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Okay. I’m going to say something controversial: The majority of the real estate industry has it all wrong about one thing—new and lower-producing agents. Every time I turn around, there is another article or blog post or speaker up on the podium talking about how we should only focus on the top-producing agents—only recruit high-volume agents and not allow just anyone to be an agent, eschewing new or lower-producing agents completely.

Yet, I recently attended the awards banquet of a brokerage that is No. 1 in its market area in agent count, transactions and sales volume, and 15 of their top 30 agents—all high-volume producers last year—have been in the business three years or less.

Maybe the real estate industry is missing it. Maybe there’s a different opportunity and approach. The three brokers who own and operate the brokerage referenced above would propose a different strategy for all of you brokers out there. Four years ago, Don Sturgeon, Jim Sparkman and Mark Farrow opened up HomeSmart Realty Group, based in Salem, Ore., with only 13 agents. Today, that brokerage has well over 250 agents and is No. 1 in every major category, as stated earlier.

(L to R) Don Sturgeon, Jim Sparkman, Mark Farrow

(L to R) Don Sturgeon, Jim Sparkman, Mark Farrow

So, I’ve asked Jim and Don to join me in this article and share with you three simple steps to creating a home and an opportunity for those new to the industry, and to discuss how doing so can yield big results for a brokerage.

  1. Create an opportunity for all agents to join your brokerage.
    Todd Sumney: How do you create an opportunity for agents of all production levels to join your brokerage?

Jim Sparkman: It’s important to understand that it’s not up to us as brokers to say how many transactions new agents should set a goal for—or how many they should achieve in a particular timeframe. This goal is personal and belongs to them, not us. Therefore, we make it our personal goal to create an environment of opportunity, rich with positive collaboration and learning so they can first see what is possible, and then decide what they are capable of. This is their life and their career.

Get to know the agents who are interested in joining your brokerage. Start a conversation by asking them about their goals. Do they already have the ambition to close eight to 10 transactions in year one and 24-plus thereafter, or do they need some encouragement and direction to help them set that goal?

We want our agents to look to us for inspiration, training and assistance, and to each other for peer support. This is the mindset that has been the most successful model for us. It’s more important to us to have an agent that is confident and well-trained at any production level—who feels support from the brokerage—than it is to have a self-starter who does twice the amount of transactions, but feels they have to teach themselves.

  1. Train them up and show them the way.
    TS: So how do you train newer and less experienced agents to ensure they’re successful?

Don Sturgeon: Once we have shown them the opportunity and inspired them to achieve, we focus on giving them a clear path to accomplish those possibilities. When any agent comes to us, especially new agents that have just earned their license, we start them off with a training program we created that aids them in everything real estate school missed. We focus on helping them market themselves, build their brand and do the right things consistently with a schedule, regimen and a plan. Those processes create transactions, which build experience, confidence and a solid sphere of influence.

When low- to mid-producing or brand-new agents join us, they’re welcomed into our brokerage and taught how to lead generate, write up contracts, geographically farm an area, build their sphere and reach their goal. Typically, the agents come out of the training program doing more transactions than they would have done without it. When the program is over, agents have the knowledge and experience they need to jump right into your brokerage’s resources, so you can continue to meet their other needs moving forward.

  1. Provide ongoing service and support.
    TS: So, what else do you feel a brokerage should do to enable these agents to become the best in our industry?

JS: Since we were top agents ourselves before opening our own brokerage, we know firsthand how important it is for brokers to provide strong customer service and broker support to agents, so they can, in turn, serve the consumer and build a robust real estate business. When they have a transaction that starts to go sideways on a Thursday night at 7 p.m., they need service and support and guidance right away. The more you make information available, make your broker team accessible, and put systems and processes in place that provide value, the more success you cultivate. We believe it is our job to be the facilitators of the agent’s success. We can’t do the transactions for the agents, but we can be their backbone of support and provide them with the tools they need so that they can focus on their goals and be successful in their careers.

You can do this. We can all do this.
Every top producer was, at one point, a brand-new agent with no transactions under their belt. So, who will create the opportunities for the next generation of leaders, inspire them and train them up? My hope is that, as an industry, we collectively cultivate our future leaders and shape our future by sharing insights and principles like these that have enabled brokerages to onboard brand-new or lower-producing agents, and, in turn, grow their business. You can do it, too. Let’s all take the time to invest in our agents, and they’ll be more confident, more experienced and stay for the long run.

Sumney_Todd_60x60Todd Sumney is the chief industry officer for HomeSmart International. For more information about joining HomeSmart as an agent, visit, or visit for franchise opportunities.

Jim Sparkman and Don Sturgeon are principal broker/owners of HomeSmart Realty Group in Salem, Portland and Corvallis, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., with over 250 agents.

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