I have never been an office manager. I don't think I would like the job. Never say never, but I think there is a 95% chance that "never" applies to this situation for me. We are all given different skills and gifts. Someone else gets to be the office manager.
I just get to work with and watch office managers. As best I can tell, Corporate hires an office manager to do three broad categories of tasks: risk management, agent recruitment, agent retention. I watch them do the first two on a regular basis. But, I don't know that I have seen them do much in the way to working on retention.
One skill that is an absolute must-have skill for an Office Manager is this kind of Horse-whisperer capacity to calm people down. The first time I ever saw it done it was an absolutely riveting performance. I have been in the business 12 years, with 4 different agencies. I have had 9 managers during that time. Of those 9 people, 2 of them had the ability to talk irate people into calmness. It was a jaw-dropping thing to overhear. That skill is at the core of Risk Management.
The other part of Risk Management is establishing core competence in agents. That is done with education and supervision. Of the 4 companies I have been with, one did it better than anyone else. Clearly better, remarkably better. From an agent's point of view, I would think that providing the very best possible educational department for the company has got to be much, much cheaper than one moderately sized law-suit. But, that's just my opinion...
Supervision? New agents have no idea what to do. People in the business for less than 2 years need regular and systematic supervision. I am convinced that the impact new agents have on our profession is that they stay in the business long enough to do 2 or 3 deals and forever convince 4 to 6 consumers that real estate agents have nothing to bring to the table and that they do nothing to justify the huge amount of money they are paid to do nothing. I am inclined to say that those consumers are right.
Supervising seasoned agents is a completely different sack of cats. The main thing that a good manager can do is be available for a reality check from the agent. Over time, the solid advice of good office managers has been a huge thing of value for me. They need to have a depth of experience to be able to instantly know the answer to complex questions. I have had office managers who were great with new agents and totally useless once the agent actually knew how to fill in the blanks on the forms.
Recruiting new agents? I knew the owner of a small boutique agency who said that the real client base for the big-box franchise offices are the one-year (or less) wonders...the agents who have had their license for a year or less, the ones who won't make it beyond that first year. That owner said that he figured that there are companies who view those agents as a type of profit center because they pay exactly the same monthly agency fee as do the people who are actually producing. And, everyone in the industry who is paying attention knows that 80% of those agents aren't going to sell more than one or two properties before they get out, assuming they even do that many deals before leaving. Meanwhile, they have left $1,000, $2,000 on the books of the sponsoring broker in the way of desk fees (or whatever they call them in that office).
As for retaining seasoned agents, I wonder what the conventional wisdom would be for how to accomplish that. I am sure that when office managers get together to vent, there are plenty of stories to be told of prima donna agents who have required that the office managers play kiss kiss in their direction on a regular basis.
Someone needs to explain to me what is more difficult; to retain seasoned agents or to recruit new ones. I am curious about that one...
I would be interested in hearing agent's thoughts on what skills they value in an office manager. And, from those reading this who are managers, what do they see as being the main focus of the job.
***image courtesy of woodleywonderworks viaFlickr.com Creative Commons