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The 2020s have ushered in the age of the “teamerage,” a business model that enables leaders to offer the training, support staff, technology and branding of a brokerage all with the agility that only teams can achieve.
Douglas Elliman Megan Romine founder Megan Romine, Keller Williams Coalition Properties Group managing partner Ryan Butler, and eXp Realty #TeamFast Director of Sales and Coaching Elias Astuto have been able to seize the shift toward teams, with each of them creating multimillion-dollar operations that rule Ft. Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., and Oakland.
However, the past year has brought multiple challenges — booming interest rates, cooling sales and buying activity, and the exciting, yet terrifying, shift toward artificial intelligence. Although it may be tempting to tuck and run, all three leaders said 2024 is the year to dig in and lean on the basics of good business.
“It’s taking things back to the basics. Building relationships and building that rapport,” Romine said. “That’s what’s going to push you through in a volatile market.”
Forget about making everyone happy
Most leaders want to be liked and respected, but Romine said leaders will face a situation that forces them to choose one option over the other.
“I am a people pleaser sometimes,” she said. “I love the culture and I want us all to win and succeed. But at the end of the day, you can’t make everyone happy.”
When a leader gets into a cycle of people pleasing, she said, it weakens the culture of the business and enables team members to have free reign — even if it’s to the detriment of their colleagues and clients. Instead, she encouraged team leaders to push through the short-term discomfort of reinforcing boundaries for long-term gains.
“You’re going to say something that’s going to make someone feel better in the short term, but in the long term, it’s not going to push the business ahead,” she said. “So sometimes you have to say ‘No,’ and then adjust the focus.”
“That sets a precedent of clearly defined lines so that your team members know because if you don’t put those lines there, it’s going to come back over and over and over,” she added. “What’s going to happen is you’re going to find that you’re exerting so much mental energy into this dynamic.”
Get serious about your budget
The current market has forced agents and brokers to streamline their budgets as sales rebound from last year’s slump. However, Butler said team leaders should up the ante on their financial stewardship with weekly or monthly budget reviews that lump expenses into three categories: red, green or yellow.
“Red is to cut. Yellow is ‘I don’t know about that yet,’ and green is ‘We’re keeping that,’” he said. “So you go cut all the red every month, and you need to continually look and see if you need to cut anything else.”
“That’s the biggest thing to make sure that the financials look good,” he added.
Figure out your superpower
Romine and Butler said one of the most important things a leader must do is play to their — and other’s — strengths.
“We have to figure out what our superpower is, and then you utilize it,” she said. “There are scientific studies on this. If you focus on your strengths, you can significantly get better. If you’re focusing on something that you’re not that great at, you’re only going to get just a small level above that.”
That approach has enabled Butler to build one of the top-producing Keller Williams teams in Washington, D.C., with Butler handling backend tasks and his two managing partners focusing on growing revenue and marketing strategies.
“Each managing partner is required to do a minimum amount of production, and then we are responsible for different leadership categories,” he said. “We built a mini-team around [the partner in charge of revenue], so he has his shoulder system, and he takes resources from the ops teams for admin purposes.”
“I mean with that many people coming in, and the amount of referrals that we get, [this strategy] is a big part of our culture,” he added.
Don’t fear change (or failure)
Between a global pandemic, rollercoaster buying and selling trends, and the whiplash from the sudden rise of generative artificial intelligence, there are a lot of things placing pressure on leaders’ business strategies.
Instead of resisting that pressure, Romine said it’s important for leaders to embrace it and make the changes necessary to stay ahead of the curve.
“What has helped me is being able to realize when I need to pivot,” she said. “You have to make hard decisions, you have to have hard conversations, and you need to get it out of the way now — don’t think about it for days. You need to make a decision and you need to move with it.”
“You know, and it goes back to a quote I heard the other day. It said, ‘Successful people succeed because they fail and they don’t become failures,’” she added. “You have to learn how to fail forward.”
Prioritize standards more than growth
For years, Astuto said #TeamFast lived up to its name when it came to growing its agent count. From 2020 to 2022, the team grew from 10 to 353 agents. However, by the end of 2023, the agent count had dropped to 225.
“We got to 353 agents very, very fast,” he said. “We started to hold people accountable. We made sure there’s a level of accountability and there’s a level of standards. What happens when you raise the standards of your company? People leave.”
Although #TeamFast lost more than 100 people in one year, Astuto said the ones who stayed are dedicated to the team’s culture and becoming top producers.
“If you’re gonna be a champion in our environment, there’s a level of standards that you must operate,” he said.
Be hands-on with your agents
Astuto hosts three one-hour coaching sessions each week that cover the skills needed to succeed in the market. Mondays are for script roleplay sessions, Wednesdays are for reviewing market trends and Fridays are for helping agents work through some of the other roadblocks they face in their day-to-day routines.
“We don’t charge for coaching. It’s all about the collective wisdom we can share,” he said. “This started with three people, five people coming together three times a week. Now we’re up to 50 to 150 people.”
After each session, Astuto repackages some of the coaching calls into YouTube clips, blog posts and email newsletters that agents can refer to at any time.
“I’m going to click that and I’m going to put it into our newsletter and that goes out not only to our internal team but to agents that are in the market to keep them as well as the strangers engaged,” he said. “Educational content is going to be a game-changer for you.”
In addition to free coaching events, Astuto said #FastTeam hosts hundreds of events throughout the year, from mini-conferences for entrepreneurs balancing work and motherhood, to community movie nights and other social events. Those things, he said, help agents feel connected to their team and the market they serve.
“We constantly live on our calendar to give people a reason to come into the office and to stay engaged,” he said.