By Connie Adair
Tradition is great, but sometimes change is better. Just over four years ago, broker Tina Gardin opened a new 7,000-square-foot designer space with a Google-inspired look and feel, and created a fresh management style to take Sutton Quantum Realty to a new level.
She expected it would take years for her Oakville, Ont. real estate incubator model to meet its goal – the most sales per capita in the area – but within 24 to 36 months, “we darted to first place in Oakville” (according to independent Realtor performance auditor IMS Inc.).
“The per capita metric allows us to measure our per-head production as a determinant of the success of our efforts,” Gardin says. “Our objective is to increase the per capita production of a smaller population of highly skilled/trained salespeople and to invest more per capita in support of our sales team. We would prefer to have 250 salespeople doing 10 deals a year than 1,000 agents doing 2.5 deals per year….
“The more transactions an agent does and the more closely we can support that particular agent, the better experience the agent and the consumer will have. We feel the appropriate management-to-agent ratios enhance the professionalism of the office and translate into a better practice.”
The new office has about 175 agents and the goal is to cap out at 250. “We don’t want to get too monstrous that we don’t know each other’s names.”
Instead of the typical top-down management strategy, Quantum supports its agents and encourages innovation and collaboration. The office is run by a volunteer advisory board, which Gardin credits for the drastic increase in Quantum’s per capita production.
“It’s proven in more than principle that fostering agent participation and peer support is a very powerful approach to the success of a brokerage and individuals, particularly in the time of COVID-19,” she says.
Gardin says the virus has “the potential to magnify isolation, which is concerning in an industry that is already potentially a lonely journey. No matter how talented or experienced a sales representative is, facilitated connectivity to fellow salespeople is generally enriching. Our peer-to-peer program encourages our agents to volunteer to help our community incubate ideas and mitigate potential increased isolation of our sales community. Staying motivated and engaged is important for the volunteer agents as well.”
Including strategic partners in the discussion “enriches the program as well. If the agents have more control over the direction of the brokerage, their needs are more likely to be met.”
The agent-run advisory board includes volunteers from all demographics. There is transparency of budget and discussions regarding everything from human and financial resources to how to provide business continuity in case of a second wave. If management has suggestions, they are presented to the advisory board for input. Gardin says the concept is so popular that there is a waiting list to join.
The new strategy also works to build on the strengths of its individuals, providing appropriate training and support after identifying gaps.
No one can be good at everything, so peer-to-peer programs allow agents to “bring a skill, take a skill,” she says. Agents are clamouring to volunteer. “It’s quite magical,” says Gardin, who has “25 years of brokering.”
Everyone, Gardin says, has something to contribute whether they’re new or seasoned professionals. “Everybody brings value to the conversation.”
One-on-one training is also available.
During interviews, potential candidates are asked about their feelings regarding collaboration and peer-to-peer interaction and they’re surprised by that, Gardin says. “They’re used to an environment of scarcity and having to compete with each other.”
There’s also a new front desk strategy, which includes Broker Bay, an advanced communications system that “allows us to use our human resources more effectively.”
Quantum has moved from the classic receptionist model to a customer service team, “where we can offer a menu of assistant on-call items and a very robust menu.” Staff worked many 12-hour days to develop the menu of services and associated costs, which helps agents budget more effectively.
“Our front desk team possesses more skill sets than the traditional reception model and we continue to develop our customer service team to improve the experience of the agent and our clients and customers,” says Gardin.
The sleek Oakville office has high seating for laptop work, café tables and some private space. But the “no doors” design creates a “very open vibe” that creates energy to fuel incubation of ideas and interaction. It’s a safe place to collaborate that Gardin says people are raving about.
“The legal counsel for CREA came to do a town hall and said it was the most beautiful office he had seen in Canada. Everyone loves the space and wants to be here.”
The company has donated the space on many occasions, including for a Home Suite Hope charity annual general meeting and to students from Sheridan College who wanted to shoot a film in the cool space.
The office is also open for use by the agents working at Quantum’s Mississauga office.