Rethinking the impossible
People talk about raising the bar all the time and many, including myself, have placed that responsibility mostly on real estate brokers, and associations. The truth is, brokers are challenged with technological advances, shifting consumer demands, economical constraints, and growing pressure to provide more services and lower commission splits.
This seems like the normal challenges of any business in a modern economy, but the broker’s challenge has always been greater in that there is a leak in the model. The leak stems from the fact that their salesmen aren’t employees, they’re contracted labor. Ultimately, this means that many of the demands a normal employer would place on their employees, a broker cannot require without risk of qualifying the contractor as an employee, thus requiring the broker to provide benefits to the employee. This is obviously simplified, but that’s basically how it breaks down.
Loyalty between brokers and agents
Any Realtor in any city shows up to work when they feel like it, leaves when they feel like it, and can pretty much do what they feel like, including bailing on broker A for broker B at the drop of a hat. The loyalty factor seems low for brokers in general, in that there seems to be a broker in the wings ready to accept the influx agent to their team.
What’s the incentive to train or develop any agent when the loyalty factor is so low? And with an inability to place typical employer to employee demands on the agent, the writing is on the wall that brokers continue to be doormats. One agent I know has had three brokers in the past year, yet still there was a willing broker ready to sign them up.
The broker advantage
It’s not like the broker doesn’t have certain advantages, obviously they escape the need to present the contractor with the typical benefits an employee would receive, they don’t have to provide salary for under achievers, the door swings both ways and the loyalty factor to the contractor can remain low unless they’re a top producer.
The consumer disadvantage
What’s unfortunate about all of this is the consumer isn’t really left with much choice in the market place. If you pull the curtain back on this scene and consumers see the truth that there really isn’t much difference from brand to brand, the so-called real estate industry has a credibility problem.
The credibility problem is in the endorsement of the agent or the broker in either direction, neither really have a value proposition. The broker is not known for having the best agents in the business, nor are the agents with the best broker in the business, after all, the broker is expendable, right? So if you’re both expendable to the other, then ultimately your brands and services are expendable to consumer.
Folks can talk until they’re blue in the face about raising the bar, and it probably feels great to yell into the wind, but until someone patches the expendability issues between these two parasites, creating a true need for a symbiotic relationship, we will always have credibility issues with consumers.
One possible solution
One thought is the salary plus commission model that Redfin has in play. If you remove the discount from their model, and view solely their play in customer care and client care, you see that the model can work, they’re profitable and just turned five years old. The flexibility of the salary plus commission model allows the brokerage to expand and contract based on market conditions market to market, and in up periods, commissions expand with the market keeping salaried commissioned sales teams solidly in tact, as well as retracting allows the model to downsize just as any business would in a down cycle from market to market. Dead weight is shed off for the highest producing and strongest team players.
The value proposition within this model is brand loyalty from within, with team members working the phones and doing the business of the brokerage in shifts, executing proven sales systems with set expectations by the team managers.
Redfin is certainly not the first to look at this model, but they’re certainly the first to execute it, and they did it by raising capital. Their funding is what allows them to carry the costs that consumers do not understand is the value of the traditional broker. In a salary model, consumers would very quickly learn the value of the broker as they would now pay for this risk to be carried by the broker as a part of their service. Suddenly, the value of the commission in play is as plain as day in black and white. Certain states would have problems right up front as laws have been put in play to stop disintermediation of tradition, but these laws could quickly be reversed if the value for consumers is solidified by doing so.
How boutique brokerages would fare
Another added upside to this model is you would quickly see small boutique brokerages either fly or fail. Two things are in play, the top one percent of agents would certainly need a new broker as their business models depend on their ability to be independent, however, their income will not be enough to sustain a boutique as most top producers pay very little to hang their license anywhere.
The National Association of Realtors’ role
There has been some debate that turning to this model would begin to disintermediate the National Association of Realtors (NAR) from the membership at large and return it to a broker only club, but we suspect it would actually create newer and more exciting opportunities for NAR in terms of value to members.
Ultimately, turning freelance real estate professionals known as Realtors into productive salary plus commission employees satisfies a lot of what’s wrong with the so-called industry, but also creates new challenges and a new frontier. Until the broker and the agent see a real value in the other, you really cannot ever expect consumers to experience it.
Layoffs and a new value?
If a big box broker shifted to this model in the next five minutes, the first thing that would happen would be major layoffs of dead weight, keeping the brightest and best talent in house. A value would immediately be placed on the individuals left at the big box in terms of that base salary, and Monday morning, at 8am the brightest would show up for work ready to meet sales goals and expectations.
Coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]
(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…
The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?
Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.
One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.
Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?
At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.
Families’ roles are complex.
You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.
What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.
Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.
These tools customize your Zoom calls with your company’s branding
(BUSINESS MARKETING) Zoom appears to be here to stay. Here are the tools you need to add or update your Zoom background to a more professional – or even branded – background.
If you haven’t had to deal with Zoom in 2021, you may be an essential worker or retired altogether. For the rest of us, Zoom became the go-to online chat platform around mid-March. For several reasons, and despite several security concerns, Zoom quickly pushed past all online video chat competitors in the early COVID-19 lockdown days.
Whether for boozy virtual happy hours, online classes for school or enrichment, business meetings, trivia nights, book clubs, or professional conferences, odds are if you are working or in school, you have been on a Zoom call recently. Many of us have been on weekly, if not daily, Zoom calls.
If you are the techy type, you’ve likely set up a cool Zoom background of a local landmark or a popular spot, a library, or a tropical beach. Comic-con types and movie buffs created appropriate backgrounds to flex their awesome nerdiness and technical smarts.
Many people have held off creating such an individualized background for our virtual meetings for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it never occurred to them, or maybe they aren’t super comfortable with all things techy. Many people have been holding out hope of returning to their offices, thus seeing no need to rock the boat. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s time. While I, too, hope that we get the pandemic under control, I am realistic enough to see that working or studying from home will continue to be a reality for many people for some time.
Two cool, free tools we’ve found that can help you make your personal Zoom screen look super professional and even branded for business or personal affairs are Canva and HiHello. While each platform has a paid component, creating a Zoom background screen for either application is fairly simple and free.
Canva is the online design website that made would-be graphic designers out of so many people, especially social media types. It’s fairly user-friendly with lots of tutorials and templates, and the extremely useful capabilities of uploading your own logo and saving your brand colors.
Using Canva, first create your free account with your email. It functions better if you create an account, although you can play around with some of the tools without signing up. The fastest way from Point A to Point B here is to use the search box and search for “Zoom backgrounds.” You now can choose any one of their Zoom background templates, from galaxy to rainbows and unicorn to library books or conference rooms. Choose an inspirational quote if you’d like (but really, please don’t). Download the .jpg or .png, save it, and you can upload it to Zoom.
To create a branded Zoom background in Canva, it will take slightly more work. It was a pain in the butt for me, because I had this vision of a backdrop with my logo repeated, like you see as a backdrop at, you know, SXSW or the Grammys or something. Reach for the stars, right?
OK, the issue with this was that I had to individually add, resize, and place each of the 9 logos I ended up with. I figured out the best way to size them uniformly (I resized one and copied/pasted, instead of adding the original size each time (maybe you’re thinking “Duh,” but it took me a few failed experiments to figure out that was the fastest way to do it).
Once you have your 9 loaded in the middle of the page, start moving them around to place them. I chose 9, because the guiding lines in Canva allow me to ensure I have placed them correctly, in the top left corner, middle left against the margin that pops up, and bottom left. Same scenario for the center row.
Magical guide lines pop up when you have the logo centered perfectly, so I did top, middle, and bottom like that, and repeated for the right hand margin. Then I flipped them, because they were showing up in my view on Zoom as backward. That may mean they are now backward to people on my call; I will need to test that out! Basically, Canva is easy to use, but perhaps my design aspirations made it tricky to figure out.
Good luck and God bless if you choose more than 9 logos to organize. Oh, and if you are REALLY smart, you will add one logo to a solid color or an austere, professionally appropriate photo background and call it a day, for the love of Mary. That would look cool and be easy.
HiHello is an app you can download to scan and keep business cards and create your own, free, handy dandy digital business card. It comes in the form of a scannable QR code you can share with anyone. Plus, you can make a Zoom background with it, which is super cool! It takes about five minutes to set up, truly! It works great!
The Zoom background has your name, the company name, and your position on one side and the QR code on the other. The QR code pulls up a photo, your name, title, phone number, and email address. It’s so nifty! And the process was super easy and intuitive. Now, If I took my logo page from Canva and made that the background for my HiHello virtual Zoom screen, I would be branded out the wazoo.
Remember there are technical requirements if you want to use HiHello on a Mac. For example, if you have a mac with a dual core processor, it requires a QUAD. However, on a PC, it was really simple.
Finally: A smart card that manages employee spending with ease
(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.
Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.
However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.
Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.
But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”
Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.
These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.
All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.
And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.
Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.
Now, that’s a smart card!
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