While a team structure in CRE can come in several different forms — scalable, integrated, or hybrid, for example — they definitely prefer to put the “I” in TEAM.
“Working as a team far outweighs being on your own,” says Street Jones, SIOR, principal with Rich Commercial Realty in Raleigh, N.C. “I switched to the team approach in 2015 and did not look back!”
“I started Totum four years ago with the premise that only a team approach works,” shares Kevin Riley, SIOR, founder & president of Totum Realty Advisors in Pittsburgh. “Hands down, working as a team is the only way to go! Many hands make light work.”
“I very much prefer working as part of a team,” says Warren Suissa, SIOR, vice president, Michael White Realties Inc. in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada. “For many years I have worked independently, but more recently, I have had the opportunity to work within a team context — which has provided for many different perspectives. Teams allow for brainstorming and the opportunity to bounce ideas off one another, which increases creativity [and] allows for delegating of tasks, finding innovative solutions, and making the best use of time. Importantly, it creates for mutual accountability, and, in my opinion, allows individuals to challenge their assumptions and biases. Finally, it reduces the stress that occurs when working alone.”
“I think I prefer a team because there’s always someone available,” adds Arlon Brown, SIOR, senior advisor of Parsons Commercial Group in Framingham, Mass. “Sometimes if a deal is regional or national, a client may call you out of the blue at 10 o’clock. If you’re a one-man band and have something else to do you’re dead in the water.” He adds that he prefers teams of two or three on a project, to avoid splitting the commission too many ways.
Clinton Bennett, SIOR, principal broker with Bennett Commercial Real Estate in Rogers, Ark., agrees, citing his preference for the hybrid model. “I think that from a quality of service, quality of life, and opportunity to scale, a team approach is preferred,” Bennett says. “But some clients are best served by a one-on-one relationship — and in those situations it can be most efficient and effective to just grab the ball and run with it.”
BENEFITS ARE CLEAR
SIORs have clearly seen a number of benefits from the team model. Take Jones, for example, who cites the following:
Several others shared similar viewpoints to Jones. “I believe fundamentally that a team approach is always superior; our clients get the benefit of five minds ideating vs. one mind,” notes Riley. “There is no circumstance whereby one individual can have all of the answers or all of the knowledge, so leveraging the power of the group’s collective experience is second to none.”
Brown agrees. “We all have different skills we can bring,” he says. “Just because I’m an SIOR and have 46 years’ experience does not mean I can always do better than someone with two.”
I think the most important thing is having people willing to dive in and do whatever it takes. It has to be that everyone works together for whatever needs to be done.
THE MODEL MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Suissa, who has experience with all three team models cited above, says that the model you choose really does make a difference. “With a scalable team, by adding people or increasing time on a mandate, this has proven to enhance the productivity of my team,” he says. “However, it does require that my team be able to adapt to gaining or losing team members and yet have the ability to adapt and ramp up the demands of completing the mandate.”
As for an integrated team, he continues, “This involves my team having a common goal who have complementary skills and who are able to collaborate to complete the mandate.” This requires sharing goals, expertise, having decisive roles, having good communication skills and importantly, team members willing ‘to go the mile’ when sacrifices are required to complete a project,” he notes.
In terms of these two models, say Suissa, he prefers the scalable team. “In realty, team members have to demonstrate the ability to adapt to expanded responsibilities, at times with diminished team members,” he explains. “This, for me, is a more realistic approach with team members being removed or leaving a team, and yet, the mandate being completed.”
In terms of the hybrid team, he says, the COVID-19 pandemic “forced a new way of thinking and working. This model has resulted in a greater sense of work-life balance and finding flexibility to work in ways that are efficient for brokers. In my experience, with a hybrid model, there must be clarity with regards to expectations, decisive work schedules and a sense of fairness for all…greater coordination, communication, and a strong team culture.”
Bennett says he also prefers a scalable structure. “Our team is structured with the most experienced member as the de facto leader,” he shares. “As the team members grow in their ability and experience the inbound work can be spread across the team more effectively, and it creates an opportunity to bring a less experienced producer into the team in a manner that will allow them to integrate into the workflow.” In this model, he explains, the less experienced producer can develop the skills to be a valued advisor to the client(s) while improving the team, growing their – and the team’s — revenue, and “growing the business in a manner that will create an opportunity to bring in the next member of the team — all the while providing great service, with a level of redundancy, to the client.”
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Of course, no model guarantees success, but SIORs have some very clear ideas about winning strategies. “I feel strongly that there must be a defined method to understand how compensation will be split,” says Bennett. “We use a matrix internally that allocates a percentage value for 21 steps that we, generally, determined are required to complete a real estate brokerage transaction (i.e., sourcing the client, completing the survey, completing the tour, managing the contract, etc.) and our team has collectively determined a percentage value for each step of the process. When a transaction is completed, we sit down as a team and discuss who completed the various steps required to complete the transaction and the matrix is used to determine the split of the commission that each team member receives.” This approach, says Bennett, “creates a very easy process to see that everyone is rewarded fairly for the deal.”
Jones recommends clear goals and roles and understanding the responsibilities of each team member. “Effective open communication is vital,” he adds. “You have to be able to share your ideas, concerns, and opinions regularly within the team. Lastly, and probably most important, is collaboration. Everybody brings something different to the table so knowing strengths and how to best utilize them is key.”
Riley emphasizes a communal culture – “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” He also cites commitment, putting others first, incorporating different backgrounds and areas of expertise, and the willingness to ask questions.
“I think the most important thing is having people willing to dive in and do whatever it takes,” says Brown. “It has to be that everyone works together for whatever needs to be done.”
Suissa agrees that diversity is important to a successful team, which involves respect for opinions and brokers’ experiences. “There has to be a sense of equity — a sense of fairness so that team members feel fully engaged and are apprised of all aspects of the mandate,” he notes. “This will lead to a sense of inclusiveness and a feeling of belongingness to the team, all the while keeping the necessary hierarchy of the team.”
A successful team, he continues, must also have accountability in order to create cohesiveness. “Most important is a leader who knows how to motivate the team and deal with situations as they arise,” he emphasizes. “This would include establishing and completing goals through proven strategies and tracking progress. The latter is done with ongoing team meetings and team members exploring their own different areas of strengths and weaknesses.”