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When running a real estate company, it’s not enough to invest in the best technology or marketing options out there; first and foremost, you need to invest in your team. In the following Power Broker Roundtable, tops brokers talk about recruiting, team-building, and more.

Moderator: J. Nicholas (Nick) D’Ambrosia, Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR; Broker of Record, The Long & Foster Companies, Chantilly, Va.

Panelists:

Chad Ochsner, Broker/Owner, RE/MAX Alliance, Denver, Colo.

Linda Sherrer, Pres./CEO and Christy Budnick, EVP, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Jacksonville, Fla.

Lennox Scott, Chairman/CEO, John L. Scott Real Estate, Seattle, Wash.   

Nick D’Ambrosia: As brokers, we understand that without productive agents, we have no company. No matter the quality of our managers, administrators, systems or technology, it is our agents who keep us thriving—so investing strategically in their training and development is one of our most important jobs. How much of our success in this area begins with recruiting strategies—and how do we distribute our training dollar resources to maximize agent achievement? Our panel today has a combined total of more than 100 years of leadership experience. When it comes to agent development, Chad, where does the process start?

Chad Ochsner: Training and coaching is expensive, you’re right, so it has to start with good recruiting—selecting people, even new people, who have already demonstrated an ability to achieve, if not in our industry than in school, perhaps, or in a past occupation—and who clearly have both passion and commitment. For us, the selection process used to be part of our branch managers’ responsibilities—until I realized it’s a full-time job. So in the last three years, I’ve added three full-time recruiters, and I have to say, it’s working out great. We had a net gain of 50 new and experienced agents this year just between January and May. That’s an increase of nearly 6 percent, based on the size of our company.

Linda Sherrer: Our focus is primarily on experienced agents who are highly motivated when they come to us—and I have to say, we’re extremely selective with new people—so much so that we ask them to do the research in advance, and have a business plan when they come in to be interviewed. Considering the investment we make in time, training, website development, etc.—it costs a minimum of $5,000 to $7,500 per agent just to get them up and running. We want to be certain they have the drive and commitment to stay with it and succeed.

Lennox Scott: Actually, I’d say the investment per new recruit may be closer to $10,000—so absolutely, it starts with selection—and once we give someone a letter of commitment, we get them off to a running start, beginning their training even before they have their license in hand. We want our new people 100 percent engaged from the outset.

ND’A: I hear you—and NAR’s Library includes resources on agent training and development, including DVDs from real estate coach David Knox that you can check out. Visit www.realtor.org/library to explore the titles. ow we do it is an individual choice. Let’s talk about your programs.

Christy Budnick: Our training starts with a 30-day program focused on real-world skills like prospecting, presentations, contracts and negotiation. Everyone goes through our “POWER” classes, too, in small groups or one-on-one, with rotating trainers who design individual plans based on people’s differing needs—everything from leveraging proprietary tools to building networking skills.

CO: We start with a nine-week training module, but we also have a fabulous coach—her name is Heidi—whose full-time job is making weekly calls to every one of our new people—and sometimes to those who’ve been with us for a while but need help bumping up production. Heidi puts the personal touch into our agent development. We think that’s critical. Everyone loves it, and it’s really getting results.

JLS: It’s essential for new people to jump right in—not just learning our methods and tools, but getting up on their feet and role-playing—a listing presentation, for example. The first time they do it, they’re nervous and tongue-tied, but the second time, they’re ten times better—and building confidence is vital to success. In addition, we utilize dedicated mentors to work with new agents, at least through their first few transactions. That personal encouragement—constructive critique, a pat on the back—can make an enormous difference.

ND’A: And it’s just as essential, wouldn’t you agree, that new agents begin producing? That’s the ultimate confidence-builder. We need to set the bar early.

LS: I agree—although producing in itself is not enough. It’s knowing the local market, unerring customer service. That indefinable aura of professionalism. It’s essential to us that all our agents appropriately represent our brand.

CO: It’s also about making work-life balance a part of career development. For millennials, especially, who are coming into the industry, that’s something they embrace—and it’s something that we, as brokers and trainers, need to encourage and support.

JLS: That—and living life as a contributor. That’s part of our culture, too.

CB: Those things need to come from the top. Great leadership trickles down.

ND’A: You’re right about that. As somebody once said, “Excellence can open doors, but character is what keeps them open.”

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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