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A lot has changed in the last six months. In real estate, this is reflected not only in how consumers behave, but also in how brokerages have had to shift their business models, starting at the leadership level and trickling down to agents.

This topic was recently discussed at RISMedia’s first-ever virtual CEO Exchange, held as an all-day event on Sept. 17. A panel of top industry leaders shared how they navigated their brokerages during the “Redefining Agent Support: Providing the Right Culture, Leadership & Resources” panel.

Moderator Sherri Johnson, national real estate coach, speaker and consultant at Sherri Johnson Coaching & Consulting, said that while “we did all freak out a little bit” at the start of the pandemic, brokerages that were prepared for the challenges quickly pivoted and were ready to continue business.

How did they do it?

First and foremost, Johnson said it was about “keeping everyone calm and going,” but in a safe manner. And that has a lot to do with leadership and how executives communicated with their agents.

“We all knew communication was going to be key,” said Nick Bailey, chief customer officer at RE/MAX.

Jennifer Shemwell, president of Phyllis Browning Real Estate, also focused on communication, stating that the leadership team “all had to rally around the same principles.”

And according to Jim Fite, president and CEO of CENTURY 21 Judge Fite, there is no such thing as over-communication.

“In fact, one of the highest compliments we’ve received is, ‘We are getting too much communication from you,'” said Fite.

Bill Scavone, president of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., said two things became apparent at the start of the pandemic.

“One, we can operate virtually—we have the tech to do it. And, two, people crave social interactions. I can’t even tell you how many cocktail hours were being held,” he said.

Due to social distancing, being able to support a digital model became imperative for brokerages. Bailey said a top priority was looking at all their tech products to make sure everyone had the support they needed. And that included people outside of their organization.

“We started making more of our training public to the industry,” said Bailey. “We knew there were a lot of strong companies in our industry, but we also knew there were a lot that didn’t have these resources.”

Across several brokerages, from Zoom calls to mobile apps, agents could now complete an entire transaction virtually thanks to a widespread industry adoption of technology.

But it wasn’t just about supporting consumers; more so, it was about providing agents with the necessary resources to keep them going strong despite the health crisis.

“We doubled down on training,” said Scavone. All panelists agreed, education was a necessary tool to overcome the new challenges.

“We wanted to make sure our community was strong,” said Shemwell. “Our sales meetings were normally held weekly, with a big one once a month. When we switched to Zoom calls, we would have almost twice as many people show up.”

The ability to attend meetings and education sessions remotely allowed more agents to attend.

Overall, however, what kept brokerages going strong is staying true to their core values and company culture.

“It’s about keeping the culture alive,” said Johnson.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s senior online editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to