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By Marylyn Schwartz, CSP

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2007-When Jean-Charles and Joe decided they wanted to adopt a child, they had to ensure that their work lives supported their ability to be there for the baby and be loving, involved parents. In order to ensure these goals were achieved, Jean-Charles began to look for a career change that would afford him more freedom to devote quality time to his child.

Real estate sales seemed like a perfect place to explore his options for a more flexible career. According to Jean-Charles, he was completely delusional. "Real estate is a serious business like any other profession. In order to be successful, one must devote full time to a new business and career." For the first six months, Jean-Charles was navigating between being a full-time father and a new, struggling agent. Both jobs require 1,000 percent commitment… a tough challenge for anyone!

Sara came along far sooner than either Joe or Jean-Charles ever imagined. "We were told that the adoption would take 1-3 years. In reality, it took 8 months before we were selected by the birth mother as parents for Sara, the most gorgeous baby girl on the face of the earth. While it was a big adjustment, neither of us can imagine our lives without our daughter."

After much struggling and unproductive trial and error, Joe and Jean-Charles decided that it was time for Jean-Charles to devote 100% to his real estate success or drop it all together. For Jean-Charles, that was not an option. "I loved the business, so leaving it was not even an issue. I decided to take the Leader's Choice© agent-training program and work evenings and weekends on furthering my career objectives. That was a winning success strategy. By the end of my second full year in the business, I attained Masters Level of productivity, was the top agent in my branch office and have many millions of dollars of business on the books. It is just wonderful."

For Jean-Charles, the key to his success is communication with his partner, their desire to raise a wonderfully happy, well-adjusted child and to enjoy the fleeting years of Sara's youth.

His dedication and commitment to responsiveness, caring and concern for his clients and customers is paramount in his every deed. He makes his clients' goals his goals. Nothing keeps him from going the extra mile for motivated sellers and buyers. By steering clear of time wasters, focusing on high-productivity activities and assuring balance in his life, he has carved out a highly successful career, meaningful family life and the accolades of his co-workers.

He summed it up this way, "Once you make a decision to pursue your heart's desire and take from life all that it has to give, the abundance and rewards come in one blessing after another. We thank God everyday for all that we have been given."

Laurie has the triple role of being the broker/owner's wife, the top-producing agent in the company and the head of recruiting. While on the surface that might seem like a pretty common circumstance, on the surface it is not as easy or seamless as it appears to be. It requires a delicate balancing act among discretion, team player, accountability coach and helpful advisor/spouse. At times those aims can be in conflict with one another. "There are times that I want to help my husband by just being there for him and agreeing with his direction or vision, and most of the time I agree wholeheartedly. However, there are times when I know that the other agents do not. I must be careful to appear neutral while at the same time ensuring that my opinion as an agent is considered in the mix. That is a talent that I have yet to master…"she says.

Recently Laurie and her husband, Ralph, decided that the needs of their agents and the company would be better served by ending the relationship they had with a franchise and going forward as an independent.

The company has been in business in the area for over 100 years. The name recognition and exemplary community service associated with the family name are beyond reproach. According to Laurie, it was an easy decision to make. "We had grown beyond the value garnered by the franchise association. When we analyzed the big picture, we could not deny that reality. We were able to do the same amount of business based on the exemplary reputation of the name without the added expense or restraints of the affiliation."

Having acknowledged that the change was beneficial, Laurie also points out the challenges a small independent company faces. "There are many people in the industry today who are stuck in a mold. Everyone has them in their organization. These people lack a willing spirit, and that affects the overall balance and cohesiveness within the team. It is difficult to grow and adapt to the changing times and industry when there is resistance."

As a newly independent company, regardless of the previous goodwill the company name engenders, Laurie knows that building the right team is more critical than ever. "Growth for the sake of growth is not what we are about. We must make tough decisions when it comes to adding people to our team or allowing members to remain a part of the team. People need to want to be here with us or they need to move on. It is an honor to work at our company. That's how we feel and are proud of it. Hiring a new agent happens only after I am convinced that agent will fit into our culture, mission and vision. We hire people for their character. If there isn't a good fit, neither the agent nor the company will prosper from the relationship."

Laurie found that her success and momentum has never faltered regardless of the market's turns. She is a realist who understands that the worst reason for doing anything is that it is the way it was always done. "Real estate cycles come and go. When you look at the big picture, you understand that the agent who stays focused on delivering exemplary client care, stays in touch with past clients and customers and always studies and hones his/her skills so that he/she knows what matters to the consumer and how to deliver the service that will be here for the long haul."

While being part of a team is a crucial part of Laurie's overall success, she acknowledges that to be successful you have to do more than just wait to be handed opportunities.

"Even though there are apples in a tree, you cannot just stand under the tree with open hands and expect the apples to come down into them on their own. You have to seize the moment, climb the tree and help yourself. A team is there for support and encouragement, yet a team is only as powerful as the commitment of each member. A team can spiral downward quickly when team members devalue integrity, confidentiality and the desire for everyone's success. The whole must be more important than the individual. That's the ideal and is always our pinnacle desire. We'll never stop our quest for exemplary client care, love and respect for each other and a healthy competitive spirit."

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 or e-mail: