With 37 years of real estate prowess under her belt, Melinda Estridge, believes success is predicated on providing outstanding service that builds solid relationships. By forging these solid alliances, the referrals and business comes naturally so you’re not spending as much time looking for the next transaction. “The money will never be the gratitude,” says Estridge, owner of the Estridge Group of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. “Be nice, respectful and do the right thing. That will be my legacy.” Here, Estridge provides her philosophy on leading a top group of real estate experts that thrive on giving personal service to their clients.
Owner, Estridge Group
Long & Foster Realtors
Bethesda-Chevy Chase, MD and Washington, D.C. areas
Years as a team: 20 +
Team members: 8 plus Estridge
How do you negotiate with your broker to achieve a mutually beneficial business arrangement? Our interaction is pretty limited as we know they’re there if we need them. When it comes to policies and ethics, our broker is the liaison in case there’s a problem like a referral fee or something with another brokerage or agent.
What type of support do you look to most from your broker? I have always had a strong sense of drive and typically handle most things like technology and training on our own. We provide and train our group on new software and attend webinars regularly and give our buyer agents a budget to attend one event each year. We network with others and are active in Google groups and other online forums. I am on the CRM board and have been a member of the Washington Power Players, a network group of the top agents in the D.C. metropolitan area, and we meet monthly to network and improve, share success stories and challenges.
How do you divide responsibilities among team members to maximize efforts? We have very dedicated job descriptions. Buyer agents become experienced and want to take listings as well. Listings require more experience so I try to attend appointments with them to get the listings.
Our office manager, Joyce Brown, is my right arm and is the last line of defense to make sure everyone is accountable. She’s our problem solver and puts fires out and has been licensed for a long period of time as well.
But it’s so much more than that. You have to have a positive attitude in the office because this is a very high pressure environment and your demeanor can affect everyone.
Real estate is 24/7 and there are so many moving parts. I like to pull the strings like negotiating, pricing and preparing the house. I’m a big proponent of geo-farming to build our business and encourage our team to specialize in certain neighborhoods that they’re familiar with. I like to think in terms of abundance instead of scarcity.
How do you retain team members? I want to set up my associates well and give them this business one day, so I make careful hiring decisions. I don’t hire people with big egos that thrive on being number one and being in the spotlight all the time.
I like to empower my staff to come up with three solutions when they are presented with a problem. This really helps them to think it through and grow from their challenges. We really care about our clients and staff and have their best interests at heart and treat each other as though we’re our family and friends.
What are the main advantages of having a team? No one can run a business on their own. If you’re on your own, you’re on an island. It’s nice to have people help you and encourage you. I’m available to my team at all times for advice and take pride in keeping them accountable, energized and emotionally focused. We’re in this together and will take care of each other’s business even when someone’s out on vacation.
How do you promote the advantages of working with a team to prospects and clients? It is all about job descriptions and the power of the many versus the one. A single agent does not have the level of support that a group does—they are trying to be all things to all people. Larger groups may or may not be effective; it really depends on how they are run and their internal management. I’m involved with all transactions and at the first hint of a problem, we have a line of defense at the ready. The best compliment is when one of our team members saves the day. You have to manage your expectations and can’t be constantly unreachable to our clients or other agents. You do not want the appearance of being too busy or successful to not have time for them. Other agents in our community need to feel your respect.
What do you consider most critical to maintaining a profitable team? I look at numbers all the time to make sure we’re not spending more than we bring in. We evaluate where our leads are coming from to determine what is more profitable and if we’re marketing enough in that area. I hold our agents accountable and ask them things like “how many face-to-face meetings have you had this week?” You can’t sit back and wait for leads.
How do you market/brand your team? Real estate has always been social and you need to give personal attention. We ask clients if they have any concerns about working with a group and stress that our team thrives on providing outstanding service to them at all times. Our mantra is to “be nice and do the right thing. Be respectful.” We want our customers to say that we’re great people to work with.
For more information, visit theestridgegroup.com.