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How agents can survive the transition from ‘rainmaker’ brokerage to independence

By February 17, 2015 One Comment

I hate the term “rainmaker,” though technically I fit the description as it’s used within the real estate industry. Contrary to what is typically associated with a rainmaker, I don’t make dollar bills (or leads, for that matter) fall from the sky onto my team members as if it is raining. I don’t want to be viewed as a god, and I definitely should not be the only person on the team charged with the task of creating opportunities.

My philosophy for managing a team is different than most rainmakers. Recruiting reliable team members is hard, and talented buyer and listing agents are rare. So rainmakers will put systems in place that value the rainmaker’s best interests over the team member. These systems are designed to make leaving the group to become an independent agent incredibly difficult.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the team concept. I strongly encourage new agents to find a great team in your area and beg to join. Teams provide accountability, training, mentoring and leads. But the transition out of the team to independence is rarely addressed.

Here are my tips for surviving a transition from a rainmaker brokerage to independence.

Learn the entire business.

It’s typical for a buyer’s agent or a listing agent to be limited to a small part in the transaction. Most buyer and listing agents will hand a pending contract over to a coordinator who will handle all the annoying details and get the property closed. This agent is missing out on the most important part of the transaction, the contract-to-closing phase — where most deals fall apart.

Take it upon yourself to learn how your team coordinator does the job. Identify the systems in place and figure out how you can apply those when you become an independent agent. Right now you are wearing only one hat: sales. To be a successful independent agent, you will need to become a salesperson, contract coordinator, marketer, industry expert and therapist. Over time, you will be able to outsource those jobs to your own team members, but that doesn’t excuse your responsibility to learn how to execute well in each area.

Develop your own database.

This one can be touchy! A lot of rainmakers write into their team agreement that all leads belong to the rainmaker, no matter who generates the lead. Buyer and listing agents are asked to turn over their sphere of friends, family and past clients to the team’s database for marketing purposes. These contacts might technically belong to the team, but their loyalty most likely remains with you. Buyers and listing agents typically do not have access to the team’s database, and recovering this information can be a major challenge.

I am personally not concerned about claiming ownership of leads. I know that I will do a better job of marketing to a past client who isn’t deeply tied in some way to an ex-team member. This attitude of entitlement toward leads by a rainmaker creates bitterness for the agent in the long run instead of empowerment.

If you feel that one day you will be leaving your team, make sure you are creating a database to use when you are on your own. Consult an attorney should you have language in an agreement that prohibits you from doing so.

Brand yourself on the side.

Typical rainmakers want to market the team and never the supporting cast. I have a different point of view. My marketing manager produces pieces that are branded for the team but feature individual agents. She then sends out custom pieces to each agent’s database. At the same time, we train each agent how to execute a personal marketing plan.

I want my agents to have an identity in the marketplace so that the burden of creating business for them is not solely on my shoulders. By teaching my agents how to push out their own marketing materials, my team is getting significantly more exposure than I am able to provide on my own — plus, it’s free.

I also encourage my team members to develop a voice within the industry. My team’s blog ranks in the top three search results for several popular search terms in Cincinnati. By letting my agents contribute bylined material, they are gaining exposure and becoming known as industry experts, and my brand gets exposure, too.

Whether it’s through a monthly e-newsletter, a blog or even dedicated engagement on social media, the most successful agents on my team are the ones who make the time to work on their business, not just in it.

Learn how to generate your own leads.

You are probably good at working leads, but can you generate your own? I have had two licensed assistants whom I trained to be excellent assistants. They both knew this business well and have since ventured out to sell real estate on their own, only to fail. The biggest reason for their failure is because they weren’t around to see how I built my business from scratch.

When you work on a team, you see an influx of leads coming from listings and finely crafted marketing efforts. It might appear that leads just rain from above, but this can’t be further from the truth. What you don’t see are the hours of learning, frequent rejection and an overwhelming drive to succeed that has been in place for years.

Whether it’s through cold-calling, open houses or joining community groups, make an effort to build your business independently of your rainmaker’s efforts. Don’t leave your team until you determine that you’ve found the majority of your clients as a result of your efforts alone. This will ensure your ability to survive independently.

Every member of my team should be contributing to his or her own success and not solely relying on me to build the business. I want to empower my buyer and listing agents. I want them to be successful enough to come ask for a higher split. I want them to outgrow me eventually. I want them to create a mega-team, just like I did, and to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Every team is different, though, and so is every agent. There is nothing wrong with being a part of a team for your entire career, just like there is nothing wrong with being an independent agent. The key is to position yourself to be successful today without losing sight of what steps need to be taken to ensure your future, whatever it might be.

Brett Keppler is the owner of TREO Realtors and the CEO of Nekst, a personal assistant application for real estate agents.

Email Brett Keppler.

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