A great team supports each of its members and expands its business base, but it takes a great team leader to put it all together
By Jeff Balke and Deborah Kearns
Real estate agents often enter the business so they can control their own destiny. Having a team of competent, hard-working people can expand a real estate business exponentially and alleviate many of the stresses and time constraints that come with the job. The time to start building a team is when you’ve reached a production level where others can help you manage the growing number of transactions on your plate and also capitalize on your experience, client base and reputation.
Meet three top Team Leaders with a wealth of experiences and insights to share.
Agents who join Ronnie Matthews’ team find a home – and stay for good. It’s that way by design. Matthews and his wife, Cathy, have the No. 1 RE/MAX team in Texas for 10 years running and have ranked in the RE/MAX U.S. Top 5 every year since 2004. The team also has been No. 1 in Houston for nine of the past 10 years, according to the Houston Business Journal.
The team’s success is due in large part to its structure: Everyone on the team is an employee. And Matthews – a Luminary of Distinction honoree and Diamond Award Club member – provides constant value and support to his team members.
“Most of our team members have less than a year of experience when they come on board,” Matthews says. “I want them to learn our system. We provide them with great service so they can do their jobs better. We’re not big on titles here. No one calls me the boss – I’m just Ronnie.”
Now the 21-member team has multiple members with more than 15 years of service. Nearly everyone has been with the team for more than 10 years.
“In the real estate industry, that’s pretty rare,” Matthews says. “The key is recruiting the right people with the right attitudes. In 2013, we closed more than 1,000 transactions, and that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have this setup.”
Seven team members are in the field while the rest are in support positions. In addition to providing medical insurance and 401(k) benefits, Matthews encourages each of his team members to embrace and excel in their respective roles.
“I tell my clients that if they’re talking to anyone on the team, they’re talking to me,” Matthews says.
Everyone, whether they’re in the field or not, is responsible for marketing, he adds.
“We all have to look for leads and new business; I don’t think that’s a responsibility suitable for one person,” Matthews says. “As Team Leader, my time is spent looking for ways we can grow and make the team more profitable.”
Growth and profitability naturally follow when team members are committed to the business and share common goals, he adds.
“Good teamwork, constant communication and consistent follow-up all go a long way to making agents and clients happy,” Matthews says. “It sounds easy, and it really is. We look for people who have energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard; we teach them the rest.”
Ronnie’s Advice: Building a solid team
“Don’t over promise to the first people you hire. You might hire others and you’re stuck in a commitment to someone that isn’t fair to you or the rest of your team members. If new people aren’t team players, get rid of them quickly. Hire people who fit your team, not just someone who’s good at the job.”
ST. CONSTANT, QUÉBEC
Francis Lavoie and his wife, Audrey, have had tremendous success building the Lavoie Group. A strong motivation was to create richer, more fulfilling lives.
“In 2009, we determined that if we built a team we’d be able to generate more business and give better service to our clients,” Francis Lavoie says. “At the same time, we could have the life we wanted for ourselves and our team.”
And generate more business they did. The 14-person team closed 291 transaction ends in 2013 and averaged a closing every 30 hours. “It was more than we expected,” he says.
In addition to being a Chairman’s Club member and earning the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award, Lavoie has become one of the top RE/MAX Team Leaders in Québec.
He credits the people around him. “Every agent has a role to play in the transaction, which makes a big difference for the client,” he says. “They feel the whole team is working for them.”
Greater support from team members frees up Lavoie to concentrate on marketing that brings in more business. The team’s stellar productivity means they can invest in effective advertising, which gives them greater visibility in communities across their province.
Lavoie explains that the team routinely receives calls from potential sellers saying, “I’m calling because you sold my neighbor’s house.”
This is, of course, a huge benefit for team members, affording them more time to spend working with buyers and sellers and helping to further Lavoie’s philosophy that creating a happy, productive work environment also means a less harried life.
“If 100 percent of agents’ time is focused on the right tasks,” Lavoie says, “they can do more and have a better life at the same time.”
Francis’ Advice: Where to start
“Begin by delegating administrative work so you can focus on customers. Build a big client base before recruiting other agents because you have to be able to offer them leads. Divide the tasks of the business evenly among team members.”
RE/MAX ASSOCIATES OF TOPEKA
For Mary Froese, the best thing she can provide her team is fairness.
“Everybody gets exactly the same thing,” she says. “There’s a lot of accountability, and that’s why we’re No. 1.”
A RE/MAX Hall of Famer and perennial Diamond Award Club member, Froese is generally uncomfortable tooting her own horn, preferring instead to give the credit to her team members: Mike Botkin, Lisa Christopher, Seth Froese and Melody Tener. So much so, in fact, that she gives her agents duplicates of awards she receives. The team’s results are remarkable. In addition to being No. 1 in their market, Froese’s team of five licensed agents closed 764 transaction sides last year.
“There are teams of 30 people that don’t do that in a year,” she says.
Froese is no stranger to success. After running 11 lending offices in nine states, eventually selling them to Wells Fargo, she transitioned to real estate and closed 96 transaction sides in her first year. Realizing how difficult it would be to continue at that pace, she started her team in 2008. “I’m not a paperwork girl,” she says, and having a team meant taking that workload off her shoulders.
When it comes to building her team, she says her approach is a little different.
“I prefer to hire people who are new to real estate,” she says. “That way, I can teach them my system and good habits from the get-go.”
The first lesson is also Froese’s motto: “Work hard and be nice,” something she personally follows in all of her dealings with both clients and team members. This includes passing all leads to her group.
“I think a lot of team leaders struggle with giving leads to their team or wanting to keep the best ones for themselves,” she says. “I’m the opposite. I try to work with my team in helping them achieve their individual goals.”
Recently, Froese’s team presented her with a framed version of her aforementioned motto as a gift. It hangs in her office as a symbol of how she stays dedicated not just to her own success but also to that of the people working with her.
“When people say, ‘Wow, your numbers are amazing,’ my response is always, ‘Well, I have a great team.’”
Mary’s Advice: Staying motivated
“Never pit team members against each other. You always want them to cheer each other on. Make sure your promotional marketing doesn’t say, ‘Look at what I’ve done,’ but rather, ‘Look at what we’ve done.’ And add a person to the team only when the team is completely overwhelmed. Make sure your current team members are well fed before you bring on more mouths to feed.”