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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

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.



Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.



New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.


I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

JavaScript is not available.

This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

JavaScript is not available.

I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.




It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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