The conclusion of the industry’s recent round of summer presentations and articles provides an opportunity for reflection and consideration regarding what lies ahead for fall and winter. As has been the case for the past few years, increasingly dramatic transformation continues to occur. Issues regarding the control and processing of listings and other real estate related data, the emergence of the hybrid brokerage culture, the continuing demise of MLS organizations and REALTOR associations, the sharpening of the consumer expectation and the industry’s almost myopic focus on all things ‘portal’ provides the framework for this ongoing discussion.
Certainly one of the most significant dynamics currently driving the industry is the almost universal sense that little or no change will be initiated or driven by the traditional brokerage element. With few exceptions, like great fortresses along the Maginot Line, they stand bravely facing out toward the forest, awaiting their fate at the hands of those that will carry the day forward.
Yet, under the umbrella of the forest there is a great deal of activity. Record numbers of more aggressive agents are abandoning these fortresses seeking refuge, safety and success with brokerage organizations that appear to be preparing to take both a leadership position and the advantage of the evolving marketplace environment. Many of these agents are entering into new brokerage relationships that involve levels of compliance, accountability and discipline that would never have been possible in the traditional sector.
These agents may constitute the first wave of the new movement. If that is the case the second wave is likely to consist of the brighter and younger managers who are increasingly recognizing that their futures are likely to depend upon getting onboard and up to speed with a brokerage that is preparing to align with the trends, emerging rules and realities of the new industry environment. In July of this year I found myself engaged in a riveting discussion with a group of clients, all of whom are very successful brokerage management executives. The conversation worked its way through a number of interesting issues before coming to rest on the subject of management careers in the real estate industry. It was at this point that one of the participants assumed the leadership position and sharpened the group’s focus by sharing the fascinating story of her recent career changes.
This individual is no ordinary soul. Her career achievements include being both a longtime super high production agent and a record-setting large office manager. She has recently executed a really interesting career strategy that involved a number of rather dramatic tactics. As I listened to her story it occurred to me that hers was really the story of our current industry. I hope the reader will find the following thoughts both interesting and beneficial. In order to avoid irrelevant complications, this individual’s name and current and past relationships have been purposefully omitted.
What went wrong with your former brokerage relationship?
“I was observing fast moving changes in the industry and the marketplace not so much by following industry events as by listening to my better agents. Many, especially the younger high performing, were very aware of how the industry was changing. Increasingly their conversations evolved to asking what their brokerage was going to do to get on the new track.”
“At the same time I was attending management meetings where I observed no such discussions at all. I saw no apparent interest or willingness to change business strategies or tactics. Attempts to exercise basic leadership energies and perhaps get the senior team to consider alternatives were quickly rejected. As I became more engaged I couldn’t see that there was a plan in place or a process to get one started. It seemed to me that the ownership and senior management was not committed to future success but rather merely surviving the storm.”
How did your former career relationship make you feel as a professional and an individual?
“I was concerned for my agents but even more frustrated at not being able to work with my team to take advantage of opportunities that were so obvious. I was unable to find a way to be effective. The message of senior management seemed to be to stay the course and everything would be good.”
Through what process did you set about getting your career back on a course that you deemed to be appropriate and meaningful?
“I tried hard to convert my influence into leadership for positive change. I offered to become a change advocate. I offered to use the offices under my management as examples. When these efforts failed I made the decision to take my career in a new direction.”
At what level of detail did you negotiate your new position?
“I searched for firms that seemed to have a clue about what was happening in the current marketplace. I made the decision not to associate myself with those for whom retirement was the next stage of their career. I was focused on finding a position with a firm that not only understood the industry’s direction but also had a business plan that would allow them to take advantage of the new environment. I wanted to be with people who were looking to success ahead not behind. I understood that it takes more than a plan to succeed but I also understood that a team cannot succeed without a plan. I believe that my career is now back on track and that my talents are being used to their greatest extent and appreciated.”
What advice would you share with others in like circumstances?
“For someone who is in my former position I would say you have to follow your heart. If you are in conflict with your best feelings it is probably time for a change. Search for that place or that relationship that you feel that you can make a difference. Our world and our industry are changing as we know it and those who don’t change with it are going to be left in the dark.”
“Success moving forward will require a partnership based on emotional relationships between brokerages and agents.”
With each passing month our industry becomes more focused on objectives and destinations that are inconsistent with “how it has always been done.” It has become more than clear that over the near term future the changing industry and market environment, its productive agents and those who manage will demand a business model that conforms to the new expectations. While there is no certainty of success in this environment, it has become obvious that without an innovative and adoptive business plan and wide spread collaboration, accountability and support success will likely be impossible.