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Sherry_Chris_QuoteFeeling squeezed between online real estate giants and the latest generation of hungry independent agents who are pounding the streets to take a piece of your market?

Fear not.

Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, brought several industry gurus together earlier this month for a “Survival War Room for Brokers” session, designed to share ideas and suggestions to help brokerages punch above their weight, by considering office culture and space, technology and profitability.

Joseph Rand, managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Realty, summed it up best, “If your business model is aligned with what your agents value, you’ll be just fine. It really depends on you being a good operator and executing on that.”

So what should brokers be keeping in mind?

Lose the Paper
When it comes to the office of the future, as Chris says, attention to detail in client experience is one of the most important things to consider.

A big step in improving office culture and promoting technology is updating your office to reflect the times, says Vanessa Bergmark, Beta Broker and a partner at Red Oak Realty in the San Francisco Bay area.

Go paperless, says Bergmark. Get rid of desks and file cabinets. Put up chalk board walls so agents literally have a palette for their thoughts. You’ll still have a few desks in the office. Agents can share them. This layout encourages collaboration and communicates a hip, modern feel to clients, she says. Dingy rows of empty, cluttered desks signal the opposite.

Don’t forget that some old-school touches are still vital, though.

The most important employee in a brokerage is the person who greets clients when they walk through the door, says Shaun Osher, founder and chief executive of CORE, a Manhattan boutique realty firm. Nobody has so much power to make a crucial first impression.

Every office should also have an immaculate, tasteful gallery/foyer for use a waiting area for clients and a comfortable conference room for meetings. Again, it’s about creating a good first impression.

Culture Counts
Agents who have the tools to reach their goals (and receive their rewards) are happy and productive. Happy and productive agents, in turn, go the extra mile to meet clients’ needs, says Chris Nichols of Prudential Utah Elite Real Estate.

Culture is key to keeping agents and clients engaged, but a brokerage’s culture is not static. It’s always evolving, so brokers need to keep tabs on it. Cultures can be very different, and cannot be ignored.