Active Rain February 11, 2010

An Active “Competing” Broker Speaks Out

The company started out with just me. Then, when I was in the weeds once, my wife Ann answered my cell phone for me. That got her on board. Not long afterward, a young guy asked me for help on a home he wanted to buy and resell. He became my first agent.

That’s how it began.

Along the way, I attracted investors seeking opportunities and agents would come aboard. My best recruiting tool was my agents themselves. The team grew organically. I ran an ad for agents from time to time, but I got more from word of mouth and my blog than any hiring advertisement. Today we have 15 agents, making us a modest sized office, and my own inventory is the bulk of the company listings, but it is my baby and I am growing the Enterprise. I have one ad out there for recruiting, and that is it right now. 

There have been times when I was targeting the same buyer or seller as one of my agents, and even times when the agents competed with each other. I think that happens with any company. There was one time when I listed a for sale by owner, and, unbeknownst to me, beat out one of my agents. When he saw that he”lost” to me, he told me about it and I made him the co-lister. That was a mistake. I should have made him the listing agent, but that was the first instance I ever “competed” with an agent and know better now. He would have taken better care of the file. It was foreclosed on, unfortunately, and the people had terrible judgment. I would have had a more credible role coming in to assist him and setting them straight instead of being the primary horn locker. 

Today, the company policy is that anytime I have the same prospect in my radar as one of my agents, ‘ll do everything I can to get the business into the house. After that, it is the agent’s client. They get their commission, I get my split. Everyone wins.

The company where I learned the business was a father/son team who were like family. They trained me very well, and I thought nothing of the fact that they were in the field. Frankly, I loved that; if I had a tough one, Kevin or Paul would come with me on an appointment and lasso the deal more often than not. I learned a great deal watching them work. 

Now I read on Active Rain and other places that some agents would prefer that the broker or manager not be in the field “competing” with the agents. One said it is unethical (!). Another says it is like the coach playing in the game. Of course, the anecdotal examples of brokers and managers stealing leads and cherry picking for themselves while they agents get the scraps are galling, but that isn’t how I run my firm. 

We have everything from newbies to established agents. We don’t have any superstars yet (In NY a top producer sells 20+ houses a year) but a few who have sold in the teens when the market was healthier. If I ceased producing, there wouldn’t be much of a company. It isn’t big enough yet. To a man, my agents like my knowledge and respect that I am out there with them. Many use me wisely. I have an open offer to all that if all they do is set the appointment up with a tough expired or FSBO that I’ll go and get the forms signed for them. After that, it is their deal with the same split as if they did everything themselves. All agents know that only they will get inquiries on their listings. Ann and Ronnie, the full time admin people who do not sell, see to that. If I were to scavenge those calls I would be a cannibal and the growth of the firm would cease. You don’t eat your young. 

Team: Together Each Achieves More
It would be dishonest to paint myself as Mother Theresa and that that I give everything away. I don’t. It is my company. I built it from half a bedroom to where we are now. If there is a call on my listing, it is mine until I assign it. I do cherry pick some calls, but I often end up making a hand off if I cannot give the client 100%. I also have people ask for me specifically because I am getting to stage where people are referred or come in because of my blog. That takes a lot of my time. 
I would love to work 9-5 from an office and not run around. I would be delighted to have my nights and weekends to myself. At some point, perhaps when we get another 15-20 active agents, I will scale back for the sake of my family. However, that will be the end of the line for the newbies, who won’t have a crack at all my listing calls. The company could be different then. We’ll see. We are still inventing it. I believe that a growing, vital company has to have a mix of new and experienced. That seems to be what works in this market. 
So, I consider myself to be more of a Quarterback than a Coach. You might think Drew Brees, but I like Eli Manning or Phil Simms. The bottom line, however, to those who abhor a “competing” manager or broker, is that if what I did were so bad, we wouldn’t be growing like we are. The results speak for themselves. 

My team doesn’t work for me. I work for the team. If we aren’t a team, the show can’t go on.