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New book will serve as definitive guide for creating a successful agent team

By John Voket

As he tells it, Ralph Roberts-the gentleman who Time Magazine once proclaimed “the best-selling Realtor in America”-pioneered his earliest concepts in agent team building out of pure economic and professional survival. “It’s true. I was afraid of losing my first real estate job,” says Roberts, now a seasoned author, speaker, coach and owner of Michigan-based Ralph Roberts Realty.

RISMedia President & CEO John Featherston and Roberts are preparing to launch their new book, Power Teams-The Complete Guide to Building and Managing a Winning Real Estate Agent Team, early next month. The co-authors expect the book to serve as the definitive text on the increasing popular concept of agent teams. Besides drawing from personal insights and experiences in their storied real estate careers, the pair has interviewed many of the country’s top teams. Power Teams, therefore, will not only include a step-by-step guide to forming an agent team, but the best practices of teams who have already reached a notable level of success.

“Being a real estate agent just isn’t what it used to be,” says Featherston. “In the past, an honest, hard-working, good professional could earn a pretty good living as an independent real estate agent. Today’s real estate consumers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable than ever before. Ralph and I both believe that in order to remain competitive, agents have to do much more-place more phone calls, ramp up their marketing efforts, offer additional services, and spend more time with and better understand the needs of today’s real estate consumers.

“Many agents are feeling the strain and looking to the team concept as a solution for themselves and their customers,” says Featherston. “In Power Teams, we help agents-and brokers-overcome the obstacles of creating and succeeding with an agent teams. In this book, we explain the agent team concept, reveal the various styles of agent teams, help agents decide whether the agent team solution is right for you, and then show agents how to build a team from the ground up.

The Voice of Experience

Roberts knows first hand the benefit and power of forming an agent team. His first stab at forming his own team was a matter of necessity, he explains, and it came at a time when solitary Realtors were typically regarded as champions of their profession.

“Back when I started in the business, in my first agent job, I started getting in trouble the moment I started covering floor time,” Roberts says. “Remember floor time? Where each agent had a shift where they took messages and acted as the agency receptionist.”

In those early days, says Roberts, he made a lot of mistakes.

“In my case, I’m ADHD, so when I kept getting phone numbers and lead information messed up everybody started thinking I was doing it on purpose,” he explains. “So I had to hire a student to help me take messages for the agents.”

Little did he know at the time that the concept of bundling together two or more professionals together, each playing to their own functional or administrative strength, would become a bona fide movement in the real estate industry some two decades later.

“You don’t want and can’t afford to have your best-selling people hanging around in the building, because then they’re not making money,” says Roberts. “This was part of the reason team building worked for me. I was the money maker when it came to revenue per hour, so from early on I had a listing and buying person helping me and I was sharing the commission. If you’re making $500 an hour and you can pay someone $15 an hour for putting up your signs, and someone $25 an hour to answer your phones, it is very worthwhile to have a team.

“It just makes sense in so many different ways,” Roberts adds. “It is a means of building your own business without opening up your own office. And it all starts with building a simple team.”

A Force to be Reckoned With

In just the past year or two, the agent team concept has now evolved to where, in many cases, brands are being built around the agent team as opposed to the brokerage they are selling for. Even though a brand like Prudential, for example, is humongous, agent teams are highly integrated into their community and often warrant their own, more personal, branding.

“Teams sponsor kids’ sports teams, buy the back cover for the high school musical program, are on the local charity boards…and they are blowing the doors off the competition,” says Roberts.

According to Roberts, a time may soon be coming when established national and regional brands will have to find a way to endorse their company’s agent teams-quite simply, because the teams are here to stay.

At the Root of it All: Service

Among the nation’s top agent teams who were interviewed for Power Teams is, Bryan Felder of The Virginia Realty Group. In his case, being part of an agent team has given Felder more time to focus on his strengths, particularly lead generation.

“Having capable agent coverage gives me peace of mind and the ability to take vacations or weekends off.,” Felder adds. “Ultimately, my agent team has helped me build systems so that I know our clients are being taken care of.”

Sandra Nickel of Hat Team Realtors in Montgomery, Alabama echoed Felder’s sentiment.

“Forming my team enabled me to deliver the ever-higher levels of service that today’s consumer demands,” she says. “Therefore, my clients are happy and that makes me happy.”

Having a team enabled Nickel to have a personal life, as well, whereas working as a solo agent saw her on the job 24/7/365.

In the so-called “golden county” of Southwestern Connecticut, home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate, Julie Vanderblue wanted to ensure that every client received 100% of her attention.

“But, it is simply impossible to be everything to everyone. Having an assistant helped, but I knew I needed more to be able to offer my clients what they truly deserved,” Vanderblue explains.

In forming her agent team, Vanderblue learned that a group of individuals sharing the same vision and goals can work together to fulfill the needs and desires of every client, while creating a synergy that is extremely self rewarding.

Creating a Support System

As opposed to the often solitary world of the independent contractor, the environment created within teams provides a motivational and information-rich peer group to turn to.

“Meeting every week, initiating new systems together, round table creative marketing sessions, helping each other with tasks, knowing that you have a business ‘family’ who won’t judge you when you need an opinion or advice, motivating one another, keeping an eye out for each other…all of this creates a bond that allows us together to multiply the joys and divide the hardships in this very competitive industry,” Vanderblue said. “It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Ashley Leigh was recently honored as the # 1 Selling Broker in the 12,000 member Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. But he readily admits the honor is shared by each member of hid agent team.

“Teams provide excitement in my life on a daily basis,” Leigh says. “Bringing together people on our team for a common purpose and goal produces a higher level of energy than doing it alone.”

This energy, he explains, creates a passion and drive that makes everyone on the “ACL Team” better.

“Creativity flows and the business is able to reach milestones quicker and more efficiently than when I used to do everything myself,” he admits. “Our team has provided me, as well as the other members, the life style and life balance that we all deserve and our respective families expect. Without the team, I would be working 60 to 65 hours a week. Eventually, this pace would inevitably lead to burn out and all the hard work would be for nothing.”

Permanently Changing the Landscape?

Leigh is among those who believe the team concept is already fundamentally changing the landscape of the real estate business.

“It is my opinion that real estate teams are already changing the industry,” Leigh explains. “All you have to do is look at who is number one in your marketplace. I would bet for the majority of U.S. markets, the number one agent is backed by a significantly accomplished team.”

According to Leigh, it is very tough to make a six figure income in real estate sales without working six to seven days a week.

“Teams can operate at a lower expense level than a broker with an office of 20 to 30 agents,” Teams don’t have the same overhead as a traditional office. As a result, teams generally allocate more of their budget on marketing which ultimately creates more business and more market share.”

Nickel recalls that agent teams started by matching “leaders” with capable “assistants.” Today, however, “teams are small-and sometimes not-so-small-businesses with executives, managers and specialists, all of whom are clear about their roles and how they fit together,” Nickel says. “Teams used to always be led by the ‘rainmaker,’ but now they are often managed by a professional administrator, which frees up the rainmaker to make it rain!”

Nickel believes that as the team concept becomes more widespread, the public will begin to demand the level of service that only a well-oiled team can provide.

“One day, solo agents will be a rarity,” she claims.

In Fairfield County, Vanderblue sees more consumers and clients coming to the conclusion that a group of individuals working together can offer more results than a single agent.

“Each team member brings something significant to the table, which increases the value of the team as a whole,” Vanderblue explains. “That said, both agents and clients have to be careful about how they define and distinguish the word ‘team.’ Just because you wear the same shirt doesn’t make you a team. Agents want to jump on the team bandwagon, but it requires experience, hard work, capital, communication skills and an enormous amount of energy to become successful.”

According to Vanderblue, working together as a true team and working as single agents under the umbrella of a team name are two very different things. She advises agents joining teams and clients hiring teams to be aware of what is behind the walls of the teams they are considering.

Felder sees the movement towards agent teams moving so quickly that the industry may need more than the Power Teams book from Featherston and Roberts to see the transition through with minimal conflict.

“There are so many models that there needs to be some standardization,” Felder states. “There are going to be more teams so the systems and support are critical. Clients want to know they will get the service they deserve.”