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Team structures are becoming an attracting force for some brokerages, and are gaining traction throughout the real estate industry. The reality is that 10 percent of real estate agents nationwide are making around $22,000 per year, while 25 percent are making around $29,000 and 50 percent are making around $44,000, according to the May 2016 Occupational Employment and Wages Report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Agents are jumping at opportunities to form a power group that can be more successful than the average solo real estate agent.

Melissa Crockett Willis, vice president and West regional manager of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, shared her insights on team building at this year’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Crockett Willis has been in the real estate industry for 30 years and was a pioneer of the team structure. She developed her team in the early ’90s and taught team training and system implementations through STAR POWER University. In 2007, she joined the Howard Hanna management team in Cleveland, Ohio. Here’s what she had to say:

Considering a Team Structure
Before agents decide to pursue the team route, Crockett Willis suggested they think about the difference between an entrepreneurial agent (where they are responsible for themselves), a partnership (where a partner is needed for delegation purposes to enjoy more free time) and a real estate team (which she calls a game changer because agents are responsible for all team members and not just themselves).

Additionally, agents need to understand that forming a team entails delving into business building.

“A lot of times when you look at teams that don’t succeed, it’s because they haven’t been a student of the business long enough,” said Crockett Willis, emphasizing that agents must first educate themselves on the business aspect and not just the real estate aspect before hiring team members.

Crockett Willis also suggested that agents step back and think about the following questions:

  • Why are you thinking of forming a team?
  • Do you just need to create more systems?
  • Do you need administrative help?
  • Have you mastered the basics yourself?
  • Do you like teaching and leading?
  • Have you listed and sold enough business by yourself?
  • Do you want the responsibility of a team?
  • Do you know how to run a business?

Once committed to the team structure, agents should be able to clearly visualize what they want their team to become. They should also create a mission statement that inspires others to take action, as well as focuses on the present and what the organization will accomplish. A successful team leader should be able to distinguish between their role (what they do) and their identity (who they are).

When the ideals are set in stone, Crockett Willis said the next steps are creating a strategy with systems and forming a business plan, which should constantly evolve.

“The most successful teams do not overcomplicate the business,” said Crockett Willis, declaring that no matter what systems are put in place, they should always be simple.

Hiring for a Team
While hiring can seem simple, it’s undoubtedly the most intensive part of the team-forming process and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Crockett Willis recommended that agents narrow down what type of assistance they need before beginning the hiring process. Agents should ask themselves: Do I need an administrative assistant in order to spend more time with clients, or will I handle secretarial work while someone else takes out buyers to free up time?

Once the positions are clearly defined and are posted on job search platforms, agents should hire slowly to make sure they have the right person for their team. According to Crockett Willis, if the wrong fit is hired, always fire quickly or rearrange duties to make use of everyone’s strongest skillsets.

Crockett Willis said the quality of the interview questions asked should match the quality of the answers they would like to receive. In addition, agents should place prospective employees in an interview position that matches their role. If they’re going to be an admin that makes a lot of phone calls, start with a phone interview to gauge their skills. If they’re managing the front desk, what impression do they make during first interactions?

According to Crockett Willis, candidates can be broken down into two categories: farm animals and jungle animals. She reminded agents that most people fall under these two segments, and they should decide which one would be more successful in the open position. Are they looking for someone who can be aggressive and self-sufficient, or do they want someone who can be shy but is patient and focused?

Working With A Team
Once positions are filled and the business is ready to move forward, agents should focus on being a leader that welcomes risks, instead of a manager who needs balance and sees problems rather than opportunities. Most importantly, leaders must learn how to delegate and communicate in order to have a successful team.

Team members that are constantly involved and are frequently asked for feedback tend to have a stronger sense of loyalty to the business. Leading agents must remember to elevate team members one step at a time to show them how valuable they are.

Having a Successful Team
Success never has an ending. Crockett Willis reminded agents to always celebrate success, no matter how small. This also applies to learning new ways to build up the team. “Agents should be a sponge for knowledge,” she added.

If the implemented systems aren’t working as planned, agents should always have an exit strategy. It’s a trial and error process and not everything will run smoothly during the first go-around. Crockett Willis told agents that they are their biggest competitors. If they can get past their own obstacles, they will be successful.

And lastly, agents should enjoy the journey they are on with their team.

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Stay tuned to RISMedia for more from this year’s REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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