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Its All About the Broker!

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I know, I know

Before we even get into this post, I know that my observation is not an absolute. I am trying to pre-empt the inevitable comment “This isn’t true for my company” that comes across every time someone shares an observation. So, for all of you who live in a never-never land, you can stop reading IF you think that your broker has nothing to do with how successful you are or how you’re regarded as a professional.

How does Supernanny relate to your Broker?

Jo Frost is THE Supernanny on television. For those who have watched the show even once, you know that the show starts off with a pack of unruly, rambunctious, annoying and disobedient children. Luckily for all of us, within 45 minutes Supernanny or one of the “supermodels” from Nanny 911 will come in and fix this family for life. They maintain their white-picket fence and live happily ever after. What we actually see is that (wait for it….) if the PARENTS are engaging, involved, disciplined, and well… “parents” the children’s behavior changes and they begin to become more socially acceptable and tolerable.

I would love to do a TV show on HGTV called “SuperBroker” wherein a proven-consultant comes into a typical (yes, I said typical) brokerage and puts the house in order.

Notorious Brokers

On July 1, 2008 Virginia required all agents, with Broker’s licenses, to take an additional 8 hours of continuing education directed toward Brokerage Management. The whining across the state was endless – as if being required to be more educated, than those agents you manage, were a punishment.

However, the Brokers have rallied and starting taking advantage of the training. I’ve had the opportunity to teach a variety of topics all over the state, for brokers. In teaching those classes I’ve found a large number of great Brokers out there, however I’ve found a few who just don’t seem to get “it”. Especially when I teach trends and technology classes.

I’ve also been reviewing trends in Ethic complaints and Real Estate Board Actions. It seems that it’s a lot of the same Brokerages getting more than their fair share of “attention”. Over and over we see a lot of the same names. There are those Brokerage names that seem to be heard over and over again when agents make comments in training classes and around the cooler. Squared-away agents tend to cringe when they hear an offer is coming from one of these Brokerages.

Do you work for cringe inspiring Broker!?!? Would you know if you did?

Broker Culture

I managed for two years, but it was enough to know what I was good at and what I wasn’t. I was not tolerant with whining or apathy, but I would dedicate tons of effort into agents who wanted to learn and succeed. I wasn’t a motivator, per se. If making a six figure income wasn’t enough motivation for you – I was happy to send your license back to the Real Estate board. Luckily, my friend and company owner was a fantastic motivator and we made a good team. Knowing this information helped us create a brokerage culture where the agents clearly knew who to go to when they needed a “swift kick” or a “new technique”.

Often in these classes, I hear a lot of resistance to change. I don’t think that resistance is cultural, as much as a lack of time. Therefore we encourage agents to have people in their offices that are particularly good at new techniques and use them to supplement where the broker maybe lacking.

Recently I had a Broker, in a class, ask why I thought Blogging was imporant. She commented that failed to see attorneys, OBGYN, or other professionals blogging about their practices.  Uh, really!?!?  would you WANT to read about an OBGYN’s practices!?!  As for doctors and attorneys in general – we have to stop comparing our industry to others.  It’s just different.  A Broker who tries to run their company like a Doctor’s office is going to fail.  But this is one more sign to support my observation.  Brokers need to know the world of Real Estate and how it works.

Not all agents are cut out to be 2.0 agents or 1.0 agents.  However they should all strive be 1.5 agents. That means the Brokers need to know enough of what has failed or succeeded in the past, as well as a healthy dose of  vision, for what will be our future.

Greener Grass

I made a mistake about three years ago, that I see a number of agents making today.  They are switching companies from what is comfortable in the hopes that something new will make them a millionaire.  I left a good company, where the owner had become a great friend to try and be more trendy and it did not go well with me.  The new broker was great, but the culture of the office did not make a good fit.  The freedom I had in the previous company was gone and a Lemming, I am not.  It put my career a full year behind where I should have been and cost me a lot of money.

Too many agents are not really doing a good assessment of where they are where they are going.  Several are leaving good solid companies for those who have crummy brokers buy great profit sharing benefits or leaving a good profit sharing company for more “independence” only to find that they are failing at the new company, as well.  Only now their failures are for different reasons.

Agents and Brokers need to find their harmony.  Agents should put their ear to the ground and listen about reputations of the Broker and the ability the have to mesh with this person.  If the Broker is unbalanced, controls too much or cares too little, the agents will reflect that just as children reflect poor parenting.

Brokers – grow a backbone!  I want to challenge the Brokers to get rid of agents who you know are costing you reputation, time, energy and potential risk; but at the same time don’t neglect the opportunity to take a “bad” agent and see if you can turn them around.  Balance and wisdom is key!  The time of being afraid of the “top producing agent” is over.  Many brokers have found that getting rid of the weeds, have allowed other agents to blossom.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Bob

    September 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Brokers – grow a backbone! I want to challenge the Brokers to get rid of agents who you know are costing you reputation, time, energy and potential risk; but at the same time don’t neglect the opportunity to take a “bad” agent and see if you can turn them around. Balance and wisdom is key! The time of being afraid of the “top producing agent” is over. Many brokers have found that getting rid of the weeds, have allowed other agents to blossom.

    it’s all about risk to reward for most of these brokers.

    On July 1, 2008 Virginia required all agents, with Broker’s licenses, to take an additional 8 hours of continuing education directed toward Brokerage Management. The whining across the state was endless – as if being required to be more educated, than those agents you manage, were a punishment.

    If these brokers fully appreciated the fact that law firms are gearing up to take a whack at brokers over the next few years, maybe they would get the correlation between managing agents and reducing risks.

  2. Bob

    September 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Oh how I wish there was a preview or edit feature for the typing impaired.

  3. Glenn in Naples

    September 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Matthew – an observation about brokers. There are brokers which are highly successful salespersons and become brokers and open their own office(s). The other brokers could be highly successful salespersons and have really great BUSINESS and MANAGEMENT SKILLS.

    Do you think that maybe some thought should be given to the idea of brokers doing a self assessment as to where their true skills lie?

    Also, can’t there individuals that say “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” or “let’s build a better mousetrap.”

  4. Poppy Dinsey

    September 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Great post Matt, it’s amazing how bad (in any industry) managers can be. And how tolerant managers can be of bad staff too! I can’t stand people that reach management level and then think they can kick back and let their minions run around for them, managers should be working their butts off and nurturing their staff.

    But setting aside the good points you make….was I the inspiration for your Supernanny theme? 😉

  5. Matt Wilkins

    September 4, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I think part of this post can be related back to Teresa Boardman’s post. Yes it is the Broker’s job to create an atmosphere where agents can flourish but it is also in the agent’s best interest to choose a brokerage environment best suited to his or her business style and goals.

    For over 4 years I worked for (and paid dues to) a brokerage where I felt downright disappointed in the services/support offerred. I never swtiched because none of the other firms in town offered a much idfferent value proposition. When I formally resigned my Broker was not at all upset or phased. He wished me luck and gave me a thank you for being one of the best agents to deal with. My reasons for leaving were known but both of us knew they would not be addressed at that firm anytime soon.

    I have since obtained my broker license and after some trial and error am now in a place that suits my personal style and will allow me to position myself in the current and future market.

  6. Matt Thomson

    September 4, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I guess I’ve been fortunate to have worked in two great offices with 2 great brokers. I’ve never experienced all the negatives so many seem to have against brokers.
    Same with my lender…I hear so much bad mouthing of lenders from real estate agents, and I’ve seen transactions go bad from the outside, but I’ve never once had my lender drop the ball.
    Knowing that there are good ones out there, it makes me wonder how bad ones stay in business. Seems like it shouldn’t be that hard for us all to find the good ones.

  7. Matthew Rathbun

    September 4, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    @LaniAR – As always… thanks for fixing me!

    Bob – don’t worry, I am always regretting my typing when commenting… Yes, the ever presence threat of legal action should be an eye opener. However, too many brokers don’t see it as a reality until it happens.

    Glenn – I’m with ya! I honestly don’t think that the skills that make you a good agent always translate to making you a great broker. The mentality of servant leadership that is needed for a broker is much different than working for yourself.

    Poppy – I am sure at some point you’ll be my inspiration for a post, but sadly no. I started this a few days ago and as I was picking it back up I had just watched http://www.thesnarkygirls.blogspot.com and put it all together 🙂

    Matt W – Unfortunately Brokers have just accepted lack of loyalty as part of business. Like I said, I regretted leaving where I was. I had no idea how good I had it, till I left. If I weren’t working in education and went back to listing / selling; I’d be ME.inc I don’t want to work for anyone else and really don’t want others working for me…

    Matt T – Having the right team (i.e. attorney, broker, lender) is a great find! Glad that you’ve had good role models. Hopefully, you’ll take good notes and emulate those folks when you open your own shop, some day.

  8. Brad Nix

    September 5, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Matt R:

    I think the best point you made was, “Agents and Brokers need to find their harmony.” There is no ONE answer for brokers and agents. Every brokerage is different, even under the same branding. People are unique and their management styles and sales techniques will all have idiosyncracies that can make or break a brokerage firm. Finding the right combination of leadership, resources, culture, personalities, and value is a tough task for agents, but one worth doing right!

  9. Jennifer Broadley

    October 3, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Agents should put their ear to the ground and listen about reputations of the Broker and the ability the have to mesh with this person.

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Business Marketing

PHD job seekers shouldn’t scare employers, they should be welcomed

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It’s time to change the narrative for PhD candidates on the job market. They have been through so much and can contribute just as much to your company

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Employers have historically been skeptical of hiring PhD graduates for jobs, but it’s time for that to change. It seems counterintuitive, but many employers are scared of candidates who bring such a high level of education to the table. They worry that PhD graduates will ask for too much money, get bored with the work, or not be able to perform in a non-academic setting.

PhD graduates may come from an academic background, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable asset to your business. As for them asking for too much money, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but academics are not exactly swimming in pools of gold. People don’t go into academics because they want to get rich quick – or at all. By earning their degree, PhD graduates have proven that they possess dedication and grit to persevere in an environment that requires resourcefulness and strong problem-solving abilities.

Another common fear employers have about PhD graduates is whether or not the work will be interesting enough to keep them around long-term. The reality is this is something you should be concerned about for all of your potential new hires not just graduates. Keeping your employees engaged in the work can be one of the most challenging parts of running a business. PhD candidates want the same things as everyone else. Indeed recently talked to an expert on the subject, Vay Cao, the founder of Free the PhD, a company dedicated to helping postgrads find their place in the workforce. She says, “What PhD candidates are looking for is that opportunity to prove themselves [and] learn some new things.”

PhD graduates have long suffered from these misconceptions, but modern business owners have the opportunity to change the narrative. By ignoring graduates, you miss out on the wealth of opportunities their experiences offer your business. PhD graduates are often innovators in their fields with excellent presentation and inter-personal skills. These candidates can bring unique skill sets and experiences to your business that may give you that extra edge on the market.

At the end of the day, your priority as a business owner will be to do what’s best for your business. Hiring and interviewing candidates from a wide range of backgrounds will always be to your benefit. Take advantage of these unique and highly educated candidates. They are an asset you can’t afford to ignore anymore.

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Business Marketing

Remote company Zima says that remote jobs are the way of the future

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Remote working has been increasing over the years, even with it’s success there are worries about if it is sustainable. One company says absolutely

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It’s no secret that remote working has increased across all industries over the last few years. It seems we’ve – somewhat – moved past the misconceptions of remote workers just being people who “work” from their couch while in their pajamas watching Netflix.

However, there is still some raised eyebrows about the concept of remote working. Chief Growth Officer and co-founder of Zima Media, Michael Zima, has run across some of this skepticism, as his marketing company is run 100 percent remotely.

“When you say that you are “remote,” there is an automatic backlash that you are just “outsourcing” with a ribbon on top,” said Zima. “I don’t know when being a “digital nomad” became more prestigious than working from home as a remote worker.”

According to a recent report by Fiverr, about seven percent of the workforce in the United States would be considered freelance, with the cities most active in the freelance game being New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This number, Zima thinks, is likely higher due to the fact that you technically only need to be connected to the Internet outside of the office to be considered working remotely.

When combatting the non-believers in remote working, Zima uses a variety of methods. “The most significant point we stress to counteract it is we are doing work in an office setting at home or in a co-working space,” said Zima. “We are not surfing somewhere or taking selfies about how great we are in life. That is something reserved for a vacation, and I cannot connect play and work because I prefer to keep them separate.”

He also says that there are cost-savings galore when choosing to run a remote business. Not only are you saving on things like commuting, you’re also saving on overhead costs by not paying for an office space.

“The client received the cost-cutting benefits that are usually marked up by a business with a physical location, and this makes mutual business sense,” explained Zima. “This is the most disruptive development that is emerging from remote workers — counteracting this trend maps back to arranging deck furniture on the Titanic because the labor force goes remote in the coming years will continue to surge.”

Past the fact that his employees work remotely, Zima asserts that everything is business as usual in terms of operations. They have standard means of communication, such as email, a shared-communication platform, and Skype. In addition, how the leader works remotely sets the trend for his employees.

“The biggest drawback that crosses everyone’s mind at the beginning of being remote is job security. When you walk into an office and see dozens and even hundreds of smiling (I hope) people you know that you are a part of something more substantial,” said Zima.

“Connecting with a company is essential, and when you are on the other side of the laptop, it’s hard to fathom all of this working out. It’s a genuine threat even when you become established because the way we work is still foreign to remote workers. When we stop measuring remote workers by the traditional office worker standard, it will free up some of the bias a remote worker may have. It’s a trend that has no rulebook, no guide, and almost unlimited upside to be your boss and stay true to your identity.”

At the end of the day, Zima’s mantra which includes five points: be accountable, be a self-starter, improve communication, manage tasks better, and make time for work and life.

This has proved to be successful for Zima, who has been working with his business partner for over four years, and the two have yet to meet in-person.

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Business Marketing

Google tests new layouts for shopping results (good to know for your own website)

(MARKETING) Do grids or lists help conversions more? Google tested it out, and the answer is: It depends.

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Keen-eyed folks at GoodUI have noticed a slight change in Google shopping results. Google seems to be A/B testing a grid layout instead of a list. Theoretically, a grid would deliver more options in less screen space. It sacrifices a little bit of info along the way. But Google addresses that with an inline expanded view. You click a thumbnail, and Google expands the result, showing you a larger image, along with more product details.

It’s more or less what Google Images already does. You can browse thumbnails, click one for more info, and click through if you want to visit the site that their image came from.

Right now, the grid view isn’t available for every search. Odds are that they’re A/B testing for every result, and then defaulting to whichever one leads to more sales.

Of course, there’s a lesson here for anyone who sells products online. The way that you present information on the Internet can make a huge difference. If a company like Google thinks that it’s worth devoting the time and resources to test this across who knows how many thousands of searches, you probably ought to play with your own store layout a little bit to see what it does to sales.

Google’s constantly making tweaks in an attempt to make their user experience smoother. Their business hinges on a handful of factors, and the biggest one is trust. That means trustworthiness in data security (After all, they literally track you everywhere, through Google Maps, even sending you a monthly summary of where you’ve been.) It also means delivering what you need (and what advertisers want you to see) as efficiently possible.

Of course, not all of those changes are visible. Google is constantly updating the algorithms that serve you information, both globally and for searches with local intent. But if you’re not doing SEO work, odds are that doesn’t affect you as much. (Or if it does, there’s not a lot you can do about it without hiring SEO experts.)

At the time of this writing, you can see the new view for yourself by searching Shopping results for “flowers.” But what’s the takeaway for you?

If your business’ products have a big visual or aesthetic focus, a grid layout may work better.

If your product differentiators are mostly technical details, a list layout can help people make those comparisons a little more easily.

The point is that there are always little things that you can tweak to make your website more efficient – even Google continues to tweak!

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