I lost a salesperson a couple of months back. Not a new experience. I have helped people to the exit but when one of them chooses to go voluntarily to another broker, it’s a shock.
It makes you evaluate and do a tally. I came to my current position as a managing broker nearly three years ago when the office staff numbered 59 licensees. Since then, 24 have joined the brokerage, 13 are new to the business, 11 experienced. So you wouldn’t be surprised if our total today was in the high 70s, allowing for some attrition.
Sorry. It’s 67. A net gain of eight. Those are the realities of turnover.
Still, a .333 average will get you into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And when we look at the age group of existing licensees and the increase in the number of women in the business, we shouldn’t be surprised by attrition due to retirement and parental leave – challenges faced by every segment of the labour market.
In our case, of the 16 no longer in the trenches on our team, half were a combination of retirement, parental leave and spousal transfer. The other half saw greener grass. Or cheaper grass.
In the ʼ80s, because we added new people every year, we took an annual group photo. Yes, it was in black and white! For history, I started blackening out the faces of those missing in action from the original photo. In 10 years there were only four of us left out of 24. In hindsight the churn or burn rate is shocking. My goal was to do all I could to make sure the reason for leaving was out of my control.
Every manager and owner has one critical responsibility – recruiting. Then comes the nasty bit.
In the early years, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a franchise called Realty World. It was brought to Canada in the 1970s by Harold Waddell, one of the most respected Realtors in the greater Vancouver marketplace. As an international franchise, Harold’s region outshone other North American franchise members. Canadian offices regularly hauled home trophies from whatever U.S. city the international convention gathered in. Today, particularly in Western Canada, those former Realty World offices are the backbone of Royal LePage.
Realty World’s strength was in its broker council, a group of managers and owners who believed in the strength of the brand. We met every two months and the annual two-day goal-setting session inevitably had recruiting high on the agenda. In assessing one particular Fraser Valley brokerage, the facilitator criticized the manager’s recruiting. We’ll call the manager Bill because that was his name. Bill wound himself up to his steely 5ʹ8ʺ and hissed, “Our company is very good at recruiting. We’re just piss-poor at retention.”
I don’t know which is worse, the weekend desk clean-out and farewell note, or the late in the day visit from the departing salesperson who says something like, “It’s nothing personal, just business.” But of course that’s not the case. It’s very personal.
People leave for a variety of reasons, as long-time REM columnist Barry Lebow noted in a recent issue. His advice, “Ethics – over all else”, should be the guide. The reality of many transitions is summed up in an old Scottish proverb, “No matter where you go, there you are.” When they get to where they are going, after the enthusiastic greeting, it turns out it’s the same grass! Listings are the name of the game and that means prospecting, spending a couple of hours a day seeing the people. You don’t do that on the golf course or behind a desk. You do that face to face, voice to voice, a minimum of 10 times a day. Simple.
Despite what the departed say, many don’t leave for a better deal. Incentive recruiting is a two-edged sword and inevitably, the bonus comes to an end. We recruit with a long view. Some will tell you they leave because of the manager. Okay, I’ll take that hit for the team. Many leave because the work effort required is a surprise, because they aren’t as “lucky” as others, because their hands weren’t held as they crossed the road.
In her boot camp for real estate office managers, Dyan Dobbin explained, “We’re running our real estate agencies like adult day care facilities.” Which caused me to reach back once again to my Realty World days and a great manager from Campbell River, B.C., Barry Watchorn. “We are too soft in this business. We spend too much time herding turkeys up and down the runways, hoping they’ll fly,” he said.
Look. Real estate is not an easy job. It shouldn’t be for the bucks we are paid. But it is a simple job, which is why we don’t need a university degree to qualify for licensing. Ready for the lesson? LIST PROPERTY, FIND PEOPLE AND GIVE THEM REASONS TO BUY! The most important thing you can do in ANY sales position, vacuum cleaners or sex toys, is go out to find the client, not wait for them to come to you. Good people are in the business, in and out of the office, every day.
Re/Max’s Dave Liniger said recently that the downside of an improving market (in the USA of course, never in Canada!) is that part-timers and losers come back into the business. Inevitably, we will manage someone of modest talent. Their presence in the office or on the team can be a detriment to recruiting. David Knox, one of the best trainers in real estate and a speaker not to be missed, asked this question: “What would you rather have – an empty kennel or a dead dog?”
As they say at UBC, “Tuum est.”