This month’s National Association of REALTORS® Power Broker Roundtable discusses planning strategically for 2020.
Drayton Saunders, President, Michael Saunders & Company, Sarasota, Fla.
Candace Adams, President & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, Westchester Properties and New York Properties
Jim Imhoff: Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” The Yankees superstar, whose quirky use of language was the butt of a thousand jokes, was right on the mark on this one. If you don’t map out your strategy for growth, you don’t stand much of a chance of getting anywhere, much less where you want to be. With 2020 right around the corner, the time is now for savvy brokers—and agents—to get business strategies in place. First question for the brokerage: Do we handle this internally, or do we pay an outside facilitator? Drayton?
Drayton Saunders: Brokers, like agents, are easily distracted by the next shiny penny—or, as some call it, by the next perceived “disruptor.” But if you’re going to grow, you need to stay focused—to keep your eye on the prize. It may be that an experienced outside facilitator can help identify the market trends and specific issues you need to address and map out workable strategies for dealing with them.
JI: I think some brokers are a little scared to bring in a facilitator. They think they can’t justify the cost, because it can run into thousands of dollars. But sometimes it takes a neutral, unbiased eye to see things as they are and identify what we need to do in order to grow. That can be critical for understanding not just the potential risk factors—the environmental scan, if you will—but what is commonly called “SWOT”: our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Surveying those factors is the first step to strategizing—and putting down in black and white—how we will navigate through them.
Diane Glass: In the definitive business planning guideline we’ve developed, goal setting is critical. We’re using the MoxiWorks platform to keep us on track to increase profitability, recruitment and retention and to provide our agents with a CRM that leverages their strengths and gives them a working way forward: What should I do more of? What should I do less of? How can I best nurture long-term leads?
Candace Adams: I think timing is essential. Our company business-planning process begins in late summer and is finalized in October. It goes to managers in early November, and they are charged with making certain every agent has a plan in place before the end of the year. All plans are flexible and modifiable, but everyone—even our top producers—needs to measure their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and have a plan in place to aggressively address them.
JI: Who’s responsible for seeing these processes through? And what about accountability?
CA: Managers see that every agent has a formal plan in place, but we know that agents have different skill sets. We work in a very supportive environment, and results speak for themselves, of course—but we do schedule quarterly check-ups, and we adhere to that.
DS: Software like MoxiWorks helps agents stay on track, but accountability is key. Our managers are constantly monitoring. We don’t want to overwhelm our agents, but we do stay in touch. How are you doing? What do you need? What can we do to help?
DG: The value of a formal business plan is that it gives you a framework and a practical, hands-on process that helps you step back and look at what you’ve been doing, how you’ve been doing it, and how you can do it better—no matter the shiny pennies or disruptors.
JI: I think most brokers are diligent about helping agents plan and stay on track. But the path to growth starts with the brokerage. Who keeps us on track? In our company, we do an annual agent survey—a review by our agents to determine how we, as a company, are doing to support and inspire their success. We want them to rate our training programs, our information technology and our face-to-face support. We typically get a response from more than 70 percent of our agents, and they don’t pull any punches. It’s revealing—and it’s a good way to measure our accountability as a brokerage so we can strategize the best ways forward for the company and for the agent.
CA: We all want our agents to be thorough and professional—to go the extra mile and do it the right way, every time—and I agree, that starts with the brokerage.
DS: Which brings us back to the premise: A comprehensive business plan—for both the company and the agent—is the first step toward energizing growth.
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