Excerpted from Power Teams: The Comprehensive Guide to Building and Managing a Winning Real Estate Agent Team, by John Featherston and Ralph R. Roberts
When you assemble a team of professionals, you may assume that everyone on your team understands the concept of conducting themselves in a professional manner, but that is not always the case. What is considered professional for one team member may not be considered professional by another team member’s standards. As such, every agent team should have an employee handbook or at least a list of workplace policies.
Having written policies in place can benefit your team in several ways:
• Creates a uniform standard that everyone can follow
• Allows you to bring new team members quickly up to speed
• Protects the team legally in the event that a team member claims to have never been informed of a particular policy
• Establishes a system in which all team members can be treated fairly.
Whenever you add new team members, hand them a copy of the employee handbook and ask them to sign a statement indicating receipt of the handbook. Every year, you and your team should review the policies and make any necessary adjustments.
Remember: Having an employee handbook or a list of policies is only the first step. You must enforce the company policy consistently and fairly. If you don’t, you may be viewed as condoning the action or giving certain team members preferential treatment, which could expose both you and your team to liability. In a sexual harassment suit, for example, if you aren’t careful to protect yourself, you (as employer) may be named in the lawsuit just because you have deeper pockets than the person who actually committed the act.
Tip: Have an open-door policy so team members can notify you anonymously or talk with you directly about any issue without fear of retribution.The earlier someone notifies you of an issue, the faster and more effectively you can address it and prevent it from becoming a legal battle.
Establishing a dress code
Maybe appearance shouldn’t matter, but the fact is that it does. Clients, knowingly or unknowingly, judge you and your team on appearance, and when you are in the real estate business, you are well aware of just how important first impressions really are.
However, the individuals are key, too-your team needs to project itself to clients and prospective clients as a business entity. Some teams go so far as to purchase clothing with their team logo embroidered on it. That may not be right for you and your team, but you should establish some sort of policy that governs your team’s dress and conduct.
Having a dress code in place can immediately improve your team in several ways:
• Fosters a sense of commonality
• Eliminates office distractions
• Creates a more favorable impression
Creating a professional office environment
Although you want your office to be a fun place to work, you should have policies and practices in place to ensure that the office appears and functions as a professional work environment devoted to serving clients. Make sure your office policies and practices cover the following areas:
• Organization: The office should be neat and well-organized.
• Cleanliness: Hiring a janitorial service should address most of this, but team members should be encouraged to keep the office clean between cleanings.
• Phone duty: If team members are expected to share phone duty, spell out how the sharing will work and what happens in the event that a client calls for an agent who will be unavailable for an extended period of time. You don’t want to lose business just because a particular agent cannot promptly return the call. On that note, you should also instruct everyone to answer the phone with an upbeat tone and to be courteous to everyone calling in.
• Internet use: More and more companies are having to curb Internet abuse by developing policies for instant messaging, blogging, and e-mail. Make sure your team has a policy in place that defines the appropriate and inappropriate use of these communication technologies and how the team will deal with any abuses.
• Office talk: Encourage everyone in the office to avoid any discussions or language that may turn a client off. “Innocent” jokes that are a little off-color can offend the sensitivities of some clients, as can any negative talk.
• Sexual harassment: Define what you mean by “sexual harassment” and how it will be dealt with. Consult with your attorney to get a clear understanding of exactly what constitutes sexual harassment and then share that information with your team. Clear policies consistently enforced provide the rest of the team with the most protection from the one bad apple.
Explaining benefits and reimbursements
Most people expect to receive benefits above and beyond what they receive as monetary compensation, so your employee handbook should clearly describe any benefits you offer. You should also specify how you will handle reimbursing employees for expenses they cover in the normal course of doing business. Be sure to cover the following areas:
• Sick days: Note the number of sick days each employee has per calendar year and define exactly what you consider an excusable illness. Some teams and other businesses require employees to present a doctor’s note, but when you’re dealing with professionals, this sort of micromanagement can often come across as an insult.
• Personal days: If you choose to allow agents or staff members to take additional days off to deal with personal business, note the number of days available and justifiable reasons for taking personal days. Also specify whether team members are allowed to roll over unused days (and if so, how many) into the following year or years.
• Vacations: Note how long a person must be with the team before they can take a vacation and the number of days of vacation they earn each month. You may also require that team members give advanced notice of their vacation plans, so you don’t end up with an empty office the first week of August.
• Benefits: List any additional benefits that your team offers along with a list of what a person must do to qualify for those benefits. Additional benefits may include healthcare, dental coverage, or profit sharing, to name a few.
• Reimbursed expenses: Provide a comprehensive list of expenses that the team will reimburse agents and other team members for. These may include business copies, listing presentation literature, office keys, newspaper and magazine advertising, office rent and overhead, administrative support, For Sale signs, and office supplies. (What your team chooses to cover is up to your team to decide).
• Un-reimbursed expenses: These may include personal riders for signs, personal business cards and name badges, board and MLS dues, seminar training and business conference expenses, insurance, cell phone charges, and so on.
For more information and to order your copy of Power Teams, please visit rismedia.com.