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What do Agents Really Want?

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Real Estate Recruiting

I can’t speak for all real estate agents but I suspect that this post will speak for a few of us. As some agents are leaving the business and some of our local real estate companies are shrinking a bit they have stepped up their recruiting efforts. We all know that real estate companies do not sell real estate, we do that. Costumers don’t really get it but that is a subject for another post . . I think I have written it too.

For some reason a bar-b-que in the parking lot, or a happy hour with a bunch of fun people isn’t a selling point for me when it comes to choosing a real estate company. Free training may have some pull but only if it is they type of training that I feel I need to grow my business. Much of the training these days is around products or services that don’t fit into my business plan. I am exposed to excellent training opportunities through the local boards, the state board and the internet. I get some of my training and new ideas by reading books about marketing and technology. I can always learn more but can not learn everything so I need to be strategic.

I’m Underwhelmed

Big opulent offices don’t impress me. I have everything I need in my home office. I am not working in the basement by the furnace or in a spare bedroom. I have a great office, it is large, well lit and has it’s own entrance off of a back porch, state of the art equipment, and even an attached bath. Occasionally I need a lot of copies or flyers and there is a copy shop close by that will deliver if I want to send the stuff electronically. When I walk into the store they know my name, usually make the copies for me so that I don’t screw up their equipment and only charge 3 cents a copy. I can make copies at home but for large runs the copy shop is more cost effective, and is much closer to where I live and work than my real estate office.

Sometimes I have a need for a conference room or a place to meet clients. I use local coffee shops for meetings with new buyers. The shops never charge my buyers for anything and have internet access. I also write offers in those same coffee shops and my buyers have told me that they like it. If I need a conference room to accommodate more people there is a room in a restaurant a block away from my home that I can reserve for such occasions. It has an unusual ambiance and people seem to enjoy being there.

I do like to socialize with colleagues and talk shop. I tend to gravitate toward certain agents in my market place that sell the same types of property that I sell. They work with several different real estate companies and I network with them, go to them for advice and give advice to them. We all help each other out even though our signs do not have the same logos on them.

Here in Minnesota I have read that fewer people are getting real estate sales licenses, but the number of brokers licenses continues to increase. I am seeing more one person real estate companies too. Most do a great job.

What I Really Want

As an agent I ask real estate companies what they have to offer me. There are a few things that I would like from a real estate company. The most important is being paid in a timely manner after a transaction closes. The second is having educational opportunities for people like me. What am I like? An independent web 2.0 agent. Occasional help with copy machines would be nice, and I guess I would love to work in an office where I can discuss business with my peers. Advice on some of my contracts would be welcome. I don’t have time for lectures from people who have never sold real estate but have read some books and are trainers or who crashed and burned as Realtors and ended up in management. I would also like to be treated like a small business owner. I have no desire to be part of a team, not my thing, been there done that.

It would also be nice to be affiliated with an office that could expose me to new ideas. I get most of those off of the internet but love the idea of a conversation or better yet a little brain storming. There is one local broker who is showing some leadership and starting profiles for his agents on various social networks and giving them some ideas about how to use various tools to grow their business. He is smart and creative and gives them ideas that they can take to the next level. More of a problem solver and idea generator kind of guy.

I’ll Pass on the “Fun Zone”

I have my own internet presence and do not have a need to be on one of those company sites that look like obituary pages. I don’t have any need to work in a “fun atmosphere” I like where I work now. Parking lot bar-b-ques, picnics, holiday parties and happy hours are OK but I can do all of those things with family and friends and I do. I have all the technology I need and getting inexpensive copies is not a problem. What do brokerages have to offer an agent like me? They never ask what we want they tell us what we need. They don’t listen, they talk and try to overcome our objections when we want to leave.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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72 Comments

72 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan

    June 20, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Teresa –

    I want autonomy, control over my brand and to not have my company’s name sullied by my fellow agents. The last is why I stay at a small office – I know them all.

    I’d love to have an office that embraced technology the way I want and that had the infrastructure to implement my ideas (I don’t have the time) – but I don’t see an office that fits that need, so I’ll keep plugging away in my own world.

  2. Mark Eibner

    June 20, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Teresa- a Killer post. All so very true for many of us. The Real Estate industry itself is moving form one of a purely socialized type of country to more free American Independents like yourself. Of course some people love being taken care of, coddled and of course pick nicks…but in general, many of the true professionals are seeking to leave their over taxed country (Real Estate Office) and strike out in the vast reaches of the Klondike to strike gold on their own terms. The richness of the internet and the abundance of tools make mining in this new era, quite rewarding. Of course, its nice to NOT have to pay the emperor either.

  3. Joe Boylan

    June 20, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Teresa,
    As a long time independent that has recently merged with a big national brand, I want to play “Devils Advocate” (just a little).

    When we were independent the phones were a non-stop distraction. If we would try to take a day off we always had to have the cell phone with us, just in case the 800 showing service dropped the ball…and they did, a lot.

    We always seemed to struggle staying up to date with the latest versions of contracts and contract software.

    Copiers, Color Printers, Phone Systems. Exchange Server etc…I knew it was time to throw in the towel the day I was on the phone with a network support issue and the tech asked if I was the IT guy. I responded, no I’m a Realtor.

    Since joining the franchise we have started working with 2 really good builder accounts, direct referrals from the company. Although our production, expertise and quality of service hasn’t really changed, these 2 builders felt like the company brought a lot to the table. In all honesty, I don’t feel like it has but that’s their perception.

    Reputation- We joined a company that has a stellar reputation, we do feel like that has given us a lil more street cred.

    Now having said all that, do I miss being a small independent? YES! I just feel like we have the ability to focus more on listing and selling homes and less on the mind numbing management issues.

  4. Jonathan Nicholas

    June 20, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Teresa –

    Excellent post and you’ve been very forthcoming in expressing not only what you want, but also how most brokers don’t get it. As a consultant to brokerage managers and as the National President for the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB), I’m amazed to see so many companies failing to realize that the agent is only listening to one station – WIIFM (What’s in it for me,) yet the recruiting broker will inevitably put on a dog and pony show, sell through the entire interview and effectively “throw-up” on a prospective agent. “We have this tool, this technology, this commission structure, this training,” never considering or stopping to ask the agent what they want or what is important to them.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so freely!

  5. Mark Eibner

    June 20, 2008 at 9:11 am

    @Joe- not all people are built to be self starters-gold miners…in fact many people will trade the freedom for the “Emperor” fee for the feeling of surety (look at the american population and the current election). It’s really all about ROI for the fees you pay. I know, as I run 6 offices and have 200 gold miners that I care for. There are in between companies…that handle exchange servers, iphone and smart phone integration and phones while also providing brand name and commission checks at the closing table.

  6. Kevin Sharkey - IBR Broker

    June 20, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Good Morning Teresa,
    The weenie photo reminds me that the Minnesota State Fair is just around the corner which means an already short summer is coming to an end. Maybe you could put it on a stick to make it even more realistic.

    I agree with your basic premise that large offices with bricks and mortar business models may not be what agents are looking for today. They are expensive for the brokerage to maintain and may not be necessary for independent agents like yourself.

    The other side of the argument is that agents still need to feel that they are part of a community and want to belong to something greater than just themselves. There is a need to connect with other and to share in the common experience.

    I have brokered a 300 agent virtual company since 1989 and have always struggled with this very issue. The brokerage systems are in place and our agents get paid the same day that they bring in their files, but keeping agents engaged has been an on-going concern.

    Recent advances in technology have made it easier to communicate with agents. I post a video blog twice a week and use Skype and Eyejot to get more face time with my agents, but it doesn’t replace good old person to person conversation.

    Creating and communication a company culture is a great way to retain happy agents. Agents still want to have a leader and to have access to their thoughts. Agents need to share ideas and to socialize on occasion. I agree with you that barbeques in the parking lot may not be the best way to accomplish these goals, but I still think there must be other productive ways to get agents and brokers together, especially in virtual companies.

    Any ideas?

  7. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Joe – I have a friend who helps when I am off. Our office does not offer that kind of support. I get the support on copy machines from the copy shop, and vendors that I buy technology products from offer top notch support. Not sure our office has that kind of support and even if they did I wouldn’t expet them to support everything I use and I wouldn’t want to be limited to what they support.

    Mark – you might be alright, you have gold miners that you care for. that is a step in the right direction.

  8. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Kevin you are one of the best if not the best around. I am the wrong person to ask about getting agents to socialize. I think feeling a connection to the company is important. maybe a social network like Ning could help. Monthly brown bag lunches can work really well for business and social.

  9. Matt Wilkins

    June 20, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I completely agree with you Teresa on both fronts.

    A “true” real estate professional needs to take the intiative at some point in their career and build a clear personal brand.

    Having written the business plan for s startup company, I know the attitude of the industry towards motivated tech-saavvy agents. I saved about half the normal operating costs by using technology and cuting non-essential programs many brokerages impliment. It was blown down due to the owner feeling that the use of technology would be a burden to agents and would hamper recruiting efforts.

  10. Kevin Sharkey - IBR Broker

    June 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Teresa,
    Is there an emoticon for blushing? I feel I should be using it after your kind words. Also, I love the idea of a monthly brown bag lunch. Great idea!

  11. Eric Blackwell

    June 20, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Teresa,

    As the “Tech guy” for an office of 120, let me say that you NAILED it. We are the only office in our town that does it the way we do. Why do i love coming to work in the morning? Because there are 120 different business plans waiting for me to help them succeed.

    As for socializing…about 20 agents in the office have blogs. (some have more than one). We get together for lunch once a week and talk shop and throw ideas around. It turns into a guerrilla marketing / Web 2.0 session. Highlight of my week.

    thanks again for a great read…you just recommitted me to doing it even more diligently.

    Eric

  12. Jim Rake

    June 20, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Teresa – Where’s the chili & onions? Not quite the sights of St. Paul that I’m used to seeing from you, but it sure is appetizing. You’re exactly right – what’s going to make me smarter, better & more productive? Independence? Of course, most of us haven’t gotten there yet, and depend on national name sponsorship and its “admin”/office support. Of course, Eric’s 2.0+ guerillas, and their synergy, might be the norm and not the exception in the not too distant future.

  13. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Eric – my office doesn’t work that way. It looks like you found a good thing. 🙂 I do have those kinds of sessions with other agents, sometimes in groups and sometimes over lunch, and sometimes on the internet.

    Kevin – read Eric’s comment.

  14. Ines

    June 20, 2008 at 1:31 pm

  15. Ines

    June 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t know where my comment went – but all I wrote was

    -SIGH-

  16. Paula Henry

    June 20, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Teresa – So much truth here! Like you, I have everything I need at home. I have been contemplating my course in the last few weeks. Do I go solo or look for another broker. Independence sounds good – I’m not sure I’m ready.

    I do like my franchise name, but they put way too much stock in “their” name with the fees. Or maybe it’s the fancy building, which doesn’t help me sell real estate.

    I spoke with a broker today – we’ll see where it leads.

    Heck, maybe I’ll go back to my birthplace and look up Eric – sounds like he has it!

  17. Matt Thomson

    June 20, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    The old phrase, “Whereever you go, there you are” rings in my head here. Not completely applicable to T’s original post, but fitting for the reasons why most agents change companies. I couldn’t be any happier with my company. Everything I want, and things I didn’t know I wanted when I got in but now know I do, are here.
    Yet, I know our company won’t be a good fit for all agents. When agents in our small town are looking to make a move, 99% of the time it’s because they’re not happy and feel that they deserve more. That may sound obvious, and it may sound like it should be 100%, but there’s a side I think many are missing.
    Our office doesn’t want agents who aren’t happy where they are. We want agents who are happy with their current company…and then realize that not only can we provide that but we can further their business and offer even more.
    An unhappy agent at company X is very likely an unhappy agent at company Y.

  18. BawldGuy Talking

    June 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Teresa — I’ve been waiting for a broker to open an office completely aimed at your kind of agent. It would be a hub for hi-tech, cutting edge marketing. It would also be a superb setting for the agents to leverage the obvious synergy which would be available in such a setting.

    The support for the agents would be in-house and awesome, both in person and online. Agents would be treated as both part of the ‘family’ and separate stand alone businesses.

    State of the art work stations would be part of the deal. A ‘Board’ meeting would be held monthly, but not the usual real estate office meeting. This would be to assess current status and suggest future additions and/or modifications in office support, technology, and marketing.

    A pipe dream, or a possibility?

  19. Benn Rosales

    June 20, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    @BG it’s reality.

  20. BawldGuy Talking

    June 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Cool Benn. Who is doing it, and with how many full time agents? This is exciting news to me. Thanks

  21. Benn Rosales

    June 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Well, us for starters, Jay Thompson, and a whole host of others are small broker virtual concepts, the office/meeting place, computers, faxes, jumbo printers on a shared expense system- even marketing dollars. We all have to agree on where and how and normally it’s a no brainer when an idea is presented. We have anywhere from 4 to 10 agents at any given time (your success is your own to control, not ours) that are as independent as a brand new teenager who just realized they don’t need mommy and daddy- and they mean it.

    In Oct. of last year we were ready to expand to an additional central or dt office, but things the way they are, we’re holding off.

    The largest problem we face is the people I would most love to co-habitate with are scattered all around the country, so we had to put Ag into practice.

    Welcome to virtual boardroom ala Ag style.

    I suspect as these virtual concepts continue to gain steam and the inde agent continues to emerge, you’ll see it transform into the concept folks like You, Teresa, Jay and I dream of, but I say reality because it’s going to happen, regardless of my success- the writing is on the wall.

  22. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    BawldGuy – we have something similar here. . I am not complaining about anything. I am a broker. I can leave any time I like. My point is that the folks who try to recruit me don’t have much to offer. I have everything and more than they can offer. A network of agents in the area, I do some training so I meet a lot of agents who are interested in web 2.0. I have family, friends and neighbors to grill brats with. I don’t need to belong to a real estate office to get any of those things. There are some thing I don’t have that a real estate company could provide, I guess I’ll have to write a post about that. How would they recruit someone like me who has a full busy life and is not so interested in company parties, has her “affilation” needs taken care of and has her own technology.

  23. Jay Thompson

    June 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    T, I wish you lived in Phoenix. You’re exactly teh kind of agent we are looking for and you describe, almost to a “T” (so to speak) exactly what we aspire to be.

    BawldGuy – stay tuned, we’re working on it…

  24. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    would love it. my market is a little different. I have found others like me but not a lot.

  25. Benjamin Bach

    June 20, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Teresa, great post!
    I was actually just talking with some people at KWU yesterday about doing some quality blog training, videos, community etc. Would you want to help us, by letting us know what you think we need to include ?

  26. Jay Thompson

    June 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    “How would they recruit someone like me who has a full busy life and is not so interested in company parties, has her “affilation” needs taken care of and has her own technology.”

    Maybe by staying the hell out of your way, letting you run your business how you see fit, being there when you needed support and getting you paid within 24 hours of closing?

    Is that enough to offer someone such as yourself? Particularly since you’d be giving up the “big brand” name?

    If not, what would it take for a small “boutique” and “virtual” brokerage to lure someone such as yourself? I *seriously* want to know, as I’m trying to do it….

  27. Benjamin Bach

    June 20, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Yup Jay, true dat

    We had a compliance officer in recently for a routine look at the books, and she coulnd’t believe that we cut cheques every day.

    When there is money to go out to one of our associates, it goes out.

    Apparently, no other office she’s seen in Ontario does this. I imagine most of the rest of North America is simliar…

  28. Eric Blackwell

    June 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    @Jay- I think your type of office is and will become an even better great example of the guerrilla marketing force that will lead the industry in the future. And you are correct that Teresa (and Ines) are the perfect kind of folks to be in that team.

    @Teresa- thanks.

    One note here though…as i kind of found with my merry band of local bloggers and online marketing guerrillas…you don’t “recruit” them. They are attracted TO YOU because of who you are. When they find you, the affinity is already in place…not because of group think, but rather because of the openness and lack of pretense…there is no hot dog and well ummm…noone gets the (dare I say) weenie. Both benefit from the synergy and it results in a surprisingly fun time.

    JMO

    Eric

  29. BawldGuy Talking

    June 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks Benn, especially for being so easy. Lani’s right. 🙂

    Being Old School, I’ve wondered how beneficial it might be for Benn and Jay to have their agents together in an office daily. The synergy would be powerful to say the least.

  30. Jay Thompson

    June 20, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    @Eric : “you don’t “recruit” them. They are attracted TO YOU because of who you are. When they find you, the affinity is already in place”

    That’s been quite true so far. We’ve got 6 agents currently, 2 “in the loop”, and have turned away more than that. The reaction when you decline to bring in “Mr. I’M A TOP PRODUCER!” is priceless… (wonder if I should write a post about that?)

    There are a couple though that I’d love to have. They have everything going for them with the exception of “I need a brand brokerage”, or “I need an office”. I suppose one could argue that if that’s the case, then they fundamentally DON’T have “what it takes” (or what we’re looking for).

    @BawldGuy – it would be powerful, but our agents don’t want to congregate daily…. I think we can “synergize virtually”.

  31. Teresa Boardman

    June 20, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Reading through these comment, I have a couple of thoughts. I don’t need an office for synergy, when I am in an office I work. synergy can happen over a lunch, drinks, coffee or the internet. working side by side with others each doing his or her own job does not necessarily foster synergy. I find it fascinating that one one or two people asked what could be done to attract agents like me. I want to answer that question. Most of the brokerages have all the answers and tell us how it is. No one asks how they could make it better. Maybe thew way things are now appeal to the majority of agents. But competition for agents is getting fierce as the industry downsizes so I would think some companies would want people like me. As for having my own brokerage I am not so sure. Mainly because I have no desire what so ever to have any employees or even agents. I am not part of a husband and wife team either. I am a sole proprietor and a small business owner. That has been my dream and it is what makes me happy. I had an executive level job for many years and am simply burned out on the idea of employees. yes that may be limiting but I am about building a business that I love, and I do love it most of the time. What other people think is the way to do it or how to be successful doesn’t make me happy. I am energetic and creative and I just want to run with it,

  32. Barry Cunningham

    June 20, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    @Jay..you wrote..”getting you paid within 24 hours of closing?”

    What do you mean…we get paid at closing? Do most wait longer?

  33. Jay Thompson

    June 20, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    @Barry – I don’t know how common it is, but I often hear agents mentioning how long it takes to get paid. I personally know a few that have to wait 2 – 3 weeks on occasion. I know of several brokerages that only cut checks once a week.

    Blows me away. The other thing I hear frequently that amazes me is, “I have to make an appointment to see my broker”.

    And of course, there are many brokers out there that wouldn’t recognize one of their own agents (and vice versa) if they were standing next to them in the grocery store checkout line….

  34. Teresa – I LOVE this post. You’ve articulated much of what has been rolling around in my brain for several years.

    In 2004, Hurricane Ivan wiped out my office on Pensacola Beach. I – literally – took my business home for a year and reinvented it. Although I was new to the business, I was doing a KILLER volume (like many, given the times) pre-Ivan, so I had to spend the following year putting together a truly diversified business plan. I did this by exploring various avenues – some high tech and some decidedly low tech. Ultimately, the year made me begin to question the overall value of being with any particular brokerage.

    Here’s what I’ve wanted to say to my brokerage . . . bubbling up from your post!

    Big Brokerage – I like your name, but please quit trying to guilt me into using the “marketing tools” you are offering. It’s not a good use of my time to sit week after week and listen to the values of the “Toolkit CMA” and other similar “free” offerings. I’m just not a scripts kind of salesperson. I can see when the client’s eyes are glazing over. Some people can probably benefit from these “free” tools, but stop talking to me about them.

    Big Brokerage – Quit recruiting anyone who can fog a mirror. As Jim Duncan indicated, you are the company you keep.

    Big Brokerage – On occassion I will need you to run interference. Do so quickly and then get out of my way and let me do what I do best. Don’t slow me down with unnecessary, “well this is the way it’s always been done, etc.” requirements.

    Big Brokerage – Wise up on the relocation and stop alienating good agents and clients as well with outrageous fees and splits, high school like popularity contests and insulting requirements for broker to broker and outgoing referrals.

    Finally, Big Brokerage – Talk with someone like Eric Blackwell or Jay Thompson. They seem to know a thing or two about the Law of Attraction.

  35. Teresa Boardman

    June 21, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Robin – I love this! I could have written it myself. You are like me in that for reasons beyond your control your circumstances changed and you were cut off from the hive so you did what you had to do. me too. Looking at the laws of attraction there is a need for the big firms. There are people who need to belong and who need the structure. . . but apparently not us. Thanks so much for your comment.

    Barry – as a Realtor getting paid can be a nightmare. I had one transaction where I represented the buyer, the sellers agent took the check, it got mixed up with some other checks and his assistant deposited it. I had two wait two weeks before I could complain because that company says it can take up to two weeks. when I called no one knew where the check was. when they figured it out they told me the agent was out of town and they couldn’t cut me a check they had to wait until he came back and they got “the” check. I had to do all the tracking myself. I am responsible for getting my own checks. I have spent many ours collecting monies owed me. Once I didn’t get a check for ten days because the person who cuts them was out of town. Another time I didn’t get one because the people who sign the checks were out for the day. Very stressful for me, hard enough to do my job and then I have to wonder if I will get paid. I am finding it is at least as bad for some of the training and consulting I do. I am owed money right now form a class I taught in April. Last I heard the check was in the mail and that was last week. Bottom line, no one cares if I get paid except me, and probably my clients but they never hear about that end of it.

  36. Holly White

    June 21, 2008 at 6:29 am

    First of all, great post Theresa. Looks like this has sparked some great commentary.

    I work from my home office (which really means I work out of my car or anywhere my laptop is), meet my clients at the local coffee shop or wherever is convenient to them, write contracts directly on my laptop wherever we are, receive and send leads from my phone and generally use my brokers office to drop off HUD1’s and pick up checks. Although I belong to a brokerage that (last I heard) has nearly 300 agents I feel as independent as anyone can without being a broker myself. I have a team of 4 (including myself) full-time agents who also work from home and live by their laptop and Treo. However, when I need a question answered or any of the team has a question I can’t answer, my broker answers the phone. If I want to join a training session or be rah-rah’d, he has plenty of those available at any given time. He even does mind-body Anthony Robbins style training. If I wanted an office suite within the brokerage it’s available to me, for a fee of course, but have access to lots of common workspace there. I get paid within 24-48 hours of closing (depending on the time of day its closed) and I have a great split. I only wish we had Eric Blackwell in our technology department. That would be the icing on the cake. I do have to pay for all marketing, advertising, office supplies, copies, etc., but again, I have a great split and can’t expect otherwise in my opinion. My business truly is my own small business and I treat it as such.

    I partnered with my broker because of brand recognition since my primary source of business is from the internet, but I stay because at the end of the day, it’s just a good fit and I think that’s what we’re ALL looking for. Good luck finding your fit (or it finding you) .

  37. Jim Gatos

    June 21, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Teresa,

    Sounds to me, with the advent of technology and the rising cost of gas, the “virtual office” will be the way of the future. The company I am affiliated with has been at the forefront of internet technology, which is a reason why I’m there. I suppose there will be a shakeout in the real estate internet bandwagon too eventually. And then of course, you have companies like ConnectRealty trying the virtual real estate world on a national scale.

    Me? I work outta my home for the most part. Only go to the office for the necessities and to meet clients..

  38. Kris Berg

    June 21, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Pensacola Robin – Perfectly said! And, great post, T. I have an office I rarely visit, a menu of weekly training sessions I never attend, and mandatory sales meetings I ditch at every opportunity. Sometimes I feel guilty about the latter — Just what kind of team player am I? — and then I remember that it is ultimately about keeping my little business solvent, and I have to make business decisions about the best use of my time and resources. I too am completely self contained in my home office, and not only do I not need the shiny office building, but my clients don’t need or want it. I can count on one hand the number of times a we have met clients in the “real office” in the past year. Our contracts are emailed and signed electronically, or we meet in their home. They prefer it this way. We meet buyers at the property or at a local coffee shop, and if a “proper office environment” is ever needed, there are a dozen escrow or title offices who would be delighted to let me borrow their conference room for an hour.

    I suppose there are still those who respect and gravitate toward the big brand, but their numbers are fewer today. Last time Steve and I changed brokerages, we made this big to-do over it, making sure our past clients knew about the change. And, we were repeatedly asked, “Who did you work for before?” We have done such an effective job branding ourselves, that our clients don’t really pay much attention to the broker logo. We could be operating out of the back of a pick-up truck, and I doubt anyone would notice or care as long as we delivered the goods.

    That being said, there are benefits to hanging your license with someone else. Mainly, the admin and legal headaches become someone elses problems. The question we all find ourselves asking from time to time is, “Does the cost justify the benefits?” It is when that balance is tipped in the direction of “no” that you’ve got a decision to make. Jay doesn’t sleep, so he can handle the additional broker-owner duties. I, on the other hand, like to catch the occassional eight hours, so the answer is not as clear-cut for me.

  39. Teresa Boardman

    June 21, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Kris – you mention advantages to having your license with someone else. There are some disadvantages to me for going out on my own. Nothing to do with brand, more to do with business models. I don’t want to be in charge of anyone. I wouldn’t mind having a partner but I don’t want any agents, or admin. I don’t want the headaches of reviewing other peoples contracts or dealing with the broker duties. I just want to sell real estate, plain and simple. Is that aksing too much? sometimes I think it is.

  40. Matt Wilkins

    June 21, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Teresa – just my opinion but being a broker on your own does not automatically mean you have to manage agents. My firm is just comprised of myself and is run out of my home office. There are a few extra costs versus when I wokred at a brokerage it is still far cheaper than the monthly fees I incurred. My solution to not having agents is to connect with like minded agents and use them as a referral network.
    When I left the firm I wokred at I was surprised at my broker’s reaction. He actually was happy that I was taking the intiiative to better myself and sieze new oppurtunities. We are still good friends and stay in communication.

  41. Barry Cunningham

    June 21, 2008 at 10:36 am

    @Jay and Teresa,

    Do you guys use title companies and attorneys? for closings that is…we get paid by wire transfer right at closing. Are the laws different where you guys are. 2 weeks and I’d be going crazy..how do you guys deal with that?

  42. Glenn fm Naples

    June 21, 2008 at 11:18 am

    A little more than 6 years ago I read a great article title something like “Clicks vs Bricks.” The article discussed how the real estate might evolve to where the real estate brokerage office with the all the luxury trappings and placed in areas with high traffic could be obsolete one day due to the advent of the Internet. The article further discussed exactly what Teresa is describing – agents would not need the office, but the broker would have to become a lead generator for the agents.

    Today,even for a new agent there is so much information available to them via the ‘net the role of the broker is becoming far less important. Especially when as an experienced, productive agent knows it is the agent that needs to be branded and makes the transactions happen.

    To wit – 5 years ago, I told the agents with their licenses with me – my business model was changing. It was somewhat scary – but today – my bottom line is much better, higher production, and less issues.

  43. Teresa Boardman

    June 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Barry – yes, we use title companies for closing. We can only be paid by our broker but some real estate companies will have the check split so we can bring out part back to the broker. Even when we do that a check has to be cut for us and it can take a day or two. Waiting a few weeks for a check is something that I don’t think any agent should ever go through. The idea of it makes me crazier than not getting the check. I found the client, I did all the work, I had a successful closing and I expect to be paid for my work. It the most important thing I need from my broker. It would be very nice if I did not have to collect my own money and worked with a broker who took an active roll in the process. I have worked through two different real estate companies, out of three different office and getting paid has always been a challenge. Now when they recruit me and tell me I will get paid promptly I don’t beleive them.

  44. Bill Lublin

    June 21, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    @Teresa; Great post, though the conversations go everywhere in the comments because we are all the stars of our own movies ;-D

    The most interesting part of this, after reading the comments sequentially, is that the issue that the cahllenge that needs to be met by the recruiting brokerage is showing the benefit of affiliation – and that is tough since the benefit to each individual is different. @Pensacola said “I like your name, but please quit trying to guilt me into using the “marketing tools” you are offering. It’s not a good use of my time to sit week after week and listen to the values of the “Toolkit CMA” and other similar “free” offerings” In our company, that service (and many others) are free to the agents, because our business model is to provide technology and tools for our agents (and by that I mean providing them, not reselling them for a profit) And still we have agents who don’t step up to met the challenges.

    If there was a single point that I think is made by your post and the answers to it, I would think that it might be that one size doesn’t fit everyone and that everyone’s size changes as they grow in the business.

    Now if I could figure out how we could have all the AG folks get together to do business, and not need to deal with the people that make our lives less fun. I would not only be a very smart man, but a happy one as well.

    @Barry;
    Since you’re not a real estate professional I think you’re being confused by the terminology. The Brokerage firm gets paid at disbursement – The conversation about when people are paid relates to to when the money is distributed to the salesperson by their firm. As Buyers or Sellers, we of course are paid at disbursement.

    For example, at our firm we usually try to do that Thursdays because our runners distribute the checks to the offices weekly from our corporate center. We do it that way to simplify writing a large number of checks to different people for different amounts. And to assure that the checks we receive have cleared . (Of course our agents also have a really cheap factoring company affiliated with the company, so if they’re cash tight they get their commission in advance for less then the cost of a decent dinner- making the pay date less relevant to them)

  45. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Theres a saying in our office: “We won’t save you money. We’ll make you money.” Many offices nowadays are stripping down resources, and infrastructure that you walk in and it can feel like a ghost town. Our office supports us with full technology persons on staff, in house marketing persons, assistants, etc – and most importantly, it keeps us up to date on the latest happenings in the real estate market and technology, so that we can continue to lead the way in our market.

  46. Teresa Boardman

    June 21, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Jennifer – sounds nice. not a business model I have seen around here. In general office costs have gone up and either services are cut or increases are passed onto the agent or to consumers. I am seeing that here across the board. I talk with brokers who struggle to be profitable.

  47. Jay Thompson

    June 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    @Barry –

    Arizona uses title companies (*very* rarely attorneys) . The title companies are excellent at cutting checks at close, and most courier them that day to the broker.

    And there is where it typically gets hung up. I don’t know why. Some brokers only cut agent checks once a week. Some will hold the agent’s portion for a “file check” that can take days (why it wasn’t done prior to close is beyond me. Some brokers make ridiculous demands for documentation and won’t release the agents check until it’s complete.

    “how do you guys deal with that?”

    I don’t put up with it. My old broker would cut a check (almost) immediately. Now, I pay my agents straight from title whenever possible.

  48. Ken Smith

    June 22, 2008 at 12:23 am

    @ Jay – When you only have a few agents it’s fairly easy to cut checks ahead of time, but with how often closings are delayed or don’t happen in this market it would be a major headache with an office of even 100 agents.

    We are in an office that only cuts checks once a week. Every Friday checks get cut. As long as you know what to expect and they are constant what does it really matter? I know every Saturday or Monday to expect a check in the mailbox.

  49. Ken Smith

    June 22, 2008 at 12:44 am

    This is an interesting post and the comments are even better (no offense Teresa) as my wife has been pushing me to get my brokers license so we can open our own office. We already run a team, but could easily expand without much effort.

    What BG described is very close to what I envision (comment #18). Combine high tech with high touch and you have an office that could dominate any market.

  50. Eric Blackwell

    June 22, 2008 at 3:33 am

    @Ken- I have been watching the check cutting conversation here and wondering a bit. For our 120, we cut checks 30 minutes after closing documents and checks from the closing during business hours. We do have a deadline at the end of the day because our staff needs to get stuff finalized and to the bank.

    It is something our broker decided to do 20 years ago when he opened up shop. To be honest, I never really figured it was done any other way. Color me surprised that it is still this big of an issue….As the tech guy, I honestly put that lower on my list of things to worry about. As one who helps manage the day to day of a fairly good size office…I am now getting a MUCH better appreciation for it.

    I DO acknowledge that it is likely or may be tougher in other states due to how closings work.

    @Jennifer- Thanks. It is FUN having you here in our office! (Full disclosure: Jennifer and her husband are from my office and are part of my “blogging group”. When I picture an ideal member of an ideal future real estate organization. Their pictures are always there.

    @Holly- You are only two hours south of us in Nashville! (grin) The door is always open!! (hehe–just funnin’ you)

  51. Teresa Boardman

    June 22, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Ken – the comments I get are often better than my posts and I have been saying that for years. These comments inspire me to write more.

    Eric – there are no rules or laws here that prevent us from cutting checks immediatly. It is just an inconvenience for the broker. In a way I am often more irritated by how offices treat our pay checks. Like they are no big deal and when we get them we get them. Getting the money we earn quickly is just so fundamental and in my opinion the most important job a real estate company has is making sure the agents get paid, quickly.

  52. Jay Thompson

    June 22, 2008 at 8:23 am

    If my brokerage ever gets too big to swiftly get someone the money they earned, then I want someone here to beat me senseless.

    I bet there’s not a broker out there that’s too busy to deposit a check into HIS account.

    Back in my mid 20s (WAY pre-real estate) when I first became a supervisor of employees, my manager pulled me aside on Day 1 and said, “The number one rule of management; don’t F**k with their pay.”

    20 years later I was saying the same thing to my supervisors. And I fired supervisors and managers that couldn’t get payroll straight.

  53. Benjamin Bach

    June 22, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Jay, back in college I sold cigars at La Casa del Habana in Toronto.

    I started working there as a favour to my friend, the manager; his employees had quit on him wholesale on day.

    My first paycheque was about $100 short, due to a computer error, or entry of a wrong number. My friend took the cash out of his wallet, gave it to me, and said he’d figure it out later.

    The owner of my firm had a small family shop until a few years ago. Obviously, cheques were cut as they came in. Now that we have 100 associates, it’s the same way. He was shocked to learn most offices cut cheques once a week…

    The biggest delay we have in getting our cheque is when the listing broker sends the cheque in the mail (if I’m the co-op agent), instead of letting someone from our office pick it up. Adds about 3 or 4 days to the process.

  54. Holly White

    June 22, 2008 at 10:40 am

    @Eric – I’m knockin’!!

  55. Joe Peffer

    June 22, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve loved this post and comment thread. I will use it to write the “Agents” page of my new website at my new brokerage once it opens in a few months. I feel the same way as many and though I, like T, desire more than anything to sell real estate and am not as interested in holding hands and running staffs and worrying about legal problems and looking over other agent’s shoulders, I have a desire to go outside my own business and build a web 2.0 type of brokerage from the ground up that can become a regional player with smart, funny agents that know their business inside and out in an atmosphere where we all learn from each other and work for the clients who love us.

  56. Barry Cunningham

    June 22, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    @Bill..” you wrote…Since you’re not a real estate professional I think you’re being confused by the terminology. The Brokerage firm gets paid at disbursement – The conversation about when people are paid relates to to when the money is distributed to the salesperson by their firm. As Buyers or Sellers, we of course are paid at disbursement.”

    What do you think I’m stupid…LOL…what makes you think that:

    a. I’m not a real estate “professional”..(whatever that moniker means)

    and

    b. As i have said MANY times..we have agents in our office who we work closely with on our deals (very close)…so my question was stated very much in a correct manner and very much as a real estate “professional”.

  57. Barry Cunningham

    June 22, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    @ Teresa, wow..isn’t possible where you are to have disbursement orders in place authorizing the title company to pay you directly via wire or otherwise. You are right. Waiting two weeks is insane and IMO, an abuse of the agent.

  58. Teresa Boardman

    June 22, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Barry – yes, we close at the table and checks are cut and disbursed there isn’t any reason agents can’t get paid at the table. Brokers do have to make arrangements for that to happen because technically it is the brokers check. Some do make those arrangements so their agents get paid. There is one local brokerage that has some weird policies so when we deal with them we don’t walk away with a check. I often do leave closings with a check, that I bring to my broker. I used to still have to wait a couple of days for it but last time they cut it right away so who knows what will happen next time. As for me and how I feel about any of this I will just say full time 100% commission sales jobs are not for wimps. The strong survive and the weak do not. I don’t live commission check to commission check so it is more about the principle of the thing than the actual check.

  59. Bill Lublin

    June 22, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    @Barry Of course I don;t think your stupid – You should know me well enough by now to know that if I wanted to indicate that you were stupid tI would have left little doubt about it 😉

    I was responding to your earlier comment “Do you guys use title companies and attorneys? for closings that is…we get paid by wire transfer right at closing.”

    Your response addressed the concern that agents have about the length of time it takes to get paid after their broker receives the commission check . In most states the broker is required to be the payee of commissions at settlement regardless of the business model. In earlier statements you have mentioned that you were not an agent and your statement indicated that you might not be aware of that so I responded as I did. If you were aware of that, I’m not sure why you said what you did, since it had little to do with how an agent gets paid.

    And in terms of the conversation, a real estate professional would be defined as “a party who acts as an intermediary between sellers/landlords and buyers/tenants of real property” In every state that requires a license, and since you have been verbal about not being an agent, you would fall outside that commonly accepted definition. A Real Estate Investor is not a real estate professional ( and I think I might have some knowledge of that distinction since I have been both.

  60. Barry Cunningham

    June 22, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Bill..with all due respect..”Bite Me” with your pompous crap about who is and who isn’t a professional.

    You are such a crackpot trying to impose your will upon someone. Save that for someone who will allow it. Ain’t gonna happen here!

    Your “definition of “professional” is self-serving and quite a load of crap. “a party who acts as an intermediary between sellers/landlords and buyers/tenants of real property”…LMAO!!!!!!

    Dude..you must really think really..really..highly of yourself. You truly need to get out more and experience what life has to offer beyond the confines of your bubble.

    As for the disbursement of commissions, of course the broker pays the commission.All he has to do is give the title agent written disbursement orders and the title agent can wire all the funds that need to be distributed at closing. Maybe YOU aren’t aware of that!

    You must have some pretty naive agents working for you if they buy that BS about having to wait to get paid.

    “Not a professional”…you crack me up!

  61. Carole Cohen

    June 22, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Teresa, what I want from my Company is to let me work without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. I get that where i am. And I have been pleasantly surprised that my company is instituting a bunch of technology both on line and through software that is geared towards me as an agent, not them as an entity. That helps me stay loyal because i feel they are doing what needs to be done for me. My ofc environment is very important to me. I work independently (out of the ofc) without any trouble, but when I am there, I want to feel like a part of the action, that we are able to share ideas and brainstorm and not have to feel overly competitive about it. You know, the whole idea that sharing ideas breeds a bunch of even better ideas. And I find that to be true where I am. I am just lucky — or else I would have jumped ship a long time ago!

    As for compensation, in my company we get paid as soon as the brokerage gets the money from the title company. In the past year I have never waited longer than five days — usually no more than three. I think that is darn good (and it would be sooner if I would ever remember to turn in my direct deposit form) :-0

    As for the fun zone, as long as it’s not too much socializing all the time it’s ok LOLOL Sometimes we have our meetings in a pub owned by one of my agent colleague’s family……I think Jay might like to attend these meetings (he and I scored high together on our drinking styles LOL)

  62. Bill Lublin

    June 23, 2008 at 3:03 am

    Barry ;
    “with all due respect..”Bite Me” with your pompous crap about who is and who isn’t a professional

    What an articulate response and such an cunning literary contradiction. I am dazzled by your erudite arguments. 🙂

    You are such a crackpot trying to impose your will upon someone. Save that for someone who will allow it. Ain’t gonna happen here!

    Barry – this doesn’t make sense no matter how many times I read it. Exactly how am I trying to impose my will on you? You asked a question and I answered it.

    You must be suffering short term memory loss. You were the one who asked for clarification. In an earlier comment you wrote what makes you think that: … I’m not a real estate “professional”..(whatever that moniker means) Which indicated that you wanted the term defined as used in my earlier response. And I don’t get how the definition is self -serving.

    Dude..you must really think really..really..highly of yourself. No, I am actually fairly modest, but I do have lots and lots of awards and plaques that I have received which indicates that others think highly of me or my achievements.

    As for the disbursement of commissions, of course the broker pays the commission. All he has to do is give the title agent written disbursement orders and the title agent can wire all the funds that need to be distributed at closing. Maybe YOU aren’t aware of that!

    Actually Barry, that is factually inaccurate. In our state (and in many states where the broker is the only party authorized to receive compensation) the money has to be paid to the Broker before it can be paid to the salesperson. And Barry, I know well what a title company can do. I have owned one for the past 18 years.

    You must have some pretty naive agents working for you if they buy that BS about having to wait to get paid. Other then trying to make a disparaging statement, What indicated to you that my agents wait to be paid? As soon as we receive funds, they are deposited and our agents are paid regularly and promptly.

    I agree with Teresa (and every other agent who has ever been stalled waiting for a check that was due them) that an agent shouldn’t be waiting for funds they should be paid as soon as they are collected and cleared. I experienced that when I was an agent, and it was not an experience I would want to duplicate for myself or anyone else.

    “Not a professional”…you crack me up! Barry, I’m glad I amuse you, but in the terms of this discussion you are not a real estate professional. You may be a professional at something else, but you don’t do what we do, experience what we experience, or have the same concerns that we have for our clients and customers.

  63. Ken Smith

    June 23, 2008 at 10:24 am

    @ Teresa – I think that is takes a thoughtful and inspired blog post to get quality comments. The reason you get so many great comments is due to the quality of the posts your write.

    @ Jay – When you say “swiftly” how long before you cut checks? This is important as my thought was for opening an office was same day if the HUD and title company check are into the office by 2pm, otherwise the next day. There has to be some sort of cut off, just trying to see what others are doing.

    @ Eric – what is that deadline to get paid same day?

  64. Kaye Thomas

    June 23, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    T.. I also love this post.. it’s as if you are reading my mind.. How sad companies rarely recognize that good agents don’t need them… but rather they need more good agents.

    I am fortunate to work for a Broker who recognizes and enourages his agents to work in a manner that best suits them.. If you want to be “in the office” great.. if not working from home is fine.

    I have been home based for about 5 years and wouldn’t have it any other way. I do use the office for meeting clients but that’s about it. We have a weekly office meeting that agents want to attend as a lot of information is passed around about local happenings in our market. My broker is one of the most respected in the area. I could not imagine working for anyone else in town. He throws 2 parties a year to “Thank the agents” for how hard we work and for everyone to mingle a bit as many of us are rarely in the office.

    I know he would back me 100% about anything and is alays thre to listen and offer sound advice. I feel very fortunate to be with my company..

  65. Alexandra

    June 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    This post may stem from naivety, but please bare with me because sometimes great ideas stem from inexperience.

    From your article, and from what I’ve heard from many other agents, the brokerages that they work for offer far less than they provide. So my question is, why is it that an agent must work for a broker?

    This question could have many implications and I’m open to hearing all of them. Legal reasons, old school reasons, or no better options reasons. I’d just like to hear your perspectives.

  66. Suzanne Gantner

    July 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Teresa – you are so much like myself and have the same thoughts I do about a realty company or office. I don’t have to have the rah rah coaches and training, I don’t want to listen to someone who wrote a boring book because they couldn’t actually sell anything after they had gone thru their family, I don’t need it. When I was asked to join Sky Realty (who I work for now) I thought the same as you “what can you do for me.” I have not been disappointed.

    My broker has web/tech classes each week, we all have our own websites, we are being taught how to blog, how to work on our websites, how to use the search engines, etc. It has been exhilirating to have such positive lessons given. When I see friends who work in large cattle call offices they are never as excited as I am as to the new way of real estate. I am happy to work out of my home office, go to the tech classes and drop by copier and coffee shop. You go!!

  67. UK Investment Sales

    August 13, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Resistance to change was high at the begining but our office is fast becoming nicely high tech. We’ve started blogging, submitting press releases and bulk emailing newsletters to our lists. Let’s face it the web savvy estate agent is the only one going to be earning commission over the next few months.

  68. Lesley

    September 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I went from a family owned company (mom retired) that I didn’t want to take over and joined the best of both worlds in my eyes. My company is an independently owned company that is killing the big guys in market share with almost 1/3 of the agents. Our owner and manager will only recruit agents who are producing and regularly cull the pack of those who aren’t cutting it. We are providing just about everything I could ever ask for (they are lagging a bit on the tech front, but I can make up for that on my own) and provide me with a better than fair split. The office is attractive and because all of the agents are productive, it is actually inspiring to be there. We all help each other out with covering open houses, showings, etc. when needed. We are there to work and while we do so (and quite well) we are enjoying each other. Our commissions are paid very quickly both in and out of house.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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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 a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, 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 like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our 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 is disrupted and people are now 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 we game plan, we 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

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

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

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decluttering

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.

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, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three 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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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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