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Cutting Corners To Build A Team? Think Again

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Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian. He believes that business is nothing but a conduit for personal growth and embraces the company’s vision to Love How You Live. When he’s not leading and growing his organizations, you can find Adam either in the mountains or out in nature with his wife and three children.

It’s been about 16 years since I started my career in real estate. Within the first three months, I started building a team through trial and error, lots of failing forward, and a whole lot of time and energy.

As an entrepreneur who likes to move fast, I would always look for a quick, low-cost option to get the job done. Sometimes that meant I paid with sweat equity. And other times, that meant I paid for the mistakes two times over on the back end. 

Long story short? It doesn’t really pay off in the long run to cut corners. Sure, in the moment, it feels like you’re making progress and getting things done. Cutting corners offers a quick fix. It may even be really profitable. It may help you become a top agent in your market. But it is not sustainable long-term, nor does it help you build a solid foundation from which you can scale your business later.

In no particular order, here are five ways agents and team leaders tend to cut corners when building a team and how you can avoid those mistakes. 

Underpaying your administrative and operational support staff

This is probably the biggest mistake agents make when they decide to start building a team. They know they need help. They know they need leverage. So, they set about trying to figure out how to pay the least amount of money to get what they need. But that is no way to hire talent.

Hiring someone who is going to help run your business and communicate with your clients is an investment, not an expense. Underpaying for talent can lead to hiring the wrong person for the role, burnout, low morale, high turnover, costly mistakes and, ultimately, it will likely cost you more money than if you hired a talented team member in the first place.

Get clear on who you are looking for to help grow your team. Then, do your research. Find out what the market rate is for those types of hires. And if you really want to attract top talent, either pay at the top of the range or even a little higher.

You will know within the first 90 days if they are the right fit or not. If they are, that support professional will be paying for themselves and helping to grow the business’s bottom line.

Believing that your customers and clients will only want to work with you

If you have created a business — complete with an attractive culture, quality client support, streamlined and frictionless systems and processes, and top-level training for agents and staff — then any member of your team will be able to replicate what you do. That’s kind of the point of building a business, isn’t it? The catch is that it takes time.

It appears easier to just work with the clients yourself, take the listings and close the deal. But if you keep doing that, you aren’t really spending time on the business; instead, you’re working in it all the time. And I venture to guess, the business isn’t growing at the speed or profitability that you would like. Not to mention, there is likely not a whole lot of freedom or flexibility in your day.

Furthermore, this means knowing when to leverage administrative and operational tasks. You do not need to be the one answering all client emails, dropping off signs, or coordinating with the client, lender, appraiser and attorney. It may make you feel productive in the moment or give you a quick hit of dopamine when a client tells you how great you are, but in the long run, it’s not going to help you build the team you want.

If you really want to build a business and only work with a select number of clients (and only if you actually want to), then you have to spend the time to recruit, hire and train real estate agents who will be able to build relationships and sell just as well as you can, if not better. As long as your customers and clients are getting the same level of service and support from your team as they did from you, they’ll be happy.

Not communicating the long-term vision

It’s really easy to just focus on production and the numbers and just sell, list, sell, list, and sell some more. But what is it all for? First, you need to get clear on why you want to build and grow a team. Second, you need to ensure you are sharing that consistently with your agents, support staff, and in your market to attract the right talent.

An agent may be drawn to your team in order to hit their production and income goals. There is nothing wrong with making money. But that will only last so long before they start to realize that they can make money anywhere. And you need to make sure you are giving them a reason to do it with you – through your vision, the culture and opportunities for growth. Don’t miss this important step when building your team.

Not investing in training and coaching for agents and staff

This mistake is basically the opposite of holding on to your systems and clients too tightly. Sometimes, team leaders leverage and then let go too soon. Leveraging to showing assistants, listing mangers, transaction coordinators and buyer’s agents is a great first step. However, it is very easy to just hand off the tasks or the clients to another team member so you don’t have to deal with it anymore.

This is a big mistake that can cause reputational damage, cost you additional unexpected expense, or make you miss out on future opportunities. Your team members, whether they are agents or administrative support staff, need to be properly trained. And if you aren’t going to do it, then you need to invest in a comprehensive training or coaching program that will.

Outsourcing before you have a full-time staff member to manage the third-party vendors

If you have committed to growing your team and decided to outsource various projects and tasks, that’s great. But, I caution you to make sure you have a full-time (or even part-time) “in-house” hire made first to manage all the various contractors and third-party vendors.

Let’s say you’ve decided to contract with a transaction management company, hire your sister-in-law to do listing marketing, contracted with a courier and sign installation service, use a photographer and drone service for each listing, have a fractional 1099 social media manager and a bookkeeper.

If you don’t have an executive assistant or operations manager on staff, then you will be managing all of those individuals and that in and of itself a full-time job — one that will take you away from listing properties, negotiating deals, casting the vision, hiring new agents and generally working on the growth of your team. The instinct to leverage was right. Just leverage first with an in-house staff member who can then go forth and outsource as needed. 

You don’t know what you don’t know. So, learn from some of these common mistakes and choose differently. You will grow your team faster, more effectively and more profitably if you do. 

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s companies and culture here.

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