By Don Kottick
When most salespeople go into a real estate brokerage for their first interview, they will usually hear from the manager/owner that “our brokerage is unique because we have a great culture”. Everyone talks about a great culture, everyone says that they possess it, but in reality very few brokerages deliver.
The challenge comes when you try to define a winning culture, because it has a subjective meaning to many.
In order to have a winning or successful culture, first you must have a great leader. This is the key individual who sets the purpose of the organization and ensures the vision is communicated and followed throughout the brokerage.
The first sign of whether the staff is following the leader’s purpose is how you are greeted by the receptionist. If she/he is texting away, never looks up and grumbles, “Have a seat, someone will be out in sec,” you have your first strike against the company. If you walk in and are greeted with a friendly smile, a nice hello and are offered a water or coffee, you have your first checkmark.
Remember, this receptionist is the front line person that your clients will meet if they come to the office. The same test can apply to how the telephones are answered when you call in. Is it an offshore call centre or a friendly engaging receptionist who is on site?
The next test comes during the actual interview phrase of your due diligence. John Lusink, vice president at Chestnut Park Real Estate in Toronto, says, “a good leader rarely uses the ‘I’ word when talking. The use of the word ‘we’ signifies that the manager values the salespeople and the staff.”
Even if the manager could take personal credit for an initiative, a good manager does not feel the need to promote themselves. They are comfortable with their own egos and buy in to the concept of a cohesive team.
How a manager interacts with support staff during an interview is also an indication of how they will support you. Take notice if the manager thanks the employee for serving coffee or water or if they just ignore the staff member. Debra Bain, managing partner at Re/Max Hallmark in Toronto says, “When we hire a salesperson, conversely, we watch how the interviewee treats our staff. If they are rude or not appreciative of our team member, this does not bode well for the candidate.”
Another test of the winning culture is the responsiveness of the management team. If you call the manager, monitor how quickly they respond to your calls or messages. If it takes two days to respond, now imagine you are in desperate need of guidance on a deal and you have a condition that is about to expire. A winning culture always has a responsive management team. Justin Risi, executive vice president at Royal LePage Your Community in Toronto says, “We as a management team pride ourselves on our responsiveness and our ability to correctly answer and resolve problems. In our business, time is always of the essence.”
The real estate community is very small and its grapevine is even smaller. Costa Poulopoulos, president of StreetCity Realty in London, Ont. says, “Realtors love to talk and a real estate brokerage with a great culture will have its Realtors as its biggest recruiters.” If the salespeople are not happy, they become like the Faberge shampoo commercial in the ʼ80s: “They told two friends, then two more friends, then so on and so on.”
Poulopoulos says, “We encourage new recruits to talk to our Realtors and hear it first-hand what it is like to work with us.”
Kevin Skipworth, managing partner of Dexter Associates Realty in Vancouver says, “We pride ourselves because we invest back into our Realtors on many different levels. We do this through our comprehensive training, management support and serving up a collaborative and fun work environment.”
He adds: “We are not afraid to part company if an individual is not a team player and not willing to be part of our winning culture. A bad member of the team can be cancerous, so a good leader must be willing to see the relationship end, even if the individual is a top producer.”
A winning culture is really a win for all involved. That includes the salespeople, the staff, the management and the brokerage. The real estate industry is rapidly becoming very polarized and we will eventually see some casualties within the brokerage community. On one end of spectrum, we will have the successful brokerages that can truly deliver a winning culture. On the other end may be the discount brokerages where they only care if the monthly fee clears the bank account. In the highly competitive environment that we find ourselves in, the winning culture will most undoubtedly increase your probability of being a winning salesperson.