The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable this month discusses fostering culture and setting standards for leadership.
Robert Bailey, Broker/Owner, Bailey Properties, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR
Matt Deuitch, Designated Broker, DPR Realty, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Christy Budnick, Partner/EVP, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Jacksonville, Fla.
Jason Waugh, President/CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate, Portland, Ore.
Bill Hanley, VP, Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, Westfield, N.J.
Gary Scott, President, Long & Foster Real Estate, Chantilly, Va.
Robert Bailey: “My door is always open.” It’s a phrase most of us, as company executives, have used with our agents from time to time. But in light of the chain of command we have in place, not to mention the impact of the communications game-changer we call social media, how relevant—how meaningful, really—is the time-honored open door policy? How can we as brokers best tend to leadership concerns while instilling confidence in our new and experienced agents that a fresh perspective or a sympathetic ear is available to them when they need it? The answers may be as different as the personalities who sit in the executive chair—so we’ve asked a few busy, insightful execs to share their modus operandi. Matt, what’s your approach?
Matt Deuitch: It starts with our philosophy. As an agent in the early days, I had brokers who made me feel like I was an inconvenience. I never want an agent of mine to feel that way. In my company, the agent is my customer, and anything else is an interruption. Appointments are encouraged, but agents have my mobile number and the numbers of all our brokers, and direct calls or texts are fine and encouraged.
Christy Budnick: Call it philosophy, or call it company culture—it’s essential to create an environment where your agents know someone is always there for them. In our company, someone always is, and our agents know it’s okay to call any of our brokers. We also encourage self-empowerment. If it’s a contract question, for example, we may say, ‘Go back and study that contract, look for solutions, and we’ll see you in half an hour to discuss them.’ That is the best way for them to learn. Our brokers are expected to block out time for coaching—and they do.
Jason Waugh: For us, as well, it’s about creating a culture of true accessibility, and our agents know we mean that. My attitude is, we’re paying 33 leases on 33 offices, so feel free to call anyone in any one of them. Our brokers understand the value of that kind of company culture. They use it as a recruiting incentive, and they live it every day. They also understand that some issues—legal disputes, for example, or thorny personnel challenges—may be what I call ‘Jason issues,’ and they don’t hesitate to loop me in.
Gary Scott: I think that’s typical in a family-owned business. Our goal is to make a big company feel small. No matter what the org chart says, our agents know we’re there and we care. The mantra for every new manager we bring on is, ‘Listen, learn and love.’
Bill Hanley: I’ll agree with that. I think of myself first and foremost as a coach, not as a manager. It’s okay with me when an agent leaves me an email, a voicemail, and a text. That just increases the chances that I’ll be accessible to them sooner.
RB: Social media today has made real-time communication the norm. People who grew up texting—the digital native born, you might say—expect instant answers. But must the digital immigrants—those of us who came to it later—always meet that expectation?
BH: I know when an agent contacts me directly, it’s important—and my goal is to be there. I have a feature on my phone that converts voicemail messages to text, so I can see them and respond right away if I need to, even if I’m in a meeting.
MD: In our office, brokers’ schedules are published on an electronic company calendar, so agents can see at a glance if their managing broker is teaching a class, on vacation, or occupied.
JW: We use a district group messaging system. When an agent leaves a message for a manager, and that manager is not able to respond within five minutes, the message goes out to all managers, so the agent will receive a prompt answer from whichever manager first picks it up.
CB: Having a chain of command is vital, as long as every agent knows that someone is available when you need them, and there will be no hurt feelings no matter who you call.
RB: We can all build some interesting scenarios around the proverbial ‘Unanswered Call.’ I heard recently that, based on lead conversion rates from a number of companies as gathered by Move.com, there are 10 times more leads coming into real estate offices each year than the number of transactions actually completed. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, who should have been at the other end of those queries—and what if they’d responded right away?
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