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The Nuts and Bolts of Building a Team

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By Cliff Baird, PhD

By any standard of measurement or comparison these amazing Team Leaders are world class. They each have a tenacious focus on what needs to be done not, only to build something of greatness, but to maintain it.

Any discussion of high profile, ultra luxury residential real estate would be incomplete without mentioning John McMonigle and his talented McMonigle Group based in Newport Beach, California. Over the past five years he has been honored as the top selling agent team in the nation for Coldwell Banker NRT having sold more than $247 million in residential real estate in 2005 and more than $406 million in 2006. They are extending their sales success in 2007, with nearly $900 million of Orange County's most exclusive properties sold, in escrow or in inventory to date this year.

Debbie Dogrul is the Team Leader of Debbie Dogrul Associates, Long & Foster, Fairfax, Virginia and is the currently the No. 1 Realtor in Fairfax County, Virginia. She was recognized as the No. 7 Real Estate Team in the USA by The Wall Street Journal for 2005. Last year, 2006, her team had an astonishing 456 closed transactions.

Jim Striegel joined Keller Williams in Flower Mound, Texas in 2001 and soon began formulating a plan to become the top real estate agent in Texas. Having since participated in more than 1,200 transactions he was eventually named the No. 1 team in the nation for Keller Williams. Today, Jim has a thriving coaching and real estate company. He tells his coaching clients and team members that in 2005 he took home $7 million in commissions and he can coach you how to do it, too! That's the kind of confidence and leadership that can only come from accomplishment.

As diverse as they are as individuals they share some very common denominators when it comes to building great teams in real estate. Here, their formulas:

1. What characteristics are of the utmost importance in considering a new recruit?

John McMonigle: The single most important characteristic we consider for all potential new members of the McMonigle Group is the ability to function as a true team player. We firmly believe that we succeed and fail based on our strength as a team. We have made intelligent, considered choices in our staff and our continued success and market dominance is proof of that.

Jim Stiegel: They have to be eager, driven and excited. There has to be a noticeable difference in them right from the start. We look for the "WOW" factor.

Debbie Dogrul: There needs to be evidence that they are motivated to succeed. Clearly, they have to be a team player, positive, enthusiastic and definitely "coachable."

2. How do you ensure good chemistry?

DD: We try to be as careful as possible to protect what we already have. Every prospect goes through a series of interviews with my team members and then they complete a personality test. We value our Team and create barriers of entry into it.

JM: We have put in place an interview and screening process that mimics those of the best Fortune 100 companies. After an initial screening via resume review and reference checks, any potential new team member will meet extensively with both myself and my Team Services/Client Services Director, Kate Savitch. Once the potential team member passes these milestones, he or she will meet with several team members of the McMonigle Group out in the field at open houses, broker previews, etc. After these meetings, we meet as a team to discuss and make a group decision.

JS: We conduct several personal interviews with a mix of personalities on our Team. Then we have all new recruits complete a DISC personality profile. We evaluate the results of the profile and the interviews and collectively make the committed decision.

3. What are some of your most successful methods for finding new recruits?

JS: We do a couple of things. First we focus on agents with whom we have recently shared a transaction and became impressed with their work ethic and temperament. We also send a series of e-mails to a "selected" Realtor list in our area expressing the advantages of joining our successful team.

DD: I especially react to the referrals from our own team members. The people they know and people with whom they have had real estate transactions has been our best method for recruiting. We also find that people come to us after they have done in depth research about Realtors in Northern Virginia and chose us because they want to be a member of the top producing team. Success has its advantages.

JM: We are fortunate that because of our #1 sales ranking in the world, as well as our reputation for best-in-class service, marketing and results we don't have to actively recruit. Quality agents approach us on a continual basis with hopes of joining the McMonigle Group team.

4. How do you compensate new team members?

JM: The McMonigle Group has one of the most competitive offerings for team members in the region and perhaps the industry. Our percentage offered compensates all team members equally and therefore guarantees them a steady cash flow even if they personally have a slow sales month. This is how we chose to build team loyalty and personal commitment. Our team culture thrives on loyalty.

JS: Compensation is equal to all agents. With newly licensed agents, I pair them with a more experienced, strong agent.

DD: They are not salaried. I pay a commission split. I am the rainmaker. I have built a brand that makes the phone ring. The 50% of their time and energy that most Realtors spend to find a prospect is already done so that my agents can spend their time doing what they do best working with buyers and sellers. I set the appointments for my listing agents and provide one on one training sessions. I also personally coach one on one in weekly sessions.

My listing agents wake up in the morning and "voila" there are appointments scheduled throughout the week for them to prepare for and attend. I have transaction managers that process the case for the agents from contract to settlement while keeping them informed. I also provide a courier so they don't have to deal with lockboxes, directional signs or delivery or pick up of any materials. This frees them up to do the high level work of being a Realtor…taking listings, counseling our clients throughout the selling process, securing a well-negotiated contract and overseeing the process through to settlement

My buyer agents are highly productive and the most incredible group of enthusiastic positive people that gather together to form a true team. My marketing efforts generate maximum lead opportunities for them as well and they too get one on training and weekly coaching sessions.

The team is truly a team. They willingly share their time and knowledge in the support of each other ad hoc as well as in weekly group meetings where they share their successes and work through their challenges. The Team members gladly cover for each other so that they don't have to pay another agent to handle their business or fear the loss of a prospect while they are on vacation.

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