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While most brokers know the importance of having a written business plan, too many of us meet with resistance when we ask our agents to prepare one. In this month’s Power Broker Roundtable, we’re asking our panel of highly successful practitioners: Do you prepare a formal business plan?

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

Participants:
Jason Waugh
, President/CEO, BHHS Northwest Real Estate, Portland, Ore.
Jerimiah Taylor, Agent/Team Leader, Keller Williams Realty, Tucson, Ariz.
Ben Calhoon, Agent/Team Leader, BHHS Calhoon Co., Columbus, Ohio
Jennifer Branchini, Agent/Branch Manager, Better Homes & Gardens Tri-Valley Real Estate, Pleasanton, Calif.

Nick D’Ambrosia: While most brokers know the importance of having a written business plan, too many of us meet with resistance when we ask our agents to prepare one. This month, with the new year already bearing down, we’re asking our panel of highly successful practitioners: Do you prepare a formal business plan? How and when do you do it—and how much does that yearly plan impact your success?

Jason Waugh: John Wooden told his players, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Step one in getting buy-in from agents is that you totally believe in the process. My job is to help my agents grow their business, and I don’t think there’s a better way to do that than by asking them to take a good hard look at their production level and figure out what it will take to increase it.

ND’A: Asking is the operative word, because no matter how much we believe in business planning, we can’t force our agents to comply.

JW: No, and the fact is, far too many don’t—but we encourage it with quarterly performance appraisals and by providing workshops and outside facilitators to teach them how to do it.

ND’A: Let’s hear from a few top-producing agents. Jerimiah, you lead a highly successful team. Do you use a written business plan?

Jerimiah Taylor: We do. It starts and ends with looking at our net profit and what we have to do to beat it: how many listings, how many open houses, how many contracts and closings? We know it takes 100 cold calls to make an appointment, and two appointments to make a sale—so setting the goal dictates what we have to do. I constantly ask myself what must I do in every 24 hours to make the numbers add up.

ND’A: Who keeps you on track?

JT: We have assistants on our team whose job it is to keep us on track.

ND’A: Ben, you lead a top-performing team as well. How important is business planning?

Ben Calhoon: Setting goals is crucial, and we’ll start to put together next year’s plan in October. Our plan includes not just what we need to do, but what we need to spend in technology and marketing to maintain our leading position. We also know a plan isn’t much good without accountability. No matter how busy we are, we meet often to update where we are and re-assign or set new tasks.

Jennifer Branchini: My dad, who was a successful entrepreneur, always told me that the years he didn’t have a written plan were invariably his worst years. He was right—so for me, a written business plan is mandatory. It not only clarifies my vision and my business goals, it includes my plan for work/life balance. Working without a business plan would be like driving in the dark without a clue where I’m headed.

ND’A: What can brokers do to get more agents on board?

JW: Keep pushing and providing direction with free workshops and speakers—especially during the end-of-year push. Am I disappointed that less than half my agents are working without a written plan? You bet…but I won’t give up.

JT: Once you see the value of a written plan—how it increases both your productivity and accountability—you can’t help but be a believer.

JB: Someone should take a poll comparing the production levels of agents who use a written plan as opposed to those who don’t.

ND’A: Right. Could be pretty revealing.

The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors® and Nick D’Ambrosia, NAR’s Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.

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