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Should you start or join an agent team? Three top pros discuss why they did and the benefits and drawbacks of doing so

By Lesley Geary

RISMEDIA, Jan. 22, 2007-More time to generate new business, but more to stay on top of, is how Ryan Zeleznak, an agent team leader from Phoenix, sums up the best and the worst of heading up his group at Keller Williams. But, the benefits far outweigh the challenges, he says. Here, RISMedia recently interviewed three top producing agent team leaders on what they enjoy most and what's most difficult about their move to lead an agent team.

Agents interviewed:

Ryan Zeleznak, Keller Williams, The Zeleznak Group

Years in real estate: 9
Number of Team Members: A total of 22: "My Father Don and I run the business and then there are nine Realtors on the new home side, seven Realtors on the re-sale side and four people who do the administrative work.
Region served: Phoenix & Scottsdale

Marsha Waddelow, The Marsha Waddelow Team, ‘Realtors to the Stars,' RE/MAX Associates of Arlington and Mansfield, Texas

Area served: Tarrant, Northeast Tarrant and Johnson counties
Team members: 4 licensed agents and 3 administrative
Years in real estate: 12 years
Arlington & Mansfield, Texas

Bryan Felder, Personal real estate consultant, The Virginia Realty Group, RE/MAX Gateway
Area served: Chantilly, Virginia

When did you first start your real estate team and why?

Ryan Zeleznak: About eight years ago when I got involved with the business we had such huge volume we couldn't do our work alone. Keller Williams helped us. We wanted to leverage our situation to expand and have huge volume. We could not do what we are doing without a talented team. Right now we have about nine projects that we are either developing ourselves or for other developers. It represents about $500 million in listings.

Marsha Waddelow: I started selling real estate in 1995. For the next four years, I ate, drank and slept real estate. Working a million hours a week and breaking all the company's production records, I was quickly becoming a victim of burnout. In September of 1999, I realized that I couldn't take my business to the next level without help, so I hired my first assistant. But, it wasn't until July 2000 that my life and way of practicing real estate changed forever. While attending one of his Turning Point Retreats, I met my mentor and friend, Brian Buffini, chairman and founder of Buffini & Company. I immediately joined his coaching program and started building my real estate team, training them to do business by referral.

Bryan Felder: I needed to be able to delegate my work so that I could be more efficient and spend more time with my family. So by forming a team I can be on the phone with someone or I can be in the field and I don't have to worry about the level of service. I can have my people take care of the things I either am not good at or just do not have the time to do. Now instead of working 24/7 I try to be home by 4:00 PM every day and I now take half of Saturday and all of Sunday off.

What are the biggest benefits to having a team?

RZ: When you have great leaders on your team you can almost replace yourself and you are not held back by how many hours there are in a day. You can focus on generating new business. It allows me to do what I do best, which is to stir up more activity and opportunity and still have people doing the business. We have taken the team to another level by having managers in each division, so I don't have to spend so much time hand holding. It really is a fortunate thing.

MW: The biggest benefit is that everyone on the team doesn't have to work 24/7. We cover for each other, allowing us all to take time off. I insist that all my agents take at least one "No Real Estate" day off a week. This really prevents burnout. Having a successful team gives us a greater presence in our marketplace. Having your signs everywhere is great for name recognition and market share, resulting in more business. Each one of my team members specializes in a specific area of real estate, allowing us to have a diversified real estate practice. Our clients love the fact that they are not just hiring an agent, but our entire team. Plus, if they can't reach me, they can always reach the agent on call.

BF: At its best I can be as efficient as possible having a team. I can delegate. Also, I don't have to have my cell phone on all the time. We all cover for each other. I have different divisions and someone to take care of each step of the real estate transaction so the seller or the buyer gets super quality service and nothing slips through the cracks.

What are the biggest challenges?

RZ: Service is the number-one factor. It's not if you can get the listing its can you keep it. You have to follow up and that's the name of the game. That's where the team comes into play. I typically am involved in the beginning and at the end. We put all of the systems in place to make it work and we go out and find new business. Communicate with your team. You have to stay on top of everything. Stay involved. I meet weekly with each division manager and marketing and sales meetings together.

MW: Individual personalities. Building the right team is like putting a puzzle together. If you don't have all the right pieces, the puzzle isn't complete. So, I have started using personality profiles on all my current team members and anyone I consider hiring. This is an awesome tool and is essential in building and managing a successful team. Time is another challenge I have. I never seem to have enough of it to go around. I realized that I can't do everything and have finally been able to let go and delegate. I am embracing technology and hired professionals to do things that I dislike and/or can't do.

BF: What is the biggest challenge in being part of a team and how do you overcome it?
I needed to step away from sales to concentrate on growing the team and the business. So I had to go back in and reeducate my team to let them know I was not going to be out selling the way I used to. Also my wife and I had twins who were born very premature at 29 weeks and I wanted to be with them so it's been a rough year as far as adjustments for me. But today my twins are growing and healthy and business is still booming, so we are all readjusting.

What is your favorite listing? How did you market the house? Any particular challenges getting the listing or selling it?

RZ: A development in downtown Phoenix, "44 Monroe," is poured to the 9th floor. "By mid-year the skeleton will be complete. We are already 60 percent pre-sold!"

MW: Our favorite listing was a home owned by "American Idol" star Kelly Clarkson. Our listing agreement included a confidentiality clause preventing us from utilizing a lot of our normal advertising mediums. Kelly had just won several Grammys and was receiving a lot of press-not to mention the security issues this publicity caused. We planned a Realtor Party in conjunction with the season premiere of "American Idol." It was by "invitation only," making each guest special, and eliminating the security issue of unwanted guests. We had a big-screen TV to broadcast the show and a DJ with a karaoke machine. We held auditions for our own Realtor American Idol with local area dignitaries serving as judges. We served wine and cheese, and had some great prizes for our contestants. Everyone had a great time and the event was a success. The local news media got wind of our party, which resulted in many phone calls, newspaper articles and radio/television coverage about the listing. It was unsolicited publicity on a house that was great-not to mention that it was free. Best of all, we sold the house a few weeks later. To this day, we are still being referred to as "Realtors to the Stars." And Yes, Kelly did come to closing and we all have autographed pictures.

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