Feeling squeezed between online real estate giants and the latest generation of hungry independent agents who are pounding the streets to take a piece of your market?
Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, brought several industry gurus together earlier this month for a “Survival War Room for Brokers” session, designed to share ideas and suggestions to help brokerages punch above their weight, by considering office culture and space, technology and profitability.
Joseph Rand, managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Realty, summed it up best, “If your business model is aligned with what your agents value, you’ll be just fine. It really depends on you being a good operator and executing on that.”
So what should brokers be keeping in mind?
Lose the Paper
When it comes to the office of the future, as Sherry Chris says, attention to detail in client experience is one of the most important things to consider.
A big step in improving office culture and promoting technology is updating your office to reflect the times, said Vanessa Bergmark, Beta Broker and a partner at Red Oak Realty in the San Francisco Bay area.
Go paperless, said Bergmark. Get rid of desks and file cabinets. Put up chalk board walls so agents literally have a palette for their thoughts. You’ll still have a few desks in the office. Agents can share them. This layout encourages collaboration and communicates a hip, modern feel to clients, she said. Dingy rows of empty, cluttered desks signal the opposite.
Don’t forget that some old-school touches are still vital, though.
The most important employee in a brokerage is the person who greets clients when they walk through the door, said Shaun Osher, founder and chief executive of CORE, a Manhattan boutique realty firm. Nobody has so much power to make a crucial first impression.
Every office should also have an immaculate, tasteful gallery/foyer for use a waiting area for clients and a comfortable conference room for meetings. Again, it’s about creating a good first impression.
Agents who have the tools to reach their goals (and receive their rewards) are happy and productive. Happy and productive agents, in turn, go the extra mile to meet clients’ needs, said Chris Nichols of Prudential Utah Elite Real Estate.
Culture is key to keeping agents and clients engaged, but a brokerage’s culture is not static. It’s always evolving, so brokers need to keep tabs on it. Cultures can be very different, and cannot be ignored.
Regular roundtable meetings where everyone contributes are a good way to occasionally set a new tone for the office. At meetings, review industry statistics — maybe conduct a little quiz on stats disguised as a game — and identify the best sales. A big reward, like a trip to Mexico, is a sure motivator for agents to close big deals.
Lon Welsh, President, Your Castle Real Estate, had other thoughts. His firm focuses on finding consumers willing to pay for high value services, and making sure his agents service those customers better. Welsh does not have managers by office – rather, managers allocated by expertise, and support their agents by skill. This approach helps him bring greater value to his agents, and helps improve overall client service.
Technology and Sustaining Profitability
The key to technology is knowing how to use it smartly. “Don’t chase the next big things in technology,” cautions Leighton Dees, CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations. Dumping money into new snazzy software, hardware and time-consuming online applications doesn’t help your bottom line.
Brokers must identify the needs of clients and agents that might require tech fixes, then see what’s available and make sure it adds value. Office leaders can provide insights. But don’t put the whole burden on them. Sometimes agents don’t know if they require something or not.
Do clients need to save time? Do they need quicker access to more listings? Would better quality videos further empower agents?
“What will make your clients’ lives brilliant?” asked Eric Bryn, managing director at Core Twelve, a Chicago marketing firm.
Inexpensive office changes and smart use of technology don’t have to put pressure on profits. If done correctly, they’ll boost profitability and put competitors in your rear view mirror.
To echo what Sherry Chris said at the close of our session, “There are lots of great ideas here, but don’t get overwhelmed. Pick one that you think will have impact on your business and make sure you do it!”
Feel free to download and share the below recap graphic from our “Survival War Room for Brokers” session!