AgentIndustry VoicesOpinion

5 skills to help real estate pros market-proof their businesses

The industry has undeniably encountered some unprecedented moments and markets over the past three years.

From rapidly escalating interest rates to contingencies becoming nearly obsolete, we have all held on for what proved to be a wild ride.

That said, even through the chaos, there remains consistency in the skills that are needed to effectively navigate the ebbs and flows while healthily cultivating the bottom line. The fundamentals have remained unscathed and my playbook, while ever-evolving, contains chapters that have been written in permanent ink with the understanding that the lessons throughout will never lose their importance.

Simple in their essence, and often complex in their application, the following has sat at the forefront of my methodology since I got into this game back in 2011.

1. Conduct yourself as you would a business

While there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint to success, there is such a thing as optimizing performance consistently and sustainably, while keeping the best interest of your business and your clients at the forefront. Now, I’ll be the first to say that we work in a highly personal industry but at the end of the day, we’re entrepreneurs – professionals who are responsible for building and maintaining their respective books of business and overseeing day-to-day operations, including profit margins and expenses.

By IRS standards, we are also statutory non-employees who are subject to self-employment tax. Translation? At the end of any given year, we can be taxed as high as 40% when all is said and done – emphasizing the importance of understanding business entity opportunities such as incorporating. When an agent incorporates, they reap several benefits, including:

  • Avoiding the aforementioned self-employment tax.
  • Paying Federal tax deposits throughout the year, as opposed to being hit all at once.
  • Writing off expenses such as office space, marketing materials, and transportation.

There is also something to be said about the credibility and branding opportunities that coincide with operating as an LLC. Industry professionals and clients alike perceive a corporation as a legitimate organization with the potential for scalability. There’s peace of mind that coincides with doing business with a business.

That said, I’d only recommend going this route if you’re looking at your career as an agent as exactly that, a career you intend to build upon and approach as a full-time pursuit. If this is something you’re planning to squeeze in on the weekends or to supplement your M-F, don’t bother. While the benefits are undeniable, they do call for additional investment and you’ll only get back what you put in.

2. Run the business, don’t let the business run you

While it sounds cliché, I’ve always subscribed to the mantra, “work smarter, not harder.”

It’s natural to want to pour everything you’ve got into your career but there is a difference between ambition and over-exertion. I find that setting my intentions for the day, creating and sticking to a calendar, and prioritizing the important over the urgent has helped me to strike that critical harmony between work and life. I have my working hours and I have the time I intentionally set my devices and my mind to “do not disturb.” Yes, I approach every day as an opportunity to get hired but nothing is more important than a daddy-daughter date or an impromptu adventure with my fiancé.

There is a good chance that setting boundaries will initially feel risky, but I can assure you, your colleagues, your clients, and most importantly, the people you love will come to respect them. I’ve even seen my boundary-setting inspire boundary-setting in others. It’s infectious and effectively positioning myself as an engaged father, a reliable spouse, a consistent friend, and an avid man of faith has made me a better boss, a stronger agent, and a more successful broker. 

There will always be money to be made, our time on this earth however is limited and worth valuing.

3. In the presence of limitations, we have the greatest opportunity

If you were required to make 100 phone calls a day in order to get paid, you’d make the calls. If you were required to knock on 25 doors to yield a return, you’d go knocking.

Both seem obvious but too often “autonomy” is translated to mean “opportunity” when in reality, it can be an inhibitor to the grind if not leveraged properly. The same level of energy we directed toward securing our licenses should be applied to learning the tenets of management and effective leadership.

Many of us have never supervised other people before, never mind overseen a business. Operational parameters, goals, metrics, and quotas should be set and maintained as if earning potential depends on it … mostly because it does.

4. Trust your team

You know that saying, “your vibe attracts your tribe”? You know the one, you’ve likely seen it hanging on a friend’s office wall or perhaps it has made its way onto your fridge in the form of a magnet by now.

Whatever the case, I’m here to tell you that there’s something to it. My team has grown significantly over the years and while it took some real trust-building before I got comfortable in relinquishing that white-knuckled grip, the moment I did is the same moment I started to understand the growth and earning power the right team carries.

The ability to delegate is one of those leadership tenets I think are most often overlooked but let me ask you this, would you trust a pilot who also deemed it their job to load luggage onto the plane? Would you recommend an interior designer who also installed the plumbing and electrical?

While the latter may be talented, they’d likely be too exhausted to finish a project. The same can be said about an agent who spends more time spinning their wheels trying to work every transaction end-to-end as opposed to collaborating with trusted colleagues and maintaining focus.

I have grown increasingly comfortable with acknowledging my shortcomings, admitting to my strengths, and creating rooms in which both are effectively complemented. I can pass the torch, knowing that I’ve thoughtfully built out my team, empowered members to function with trusted autonomy, and inspired safe space where we can exchange ideas and insecurities.

The balance I keep alluding to has only been made possible by the group of powerhouse professionals I get to surround myself with every day.

5. Secret agents will be left behind

As of 2022, there are over 2 million real estate agents in the United States. These eager professionals are flocking to social, podcasts, blog forums, and mainstream media in an effort to elevate their brands and heighten their visibility. If you’re like most agents, you might be wondering how to keep up, especially if becoming “instafamous” isn’t exactly a line item on your bucket list.

While these outlets are certainly among the most effective in breaking through the noise, the traditional channels still hold weight … when utilized properly and consistently. I don’t care if you’re a TikToking machine or a newspaper-stacking Baby Boomer, pick your platform and own it. The agents who have established recognition, leveraged leads and referrals effectively, put a trustworthy face to a trustworthy name, and dedicated as much time to creating relationships as they have in understanding the market will emerge victorious.

In the time it has taken me to share these insights, I suspect that over 100 agents and brokers alike have shared their predictions for the year ahead – a continued exodus from major cities, fluctuating home prices and interest rates, fewer individual investors, etc. We’ve all learned to brace ourselves for uncertainty but perhaps it’s time to dust off the fundamentals that have anchored us through the storms.

At the end of the day, if you look closely, the lessons I’ve shared fall into timeless categories that even the “pre-Instagram” and pre-pandemic agents can relate to: discipline, balance, confidence, relationships. Again, so simple yet so multifaceted in their application and potential for impact. Between the lines exists the critical role that consistency and authenticity play when an agent goes to create their own playbook.

My advice? Start by drafting a list of core values, your non-negotiables, and the objectives that exist beyond the realm of wealth building. Who are you? Why are you in this business? What is the primary reason that a Client should hire you instead of another agent?

When you start with a clear vision and a comprehensive understanding of what you want to accomplish, anything is possible.

David Brooke was a real estate appraiser for 11 years prior to becoming an agent, starting with Engel & Völkers in 2011, then joining Berkshire Hathaway in 2013, then Keller Williams in 2015 before becoming a part of eXp in 2020. Today, his team produces over $200 million in sales.

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