Cover story: What managing brokers do to keep their best agents

by Blake Boldt

Recruiting – and most importantly, retaining – qualified agents is an age-old concern among managing brokers. The best managing brokers not only know this, but are several steps ahead in their strategy to coach and mentor emerging talent.

“One of the biggest challenges that comes with any brokerage is keeping your agents motivated,” says Vickey Wachtel, managing broker of Engel & Völkers Katy. “Agents move around a lot in the industry, and there is always the risk of agents getting recruited from your brokerage.”

Creating open communication, investing in technology, providing continuing education and establishing relationships are hallmarks of managing brokers who are invested in their agents’ success. Offering these assets can help position brokerages as a leader in not only real estate transactions, but as an excellent place for agents to grow their careers.

“Managing brokers are the pride of the company; they need to be aware of everything going on in a business and be cognizant of agents’ needs,” says Marilyn Thompson, president of Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty.

Open communication and availability

Whether the brokerage has 10 agents or 100 agents, agents want open lines of communication with the managing broker.

Nimesh Patel, broker/owner of RE/MAX The Fine Realty Group, built his business around a family-style environment. Patel, who is business partners with his brother, grew their business from 45 agents to nearly 200 agents. As the business grew, maintaining the same level of open communication was important to them.

Adhering to these same communication standards required the brothers to create a more structured approach when meeting with agents, including scheduling meetings in advance, ensuring every meeting was on the calendar and setting time parameters.

“We are in the office every single day to teach and mentor our agents,” Patel says. “We aren’t focused on recruiting, we are focused on retaining. We do this by rewarding success, facilitating cooperative competition, and surrounding the team with like-minded, successful agents.”

A dedication to being fully available to her team of agents is something Wachtel takes seriously. Because of this commitment, she decided to focus solely on being an effective managing broker instead of continuing to also be an active agent. “I felt like I was shorting my team if I was spending too much time with clients, and vice versa,” she says. “My team of agents appreciates knowing I am always there.”

Thompson prides herself on her level of accessibility to her team, and this is something that goes far with new recruits.

“I have always had an open-door policy. Agents can come by anytime and sit down to talk about whatever they want – my door is never closed,” Thompson says. “Our new agents tell us they are so excited to be at a brokerage where the entire management team is available to them 24-7.”

Keeping a pulse on the market is one of the most important things managing brokers can do to prove they are invested in their team members’ growth and development success.

“There is a perception that the managing broker is very detached from the day-to-day business of the real estate agents. It is important to me to stay in touch with what is happening in the market,” Thompson says. “I work with the agents as their advocate and biggest supporter – going on listing appointments, price reduction meetings, design consultations, etc. – anything and everything to help the agents secure the business.”

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Advancing education

Providing agents with ongoing training, industry education and personal development are tenets of a successful managing broker. Offering these resources goes a long way in developing career loyalty.

“We provide weekly continuous professional education classes to our agents, which includes training from our staff, as well as outside subject matter experts,” Thompson says. “Many of our classes offer continuing education credits and the agents can earn their credits in the office.”

Patel’s approach is to help agents with their overall personal development in all aspects of their lives – not only real estate.

“We have a mastermind group that is not only about improving as a real estate agent, but being a better person,” says Patel. “It is an overall shift in mindset that makes everyone stronger, and ultimately translates into being a better agent.”

For Patel, this training is his secret weapon for agent retention. “We have found that agents who have left our brokerage did so because they did not buy into the coaching or mastermind sessions. None of our top producers have left, because they see the value of this training.”

Wachtel believes an important part of ongoing education is not only the message, but how the message is delivered. “We offer training once a week, and it’s important to find the sweet spot with how I deliver the message. The number of agents who attend these weekly classes makes a difference with the level of participation; too few and too many attendees means low participation,” she says. “It’s important to find the sweet spot with managing a team, just like agents need to have a sweet spot with how many annual transactions work best for them.”

Technology and trends

To keep up with the constantly evolving world of real estate technology, providing agents with in-house resources helps demonstrate a managing brokers’ commitment to their team’s success.

“We have our own MLS department, contracts department, showing department, IT department, advertising department and more. We stay on top of the market – whether it’s with the latest technology, or the latest market trends, we are knowledgeable about the industry and the changes that are happening,” Thompson says.

Providing agents with marketing technology helps them do their job more efficiently, and stand out to clients and potential prospects.

“We have an in-house IT department, as well as a green screen studio. Our agents have the ability to create in-house 3D videos for all of their listings, which also includes creating floor plans, at no cost to them,” Wachtel says.

Involving agents in team strategy is a valuable approach for integrating agents in the overall business approach.

“Our firm has annual business planning meetings, where we ask for every agent’s feedback on best business practices and what they would like to see changed,” Thompson says. “We value our agents’ feedback as they are the ones ‘on the street’ and dealing with challenges every day. We then try to implement those changes in our company business model to give the agents as much help as they need to be successful.”

Establishing relationships

As with any other profession, choosing who you work with is often more important than where you work. As a managing broker, dedication to the team goes a long way. “We are very fortunate to have long-standing relationships with our agents, as they realize that we have so much to offer them and their clients,” Thompson says.

“The real estate industry can be a transient business; agents come in and leave like a revolving door,” Wachtel says. “Agents at our firm get recruited often, but one of the biggest reasons they stay is because they’ve seen the advantages we offer over their previous brokerages – the grass isn’t always greener.”

Ultimately it is the managing broker’s role to facilitate a supportive team atmosphere. “We are a team in every sense of the word – from the leadership team to every staff member – and we all assume the role of trusted advisors for our agents, and they thrive because of it,” Thompson says.

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