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Why Defining Your Culture is Essential to Building a Successful Team

Education & Training with Buffini & Company


One of the biggest challenges you face as a broker is recruiting top real estate agents who will thrive in your business. If you’re like many brokers, you’ve hired an agent who may have held a lot of promise, but wasn’t the right fit for your brokerage. Perhaps they were an all-star performer whose style didn’t mesh with your way of doing business or with others on your team. Perhaps they held a lot of promise but never had the motivation to perform to their potential. A bad hire not only impacts your bottom line, it impacts the morale of your other agents as well.

What attracts agents to your business? Your corporate or office culture. While money and accolades may sweeten the deal, top performing agents will only truly thrive in a culture where growth and development are encouraged and recognized, where they can see themselves succeeding year after year. As a result, these agents are motivated to not only work hard, but surpass their previous goals. This gives your bottom line a boost and may inspire your other agents to succeed as well. When you create a culture of growth, agents will want to be part of it.

Many brokers fall into the trap of equating “culture” with weekly potlucks and happy hours. While these activities can help build relationships among the staff, there’s more to culture than breaking bread together. Your culture is who you are as a business and your core values, how you serve your clients and the standards you uphold for your agents.

Define your culture

If you don’t have core values or a mission statement, don’t worry. A brainstorming session with your mentor or your team will help you define your culture. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • What values are most important to you?
  • What is your brokerage known for?
  • What traits/characteristics does your ideal agent have?
  • What goals would you like to achieve as a business? What goals would you like your agents to achieve individually?

Be a role model

As a leader, you’re responsible for upholding the culture of your brokerage and modeling it for your agents to imitate. For example, if you want your agents to write personal notes to their clients, model the behavior by writing notes to them to congratulate them for a successful week, thank them for the great service they provide to their clients or to encourage them to keep plugging away.

If you want your agents to set goals in their business and the other circles of their lives—health, financial, etc.—set these goals for yourself and be vocal about your journey to achieve them. If you keep a vision board or a list of your annual goals, post it in your office where your agents can see it. When you practice what you preach, your agents will be more likely to follow your example.

Mentoring is the key to great leadership. When you mentor your agents, you help them grow professionally and develop a solid skillset that will help them thrive in the years to come. In addition to sharing your experiences and providing motivation, you can help them forge a real estate career that can withstand any economic downturn.

Create structure that supports the culture

When you organize your business to make it easy to adhere to the culture, your agents will naturally fall into line. If your brokerage is relationship-based, organize your business to encourage developing and fostering relationships. Make connecting with clients a priority, and offer tools and tips to help your agents consistently communicate with their current leads and clients and reconnect with past ones.

Foster healthy competition

Not all competition is bad: healthy competition can bring out the best in everyone involved. When it’s adversarial, it can damage relationships and lead to ill feelings. The relationships your agents develop with one another impacts your overall company culture. Not only can they motivate one another to reach their goals and succeed—both within the business and in their personal lives—they can also refer clients whose personalities may fit better with another agent.

What if your agents just don’t get along? It may boil down to chemistry. Some personalities just don’t mesh. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to establish expectations, diffuse issues and offer clear lines of communication. While it’s not necessary for your agents to be the best of friends, it is essential for them to respect one another and handle their differences with maturity and class. Encourage a positive work environment for all by hosting team-building activities and workshops to help your agents improve their communication and listening skills, which can be used with clients and one another. When you hire agents, look for qualities that complement your current team and may even fill a gap.

Encourage transparency

A strong culture is built on trust and one of the best ways to build trust with your agents to be transparent. The more your agents understand about the business the more empowered they’ll feel to ask questions, make suggestions and work hard to succeed. Why? They feel they have a stake in the brokerage success; that their ideas and feedback matters. They know they’ll be held accountable for their words and actions. Since you trust them to get the job done, you can lead instead of managing each detail of their day. They’ll feel more connected to the overall mission and culture of the brokerage.

Company culture isn’t developed overnight. Culture takes time, patience and a clear understanding of your brokerage’s mission, goals and identity. Once you’ve created a strong culture, you’ll have a clear idea of the kind of agents you want in your brokerage and will attract like-minded performers who will add to your culture. When you know your culture, recruiting becomes a breeze.

Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-739-3843

This sounds very similar to Just Culture, which is a program my husband has instilled in his large EMS business that he's run for over 20 years in Oregon. Obviously, EMS can be a burn-out business, and filled with drama. Also, extremely stressful. Life and death, truly! 

Mine, thankfully isn't filled with quite so much "life and death", but real estate IS stressful. Building relationships, working with a great team, creating a culture that is kind, fun and bolstering for everyone is key. 


Jan 16, 2017 09:34 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

I'm glad you addressed this: "Many brokers fall into the trap of equating “culture” with weekly potlucks and happy hours. While these activities can help build relationships among the staff, there’s more to culture than breaking bread together. Your culture is who you are as a business and your core values, how you serve your clients and the standards you uphold for your agents." Because my company and so many of our partners over-do this. I can literally attend a Happy Hour per week every month ...nice concept but who has the time? Mentoring and structure were great points too.

Feb 04, 2017 01:44 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Without these issues defined , a Team is really just a Confederation of Careers !

Mar 01, 2017 05:41 PM