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What to weigh when considering becoming an indie broker

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The indie itch

So, the itch has gotten to you. You know, the indie itch… You’ve found yourself increasingly discouraged, just not truly motivated. That spark you had when you first got licensed is gone or dwindled. You just feel something missing. You feel blah.

Perhaps your current brokerage just isn’t helping to fully develop you, you are clashing with another agent in the office, your manager doesn’t seem interested in keeping up with today’s world, your current company was branded fifty years ago as the place to be and the ship suddenly passed it by three years ago, or maybe you just feel like you have so many ideas as to how real estate SHOULD be and you are on a true mission to eradicate and change an industry from the ground up. There are plenty of reasons why the “independent” in you may be rearing its fantastic head! Ahhhh yes!

Dreaming aside…

But really… Dreaming aside…What are your core reasons? Do you feel a passion burning inside that you just can’t shake? If so, please read on. If not, you may exit now!

There are several things to seriously consider when truly thinking about your wants:

  • What do you love (not just like) to do? Do you love to work with buyers and sellers? Do you love technology? Do you love to handle accounting or dealing with agents issues?
  • Do you want to manage a whole office?
  • Do you want to make more money? (note: at first, you will most likely make less, but if done well… who knows?!)
  • Do you crave more control over the brand which your current brokerage offers?
  • Do you want to see your own name on a sign (and no, this is actually a pretty normal characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, so it’s ok if you do!)?
  • Do you want to be a broker that runs a company, a team leader with buyers agents, marketing specialists and admin help, a visionary brander, or an agent that has a better split?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest with yourself! No one is perfect at everything! By acknowledging this, you should start focusing on surrounding yourself with others that possess those missing opportunities.
  • Are you tech savvy? Do you believe a corporate franchise really offers better tools? You would be really surprised at the amount of technology available to small companies that can rival the biggest “big box.” So what if you don’t have billboards quite yet surrounding the world? Let yourself think that could someday happen! In today’s game, I would say that if you don’t have a real knowledge or at least someone on your team that does, being a branded team under another company may be the way to stay.

Other considerations before jumping ship

Do you need extra classes for your brokers license? How long does this take? In my market, it typically takes six months to wait for all the needed classes to be offered in one location. I’m personally not known to be the most patient person, so I decided it would be a good idea to take all my classes in three months… traveling all over the state (two hours each way) to catch each series as it came. Oh, and did I mention I was a single mom with no financial support and still an active working agent? So no excuses here, people!

But seriously, if six months works better, that’s perfectly ok too. Even after I finished my full time job as “real estate student,” I still took another six months building a small reserve budget, getting legal paperwork together and finalizing the “brand.”

Realize that owning your own company doesn’t mean you will make more money, have more time or be able to take weekends off. You’ll most likely work more, have ten times the amount of bills and be responsible for employees, agents and expenses!

It is a tough decision, and while it is a move I personally made, it is much more complicated than slapping up a “hiring agents” sign and sitting back to collect residual income. Becoming an indie broker is a major responsibility, but with great risk can come great reward – carefully consider your personality and your goals before making your final choice.

Amanda Lopez is a real estate broker and founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore, Md. She has worked in the real estate industry for over 6 years and prior to that studied advertising, branding and web design. Refusing to believe the real estate industry had to be bland and boring in design and appeal to everyone, she set out to bring some style and technology into the mix. Amanda can most likely be found with coffee that got cold, great shoes, her mind in the sky and her evernote app open.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lainie Ramsey

    February 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Great article! I would say my decision to pursue becoming an independant broker really comes down to just a few things: I am a mobile agent that works out of my car and my own house, I do all my own marketing, I pay for my own signs, lockboxes and I have a very prominent web presence. I do not have a desire to become a big company or have many agents working under my license. My goals are simple – I want to have my own company that is branded around me and I want to keep more of my own money. People work with me because of my expertise, not because of my company. It is a daunting task, but I know I can do it!!

  2. Grace Walter

    February 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Great article Amanda! Although I am not in this industry, this is solid advice for anyone that is thinking about entrepreneurism! You are right, you have to really want it and be willing to work hard to get it.

  3. Charles Mackenzie-Hill

    February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Great article! The indie Broker has a nice ring to it. Pretty sure working from smaller units and cars will be far more likely now with the internet. We also feel as small units that videos will pay a huge part in ones marketing. Also believe if one can get the videos right your clients can be viewing listings as if they were there in person silting in the comfort of their own home or office be it in front of their own 42 inch plasma or on a bus with a smart phone. All the technology is there to provide answers to the entire necessary question in an easy to understand format.
    Absolutely , a great time to be, as you call it and Indie agent

  4. Lisa Heindel

    February 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    My partner and I made the jump to indie broker just a few short weeks ago. After spending 3 years branding ourselves, generating our own business and basically being on our own anyway, it was the next logical step. I had no desire to build a team within someone else's brokerage. Currently, it's just the 2 of us and any agents that we end up bringing on board will be carefully vetted, because we don't want anyone to screw up our vision of what our company will be.

  5. Amanda Lopez

    February 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Congrats to you ladies for making the switch! There is always a lot to think about and whether you decide to be a small team or brand, the feelings of it being your own are the whole reason it's worth it!
    Charles, you are right that the technology is there for those who chose to embrace it. It's also great to know how many solutions there are to compete with any of the bigger budgeted companies. Besides nationwide branding reach, the tools are there and often better utilized per local agent to obtain leads from website from SEO than a majority of large brokerages (notice I didn't say third party non brokerage sites! I still think they are the main ones which the agent or brokerage can compete with. At least in my market, large brokerage sites often come up page 5-6 of search results. One being trulia, zillow, Redfin then it's about 6-7 smaller companies, then corporate)

  6. stephanie crawford

    February 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Great job! I am considering going indie – I already work at a boutique brokerage. Would LOVE to see more “how to” indie articles. Perhaps interviews with the Jay Thompsons and Krisstina Wises of the world.

  7. Amanda Lopez

    February 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Stephanie, please stay tuned! I’m glad you enjoyed 😉 I guess some of these points rang true if you are considering it while at a boutique now!
    Krisstina has several outlets I am sure you can tap into to learn from and I’m not sure about Jay but perhaps you can ask around. There are a lot of people who can offer solid advice, experience and perspective too that may hit a different type of chord for each person. Best advice I ever got from a competing broker…
    “There is enough to go around for everyone. Don’t ever lose sight of that or let anyone make you think different.”

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Business Entrepreneur

Restaurants: Going digital is simple with these tools

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) In 2020, restaurants going digital is critical. Luckily, it’s also easy, safe, and may even save you money.

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Restaurants prepares delivery or to-go food for safety

So, you own or manage a restaurant and you have yet to “digitize” your menu for COVID-era safe ordering? No problem! Transitioning your menu and service to the virtual realm has never been easier. There are a ton of options for restaurants to choose from to keep your customers feeling at-ease, your front-of-house staff happy, and the whole service experience streamlined for all parties involved.

A free app with over 500 restaurant partners and 5k+ active users, AAHI is a user-friendly platform that uses QR codes to share menus and NFC for contactless payments. AAHI boasts a 25% order increase for participating restaurants and who can say no to that, especially during these tough times. Additionally, you’ll be cutting down on operational costs by around 30% (better tech equals less need for servers!), and your laid-off staff will be able to collect unemployment if they need to.

Another free (up to 200 views a month) app with an emphasis on curbside pick-up is Orderlina. Customers scan a QR code, which takes them to the same menu they would see if they were going to eat in, making it an integrated experience. A bonus is that the app links your menu to your social channels. I always say, free marketing is never a bad thing! Plus, you’ll be more likely to gain followers and receive micro-content from satisfied customers. Win-win!

Especially with winter right around the corner and outdoor seating becoming an increasingly limited option (especially depending on where you live), everyone in the industry is eventually going to have to make the shift to digital – the question is when. Physical menus have become a thing of the past. Not only are they potential vessels for spreading COVID-19, but if you are using disposable paper ones, you’re undoubtedly creating unneeded waste. Same goes for the exchange of cash, or card payments that require contact. Good riddance!

The common goal across the entire industry right now is to stay open and bring in capital in whatever capacity possible, while also maintaining a healthy staff and a pleasurable, safe experience for patrons. That’s going to require some adjustment and creativity compared to service pre-COVID. By converting to digital, you are putting your best foot forward into the uncertain future for the restaurant industry.

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Business Entrepreneur

Scientifically check your risk for burnout with this free quiz

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) This new tool lets you take a free self-assessed, science-based burnout test to give you an idea of how much self-care you need.

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Woman with face on table suffering burnout in front of computer.

Concerns of keeping self-care and mental health in a positive spot – specifically in relation to burnout – have been a hot topic of discussion. While COVID-19 has exacerbated these concerns and stress levels, the issue of burnout has been around for quite some time.

Work burnout is often discussed within terms of work-life balance. Simple ways to avoid that crash are enforcing a hard stop on reading or responding to emails at a certain time of evening, or to continuously clean your workspace. Easier said than done, but it is critical.

But sometimes you have to look at the nitty gritty. Sometimes you have to ask difficult questions about your job and your personality in order to understand how burnout is impacting you. This can now be done with Global IT Burnout Index, a free, science-based assessment to tackle your stressors before it’s too late.

This is geared towards people working in tech (as the website reads, “burnout in tech is high and real”), but is useful for any industry.

To begin, you simply start the quiz and answer a few questions about yourself and your job (e.g. “I find it difficult to relax after a day of work” and then you answer based on how strongly you agree or disagree).

There are 10 total questions, and no personal information is asked (no name or email). It is open data, meaning it will help people on the other side better understand burnout; but, it’s totally anonymous.

The quiz takes no longer than 2 minutes. At the end, it will give you a number out of 6 measuring your burnout rate. The higher the number, the more likely you are to experience burnout.

Burnout has the ability to manifest physically and mentally, and can take a toll on your body and mind. Knowing if you’re experiencing high amounts of activity that can lead to burnout can help you know if you need to take precautions to change things in your life or job.

For those of us working from home, the situation is a Catch-22. You aren’t currently forced into a stressful commute. But it’s harder to pull yourself away when 5pm (or whatever your end time is) rolls around.

For people in the office or on site, it’s the same thing. You get to socialize (safely, obvi) with your coworkers, but there’s those on-site pressures.

No situation is perfect, but understanding if you’re in a situation where you could use a change or some help is incredibly important – especially these days.

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Business Entrepreneur

Is COVID proving that efficiency is overrated?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Forget about maximizing profits. Don’t decrease friction – increase it. Oh, and efficiency? Overrated. Wait… what?

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Cut off man working on multiple devices, but lacking efficiency.

When COVID-19 took off in the U.S., shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and blow-up pools had many of us thinking the American manufacturing supply chain must be inefficient. How was it even possible that we didn’t – and still don’t – have enough PPE for healthcare workers?

But what if the problem is that the supply chain is too efficient? That’s what Barry Schwartzis, a professor of psychology at UC-Berkeley and author of “The Paradox of Choice,” argues. Streamlined supply chains, just-in-time deliveries, and little slack in the workforce are all part of the gospel of efficiency. But maybe all that efficiency isn’t really working out for us.

Storing huge supplies of masks in warehouses is, arguably, an inefficient use of money and space. But we sure could have used a stockpile when the pandemic hit.

When businesses run lean, there’s little room to hedge against potential disasters. Schwartzis suggests we focus less on efficiency and more on being prepared for all potential scenarios the uncertain could bring.

It’s all about “satisficing.” (Anyone else now have Elvis in your head singing, “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me”? No? Carry on.)

Satisficing = satisfaction + sufficing. It’s aiming for the adequate, not the optimal. Schwartzis calls it insurance against “financial meltdowns, global pandemics, nasty bosses, boring teachers and crappy roommates.” Sign. Us. Up.

He goes farther and takes that lesson to our personal lives. Don’t try to blow the return on your IRA out of the water. Set a goal that works for good and bad financial times. Don’t search for the best of all possible jobs. Find a job you’ll like doing even if you have the manager from hell. In short, look for the “good enough.”

Sound familiar to those of you who are parents? Amid all the talk of the Tiger Mom and the Helicopter Parent, there’s also been discussion of the Good-Enough Parent. You might want the coffee mug that says “Best Mom Ever,” but you don’t actually have to be the Best Mom Ever. Ditching “best” for “good enough” is like a magic elixir for de-stressing yourself and your kids.

Still, the idea that we can increase efficiency in our personal lives is so seductive. We all want to spend less time doing the things we don’t enjoy so we can spend more time on things that bring happiness and, yes, more money. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, seen the lists: Structure your schedule. Time your tasks. Organize all the things.

Being able to always find your keys certainly could reduce the amount of cursing in your home. We can’t just toss out the Holy Grail of efficiency.

So Schwartzis has another word for you: Friction. Slow down. Don’t move too fast.

“Building friction into our lives, as individuals and as a society, is building resilience into the system,” Schwartzis says. It’s like tapping the brakes.

For business, friction could come from companies seeing themselves as caretakers of their communities rather than just profit centers. Could that kind of corporate responsibility lead to fewer jobs eliminated in the name of efficiency?

For homeowners, friction could be in the form of kids, pets, neighbors or the community – making you see the property as more than just a big investment. Could that prevent skyrocketing housing prices by reducing speculation based purely on profit?

Sure, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s an interesting take on issues we’re thinking more about amid the disruption of 2020’s pandemic.

“To be better prepared next time,” Schwartzis says, “We need to learn to live less ‘efficiently’ in the here and now.”

That could be one of the more important lessons we’re learning now.

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