BrokerageIndustry VoicesNewsletterOpinion

Fathom’s Josh Harley on real estate culture and brokerage growth

No matter how you define your culture, service must be part of it

Whether your desire is to grow your brokerage or simply improve the real estate culture, the underlying strategy should be exactly the same. Growth requires a focus on three things: culture, retention, and recruitment— in that order. A strong culture is vital because agent retention will be weak without it.  Recruiting agents into a brokerage with poor agent retention is like pouring water into a bucket full of holes. It’s maddening and counterproductive.

Effective growth demands that recruiting agents take a back seat to real estate culture and retention. At Fathom Realty, we’ve been growing our brokerage by around 50% per year for more than a decade, so trust me when I say that growth comes easier when you’re focused first on a culture of service.

Focus on a real estate culture of service

I encourage you to take a more proactive approach to culture. Be intentional. Identify what you want your culture to look like and then take steps to demonstrate that culture on a daily basis. Whether you want your culture to be one of excellence and top-performing agents or one that has a connection to — and a heart for — the local community, or both, it should also include the highest levels of service to your agents.

Service is ultimately what matters most when it comes to retention. There will always be another brokerage that outproduces yours, offers better splits, or provides some technology or training you don’t. But when you turn your agents into raving fans, it will take more than a shiny object to claw them away.

Serving agents is more than just being available

When you think about serving your agents, it’s not enough to simply be there when they have questions. Serving your agents should be just as proactive as it is reactive, yet most managers are strictly reactive.

Don’t wait for your agents to approach you with their problems. Instead, reach out to them regularly. Ask how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to serve them.

Another idea is when you see a new listing, call or text your agent to congratulate them and ask if there is anything they need. Treat your agents like you would in your own sphere of influence. Keep notes about their family and hobbies so that you don’t forget when you speak with them.

Set reminders for birthdays and work anniversaries so you can show them that they matter to you. Real estate culture goes beyond just serving your agents. It means and requires high-touch, high-value service that should be the foundation of your culture.

Remember that most agents are extroverts

Real estate agents are often extroverted by nature. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but it’s important to remember this fact. Look for opportunities to bring your agents together on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This can be accomplished through training sessions, mastermind groups, monthly social events, charity work and more. Whatever you do, make sure it is engaging and you are providing value. Otherwise, it will be a waste of their time and each event will draw fewer and fewer agents.

Get them involved in the conversation, ask questions, and make them part of the event. You cannot build culture in a vacuum, so it’s important to bring your agents together as often as possible. By the way, this does not mean you need a physical office. My brokerage is virtual, yet we still regularly bring our agents together. By not having office space, we have more money to invest in our agents, and there are plenty of available spaces to use — many at little or no cost — for periodic face-to-face gatherings.

When you serve and love your clients, your clients are far more likely to refer other clients to you. The same is true for your brokerage. The more you truly serve and love your agents, the more likely they are to refer other agents to you, and the less likely they are to leave you.

When you build the right culture, your agents become your greatest recruiters. I’d like to challenge you with the following question: Who can recruit more agents to your brokerage, you or your agents? The answer should be obvious.

Serve your agents, build an engaging and sticky real estate culture, and now when you recruit an agent to your brokerage or one is referred, you will be adding to the fold and not simply replacing agents who left.

Josh Harley is the CEO and founder of Fathom Realty.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of RealTrends’ editorial department and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Josh Harley at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tracey Velt at