We had the pleasure of attending the National Association of REALTORS® annual conference in New Orleans last week. On the trade show floor, we got to see the latest ideas and technologies that will drive the future of real estate – and ate a few too many beignets – but the true insights were doled out in the educational sessions.
Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate (BHGRE®), led a robust discussion to a packed house on the real estate brokerage of the future. She was joined by Joshua Tanner of BHGRE Generations, Vanessa Bergmark of Red Oak Realty, Matt Beall of Hawaii Life, and Nick Segal of Partners Trust. The key takeaway was clear, a strong office culture is paramount in molding the successful brokerage of the future.
All four panelists agreed that establishing your core values plays a key role in shaping your office culture. Knowing who you are and what you stand for not only helps focus your branding but also helps attract the “right” type of clients and new talent. “Our focus as leaders of the BHGRE Generations team is to always help our agents focus on the business rather than just being a single agent,” said Joshua Tanner. “That feeling of being part of something bigger and having a shared goal encourages people to work together and learn from one another, which makes everyone better.”
A clear and defined office culture should pervade all aspects of your business. Matt Beall of Hawaii Life says, “We take our shoes off at the door of our agency offices. That’s Hawaii and it’s been incorporated into our office culture.” These decisions as to who you are as a company define the interactions you will have with potential clients and new agents. In order to succeed, a culture similar to this should be shared by all agents involved and appropriate for your location and/or target customers. To foster the attitude, Red Oak Realty has a symbolic large wooden table in their offices. “The table is where everything in the office happens,” says Vanessa Bergmark of Red Oak Realty. “Our top producing agents sit at the table alongside newer, greener agents. The table induces collaboration.”
Panelists also talked at length about the use of technology and the internet among the next generation of real estate agents. Smart phones and social media have a big influence on the way agents work and connect with their clients. Picking the right technology for your brokerage can be a difficult decision. Nick Segal of Partners Trust has very high standards when deciding which new tech to buy. He says, “We always ask the ’30 benefits’ question – are there at least 30 benefits we are going to get out of a technology or system? Does it really help sell real estate?” If they can’t think of enough reasons to adopt a new technology, they won’t spend any money on it.
Many real estate companies are bringing technology in-house and building their own systems to handle transactions and communications. However, Matt Beall cautioned against the reliance on fancy gadgets, stressing that good, simple old customer service is still paramount to building successful client relationships: “Technology is not to decorate the agent but a means to drive traffic to our website and then the agent cultivates the client relationship themselves – it’s the most important thing.”
Accountability is also a key value. When an agent joins your brokerage, they become a representative of your brand to everyone that they engage with. It is incredibly important to be sure that each of your agents is an honest indication of what your brokerage stands for. Accountability ranks high for Vanessa Bergmark. Each year she has all of her agents come to her house and do a listing presentation on the home. This exercise not only encourages collaboration between agents, but gives a clear picture as to the strengths and weaknesses of each agent. This allows Red Oak Realty to better understand what improvements need to be made, and where.
Overall, this group gave some amazing insights into what a successful brokerage of the future should look like. We had an amazing and informative time at the NAR conference this year, and we look forward to implementing all we learned to help us be better!