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This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable explores how brokers can provide value to their agents no matter the market environment.

Cindy Ariosa, Senior Vice President, Regional Manager, Long & Foster Real Estate, Chantilly, Va.; Liaison for Large Firms and Industry Relations, the National Association of REALTORS®

Sherry Chris, President/CEO, Realogy Expansion Brands/Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and ERA Real Estate, Madison, N.J.

John P. Horning, Executive Vice President, Shorewest Realty, Milwaukee


Bess Freedman, CEO, Brown Harris Stevens, New York


Cindy Ariosa: What a year this has been! Those were the lyrics in a song from “Brigadoon,” an old musical about a city that popped up once in a century—and as we see light at the end of the tunnel, we hope that a scourge like COVID-19 will not pop up for another hundred years at least. At the same time, while we grieve for those who suffered most over the last year and a quarter, we are proud that our industry stepped up with remarkable innovation to meet the soaring demand for housing from Americans on the move. There have been goals exceeded and records broken—and leaders have had to find new and virtual ways to applaud the achievements of the amazing people whose success is our success. Having just hosted a red-carpet recognition event in a parking lot—in high heels and a too-snug suit I haven’t worn in a year—I’m eager to hear how others are letting their agents know how much we value them past, present and future.

Sherry Chris: Recognition and support are among my top priorities, so when the world shut down a year ago March, summarily cancelling our 2020 recognition gala, one of my first concerns was finding ways not just to stay connected, but to do it in ways that surprised and delighted our agents, brokers and managers. Zoom has been a great help, but we also contracted with a studio to record congratulations videos, both to groups and individuals—and we’ve used telephone campaigns, social media and surprise gifts to let people know we are here, and we see and appreciate them.

John Horning: Agents need and deserve appreciation for their efforts, and it’s part of our culture as an organization to celebrate achievement. When face-to-face went away, along with top producer breakfasts and awards galas, we knew that engagement would be crucial. So one of the things we did was set up “Breaking News” segments via Zoom. We hired a local TV personality to host a series of “broadcasts” with “news anchors” and “on-scene rookies” to recognize agent achievement.  We hired comic John Lovitz to keep us laughing, we did some cameos with a few of the Green Bay Packers, and we’ve had some inspiring talks by actors and other sports figures We’ve done similar things to thank our support teams, who’ve been amazing.

Bess Freedman: In a relationship business like ours, it’s as vital to stay connected to our agents as it is for them to stay connected to their clients—maybe even more vital. We hired some help to keep us live streaming throughout the year, celebrating achievement and doing “agent spotlights.” Because everyone’s time commitments were turned upside down, we offered flexible working hours and a day off to vote. Also, we made a real effort to keep everyone’s spirits up with motivating talks by people like Amy Purdy, the Paralympic medalist in snowboarding who reached her incredible success in spite of losing both legs below the knee at the age of 19.

CA: Special events like those do help keep people engaged and motivated, and I know if we spoke to a hundred company leaders, we’d hear a hundred new and creative ideas they’ve come up with not just to stay connected, but to let their agents and staff know just how much they are valued. Now, with the worst of the coronavirus behind us, how cautious are we about planning ahead?

SC: We are working hard to keep up momentum, but we are locked and loaded for a huge in-person appreciation gala in March 2022—venues booked, lots of exciting plans in the works. It’s been a long stretch, and it helps, I think, to have something specific to look forward to.

BF: More and more of our people are back in the office and ready to get back to real life. We are looking toward this summer and fall as the right time to bring back some in-person get-togethers and start celebrating our people face to face.

CA: Does that mean I have to stop making BombBomb-queen videos?

JH: Not at all. I can tell you that a lot of our people would just as soon keep some meetings virtual. As many of us have discovered, they are a time and energy saver that will likely stay with us to an extent.

SC: I agree. But nothing can replace the face-to-face camaraderie at the heart of our organizations—or the in-person opportunities for us to let our people know how much we value them.

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