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Opinion Editorials

Brokerages of today don’t truly motivate or breed loyalty – why?



Tradition versus reality

For the past several years, the rise in the boutique brokerage has rapidly increased, putting traditional big name brokers at a disadvantage. In some states (like here in Texas), all it takes to be a broker is two years being licensed, as well as a few extra tests and dollars. Given modern technology, brokerages are no longer reliant exclusively upon expensive television and print campaigns, so operation costs are lower making it more realistic for a typical agent to open up shop. Reliance on the big broker has also seemingly declined as the web has given rise to a certain brand of “groupthink” if you will that leans toward individuality and disruption.

Mix all of these ingredients together and whether it’s good for the industry (or agents for that matter) or not, it is the new reality- the flexible, fast moving, adaptable boutique brokerages.

How big brokers are reacting

I would argue that despite rapid fire growth of boutique brokerages setting up shop across the nation, many big brokers are doing quite will with recruiting and retention. The agent-centric brokerages, despite their size, most closely match the mentality of the modern boutiques, and they offer agents a sense of security that boutique brokerages haven’t mastered yet.

The stale brokerages of the past are losing agents left and right because they can’t wrap their mind around how to motivate agents to produce and stay loyal. It’s not about offering kumbaya retreats or sexy offices, and it isn’t unique to the real estate industry. The human mind takes very little to produce high quality work and loyalty to an employer, and it’s not money or plush high rise offices.

Take ten minutes to watch the incredibly well produced video to see what I mean:

Can old school brokerages survive this storm?

Traditional brokerages that insist on motivating agents with camaraderie like saying the pledge of allegiance at dressy events or rewarding agents with silver pins, desk trophies and gift certificates will not survive. Traditional brokerages and boutique brokerages that insist on innovating by using the power of their agents’ minds will thrive. Those who value their agents and allow them autonomy, mastery and purpose (as the video above outlines) will not only thrive but will dominate.

There are new brokerages that consider themselves progressive and when you ask them what makes them innovative or how they motivate their agents, and the answers are almost canned and sound exactly like the early days of the big brokers, “better splits,” “better education,” “better profit sharing,” “better technology” and the like are what boutique brokers claim their advantages are, but none of these things empower their agents by giving them (let’s say it all together now) mastery, autonomy or purpose.

Mastery, autonomy and purpose

Which brokerages opt for brainstorming sessions with the entire staff from the receptionist to the broker? Can you name a brokerage that behaves more like an open source society and less like a dog and pony show or a black tie banquet? Is there a brokerage that gives true ownership of the brand to the agents?

At this point, most people have already skimmed this article and will comment something about why they’re loyal to their broker and will miss the point completely (and I’ll act oh so surprised as I comment in return noting that “with all due respect, I think the article should be read in full as the point was missed”). And, at this point, most brokers are not reading, they’re simply formulating their response in comments that will read much like their website’s about page. They’ll say that they’re progressive or superior in every way and that their way of doing things is already motivational and their agents are loyal. I know thousands of agents across the nation and I guarantee you that no agent feels empowered with autonomy, mastery or purpose unless they do it themselves for themselves, but I postulate that the brokerage that finds the balance between these three (as outlined in the video) will be the dominant brokerage for decades to come, despite the model, split or technology preference.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Eric Hempler

    June 15, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I thought this was really interesting. I think to some degree I’m doing this by accident. I have a routine I follow Monday – Thursday and Friday I pretty much do what I want. Saturday and Sunday I might also work on something otherwise I go do something unrelated to work.

    I have never gotten anything out of motivational speeches. It’s basically the same thing said over and over. I’m someone that is motivated by how to do something. If I’m taught a system that produces certain results I’ll run with it. However, if I read someone that goes on and on or listen to a speaker going on and on trying to motivate me I just get tired. I need an actual task of some kind that I will do to be motivated.

    As for loyalty…I would say I’m still loyal even if I move on to something, but it’s more along the lines of I have respect for that person or business.

  2. Jeffrey Douglass

    June 15, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Lani, Thank you for the post, I saw this video several weeks ago and skipped it. Tonight after reading your post I took the time to watch it and re-read you post. I think there is a powerful message here about human behavior and why many brokerages are in big trouble.

    Purpose, mastery, and autonomy, what wonderful words!

  3. Joe Loomer

    June 15, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Wow Lani. You’ve outdone yourself on this one. The video is also quite powerful. We did a major community service event on the 13th of May, with well over 70% of our agents participating. I couldn’t put my finger on why the office seemed to leap forward over the last month with new energy – everyone hugging and motivated and SWITCHED ON. It’s as you say – they did something FOR FREE, that had PURPOSE!

    Furthering your argument is NAR studies that show that clients don’t give a toss about your brand – they care about the agent (those who seek Mastery).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  4. Cindy Marchan

    June 15, 2010 at 7:19 am

    It is interesting to see what many have “thought” actually put into words. As it applies to real estate, I think my brokerage does get it, for the most part. The autonomy is probably with most brokerage company’s…it is probably why we are real estate agents. The mastery is definitely with mine, education is at their core. Purpose is also important to them; although improvement is probably needed.
    What I like most about your video is that it explains my husband! He is a programmer and he never cares about the money and now I get it!

  5. Ken Brand

    June 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I wonder how many beliefs about human behavior we (I) have completely backwards, as illustrated in this video.

    The thing is, in the wide world of motivations for becoming an agent, there are massive numbers of people who are simply hoping to make a few extra dollars, the approach is sorta like selling those big Pirate Flags and Tiger Rugs on the side of the road on weekends. Big lazy brokers have the perfect system, provide nothing, charge a small fee and everyone’s happy. The market for that is huge and likely to be around for a while.

    Like you’re sharing, and anyone who cares to think about what they see every day, the disconnect/fail springs up when the broker doesn’t offer anything of value and way over charges for it.

    Remember, the average age is 54, there are still 100s of thousands of people who want their private office, plaques, awards, etc. This won’t change dramatically until theres a natural generation sea change. Right now, it’s primarily Baby Boomer tradition. I wonder what the average age of these new independent/boutique brokers is? Or if this small/boutique has nothing to do with physical age, maybe it’s the young at heart & mind + friction free technology?

    Personally, I don’t think it matters if your’re a big broker or a boutique, to me a more accurate label would be does the broker, big or tiny have talent/innovation/leadership/dedication, if you have that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a big broker or a boutique, you’ll attract like minded people and succeed. If you’re lame, doesn’t matter if you’re a boutique or a big broker, you’re gonna struggle and flail.

    In any event, I am constantly reminded that more challenging the environment, the more important it is to reinvent, improve and press forward. And, we have to keep an open mind, most everything we believe is at most only half true, and the other half won’t be true in 6 months.


  6. BawldGuy

    June 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    This is insanely rich post material. Lani, you’ve addressed some foundational issues, two of which, paradoxically, are falsely based. Not by you, but by those in the ‘industry’ who wanna make listing/selling homes akin to puttin’ a man on the moon.

    I know there will be more than one sequel to this post — I’m very interested in what more you’ll have to say. My view? Most are lookin’ at ALL these issues from the wrong end of the telescope.

    Maybe your most helpful post of the year so far.

  7. alicefromdallas

    June 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I have been with my company for about 7 years. I’ve been in the business for about 25. I only wish I had started with my company sooner.

    What keeps me here is not the fact that it is a big company (it is). It’s not that we have a big marketshare (we do). It’s because at the heart of my company, at its very core, is a concern about it’s agents as individuals. Now keep in mind that in our area we have approximately 1,557 agents, in about five market centers. I don’t feel like I get lost in a large organization because I chose to get involved and plug in to all that it has to offer.

    I’ve seen the concern about our community, the larger one being Austin, or the smaller one being our agents, who have health issues or other catastrophies and need a little help. That does more to make me proud to be associated with our company than any profit sharing could ever do. Allthough I do profit share and try to share our culture with others.

    Our written volume is up 18% YTD compared to 2009 (almost a Billion dollars – that’s with a “B”). Our closed units are up 25% compared to 2009. Our closed volume is up 26% this year. So, I think we’ve got it figured out how to be successful. Now we just have to share it with others.

    I guess my feeling is that whether you’re in a large company or a small, boutique brokerage, plug in and be proud of where you are–or move on.

  8. Stephanie Crawford

    June 16, 2010 at 2:10 am

    I recently made a switch in brokerages from boutique to boutique. Technology was the driving factor for me. Learning about new technologies is one of the main things that brings me to the blogosphere night after night. I enter each evening hopeful that I will crank up my Google RSS and find some new (cool, free or cheap) solution to help me streamline my business.

  9. Russell Shaw

    June 16, 2010 at 3:54 am

    Genius post, Lani – one of the very best I’ve seen all year. Loved the video!

  10. Brandie Young

    June 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Winner, winner chicken dinner! Lani, this post ROCKS!!! The beauty being it translates to any company/industry. Thanks!

  11. Mark Jacobs

    June 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Great post on this one!

  12. Joe

    June 16, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Old school brokerages are dinosaurs. Simply search ‘kennewick wa homes’ and see who comes up #1 or #2 over brokerages with 200 agents.

  13. Fitchburg real estate

    June 18, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Fabulous article, Lani! And in case anyone thinks only Gen X & Y’ers are going solo these days, guess again. I went solo at age 46 (I’ll be 48 this summer) and several “old-timers” in my market also recently became independent brokers. For me it was clear that, with their expensive overhead and rudimentary understanding of technology, big box brokers (at least in my area) couldn’t begin to offer me a reasonable return on my investment.

  14. Matthew Rathbun

    June 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    This is the type of post that got me excited about reading real estate blogs in the first place… I wish we could all do more of this.

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.



strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.



Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

The one easy job interview question that often trips up applicants

(EDITORIAL) The easiest interview questions can be the hardest to answer, don’t let this one trip you up – come prepared!



Women sitting nervously representing waiting for a remote job interview.

A job interview is tough, and preparing for them can seem impossible. There are some questions you can expect: what is your experience in this position? How would you handle this situation? And so on.

But what about this question: what makes you happy? Though it may seem straightforward, getting to the right answer is not such an easy path.

Work engagement

According to research, less and less employees feel like they are truly engaged at work. Some blame the work environment but truth be told, it is not a company’s responsibility to make you happy.

Without a passion for what you are doing, you will never enjoy the job.

It is the best case for everyone. More engaged workers are more productive in addition to feeling like they serve a purpose.

Do your due diligence

So before finding yourself in an interview where you have to take an awkward pause before answering this question, the best thing is to do some research. It all starts with the job search.

When looking for a job it is easy to get caught up in high profile company names and perks.

For instance, although “Social Media Coordinator” may not be your thing, the position is open at the cool advertising agency downtown. Or perhaps the company offers flexible hours and free lunch Fridays. The problem is that these perks aren’t worth it in the long run. Working for a cool company can be exciting at first, but it is not sustainable without passion for the position.

It’s important to pay attention to is the position you are applying for.

Is this work that you are passionate about? Take a look at the job responsibilities and functions. Besides figuring out if those are things that you can do, ask yourself if they are things that you want to do. Is this an opportunity that will match your strengths and give you purpose?

Let your passion protrude

With all things considered, when asked “what makes you happy” at the next interview, you will be able to answer honestly. Your passion will be apparent without having to put on an act.

Even if they don’t ask that question, there is no downside to knowing what makes you happy.

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