How Brokerages Establish (and Promote) ‘Company Culture’
Company culture is a hot topic these days as brokerages define what they do and how they do it, hopefully using their reputations to draw elite talent. It informs every aspect of businesses that rely on staff members working together as a team. In residential real estate, wherein agents know and interact with those from other brokerages on a regular basis due to different REALTORS® often representing different sides of the transaction, for the seller and buyer, a company’s culture can become known to outsiders, which can be a plus or minus, depending on one’s point of view.
“Our cultures are all very different, and I believe that every company has its own culture, and it does affect recruiting,” says Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® in Devon, Pennsylvania.
She mentions questions all brokerages should consider. “Do you talk about your culture so that everybody knows who you are and is attracted to you? Do you have special activities you work on in the community, such as charity work? How important is culture to your company as a whole?”
“I think culture is everything,” says DeAnn Golden, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties in Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s one of those assets that can be intangible if you don’t bring it to life and speak to it and make certain that people are in alignment, because it’s your beliefs.
“It’s what you do every day. But how do you describe it? How do you bottle it? How do you radiate it through offices and sales professionals, and then have it known internally and externally? I think it starts with how you involve your agents and how you make them feel so they can be who they are, become all they want to become, and know they belong to an organization that really cares for them.”
Golden points out that her brokerage is involved with charitable efforts, which bond employees beyond the office as opposed to only working together on home sales.
“We try to impact the community, and believe that giving back is a powerful way we can show that it’s beyond just transactions,” she says. “Being able to raise money has been a great way that we can bring sales professionals in our offices together for team-building activities and great events. And that’s where the magic happens. Culture is everything, but it’s a battle preserving it and protecting it.”
‘More than just having fun’
Jackie Louh, COO of Lamacchia Realty Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts, endorses that mindset, adding that a brokerage’s culture is something that must go beyond everyone simply getting along well.
“Every company talks about how great their culture is, but can people actually define it?” she wonders. “Agents want to be a part of a strong culture. I remember in a meeting with a broker/owner outside of my company, he said, ‘you can’t just talk about your culture, you have to live it.’ That really resonated with me. A lot of people think that culture is just about having fun, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, you want to make sure you’re doing fun things with your agents…luncheons, office outings and sporting events. Those things help build camaraderie.
“But you need more than that. Agents won’t stay just because it’s a fun place to work. They want to be in a place where they can grow their business. So you must make sure you’re providing them with the tools they need to be successful, like photographers, marketing assistants, a transaction coordinator, all of that in-house. Everything they need right at their fingertips to help them grow and be successful. Giving agents those tools, coupled with the fun things, is what creates a strong culture.”
Anthony Lamacchia, broker/owner/CEO of Lamacchia Realty Inc., acknowledged that a company’s culture is vital for growth, adding that a strong brokerage can add many agents quickly without sacrificing team spirit and togetherness.
“I do notice that the top agents, they’re more cognizant of quality,” he says. “There’s a race to quality, and there’s more of a recognition of that. As far as culture goes, when people are successful and feel cared about, it creates a good culture. When we had 100 agents, we were told, ‘oh, you have a good culture, but when you get to 200, it won’t happen.’ We got to 200 and it was better. We got to 300 and it was even better, then 400 and 500. So if people are successful and you truly show that you care about them and you do all you can to help them as the leaders of the real estate brokerage, great culture will happen naturally.”
Even a brokerage with a strong and positive culture can feel pressure when the market declines, as it did in the second half of 2022, and continues to be sluggish in many parts of the country. Newer agents who thought the frenzied pace of sales, bidding wars and low mortgage rates of the post-pandemic years was how residential real estate always operated clearly miscalculated. The agents who know they have to, and are willing to work harder than ever and may not match or exceed their numbers of the past few years, are the ones who will succeed long term.
“Our competitors will still be doing the same things that we’re doing, and we’re all going to be going after top people,” says Liz Nunan, president and CEO of Houlihan Lawrence in New York City. “Top agents want to work where other top agents are, so it’s all going to be just keep on keeping on, if you will. We’re putting our heads down and doing what we’ve been doing.
“I think just a strong, positive, collaborative culture helps in recruiting. Some of our best recruits in the last year have started after another agent’s recommendation. When that happens, it makes our job that much easier. I was recently speaking with one of our agents, and he’s someone that came to us a couple of years ago from a competitor. He said he had to experience our culture for himself, that he didn’t believe how special it was until he was living it and breathing it. He’s even offered to do a video testimonial for us, and I’ll be taking him up on that soon.”
Charitable efforts can bond employees beyond the office, promoting positive company culture.
Agents want to be in a place where they can grow their business, so making sure they are provided with the tools they need to be successful is vital.
Top agents want to work where other top agents are, so a strong, collaborative culture helps in recruiting.
Having a positive culture is even more important to reassure newer agents who thought the frenzied pace of sales the last few years was the norm.