By Cliff Baird
RISMEDIA, Oct. 27, 2007–For some, the decision to form an agent team eventually becomes an obvious one but it is still fraught with insecurity and confusion. Here is the story of how and why three team leaders took the plunge. They also give insights into the many things to consider about forming your own team, especially in today’s market.
Our interview includes insight from: Nancy Jenkins, CRB,CRS, Prudential Realty Mart; South Burlington, VT; Kathy Helbig, RE/MAX Properties West, St. Charles, Missouri and Jim Ronding, RE/MAX Twin Ports, Duluth, MN.
What were the specific indicators that let you know that a team was the way for you to go?
Nancy Jenkins: I knew that a team was the right way to go when I realized that, even if I worked as hard and as long as I could, I would not be able to deliver the level of service that I wanted and that the client wanted. I also knew I needed help when my list of lost opportunities was greater than what I could have hoped to accomplish with one assistant.
Jim Ronding: I felt the strongest indicator was that I could not possibly do more business without working 60 hours a week. I looked at either staying put—being content with where I was at, and setting my goal for the year at around 60 transactions—or forming a team and trying to get that number to 100.
I really feel you have to look at your business when you hit a plateau. I hired my first full time buyer’s agent three years ago, and we have now plateaued again at just under 100 transactions. Last summer I hired my second buyer’s agent, and we are struggling to get to our goal of 140 transactions
Kathy Helbig: Specifically, lack of time to accomplish everything that needed to be done in a day, lack of time to be able to follow up with new leads, lack of organization due to always being on the run, and lack of time to get proper systems in place to run a growing business and lastly lack of sleep!
One of the main indicators was my lack of time and the fact that I let many buyers pass through my finger tips because I had no time for anything less than “A” buyers. My volume was increasing to the point of working mostly 12-15 hour days usually seven days a week. I had no time for anything else but work and my clients. I had numerous “balls in the air” that I refused to let drop even at the expense of my family. After two years of this I decided that I needed help in order to take my business to the next level without sacrificing the service I provided, as well as giving myself a break to have some time for my personal life.
What are signs that might indicate to an agent that now might NOT be the right time to form an Agent Team?
NJ: If I was asked by an agent if forming a team was the right way to go, but he or she also told me that they could not and would not delegate responsibilities or duties, then I would not advise the agent to start a team. I would recommend that they wait until they felt more in line with the necessary philosophical changes necessary to succeed as the leader of a team.
JR: If you are going to form a team, the first thing you should do is get some advice from others who are successful and find out what they are doing that is working and what is not. It is a huge mistake if you don’t do this.
If you are at a point where you can handle your business load, and you are content with where you are at, a team is probably not for you. The grass may not be greener. If your expenses are 35% and you pay your assistant 60%, I would say it is not worth the 5% profit. If you are not making 10% on all of your assistants business, it is not worth it. The other side of the coin is that if you are paying less than 50%, you will lose them.
KH: I think the obvious question to ask yourself during this slower market is, “Do you have enough consistent business coming in to support an employee?” I made the move when I was at the $8 million level. I was nervous to commit so I started with a virtual assistant because you can use them as needed. The down side to the virtual assistant is that sometimes you need extra hands or someone to run around to fill up brochure boxes, place signs, etc.
You will also need to consider if you have the space to accommodate an employee. I work out of a home office so I had to decide whether I wanted to move locations or deal with having someone work out of my home with me.
If you are not willing to give up many of your good buyer leads to a buyers agent that works for you then your buyer agent won’t last long. If you don’t have enough leads to keep them busy and successful they won’t stay. Do you have the funds to provide team members with the equipment they need, such as desks, computers, extra software programs, etc.? Are you prepared for the extra duties of payroll and calculating taxes for an employee? Extra accounting will be necessary raising your accounting fees. Can you manage people? Being successful at selling real estate does not mean you’ll be a successful manager of people.
Cliff Baird, MBA, PhD, is a business therapist and real estate sales management coach, helping agents and managers for over 25 years. He recently introduced ReSTAR (Real Estate Sales Temperament and Aptitude Report) a customized, online recruiting program for brokers and managers.