Cover story: How to succeed as a managing broker

by Rincey Abraham

While real estate agents are often the face of a brokerage, managing brokers work behind the scenes to make sure they put their best foot forward. Managing brokers wear many hats in order to properly support their agents and lead their team toward greater success.

Whether it’s through training, assisting agents with difficult transactions or providing training and educational opportunities, the best managing brokers are committed to making sure that their agents succeed.

“It’s all about a commitment to the success of the agents in the office,” says Debra Bradley, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Buckhead. “I always work through a philosophy of serving agents. It’s that servant leadership role you have to take to in order to be a successful managing broker.”

The best way to support agent will vary depending on the individual’s skill set. Lisa Johnson, senior vice president and managing broker at Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International, says that she works to be available and present for her agents to learn what they need and how she can be there for them.

“Everyone has different personalities. So if I don’t take the time to get to know the agent, understand what they’re looking for, how can I be effective at communicating and working with them?” Johnson says. “So it is important for me to take that time to dive in and learn about them.”

Michael Delaney, managing broker at RE/MAX Solutions, is quick to point out that every brokerage is different and the definition of a successful agent and office is up to those individuals.

“One of the things I love about RE/MAX is that Dave Liniger says there are many ways to define success. So if you compare me to other brokerages, I may not seem very successful. But I define success as being able to do business the way I like to do it, taking care of my clients, and having time for family while earning a good living,” he says.

 

Recruiting & retaining agents

Growing an office is a task that many managing brokers are constantly looking to do – whether it be by recruiting top agents in the area to join their brokerage or training a new agent to become a cornerstone of the brokerage.

Bradley says that they have found that agents have four areas in which they want support: production power, coaching, a culture with likeminded individuals, and a culture of building true wealth. She works to make sure that the entire staff understands those core values and to help each agent live their best life, however they choose to define it.

“We believe the best is yet to come and these four principles help us realize the potential of the agents that we are retaining and the ones that we are recruiting,” she says.

For some agents, the allure of a well-known brand is part of what brings them to a brokerage. Johnson notes that while Atlanta Fine Homes is a strong brokerage in the metro Atlanta area, agents who join know that they become part of a larger international brand, too.


Read more from our Managing Brokers issue


“We are a family-owned firm, but we are backed by the globally recognized brand,” she says. “It’s an alliance that gives us so much in terms of marketing, reach and technology.”

But everyone agrees that it is not just about recruiting top agents, but recruiting the right agents that will make the brokerage successful overall for everyone there.

“People want new agents who have the same business mind and work ethic,” Johnson says.

Delaney is also honest with potential agents who come to him about the type of culture they have at the office and whether or not he believes the partnership would work.

“We are very frank about the good and bad that comes with our office. I have told people that we might not be a good fit for what they want and told them to visit other offices in the area where they might work better,” Delaney says. “We don’t want to just tell people what they want to hear to get them in the door. Unfortunately, a lot of other brokers do that to get someone in the office to make money. We want people who are going to stay and stay for a long time.”

 

Leadership styles

The size of a brokerage is inevitably going to have an impact on the work that a managing broker can do with its agents, but managing brokers at larger offices do not automatically need to struggle to support their agents. Johnson says a managing broker can be spread too thin as a brokerage expands, but it’s important to also grow your staff to help support you.

“The strongest managing brokers have the best support team around them. An office can be huge as long as the managing broker has the right support around them – staff members, IT support, marketing. Then the managing broker can devote their time to pour into agents and their business,” she says. “So my leadership style hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how I delegate and to whom I delegate.”

Delaney takes a hands-on approach with his agents while trying not to micromanage. He notes that he still looks at contracts to make sure everything is correct to help take some of the burden off the agent.

“We go the extra mile to make sure we have done everything by the book the way you are supposed to do it. If I had 100 agents in my office, I could pay someone to sit there and look at everything but it changes my style,” he says. “I am available and everyone has my phone number to call me or run something by me when they need me.”

Bradley finds that working with a national network like Realogy allows her to find that balance between being a bigger brokerage while still having the individual relationships that flourish in a smaller firm.

“It’s the best of both worlds: Not only do we have the unlimited resources, but each branch is also like a boutique real estate firm unto itself where the relationship with the agent is the most important thing,” Bradley says. “I can treat my agents like we are in a small boutique firm while empowering them with technology and financial resources, and send them to our national convention to work with trainers from around the world.”

But in the end, many agents still don’t completely understand the exact duties and responsibilities of a managing broker.

“Unfortunately, new people to the industry just see us as the golden egg referral giver,” Delaney says. “They feel like our main job is just to provide leads and referrals, and that’s not our main goal.”

The broker’s job may look glamorous on the outside to many agents, but it can be extremely difficult, Johnson says. Often, she gets involved in a challenging transaction for one of her agents, and at that point, emotions are high for both the buyer and the seller.

“As a broker, I am typically brought into a situation when there’s an issue. It’s not the happy deals I get to take part in,” she says. “It’s my job to fix the problem and keep all the parties happy, but that’s not always possible.”

Though there are obstacles along the road to success, being a managing broker has its share of rewards as well — including the opportunity to serve as an industry leader and inspire others in their lives and careers.

“You become an analyst and a strategic counselor. You give guidance, you support and help them execute. You can make a lasting impact on the life and future of someone who touches people who want to live the American dream,” Bradley says. “It is a very empowering role and people don’t realize that it is not just about problems and pushing paper. It is about great relationships with people who touch people who want to own homes. It is something exciting and a privilege to be a part of.”