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By Steve Harney

RISMEDIA, Dec. 10, 2007-As a leader, you provide and maintain momentum within your company. While guiding your agents during the past boom market was easy, today you may find that the momentum is moving in the wrong direction. So the question is: “How does your company adjust and move forward to greater success?”

In today’s market, increasing profitability is the issue for every real estate company. Whether you are introducing ancillary businesses for additional revenue streams, redistributing marketing dollars from print to the Internet, or establishing an agent-paid technology fee, having the buy-in of all your agents is critical. Following is a five-step system that will ensure your success.

1. Analyze the Initiative

As you analyze any initiative that you’ve set for your company, you need to ask yourself three key questions:

Is this initiative in line with other core competencies?
Does this initiative fit our company culture?
Can we realistically get team buy-in for the initiative?

Before you attempt to move your company forward, you need to have a clear picture of where it stands today. For example, if you have successfully built a strong residential resale office, you might believe the addition of a commercial division makes sense. But you have to look a little closer. Will some agents walk from their established streams of revenue in order to try what may look like a new “magic pill”? Do the agents pride themselves on being “niche” specialists and therefore revolt about diluting the brand? Truly analyze where you are and where you want to be before introducing any initiative.

2. Build Team Support

You’ve likely heard the phrase: “That which they help create, they help support.” In leadership terms, that phrase reminds us that we need to include everyone in the organization when we are planning any new venture. To begin, get input from the entire management team. Even if you have a single office, you have people there who help you “manage” the organization-for example, the experienced agent that everyone respects and views as an informal leader or the longtime staff person that everyone trusts. Whoever those leaders are, you must include them in the initial phases.

Next, bring in all staff personnel and tell them the plans. Whether you want to believe it or not, your staff is central to your success. Whatever the initiative, effective follow-up will be crucial. Your staff will be responsible for providing accurate data so you can gauge your progress. Finally, get agent buy-in. Don’t jump into this. Garnering buy-in is a process. Start by testing the idea on a very small group of agents. Get their opinions and concerns. Analyze those concerns, and then massage your message. Try the new message on a select few. Once you are comfortable with the message itself, you can introduce the initiative to the entire group.

3. Introduce the Initiative

The two main elements to introducing an initiative are venue and format. First, never introduce an “extremely important” project in the same location you hold every other meeting. If the idea is important, then make sure the organization senses that from the beginning. You could hold the meeting at a local restaurant or a movie theatre (both are inexpensive during certain daytime hours). Just make it special.

The format of the meeting should also be more powerful than your normal get-togethers. Leadership must be visible. The room must also reflect the message in terms of décor and music. If you are introducing a program to drive revenue, then make sure the music is upbeat and fills the room. If it is a cost-cutting initiative, keep it modest-no balloons or lobster! Also, make sure that the leadership is dressed appropriately and is mic’d. More formal speeches require a podium; less formal speeches need lavaliere mics.

In his book Leadership is an Art, Max De Pree claims that the first responsibility of a leader is to “introduce reality.” In other words, your first job is to let the organization know how you have gotten to today. Don’t be afraid to tell the “bad” news. Remember that agents are aware of what is taking place in their industry. Be honest and trust in their concern for the group.

Also, do not be afraid to ask for sacrifice. Most great leaders became famous by asking for sacrifice (JFK, Gandhi, Vince Lombardi, to name a few). Prepare for questions you know will arise. Have third party endorsements at your fingertips (a Wall Street Journal article, a speaker who is an expert in the field, etc.). If there will be a training component, and with new ventures there almost always is, announce the schedule that day. Make everyone in the room feel comfortable that they will be able to participate.

4. Instill Follow-up Systems

Always inspect that which you expect. Your follow-up systems need to have four elements. The first two are structuring the follow up and centralizing the reporting. Leaders must delegate efficiency. Therefore, you need to delegate both of these items to staff personnel. They will relish their part in the plan and also do a much better job than the management team on these items.

The management team needs to be concerned with step three: evaluating the data. No initiative is successful unless change transpires. Therefore, charge your managers with the responsibility of culling over all the data and evaluating whether movement in the desired direction is actually taking place.

Delegating efficiency means that you need to deal personally with effectiveness. For that reason, you must take responsibility for the fourth and final step: making prudent adjustments. These adjustments will determine the eventual success of the program.

5. Reward Success

Obviously, you can’t reward failure. So if you are at the reward phase, that means success is taking form. Here are a few guidelines:

Set realistic completion dates for goals. A goal without a timetable is nothing more than a dream. These times call for people who can actually achieve goals.

Evaluate success in stages. Do not wait until the end to start evaluating the results. Remember that facts do not cease to exist because you ignore them! Set certain stages to evaluate movement and make necessary adjustments.

Remember the importance of recognition. Many people enter a sales profession for financial gain. Everyone enters for recognition. Think of your brand new agents and your top producers. What do they have in common? They both want someone to acknowledge how hard they are working. Recognition is inexpensive, but extremely valuable.

Incentives versus Rewards. Never use incentives with people for things they are already accomplishing. You can reward them by recognizing them for their effort and success. Save incentives for those who are going beyond the norm and driving the organization toward the desired goal. Understanding the difference between these two words is critical to the initiative’s success.

Pay off with pizzazz! Have fun! Be loud! Go crazy! Success is exciting. Make sure your brain communicates that to the rest of your body.

A Bright New Future

Our industry has gone through five years of record-shattering success. Things will be a little different over the next few years. But that is the good news. Tony Robbins says, “The size of the hero is determined by the size of the evil they struggle against.” Think about it…Would we know Helen Keller were she not blind and deaf? Would we know David if not for Goliath? Would we know Lincoln without the Civil War? Great leaders develop through adversity. They do not cave in to circumstance. In the toughest of times they stand up, and through their hard work and perseverance, they become true heroes. Real estate needs a few leaders right now. Now is your moment to stand up and shine.

Steve Harney is a residential real estate and mortgage expert who specializes in negotiation and sales training. He has been in the industry for over 20 years, first as an agent and then developing his own real estate firm. Most recently, Steve launched a training firm aimed at helping Realtors achieve their true potential. He authors a monthly informational slide presentation for top professionals and managers titled, “Keeping Current Matters,” and travels the country as a sought-after public speaker and trainer.

For more information, contact Harney at 631-834-7000 or visit