions and goals.
2. Invest in agents via video
Everybody watches video. You have a webcam. Use it. Your agents want to hear from you, they connect with you when they can see you. Give them advice, updates on the brokerage, shout outs for performance and even training through video. Keep it short, though and add captions or a summary in written form since most will watch your broadcast with the sound off. Get your video IQ up to speed with Steve Stockman’s book, How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.
3. Teach (or simply remind) agents how to stay focused and goal-oriented
We all need it. The advice to stay on course to hit our goals, the systems to keep us accountable to them, the stories that inspire us to be people who contribute great things to our industry and the world. This type of coaching can all be done virtually. Webinars for coaching groups of agents are made incredibly simple with Zoom, Google Hangout and a multitude of other options. We leverage shared Google Docs as a simple way to keep agents and team members on track to their goals. A short, hyper focused 15 minute coaching call weekly may be all an agent needs to stay in the game of pursuing their goals.
4. Take notes from your big teams
Let’s face it, many real estate teams do all of this stuff really well and some are doing it at scale. They are highly incentivized to move the ball forward as a unit and create massive wins for the members by staying connected and executing on their goals together. Get your best teams in the room (virtual or traditional) and ask their advice for keeping in touch. Make it a mastermind session. Bring value, and teams, just like individuals, will reciprocate.