By Ramona Ursu

The commercial real estate industry has long realized that teams are the only way to offer clients a competitive level of service. No one broker can do it all alone anymore – if they ever could.

Brokers are now working across huge geographies, stretching their ability to be physically present in every area they have a mandate. At the same time “the world is shrinking” and many clients are expanding their footprint and demanding their brokerage stretch their scope.

In the realm of technology, software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with for example the entry of CoStar to Canada – making reporting easier, but also more expected. With the rise of these competitive forces the need to bring team members together with diverse skills to facilitate client service has never been clearer.

There are endless books on how to build successful teams, and even some focused on how to build brokerage teams. But few focus on why most team leaders fail at building them.

My personal experience in corporate real estate and brokerage, along with countless stories from my colleagues and mentors, have led me to conclude that it’s much, much easier to fail at building a team than it is to succeed with one.

Here are some ways real estate teams fail:

Hiring on skill set alone, not caring about the candidate’s aspirations.

Strong real estate teams need both go-getters and non-go-getters. If your non-go-getter team admin wants to work 7 to 4, but you need that person at the office until 6:30, do not hire them just because of their skill set. I’ve seen too many team leaders try to change people, ignoring the fact that they don’t want to or are not willing/ready to change.

Hiring people with the same skill set.

For example, if your team is built on aggressive go-getters with little attention to detail, somewhere along the line you are bound to have an unhappy client.

Relying too heavily on salaried team members.

This doesn’t happen often outside the corporate world, but when it does it is completely unsustainable, because the biggest allure of real estate is having an unlimited income.

No team lead.

This can occur either when assembling a team and giving off the impression that every decision is a democratic vote or in cases where the team lead becomes passive. There should be one person who has the ultimate vote, and everyone should be voluntarily on board with executing on direction.

Not having defined roles within the team.

Is your “team” just a bunch of brokers, each working his or her own deal and sharing the commission at the end? Sooner or later someone will put their hand up and say, “But I was the only one who worked on this” and the model will fail.

Constantly leaving your team with the impression that they could do more.

If your daily message is that people haven’t pulled their weight, aren’t working hard enough or aren’t working as hard as you (the team lead), the atmosphere becomes a ticking time bomb. Praise is a necessity for human condition and constant praise (not constant complains) leads to better performance.

Assuming team dynamics run by inertia.

They do not. Not paying attention to the pulse, not having “check-systems” in place, an open-door policy and an ability to change when people demand change, will lead to destructive team turn-over.

Ugly, outdated physical environment.

There is a reason big shops spend millions on office space that’s new, fresh and attractive – and it’s not just for when clients visit. Employee attraction and retention is key to brokerage continuity.

One brokerage firm we considered joining this year had a filtration air system that pumped more oxygen in their space, keeping folks fresh, alert and headache-free. My current office has Advil for “office use”, fresh fruit, at least 10 different types of coffee and filtered water. These “small” things matter.


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