RISMEDIA, January 17, 2011—In any market—but especially in today’s market—recruiting and retention is the lifeblood of any successful real estate company. As more agents compete for a piece of the shrinking real estate pie, hiring new, skilled recruits and retaining top producers has become an even more critical part of the broker’s game plan for success. Here, three esteemed members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) discuss their philosophies and tactics for attracting great agents…and keeping them happy.
Richard (Rick) Higgins, Chairman, The Higgins Group, Fairfield, Connecticut
Steven Calcagni, President, Calcagni Associates, Chesire, Connecticut
Shirene Hazel, New Business Development Director, Calcagni Associates
Real Estate magazine: What is your biggest challenge in recruiting experienced top producers into your company and how do you overcome it?
Shirene Hazel: Happiness and loyalty. We have found that most top producing agents are pretty happy with their current situation and are not looking to make a move. You can’t necessarily get a “happy” agent to make a move, but you can certainly position yourself in such a way that if their situation changes, they’ll think of you first. The real estate business is all about building relationships, and sometimes they just take time to nurture. We make a point of staying in touch with agents who we would like to have on our team because we also recognize that timing has a lot to do with successfully recruiting them. Most agents aren’t going to entertain a move unless they feel that their needs are no longer being met by their current broker.
Rick Higgins: It is really hard and I wonder how valuable that type of agent is to recruit. Very often, they want such a high split that you are better off developing your own agents. That is a better use of your time and money. One thing I’ve done is set up an agent with their own office in a town they specialize and work out of and you don’t have an office in, making them into a joint venture so they own equity in that operation. It drives them to make a name for themselves and become the top producer in their area.
RE: How do you attract new-to-real-estate recruits into the business, especially when the market is still struggling?
Rick Higgins: I speak at real estate classes and tell them what questions to ask when they are looking to join an agency after they get licensed. I try to give them as much information as I can and hand them my card for future questions and encourage them to call me after they pass their test. Many of them come to me at this point.
Steven Calcagni: There are opportunities available in every economy. We definitely highlight the positives that real estate will always be a major component in the financial stability of our economy and there’s no question that real estate can offer greater flexibility than most other careers when life’s circumstances require a balance between career and family. We are huge proponents of “quality of life” and that’s why I believe our company is so perfect for new-to-real estate recruits because we offer outstanding sales management and a full-time administrative staff available to train and support them as they build their business. It’s also important for the recruit and the broker to establish realistic expectations about what it takes for them to be successful in this business—commitment and a lot of hard work. Success doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, but for those who get on board now, they have a unique opportunity to set themselves up for when the economy turns around…and we’ve already begun to see less committed agents leave the industry completely.
RE: What is the most important factor in retaining agents of all levels?
Steven Calcagni: Strong support systems and competitive commission splits. If an agent is getting the support they need in terms of managerial, administrative assistance and technology, they are far more likely to remain loyal to their current broker. Management also needs to recognize what’s important to each agent—what’s their hot button? This will likely differ from one agent to the next. For agents to know that you care about them and their own individual needs could make a world of difference.
Rick Higgins: I agree. Attention to the details of their lives and deals is essential. Remember, your agents are your clients…treat them that way. Always be available and helpful; I am always available for my agents to attend listing presentations or client meetings. Be willing to lose the battle in small disputes so you win the war—aka, the big picture. Make sure that they have what they need to succeed in the business, such as strong staff, marketing materials and training. We offer training and seminars for all levels of agents to keep them interested constantly growing.