By Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP
RISMEDIA, Sept. 13, 2007-In the midst of a tough real estate market, lowered productivity, high inventory and agents questioning their career choices made over the last couple of years, it is challenging at best and (downright difficult at the other end) to maintain a thriving real estate company. It takes unbridled commitment to excellence, the patience to follow through with initiatives (regardless of the level of difficulty encountered) and dedicated leadership at the highest levels.
And that is just what is being done at ERA Realty Pros of Niantic, Connecticut. Broker/Owner Dan Sperduto and his General Manager David Brais are both focused on growing and sustaining an organization whose foundation is solidly built on the continuum of managing, training and coaching. According to both Sperduto and Brais, there are easier ways to grow a company. Lowering recruiting standards, eliminating accountability requirements and failing to insist upon ongoing agent education are ways to ensure mediocrity.
MBS: “What are the most pressing challenges you’re experiencing in your marketplace today?”
Sperduto/Brais: “Consumers have used their homes as endless piggybanks. They have over leveraged those homes by removing equity while hoping values would rise in order to cover their margins. Unfortunately, many of those decisions were ill advised. We are seeing the downside of over leveraging in the form of short sales. Coupled with these challenges, we see agents who came into real estate during the boom market and now that things have cooled are unable to navigate the challenges. For the most part, they are poorly educated, lack the savvy needed to run an independent contractor business and for a variety of reasons are unwilling to knuckle down and really put in the hours needed to thrive.”
MBS: “When you add agents to your team, what are the characteristics and background that you seek?”
Sperduto/Brais: “We generate a culture in our office of positive, supportive interaction. We have a strong vested interest in keeping it that way. When even one negative force is added to a highly functioning team, it can cause the team to spiral downward rather quickly. A great team is one in which each member is truly happy when another team member succeeds. We seek individuals with a “twinkle” in his/her eye. That person is one who has a passion to succeed, believes that the sanctity of his/her integrity matters above all else and embraces change and opportunity with enthusiasm. If the real estate market is nothing, it is always in flux and flow. Individuals who are unwilling to be flexible are individuals that don’t belong on our team.”
MBS: “David, when you joined the company several months ago, you did so because you felt that Dan was a remarkable role model for his team. You immediately saw eye-to-eye on key issues and felt that you would add greatly to the long-range plans. You could have chosen from many companies who would have been fortunate to have your expertise. Why did you choose this one?”
David Brais: “As a real estate educator, sales professional and seasoned manager within the industry, I have seen many management styles. What I knew mattered most was avoiding at all costs the so called leadership that follows the model of do-as-I-do-not-as-I-say. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of that going around. I have always felt that it is possible to have a team of sales professionals who are united in their commitment to success, are goal oriented and see themselves as solution seekers and not problem generators. Dan and I are both growth oriented. However, we would rather have a small team of highly productive agents with paced growth than hire anyone who wants in just to put ‘butts in seats.’ When you run a powerful organization, there are always people who want to join. We feel that it is a privilege to work here and look for people who feel the same way. In other organizations, the tail is wagging the dog. There are agents who feel like the company is privileged to have them, and there is no reciprocity of honor.”
MBS: “Let’s pretend you both ruled the world of real estate for a day. What are the things you would change forever?”
Sperduto/Brais: “States would immediately be required to recognize the value of educational opportunities such as GRI, CRS, SRES, etc. We would require that credit for continuing education be given for these types of accreditations. In most instances, the quality of these and similar accreditations far outweigh those of the standard CE classes offered in many states. In addition, we would require brokers to better “police” their agents for compliance to the Realtor’s Code of Ethics as well as all local and state regulations. Rather than consider the agents’ production as the criteria for whether they remain with the company, the company would weigh the agents’ character and integrity above production. That is not to say that production standards are not critical to a company’s success. However, nothing will damage a company faster or for a longer period of time than a shoddy reputation.”
MBS: “Dan, as the ultimate decision maker for the company, you must position yourself to deal effectively with the trends and shifts in the market. The ability to anticipate with a measure of accuracy those trends is a vital skill. What’s around the corner or already in process?”
Sperduto: “Smaller offices with a couple of conference rooms where agents can meet with clients and a small technology center is the effective office of today. Agents work more from their home offices. Technology continues to affect the way we do business, but the movement back to personalized service is well underway. Leads management is crucial as well as the development of more effective ways to convert the leads. Successful agents and companies will be those who embrace ongoing career development, work with lean, productive and effective teams of agents and staff who insist upon the highest of standards throughout each and every transaction.”
MBS: “It is plain to see that you are aligned in your commitment to not compromise your standards in exchange for immediate financial gain or growth. You will avoid the challenge of never having time to do it right the first time but somehow finding the time to fix it after the fact… It appears to take longer to do things right but not when you measure that time against the time we invest every day to fix rush decisions.”
Sperduto/Brais: “We plan to be in business for the long haul. Our perspective is one of calculated growth measured against maintaining a culture of respect, integrity and profitability. We want to be the company of choice for the business-minded professional who sees real estate as a dynamic profession for an ambitious self-starter!”
Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP, is an expert in real estate and corporate sales training/management and team development. She is president of Teamweavers and a trainer for Leader’s Choice©. Contact her at www.marylynbschwartz.com, or e-mail: Teamweaver@aol.com.
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