In a recent RealTrends BrokerPulse survey, recruiting was named as a top three challenge for real estate leaders. It’s no surprise, it can be a laborious task that gets pushed down the priority list as brokers and managers focus on current agents, profitability and running a business. Here’s how one RT500 broker chose to tackle recruiting.
Like many brokerages, Worth Clark Realty started with one office and the managing broker did the recruiting. “When we decided to expand to other markets, around 2012, we located a managing broker in those markets and gave them duties to support the agents in the office and recruit new ones,” says Steven Barks, CEO of Worth Clark Realty, a 100% commission/transaction fee model. Worth Clark Realty is No. 279 by transaction sides and No. 447 in sales volume in the 2021 RealTrends 500.
That wasn’t producing the results the brokerage wanted. Barks found it difficult to have a cohesive, uniform approach to recruiting that way. “Talking to agents, reaching agents, nothing was centralized, and it just wasn’t working,” he said. “We weren’t really growing. It seemed like we were chasing our tail in circles trying to figure out how to do it.”
To grow, Barks and the leadership team decided to centralize and control the recruiting, transaction management and marketing. So, in 2018, he said, “We pulled the plug and redid our approach.” At the time, they were in four markets: St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Denver. Once they centralized recruiting, marketing, transaction and other services, he says, “We have easily doubled agent counts in just a couple years.”
They put the managing broker in charge of the agents and left the recruiting to a salaried recruiter. “Be available, answer the phone, text, email, whatever. Your job is to get back to agents as quickly as possible,” he said. “When we talked to agents interested in joining our company, most had a bad experience in some fashion, and usually it had to do with lack of support from managers.”
With a new strategy in place, Barks started the difficult process of hiring a recruiter. He said it was “sheer luck” that they found one right away. They hired an agent who “had a solo brokerage, wanted a transition and our company caught his eye.” Barks has since hired another recruiter, an agent from within the company who is no longer selling. He’s currently looking for a third recruiter as the brokerage expands. Each recruiter covers a specific territory.
It wasn’t smooth sailing right away. “There were certain barriers in our minds, things we thought agents cared about but just didn’t, such as having a competing broker, or being recruited by the broker and not a recruiter,” said Barks. “We’ve found that agents care more about systems, support and a compensation plan that works for them, so we quickly changed our mindset and put those concerns to rest. We let the recruiters do their jobs.”
Barks notes that “people who are dedicated to the company and the team” are ideal recruiters. This isn’t a job for “individuals’ as, he says, “Recruiting is a team sport. That way, if they happen to run across an agent from a different territory, they still take the meeting. They don’t say they can’t help that agent. And, he says, “They talk to the other recruiter about it. They have each other’s back.”
Worth Clark’s recruiters are paid a salary, but, says Barks, “they have a lot of upsides related to the number of agents they bring in.”
Determining your message
Controlling the message recruiters put out is important, said Barks, even though recruiters all go about the process individually. Before they hired their first recruiter, they wanted to develop a company message that resonated with agents. “We started thinking about the ‘why.’ There’s a great quote by Simon Sinek: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’” The overall theme they developed is that agents are entrepreneurs. “Most agents nowadays spend their own marketing dollars. They get their own business. So, we figured out what problems they, as entrepreneurs, have and worked on ways to solve those problems,” he said.
Those solutions included technology, a compensation plan and equity program that tackles the fact that, “it’s hard and expensive to run a business,” he said. “We built all of our messaging around the agent as an entrepreneur and how we had solutions to the problems entrepreneurs have. If I had to say a theme, it would be about owning what you do.”
The goal is to continue to grow, and, he says, it’s easier to do now that services are centralized. “Our value prop is one thing that attracts agents to us. We are also able to reach a ton of agents through our marketing and advertising. That’s the soft approach. We do outbound now. We are a volume company.”
“There is an evolution in our industry,” says Barks. “Look at the financial services industry. That got flipped on its head in the last decade, and it’s fine. It’s fair to have competition. We offer something different to agents and our recruiters help us get the word out about that.”