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What Are Managing Brokers Actually Managing?

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A New Manager

Today’s my first day as the new Managing Broker of one of our brokerage offices. For 6 years, I’ve been a real estate agent. A year ago, I got my broker’s license. Since New Year’s, I’ve been “training” to be a Managing Broker. It’s exciting — I’m excited. It’s the beginning of a new journey in real estate.

Most of our Managing Brokers continue to sell real estate. I will do the same. However, with rank comes responsibility — instead of just dealing with problems that arise in my own transactions, I’ll be dealing with everyone else’s too. In a busy office of 40 agents, this will no doubt keep me very busy.

What Do Managers Manage?

Real estate sales is different than just about every other industry. Agents are all independent contractors — whether they act like it or not, they all are running their own businesses — Me, Inc. Thus, apart from making sure that agents do not run afoul of the law or the REALTOR Code of Ethics, or various company policies, there is very little control that a Managing Broker actually has over the agents in his or her office.

So what do we manage?

  • Reputation — an agent’s and a company’s reputation are the most important assets in real estate. Mess up and forever tarnish your image in the eyes of the public. One agent screws up and it can (rightly or wrongly) diminish the reputation of the entire office forever.
  • Motivation — a managing broker’s job entails keeping the agents in their office motivated. Whether the market is good, bad, or otherwise, it’s the manager’s job to keep the agents focused on their goals. Agents who don’t have their goals in writing should meet with their managing broker to discuss this. A Managing Broker must be a cheerleader for the office and their agents.
  • Education — one of the largest roles any broker can fulfill is to educate the agents in the office about the newest developments in the market, the laws, the policies of the MLS, etc. Moreover, making sure that brand new agents are up to speed about the ins and outs of real estate is crucial to the success of the office. This is why we have a mentoring program in place.
  • Ethics / Law — more than anything else, a broker is responsible (and liable) for ensuring that agents do not do anything unethical or illegal. I’m fairly certain that my background as an attorney and having practiced real estate law helped in my selection to be a managing broker.

Unlike traditional managers in the corporate world, managing brokers do not tell their agents what to do. We may advise on how to do it. We’re there to answer questions and help an agent discover a solution.

Perhaps I need a Couch in my Office

In training to become a Managing Broker, my “mentor” explained that the most important attribute of a manager is the ability to listen. Listen to what an agent says — listen intently. And then ask a question — “Is that it? Is there anything else you want to tell me,” wait and listen some more. According to him, agents rarely, if ever, tell the full story. You need to listen, listen, listen and listen some more.

We all repeat the maxim that “Buyers are liars. And sellers are too.” Now, before I go accusing any agents of this character trait during my first day on the job, let me just say, that I’ll wait and listen. Hmmm… How does that make you feel?

Some New Things to Focus Upon

As an agent, my focus has always been on how to get more prospects, how to sell more homes, how to help my clients and how to solve their problems. Since I’m still selling, these priorities will still remain.

However, there will be some new things to focus my energies as a manager. Yet the same skill sets will be applied. As a broker, the priority shifts to recruiting new agents for the office, helping agents focus on and exceed their goals, making sure that the office is profitable, and maintaining an esprit du corps within the office.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure.

Any advice from those who have been down this road is appreciated.

Brian Block practiced law until he heard every single attorney joke and decided becoming a real estate broker was a more fun way to earn a living. Proud of the plaques and diplomas adorning his office wall, he's even more proud of his marriage to a beautiful and talented ballroom dance teacher and fellow entrepreneur. Every day, you can find Brian, doing what he does best – advising Northern Virginia home buyers and sellers. If you want, you can follow him on Twitter @blockrealestate.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Matt Stigliano

    March 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Brian – While managing perhaps you should work to strike this from the real estate lexicon:

    “Buyers are liars. And sellers are too.”

    Is it any wonder our reputation is less than stellar when these sorts of things were passed around offices for years? I actually heard this at licensing school. Whether its an old phrase or not, it needs to go away. We change language to adapt and this is one phrase that I will fight to my death to get rid of.

    For the record – its not a maxim for me, its just plain disgusting that we would say that, then turn and smile at our clients and tell them we’ll take good care of them.

    (Other than that, I enjoyed the article and if I can pass on anything I’ve learned from my broker and the way he deals with us, it would be to learn how to motivate each individual separately. What works for one agent, might not work for the next.)

  2. Missy Caulk

    March 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I managed for a year and hated it. I had a sign on my door, “do not disturb” because as you know RE/MAX Brokers sell too.

    No one listened everyone thought they were the exeception.

    Yes my advice get a couch.

  3. Brian Block

    March 24, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Matt, I agree. While I wrote that “we all repeat the maxim,” it’s not a phrase that I’ve ever used or ever believed — just a trite one that I’ve heard over and over from others.

    Missy, I’m sorry that you didn’t enjoy your experience with managing. I doubt I’ll ever have a “do not disturb” sign on my door however.

  4. Cindy Jones

    March 24, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Brian congratulations on your new role. I’m curious on your opinion of being both a manager and a “competitor” with the agents in your office. Do you anticipate any issues with agents who may consider it a conflict of interest?

  5. Brian Block

    March 24, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Cindy,

    I don’t see myself as truly in competition with the other agents in the office. Most of my business comes through the internet, referrals from current and past clients, and sphere of influence, I don’t anticipate crossing paths with many of the agents. Everyone has their own ways of marketing and I don’t plan on sending postcards to anyone else’s farm. Besides, there’s enough business to go around for everyone.

  6. Matt Stigliano

    March 24, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Brian – Good to see you agree. I was a bit concerned as when I read it, it sounded as if you were saying the phrase yourself. Perception of the written word is a difficult thing sometimes.

    The good thing is that you’ve inspired me for a post, so I can’t complain there.

    PS I had a feeling that an AG writer wouldn’t have this feeling towards their buyers – Lani and Benn are too good at picking people to allow that to happen.

  7. Dee

    March 24, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I was in the same position for a short time, did the non-compete deal but missed selling!
    I’m BIC of my current company in my MLS area but it’s set up differently than other companies so my selling doesn’t conflict with the agents that I bring on. Heck, half of them are in other markets!
    Much success with your new position, I’m sure you will be a great asset!

  8. Bill Lublin

    March 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Brian- Best wishes on your new position- I agree that you can manage and produce without competing. Even ass the CEO of my company I am still productive as a listing agent, and have been for my entire career. There is not one of those listings that would have gone to my company if I were not here, so that doesn’t strike me as competition either.

  9. BawldGuy

    March 25, 2009 at 10:41 am

    The cliché about buyers/sellers reminds me of the first time I heard the expression, back in 1969. I too questioned the validity of the old saying. An old salt told me to ponder how clichés become clichés.

  10. Danilo Bogdanovic

    March 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I wish you luck in your new position. You have more patience than I do, that’s for sure.

  11. Brendan from San Mateo

    March 25, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Forgive me if I’m wrong here. But, aren’t one of managers main objectives to be as profitable as possible too? Are you guys running only on desk fees or are their commission splits?

    All the things you manage are very important but without money, companies can’t survive.

  12. FSBO ads

    March 27, 2009 at 2:47 am

    i’m curious on your opinion of being both a manager and a “competitor” with the agents in your office.

  13. Cleve Gaddis

    March 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

    A comment on “Buyers are Liars and Sellers are too.”

    When I first got into real estate I didn’t have any idea what people meant when they said “Buyers are Liars.” I felt sure that buyers and sellers were not lying to real estate agents intentionally. Over the last seven years I realized just what the phrase meant. Both Buyers and Sellers make decisions based upon the informaiton they have up to the point of decision. This information changes nearly every day during the buying and selling process, so it only makes sense that the decisions they make change along with this added informaiton. Example – the last two houses I purchased (Chicago and Atlanta) were absolutely, positively going to have a three-car garage. Want to know how many houses with three-car garages I’ve ever owned? NONE. Now you could say it’s a case of “Buyers are Liars” (because I did send my poor agent looking all over town for houses with three-car garages) or it could be that I just changed my mind during the buying process based upon what I had learned(a house with a three-car garage wasn’t in my budget). Just a thought – for what it’s worth.

  14. Judy Fithian

    April 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    What kind of compensation structure is fair for a managing broker who also sells and lists?

  15. Matt Wolff

    April 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I’m trying to find out information about Managing Broker compensation. I’ve been offered to be a managing broker of a small firm – 4 other agents. I see the question asked here, but no responses are visible. Does anyone have any thoughts they can share?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  16. Darius Bailey

    October 16, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Brian, congratulations on the new position. I’m a REALTOR® licensed in Georgia and Florida. I’m planning to open a brokerage in mid-2018 and am looking forward to it. I’m very aware that there will be challenges but when I consider the only alternative, which is branding another company and sharing $$$, my own brokerage makes more sense to me.

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Opinion Editorials

Online dating is evolving and maybe networking will too

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has the online dating industry been disrupted during the pandemic? And can we apply a few pointers from this evolved model to networking?

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Woman networking through Zoom video call with two other women.

We are often reminded that hindsight is 20/20 – a proverb that means “it is easy to understand something after it has already happened”, and how ironic that is since we are in the year 2020 and not sure we can fully comprehend all we are learning and what hindsight this will bring.

Reflecting back to six months ago, there were many of us that didn’t have much of a clue about what the rest of 2020 would look like and how we would have to adjust to a more virtual world. We’ve updated our ways of working, connecting with colleagues, socializing with friends, networking with those in our industry, or looking for a new job.

Microsoft suggested that we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in about five months. For example: MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet have become the new way to host networking sessions, work meetings, and “chats” with colleagues; Tele-med appointments became the norm for routine or non-911 emergency doctor appointments; curbside pickup at grocery stores and food to-go orders via online ordering became the new normal (they existed before but saw tremendous growth in number of users).

We also had to learn how to create engaging and interactive ways to connect solely through a screen. We are already Zoom fatigued and wondering how online meetings have zapped our energy so differently than in person. It turns out, looking at ourselves and trying to talk to a group is a lot for our brains to process.

The Atlantic shares a great article about why the Zoom social life might feel so draining, saying that “Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey”. No offense to vegetarians, of course.

You could argue though, that we’ve all been interacting via screens for years with the dominance of social media channels – whether it was posting our thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter, or sharing photos and videos of our artisanal sandwiches/cute kid/pet pictures on Facebook. But this seems different. Times are different and we will not be going back soon.

In this interim, many people are trying to make the best of the situation and are figuring out ways to connect. We will always need human connection (and without the germs, even better).

What about our single friends? If they don’t have anyone in the house to already drive them crazy, then where can they go to meet new people and/or possibly love interests?

While many experts are trying to predict the outcomes of this global shift, it may be hard to know what will change permanently. We know many industries are experiencing major disruptions – online dating apps being one of them.

According to Digital Trends, Tinder still ranks as one of the top dating apps. However, now that people are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, there’s a new app taking over as a way to “meet” someone a little faster, while also allowing you to stay behind the screen, sans mask.

Slide is a video dating app that changes your first-date frustrations into real connections and instant chemistry. Explore video profiles, go on first dates via Video Calls at your fingertips, and find that chemistry before dating IRL.”

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video.

Slide recognized the massive success of short-form video platforms like TikTok, and have translated it to dating. They focus on features like:

  • “Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching with someone to see if there’s chemistry. This will save you from long or misinterpreted text conversations and money you may have spent on that first date.
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles so you can pass if they aren’t really who they say they are.
  • AI-assisted creation of “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches and spare you extra swipes. If Netflix can find similar suggestions…

As of August 2020, the Department of Labor and Statistics estimates about 13.6 million people are currently unemployed and searching for a new j-o-b. Is it possible that some of these newer ways of connecting online could be included in how we network for a new job/career opportunity?

For example, instead of sending a connection or networking request on LinkedIn, what if we could send a quick video about our story, or what we’d love to learn from that person, or how we’d like to connect?

Would that create a faster, better, possibly more genuine connection?

This would seem worth exploring as many job connections are created by in-person networking or reaching real people vs. solely online applications, behind a screen. Some other formats that have seen increased use are Marco Polo for video chats (you don’t have to both be available at the same time) and FaceTime group calls.

It might be worth exploring how short-form video platforms could assist job seekers in networking, outreach, and connecting with others. These are just some ideas as we continue to watch this digital transformation unfold.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.

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Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.

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Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’ – “Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’. I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example: You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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