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midyear_forum_2015Part of our role as real estate professionals is to get out there and network and find other thought leaders with whom we can share and learn from,” says John Featherston during RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum in Washington, D.C., this past May. “And then we have to repeat that process over and over again.

We have to remain open to learning.”

This was the overarching premise of the Forum, which was held during the NAR Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., where leading brokers candidly shared hands-on strategies for leading their companies to success.

This year’s Midyear Forum, “Seizing Key Market Opportunities,” was moderated by RISMedia President & CEO John Featherston, and Move, Inc.’s SVP of Industry Relations, Russ Cofano. Broker panelists were: Jon Coile, CEO and president, Champion Realty, Inc.; Joan Docktor, president, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®; J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO, John L. Scott Real Estate; and Tom Skiffington, broker/partner, RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central.

Evolved and Involved Leaders

From big-picture growth plans to hands-on agent training, panelists agreed that the key ingredient to sustainable success is broker involvement at every level, leading to more productive agents and more satisfied consumers.

As Docktor says, “We have always believed in getting to the consumer first and serving consumers in extraordinary ways, and to do that, we have to attract top salespeople and provide them with the tools and services they need. Our firm is built on the core principles of trust, integrity and stability. Our word is gospel.”

“We want to control our own destiny,” says Scott. “It’s all about our trust with the individual client. We want to out-com the dot coms. People want instant information—our mantra is real-time real estate is the only time. If it isn’t instant, it’s not fast enough. While everything has changed, the core of our business has stayed the same, and that’s the trusted competence of the real estate professional.”

In John L. Scott’s Seattle and Portland, Wash., markets, homes are in big demand. According to Scott, there is a one-month supply of homes for sale in both areas, with some specific market areas at a 2.5-week supply. The keys to coming up with a market strategy that will drive more listings? Positive mindset, skill mastery and personal engagement activities.

“Don’t live inside the situation,” explained Scott. “Focus on skill mastery—if you want to get more listings, you have to have a great listing presentation.”

For Jon Coile, the key to success begins with a very simple mandate: Hire happy people.

“People are like a mirror. If you smile at someone, they’ll smile back.”

A Culture of Caring

Perhaps the biggest component to success for Docktor is caring, which is built into the company’s system through its Agent Care program. “When an agent joins our company, we immediately start a drip program, which sends out messages from me and other executives, the marketing department, etc.,” explained Docktor. “We also have a welcome specialist, who is another agent who takes them by the hand—it’s like a buddy program and it’s really worked well.”

Docktor also feels that it’s important that she and the executive team are made aware of important events in their agents’ lives, so managers are tasked with sending regular emails to a group of company leaders alerting them when an agent has experienced a tragedy, celebrated a milestone or received good news of some sort. “This gives us the opportunity to call the person or send flowers,” says Docktor. “It’s a great retention tool, but more than that, we really do care and this sends the message that we do.”

Coile maintains a close connection to his agents with the weekly Champion 411 video, an informal video on YouTube that highlights important news and happenings at the company for the week. The Champion 411 also includes a viral video that has no connection to real estate, but that is fun to watch and engages the agents.

All of these strategies are aimed at helping agents better serve consumers. And, in the face of increasing consumer reviews, this is more critical than ever.

“There was a recent article in the Washington Post about the decline of trust in our national economy,” says Cofano. “At the same time, you have the growth of Airbnb, which is based on people going into other people’s homes to sleep, and Uber, where you ride in other people’s cars. This is going on this thread of reputation management. People are trusting less in others and trusting more in crowds.”

Training and Coaching

Power Broker panelists also discussed their commitment to coaching and training. “As an owner, you have to decide the type of culture you want in your office,” says Skiffington. “I think it’s important that the managers are involved in the training and coaching—that helps develop a relationship with the agent.”

When it comes to training, Skiffington offers a variety of different options to suit the various needs and styles of agents, from webinars to a 10-week class to brown-bag lunches at each office where Skiffington sits around the table with agents and talks about the issues they’re having.

“Every class has homework,” says Skiffington. “Everything we teach has to be implemented that week. It forces them to understand it.”

Embracing Technology

For Skiffington, smart technology investments are critical to growth in any market.

However, when it comes to technology, what pains brokers most is not necessarily finding the right tools, but getting agents to use them.

Scott provided a new twist on the 80/20 rule—20 percent hear about something and do it, 60 percent hear it and don’t do it, and another 20 percent, hear it, know how to do it, and still don’t do it. “The challenge is, how do you get the rest of them to implement?” he says.

Docktor agreed. “What good are the tools if no one’s going to open them? We have a portal with one single sign-in and everything is there, including training videos on every topic you can imagine. We hired a gaming company to give out monetary prizes if you open and watch a video and take some action afterwards.”

As a selling broker, Skiffington has a first-hand perspective on what works and what doesn’t. “Most of the technology we’ve implemented, I’ve used personally to see if it works or fails. That way, I’m the experiment, not my agents. So when I implement something for agents, they already know that it works.”

When it comes to technology, you must ask, “Is it helping our process? Is it making us money?” advised Coile. “You can only get your agents to do so much, then they need to get back to selling. You have to be careful not to trigger ‘shiny object syndrome.’ Focus on one thing at a time, and make sure it drops money to the bottom line.”

“We have to carry forward this idea, that it’s not the technology—it’s the technology that’s not adopted that becomes worthless,” added Cofano. “You have to find the technology that is usable, but also partner with the people and companies that can provide consistency over time.”

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