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Growing a Brokerage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

Industry Observer with Swanepoel T3 Group

Growing a Brokerage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

Too many brokerages and teams get stuck. They plateau. They lose momentum. They stop feeling the excitement of the early days. Why does this happen?

Building for growth is complex. It means trying new ideas, new messages, new systems, new technology and new people. But sometimes, much effort and vast sums of money are spent on the wrong technologies, half-baked marketing, and agents who come and go.

Some brokerages have met these leadership challenges and are climbing successively higher plateaus: Nest Realty, Hawaii Life, and M Realty all started during the recession and are now deeply admired for their innovation, great culture and seriously impressive growth (these brokers are Mentors in the T3 Fellows program. Tune into our webinar on March 29 to learn more).


This post is the first in a series on how to solve the complex problems inherent in building a modern real estate business. Today we'll talk about the difficulties of the transition from successful sales leader to a broker and business owner.
he transition from sales team leader to broker and business owner is difficult

First, let’s consider the "why" of growing a brokerage.

To create an asset that has value without you personally generating significant revenue. You may have run a successful sales operation for quite a while and now want to create something that could be sold in the future. You might want to leave a legacy and leave something behind in your community or to your family.

To get everything working is a common wish of many brokers who have been piecemeal trying to run a business while still selling every day. If you have a to-do list of technology and marketing projects that would take three years to finish, you know you need to make some changes.

To grow and develop others you recognize that your time would be better spent in helping other people sell real estate and service clients. You know how to win clients, provide them great representation and get deals closed, Now you want to help others develop successful careers.

Doing all of this requires change. Lots of change.

Change as a Leader

The first change to becoming an effective broker is that you transition your primary focus from your personal sales business to your agents, staff and, eventually, your management team.

You will need to broaden your thinking to being responsible for the entire business -- even the things you’re not good at. Too many brokers bounce back into sales where they’re comfortable and happy rather than the frustration of dealing with marketing, or technology and systems, or recruiting and training.

When you have a small team or a very small company, people can adapt to you and how you work. Your values, your habits and standards can be transferred by working shoulder to shoulder with a small number of people. As you grow your brokerage, your focus needs to shift to teaching and helping people become more effective at their jobs.

Change as a Marketer

If you’ve been successful as a high-performing agent, or as a sales team leader, you know how to do generate sales and get deals closed. But to many high performing sales leaders, it isn’t obvious how to develop marketing for a brokerage. Many brokers spend so much money on ineffective or unnecessary marketing and too little on programs that will generate real business for their agents.

Branding is usually an issue for newer brokerages. When you’re a successful sales agent, you really don’t need a complex brand, because you are the brand. You are distinctive and memorable. The identity of the operation is around you personally.

When other people join your brokerage, they need ways to represent themselves to family, friends, prospects and clients, because they’re not you. You have translate what you have and what you do into something that other people can use.
Creating a bigger brand involves expressing your core strengths and values. You must take the things that you do well, and make them bigger so that other people can work with you and for you.

Your marketing needs to expand to attracting agents that share your values and need your help. When agents see that you are really good at the things you do, and that you have a big enough tent to include them, they will come to you to learn what you do.

To grow a brokerage you must build marketing systems that scale. Creating marketing systems that will support a variety of agents requires clear expression of your brand and what you do for your clients. It requires that a variety of services be available to agents, because some agents want marketing to help them build their networking business, while others want help converting internet leads. It’s probably unwise to leave agents to create and execute effective marketing programs.

Change In Systems

When your organization is very small, many of your systems can be largely manual and learning how to use them happens during the course of day-to-day business operations. But as you add more agents you will need to have the right systems to support the business. Just some of the systems that small brokerages need are lead conversion, SOI marketing, compensation plans, recruiting and on-boarding/training.
We're where we started in this post "what got you here won't get you there". Becoming a broker is hard work. Visit our site to learn more about T3 Fellows, our twelve month brokerage development and leadership program.

If you want to learn more about the journey from sales leader to broker, please join us for our webinar on March 29. Please register even if the time is bad for you and I'll send you a link to the recording.

In my next post, I’ll share how we help brokerages develop a meaningful brand. It’s not easy but it’s foundational work.

Compass - La Jolla, CA
San Diego Partner - The Private Client Network

I personally had challenges that adversely affected my production when I tried to grow a larger team. It's just not for me to have a large team is my personal conclusion.

Mar 28, 2016 05:15 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

We must constantly evolve with the industry, technology, our own expectations and those of our clientele.  Reminds me of the old saying that you need to keep moving or get run over and left in the dust.   Have a great week, Leslie.

Mar 28, 2016 07:58 AM
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Home is where the hearth is.

Excellent advice for brokers... clearly thought out, and well presented.

I'm delighted to see you here on Active Rain. :-)

Mar 28, 2016 08:55 AM
Leslie Ebersole

I'm going to see how it goes here for a while. I miss y'all.

Apr 03, 2016 07:35 AM
Liz and Bill Spear
Transaction Alliance 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
Transaction Alliance Cincinnati & Dayton suburbs

Leslie, No doubt major changes for a brokerage to get from small and well performing to larger and still well performing without losing the group culture that was successful on a smaller scale.

Mar 28, 2016 09:53 AM
Leslie Ebersole

Culture gets transferred through everything the brokerage does -- if the broker is very clear in who they are. Otherswise -- fizzles. 

Apr 03, 2016 07:36 AM
Laura Filip
Laura Filip Broker , Opening doors for All Seasons of Life - Whitesboro, TX
What can we do for you today?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very insightful post. Always looking at ways to grow. 

Mar 28, 2016 10:40 AM
Craig Cooper
Chase International Real Estate - Tahoe City, CA
Creating-Preserving-Growing Wealth in Real Estate

Leslie, never before has change been such a frequent and indispensible partner to growth and success. Today a search technology might change every few weeks or months if not every day! Mangement has to be very flexible, maybe yoga kind of flexible in order to keep up and stay in front of their own agents. Growing a successful RE brokerage today has to be one of the most difficult of things to do. Your post reminded me of an old saying, "you're either green and grwoing or ripe and rotting!"

Mar 28, 2016 11:04 AM
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

I need to re-read this early in the morning.  Too late to think tonight! I bookmarked it!

Mar 28, 2016 12:45 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Great post Leslie, I am going to try to make some room in my schedule for the webinar.

Mar 28, 2016 04:30 PM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Interesting overview of growing a brokerage. Running a company, and being a top performing real estate agent, do take different skill sets.

Mar 28, 2016 08:46 PM
Eric Kodner
Madeline Island Realty - La Pointe, WI
CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 -

The webinar sounds like a good idea. I plan to attend.

Mar 28, 2016 10:38 PM
Paul McFadden
Responsive Pest Control - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Great post. Thank you! You can never stop learning and asking the question how can I get better? I wish you well!

Mar 29, 2016 12:03 AM
Bill Reddington
Re/max By The Sea - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Sometimes I think a team concept is about the mindset of the team leader. Have thought about it but just don't want to work that hard.

Mar 29, 2016 12:21 AM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County

I am at the point of stepping out and attempting to grow my little start up.

Mar 29, 2016 12:49 AM
Ron Aguilar
Gateway Mortgage Group - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

Excellent topic. My favorite is: To grow a brokerage you must build marketing systems that scale. Agent's like if you can Rain make for them because they may not have the time to be technical...

Mar 29, 2016 02:46 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Great thought:  "what got you here won't get you there".

Mar 30, 2016 07:00 AM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Burlington, MA
Metro Boston Homes For Sale

Leslie Ebersole - to the point! Yes, if we want to grow, we need to do something different - and that's in every department. So true.

Mar 30, 2016 01:10 PM
Tabitha Rector-Richardson
Premier Homes Realty - Owings Mills, MD
Premier Homes Realty (443) 415-4215

Great post. I just registered so you can send the recording to me. Thanks!

Mar 30, 2016 10:37 PM