Brokers perpetually seeking improvement
Recently, I wrote about J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler as an exemplary leader that real estate professionals can learn a great deal from. He is meticulous, connected, and perpetually seeks improvement.
Yes, CEO behavior can teach brokers how to improve, and those same lessons can be learned at the independent agent level, but it is up to the brokers to lead and set precedent in an organization.
Should brokers act more like retailers?
Real estate is one of the most scattered industries in America- put a million independent contractors in a room and ask them who their boss is, who they serve and what their biggest obstacles are, to see what I mean. After finishing the real estate exam, agents hang their licenses, usually going for a recognized brand, and when they become unhappy, they join a boutique and eventually take the broker’s exam and set up their own shop. This is a common course for agents to take. But imagine if a broker were to set a better example, to touch every part of the process and behave more like a retailer?
I was told a story of a new agent whose broker flew to town and zipped through the office. The new agent had never met his broker and was enthusiastic to get to shake his hand. The broker ran through the office, used the bathroom, waved hi to all and left. The agent had so many questions and was excited that he met THE broker. He became disillusioned when the broker never came back to visit and never answered his calls or questions. This is a common tale.
Brokers, are you tapped in to the pulse of your company? Not just “we have X number of agents aged 40-50 and a retention rate of X%,” but “Joe loves selling homes on the golf course and his daughter is in college studying marketing, how can I be a better resource about golf course living, help him transact more, and maybe I should get to know his kid so we have new talent in the pipeline?”
How Gov. Bush led
Love him or hate him, when George W. Bush was the Governor of Texas, he didn’t start his day locked in his private office, he went to the basement of the capitol where his staff worked and one by one, he stopped by every office and knew their names, their stories and their needs. He treated them like family, even behind closed doors- it was never a PR stunt. I hear rumors that he did the same at the White House. Brokers, do you know your agents like family?
Disney executives test the product
Disney executives are all required to spend days at their sites riding rides, standing in line, buying food, getting pictures taken with characters, and experiencing it first hand. Their fastest way to improve customer experience is to go through it themselves, not as an executive who is called “sir” and moved to the front of the line, but as a cargo short wearing vacationer.
Brokers, do you experience your transactions first hand?
Do you send emails in to the office from a fake account to see how their response is? Do you personally call agents’ cell phones from anonymous numbers and see how many minutes, hours or days go by before a return call? Do you stop by your listings and your agents’ listings and check that the sign still has the proper riders and that the lockbox is where the MLS says it is? Do you go to your agents’ independent websites and see if there is any brokerage branding and that they are compliant? Do you visit their blogs to see if they’re wasting time blogging about “how agents should Twitter 101” instead of market reports or locally relevant information? Are you going through the designation courses yourself to know what they do or don’t offer so you can guide your agents toward what is right for their career? Are you checking out what your brokerage’s website looks like on a smartphone a year after it is launched to see if anything is broken? Are you a trusted resource for your agents that they can directly call or do they have to talk to your gatekeeper?
Or are you one of those brokers who is just blogging all the time about “raising the bar” then doing nothing to raise your own?
This seems like common sense, but apparently it is not for all. It’s simple math- by being a better broker, your agents will earn more, thus will you, but slacking off as most brokers do, or focusing on Twitter and your next internet fame endeavor as a rising number do, you’re a disservice to your agents, clients and yourself.
Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?
(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.
The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”
Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.
Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.
Four-Day Workweek Trials
In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.
“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.
Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.
With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.
“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.
However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.
The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.
What’s in store for 2021?
Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.
“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.
The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.
For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.
Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.
If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.
But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.
“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.
Should your content management system go headless?
(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.
At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.
But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.
What is headless CMS?
Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).
This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.
Benefits of Headless CMS
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.
Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.
Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.
No need for specialized developers
If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.
With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS
As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.
A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.
Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.
Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.
Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.
Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.
Spice up your remote team building with a fully virtual escape room
(BUSINESS MARKETING) As part of a remote team, team building has become even more of a groan. But this virtual escape room seeks to make a fun and unique challenge for remote teams.
Team building events aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some enjoy getting to know coworkers they don’t normally socialize with, others dread the day before it arrives. Plus, there’s always work that needs to be taken care of, and using some of that time to mingle might seem like a waste of time.
Love it or hate it, working remotely has made team building slightly better, maybe? You don’t have to worry about physically being present in a place you don’t want to be. You’re not awkwardly talking to a co-worker whose name you can’t quite remember.
Nonetheless, it also has its downsides. We don’t see each other anymore so it’s easier to not be on the same page, and this makes learning how to work together much harder.
We’re almost a year into the pandemic and happy hour Zoom calls no longer hold the glamour they once did. So, what else is there to do in this virtual world?
Skyrocket Your Team has just the answer for you. This company provides virtual team building experiences through collaborative online escape rooms. The escape rooms are designed with remote teams in mind and can be tailored to accommodate different sized groups.
“If you’re working remotely, Skyrocket Your Team will help your team feel closer together and improve your internal communication,” wrote Co-Founder Jorge Sánchez Hernández. “Our puzzles are designed for teams by adult educators to trigger a set of emotions, feelings, and situations. Everyone sees a different screen and you need to communicate in order to get through the challenges. There is no way to continue without teamwork!”
From the comfort of your office or couch, each team member joins from their own computer and location. The escape room consists of an immersive story about astronauts trapped in a damaged spaceship. By solving puzzles and challenges, the team must work together to repair the spaceship and return to earth.
After hopefully, safely landing your rocket, there is a debriefing session. During this time, teams can share their experiences and discuss what they learned.
Skyrocket Your Team says their new form of team building will bring your company several benefits like:
- Bringing your team closer together
- Fostering collaboration instead of internal competition
- Improving communication across your company
The end goal of the experience is to learn how to communicate effectively by solving the different sets of problems together. And, I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.
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