In this episode, we explore the world of real estate teams - the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Should you join one? Should you leave one you’re on? When are you ready to start one? How can you better manage the one you’ve already got?
When it comes to teams, you can’t grow without one. Tune into this episode to learn why a team could be the change your business needs.
Today we’re going to be talking about all things real estate teams - should you join one? Should you leave one you’re on? when are you ready to start one? How can you better manage the one you’ve already got? Those are questions every agent in real estate should ask themselves at various points in their careers and that is what we’ll be covering today.
If you’re new here, I’m your host Jen Percival and this show is all about ways to start, grow and scale a real estate business that you’re proud of without using tactics or strategies that don’t align with how you want to build your business.
Before we get into this episode, I have two quick housekeeping items. First up, when I started this podcast I obviously was targeting women, given the show is called Women Rocking Real Estate, but recently I have heard from a lot of men that are listening in and wondering if I only work with women and the answer is absolutely not. At the end of the day, I just want to work with good people that have the desire to be great agents and to raise the bar in this industry. I want to help Agents who have integrity and who want to do the right thing and gender has absolutely nothing to do with that. So if you’re listening and getting some benefit from the show, I welcome you and everyone regardless of what gender you identify with.
One other quick housekeeping item, I am finally opening the doors to the Attract Accelerator again. It’s been 7 months since I welcomed a new cohort and I’m really excited as the entire program has been completely updated and overhauled based on what’s working right now in online marketing and digital lead generation. So if you want to stop hunting for clients and start attracting them on autopilot, I’d love for you to join me inside this 90-day accelerator. This is not an online course, this is an intensive cohort-based program where you learn the strategy, practice it first and get feedback from both myself and your Accountabilibuddies and then implement it in your business. So if you’re sick of being told to cold call and door knock and bug your friends and family for business, this is your chance to generate leads a different way. You can find details in the show notes or visit my website.
Alright, lights dive into today’s episode.
Sometimes I feel the need to set up expectations at the beginning of an episode and this is one of those times. In this episode, I’m going to be playing devil's advocate. I’m going to be encouraging team members to see things from a team leads perspective and encouraging team leads to see things from a team member’s perspective. People usually tend to only see things from their perspective and sometimes they’re right, but sometimes they’re wrong so think of me as judge Judy. I’m going to take both sides in this episode and give you my thoughts and opinions about different situations and scenarios, sometimes calling out team members that need to check themselves and sometimes calling out team leads that need to get over themselves.
Now I am not for one second pretending that I was the perfect team lead or brokerage owner. Not even close. I am fully aware that I can be pretty difficult to work with. I have high, often unrealistic expectations of people and I am not good at hand-holding or tip-toeing around issues. I say it like it is and I can be blunt and I can be bossy and as a result, I can be perceived as being harsh. I have a lot of masculine energy and that just doesn’t work for some people and I get it.
Ok before I get into the nitty-gritty of this topic, I want everyone listening to take a minute and consciously throw out everything you currently believe about the word team and the feelings you have about it. Whatever meaning you give to the word team, erase it. Whatever experiences you’ve had with teams (both positive and negative), forget about them. I want you to listen to this episode with an open mind and be willing to challenge whatever beliefs you have about the concept of teams and your role in one. Instead, Let’s start with a blank slate and recognize that the word team can mean a million different things. Teams can be structured in a million different ways. There are no rules (I’m using air quotes) when it comes to what the word team means. It can mean anything you want it to mean. So when I talk about joining a team or starting a team, do not view it only through the lens of a traditional real estate team. The team can mean anything where we are working with people and leveraging each other for connection, support, accountability, community, and growth.
So, under that definition, If you are brand new to real estate, you should seriously consider joining a team. If you’ve been doing this for a bit and aren’t getting enough traction to get the experience you need, you should consider joining a team. If you’re doing well, but you’re feeling isolated and lonely, you should consider joining a team. If you’re doing well and want to grow your business at all, you should consider starting a team. If you’re doing well and feel like you’re working too much, you should consider starting a team. If you want an exit plan and don’t want to be selling real estate into your 80s, you should consider starting a team.
So basically what that means is that everyone listening to this podcast should consider either joining or starting a team. What type of team you join or start is open and flexible to meet you wherever you’re at. Don’t rule the idea out, because you have a preconceived belief about what it means. Decide what you need to get from it and then either go find that kind of team or go build it. Anything that helps you leverage other people for connection, support, accountability, community, and growth is a team. So let’s start first with joining a team. If you are new to real estate, you need to be on some sort of team. Trying to learn this business and figure out how to spend your time and on what and stay motivated on your own at the same time, is very, very hard, if not impossible. So at a minimum, you need to be a part of some type of community. That could be as simple as joining a free online group or a paid coaching group. Or it could be joining a group through your brokerage. For example, I lead a community of agents at eXp. It’s not a traditional real estate team, but we meet every Monday morning and there’s support, accountability, coaching, and structure. So if joining a traditional real estate team is not something you’re interested in, look for substitute options that will give you some of the important things that a team provides, especially if you’re struggling. Keep in mind that struggling can take a few different forms. If you’re struggling with things like procrastination or distraction or lack of clarity and focus, a coaching program or mastermind can help with that. If you’re struggling with loneliness or just staying accountable, then an online group may suffice.
However, some agents need more support to get traction in real estate and some agents just want to be a part of something bigger, and, for those people, joining a traditional real estate team may be the best option. Traditional real estate teams can be as small as just two people - you and the team lead or they can be massive with dozens of agents.
So if that’s the route that you decide to go, there are some really important things to consider before joining a team and to keep in mind if you’re already on a team. You are going to want to set the experience up for success and that’s just as much on you as it is on the team leader who brings you on. Remember that. You’re not just a passenger on the journey with no influence on the outcome. Take responsibility and accountability for your success on a team from day one and do everything YOU can do to set it up for success. You won’t have control over whether others hold up their end of the bargain, but you can hold your head high knowing you’ve done everything you can do, to be a good team member.
Alright, what about those of you thinking of starting a team? I often get asked when is the right time and my answer is always the same. As soon as you can afford to. This is one situation where I’m telling you to do as I say and not as I did. I waited until I was making close to $400k before hiring an assistant and in hindsight, that was a big mistake. I was looking at it from the perspective of just what it would cost me in terms of money, but what it gave me in terms of time, allowed me to grow my business by 62% the year I hired her.
Also remember, you don’t have to start a traditional real estate team. You can take initiative and start any type of team you want that will allow you to get support, community, accountability, and growth. In fact, I think it’s wise to start a more untraditional team first, to get your feet wet and practice shifting into more of a leadership role, without the full pressure of a traditional team.
I also think it’s wise to start low and go slow. Start with just adding one person to your team and see how it goes over the course of a year and through the natural seasonality of real estate. I’ve seen people add team members during the busy spring season, only to realize they can’t sustain them year-round.
In terms of order of operations when building a team, start with a part-time, virtual assistant, then a full-time virtual and then a full-time licensed assistant. Don’t start adding other team members unless you have all of your processes documented and a mechanism in place to onboard and train them. You should also have all of the systems in place for managing and communicating about tasks and transactions. The number one area that will cause things to fall through the cracks, is the lack of systems, structure, and communication. When you are ready to start adding agents, only add one at a time and just like I said with team members, be intentional about setting your team up for success from day one.
If you’ve not been in a leadership role before in another career, read everything you can, listen to podcasts, take a leadership course, and consume everything you can about how to grow and develop people. Leadership is a skill that comes more naturally to some than to others, but it’s also a skill that can be learned.
So regardless if you’re looking to join a team or you’re looking to start one, let’s set you up for success by going through the 6 things that need to be documented in a contract. Agents will often ask me what they should expect when they join or start a team and what I always say is that there’s no rule book on this. Teams can be structured in a bunch of different ways based on a bunch of different things. But the key things you obviously need to clearly understand up front are:
One of the first things that will impact your outcome, is your expectations.
This is going to sound harsh, but trust me when I say that embracing this will save you a lot of self-inflicted heartaches. And here it is….
When it comes to building your business, no one owes you anything.
Now granted there will be situations where someone probably does owe you something, but it’s the very expectation that someone owes us something that sets us up for disappointment and hurt and anger when we don’t get what we think we deserve.
On the flip side, when we take full and complete accountability and responsibility for our own business and our own success and when have zero expectations that anyone owes us anything, that is when we are truly empowered.
Embracing this perspective is critical and it applies to both sides. When you join a team, no one owes you anything. You may be given leads and opportunities, but you’re not entitled to them. When you run a team, no one owes you anything. You may get loyalty, but you’re not entitled to loyalty just because you helped someone build their business. Team members can leave and you don’t get to be angry, because nobody owes you anything. This was a hard lesson for me to learn personally. I would pour my heart and soul into trying to help people build their businesses and I felt like I deserved some loyalty in exchange. Yes, loyalty would be nice, but no one owes me anything. Once you accept and embrace this, trust me, it’s so liberating.
So that’s the first rule of a fight club. Don’t make the mistake of convincing yourself that you’re owed anything, you’re giving away your power when you do that.
Now just because no one owes you anything doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get crystal clear, in advance about any and all expectations. Expectations are the root of almost all problems. When you are considering joining a team, every scenario should be clearly articulated in a contract and if it’s not, that’s your first red flag for future troubles. Because when there are no rules, people will make up rules as they go and they usually won’t be rules that are gonna work in your favour.
Up next is Lead. The biggest mistake I see agents make is deciding to join a team because they need leads. If you ever plan on succeeding in this business on your own, you need to learn how to generate your own leads. If you can’t generate your own, you won’t make it on your own. One of the best motivators when learning to generate leads is a bit of desperation. If you’re having leads fed to you, most agents get complacent with their own lead gen and it keeps them stuck. If you get stuck in a situation you’re not happy in, that’s a recipe for disaster. In all of the years that I had a team, the agents that got the fewest leads from me did the best on their own long term.
I’m going to talk about each of these elements from both perspectives. From a team member’s perspective, as I’ve already said getting leads should NOT be your primary reason for joining a team. It’s a tempting benefit of course, but like I said earlier it can hurt your long-term success if you’re not careful.
Also, remember the first rule of the fight club. No one owes you anything. Your team lead does not owe you leads just because you’re on the team. If there are leads available, always take the position that you need to earn them. Don’t expect opportunities to just be given to you. It’s up to you to make them happen and for goodness sake, if you’re given opportunities like open houses that you turn down more than once, don’t play the victim when those opportunities are no longer offered to you.
Also, make an effort to find out what’s important to your team lead and then show up like that. One of the hardest things about giving leads to team members is the fear that they won’t perform the way they would and it will make them look bad to the client. This is a really legitimate concern when it’s a repeat client. The one thing that will get team leads to hold onto clients and keep doing the work themselves, is the fear that no one will do it the way they would do it. So as a team member, figure out how they’d do it and then do everything you can to do it the same way. Observe how they do everything and then make a point of asking. Ask what’s important to them, ask what their pet peeves are, and ask what things would send things sideways. Ask what their expectations are. The very act of making an effort to find this stuff out will help set the entire experience up for success. It will give your team lead comfort and confidence in you and if something does go wrong, they’ll also likely be more forgiving.
Sometimes it’s big things and sometimes it’s little stupid things. I had one repeat client that was a lawyer and he was really serious, so I always kept my communication with him serious. I mirrored back to him how he was to me. I remember being so uncomfortable having one of my team members communicate directly with him because she tended to use a lot of exclamation points in her emails and texts. I should have just told her to not do that, but I felt bad so instead, I took over and managed all of the communication with him. That ended up creating so much more unnecessary work for me.
As a team leader, it was ultimately my responsibility to set those expectations, so I take ownership of getting in my own way. But oh my lord I would have been so impressed and relieved if she had booked a meeting with me at the beginning of working with him and asked how I’d like her to manage things. So much goodwill, so much comfort, and so much appreciation. If you do that every time you get a lead, I guarantee you you’ll get more leads.
Now if you find yourself in situations where your team lead seems to take over, there’s likely a reason why they’re doing that. Yes, they probably are a control freak fine, but take it as a sign that there’s something they’re not comfortable about and then be proactive and try to fix it. Don’t take it personally. They got to where they are for a reason and you can probably learn something from how they do things and absorb some really important skills IF you can see past what can feel like criticism.
Alright the last thing I’ll say about leads from the team member’s perspective, is this. Don’t try to convince yourself that because you did the work with a lead you were given, that they’re yours to keep if you leave. Your team lead may be ok with that but never make that assumption. The lead always belongs to whoever generated the lead, even if they only paid for it through advertising and you were the one who nurtured them into a sale. It wasn’t your lead, to begin with, and you have compensated already for the work that you did with them. Unless you have a prior agreement, if you want to keep a lead, you need to have generated the lead. You might not agree with me now, but trust me when you get to the other side, you’ll understand.
Now as I said earlier, I’m going to play both sides. If someone on your team brings in a lead, it should be their lead to keep, even if it happened under your watch. Whoever generated the lead, owns the lead and as I said earlier, you should be encouraging your team members to generate their own leads. When you don’t do this, you inadvertently create a culture where your team members become reliant on you for leads and that sets up a circular cycle where you’re constantly having to lead gen yourself to feed your team. The more you feed them, the more they depend on you. When business slows down and it always does, all of a sudden you have all these mouths to feed and sometimes there’s not enough left over for yourself.
As a team lead, you’ve got to remember that the better your team does, the better you’ll do, so motivate and reward the right behaviours. I always said to agents on my team that they needed to bake their own cake, but that I’d add the icing for them with leads. No cake, no icing. In the beginning, I expected to see the effort being made to get the ingredients and put them together, but they just needed to make a cupcake instead of a whole cake and I’d give them icing. So give your team members icing for their cakes, but teach them how to bake their own and reward them when they do.
Alright moving along to the next element that needs to be clearly outlined and that is compensation. Some teams pay team members fixed salaries, some do commission splits and some do a combination of both. I’m not going to get into what to expect in terms of fixed salaries because that is going to be different everywhere depending on the average sale price, cost of living, etc.
When it comes to commission splits, however, it’s usually based on the source of the lead, or at least in my opinion it should be based on the source of the lead. When you are given a lead, it normally ranges between 40-60%. Meaning you as a team member would get to keep between 40 and 60% of the commission. If you are getting to keep less than 40%, I certainly hope that is being offset by a lot of additional support. Meaning the team lead is paying for marketing, advertising, systems, and administrative support and that your small portion of the split is purely profit. While this type of arrangement will get you to experience in real estate in the short term, it’s not ideal in the long term, and if you do decide to go out on your own, expect a big learning curve.
Now, what about situations where you bring in your own lead? What’s the commission split for that? Again there are going to be lots of variables at play here, but in my opinion, there should be a much higher commission split. Somewhere between 80-100% depending on what the team’s expenses are and what they cover.
Whether you’re a team member or a team lead, always strive for a win-win situation, where both parties are benefitting from the relationship. As soon as the benefits become lopsided in favour of one side or the other, that’s when resentment starts building and problems occur. The longer you can keep things a win-win, the longer people will stay and the less turnover you’ll have which can be very time-consuming and costly.
So try to get into the habit of always putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Don’t be biased and only see what supports your narrative and conveniently confirms what you want to believe. So as a team member, don’t just see your hard-earned commission dollars being pocketed by the team lead and fail to see that in exchange, the team lead holds all the risk and is liable for all the expenses. If you’re the team lead, don’t just see that you’re providing leads and allowing a team member to earn a living and fail to see that on average they’re making close to minimum wage and you’re expecting them to be at your beck and call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The best relationships are the ones where both parties benefit equally over time and where risk is mitigated by the upside. But in order to truly see those benefits and risks, you’ve got to remove your biased lens and put yourself in the other person’s shoes to see how the situation feels from that vantage point.
Up next on the list is the support bucket and this includes everything that falls under the umbrella of training, coaching, marketing, advertising, systems, and administrative support that the team provides. Most of that stuff is pretty self-explanatory, but I do want to dive into the coaching and training stuff because it’s a serious bone of contention with a lot of team members that I work with.
Let’s talk about training first. If you’re looking to join a team, you need to have a very clear understanding of the approach that the team takes and what the expectations are going to be of you, in terms of lead generation. I can’t tell you how many agents contact me for coaching because they joined a team that takes an approach that doesn’t align with how they want to grow their business. They are expected to cold call and door knock and make 100 calls a day to their sphere and they don’t want to. But they don’t know what to do instead or their team lead doesn’t support them taking a different approach. In those situations, it is just a matter of time before the team member will leave and that’s a waste of time for everyone. So all of you need to save yourselves the heartache and be upfront about the approach that the team takes, what’s expected, and whether or not that’s going to work. The same thing goes for coaching. I’ve had a lot of people secretly hire me, even though their team has a paid coach that works with them for free. If they are leaving their coaching sessions feeling discouraged, broken down, and battered, it’s not working. As a team lead, you’re wasting so much money and creating unnecessary turnover when you hire a coach that doesn’t align with how your team members want to be coached. If you’re hell-bent on only doing it the way you’ve always done it that’s fine, but make sure you are crystal clear about this during your hiring process so that there are no surprises.
Up next is culture. As a team lead, whatever culture you have, you created. Whether it was done with intention or by accident, you created it. I encourage all team leads to obviously be more intentional about the type of culture you want to create and for team members, do your due diligence, and find out what a team’s culture is like before you join. To be more intentional means thinking through what type of culture you want and what your expectations and boundaries are. Who do you want to attract and what’s important to you? Make sure you communicate all of it in the hiring process so that people understand what’s acceptable and what’s not. Remember you set the tone.
Also, it’s important to be really mindful of how different people are motivated and discouraged by things. If half of your team is motivated by having a leaderboard that shows where everyone ranks in terms of sales, but the other half is completely discouraged by it, it’s probably not the right approach….even if it’s something that motivates you.
The use of titles on teams is another one that’s very controversial. When you give titles to people, it may make them feel good, but if it makes the other 99% feel bad, is it worth it? Like let’s get over ourselves, we’re not on a reality tv show folks. Unless you’re in an administrative role, there’s no legitimate purpose to having internal titles other than feeding egos. Now that’s just my opinion based on what I’ve been told and maybe your team loves them….but I’d recommend you take an anonymous poll and check.
Before we leave this topic, regardless of what culture the team you’re on has, take the high road and be an adult about it. If your team lead is bothering you, talk to them about it. Don’t act like a teenager and bitch about it behind their back to other team members. If you’ve tried talking to them about it and nothing ever changes, well you’ve got two choices. Live with it or leave. No one is forcing you to stay.
Having said that, I have had some clients I work with who were manipulated so badly on their team, it borders on abuse. The culture was so toxic and unhealthy, but they were trapped and felt like they didn’t have an option but to stay. If that is a situation you are in, it's important to get outside support. It’s never going to be only sunshine and roses on any team, but there is a line where it’s time to go.
Last but not least, it’s not a matter of if but only a matter of when someone will leave a team. Because of that, an exit strategy needs to be clearly outlined and understood by both parties before they even start.
If you do want to go out on your own one day, you need an exit strategy from the beginning and that means you have to always be building your own business, which means you need to join a team that allows you the freedom to do that. Many teams are structured in a way that you’ll be building the team lead’s business and you won’t have the autonomy to build your own business on the side. It’s very easy to become trapped in these situations, where it feels like you don’t have a choice to leave because you need the leads because haven’t built a brand name for yourself or a database or a pipeline of clients. If you left, you’d essentially be starting from scratch and that can be really scary if not impossible for some people.
For that reason, in these situations, it’s really important that you get clear on what kind of autonomy you will have. Will you be able to keep your own CRM? Will you be able to have your own website? Can you create your own content? Can you run your own ads? A lot of team leads can feel threatened by this autonomy, but there are ways to structure things that can make it work.
Until you’ve been in a team lead position, you have no idea how hard it is to balance everything and everyone. It’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. When you’re running a business, you have to make decisions that are unpopular sometimes. You have to have difficult conversations with people and those conversations can make people unhappy. It’s just the nature of business and team leads need to accept that and be ok with being unpopular sometimes. You’re not going to be able to keep everyone happy and sometimes people will leave because of that. Sometimes it’s a good thing that they leave because they can be creating drama that brings the whole team down.
Then there are the times when people will leave because you’ve done such an amazing job teaching them and they’re ready to fly on their own. Take those situations as a compliment, even though it may not feel like that at the moment when they tell you they’re leaving.
In closing, I want you to remember this…when it comes to teams, you can’t grow without one.
That applies both to agents getting started in this business and it applies to agents looking to scale their business. You can’t grow without the support of other people. That support can come in many different packages and doesn’t have to mean in the sense of a traditional real estate team. But it does mean having people around you for support, accountability, and community. So when it comes to teams, you can’t grow without one.
The sooner you accept that the sooner you’ll start growing.
Until next time….