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“It’s all about team chemistry,” says Selling Steel City team leader

Selling Steel City’s team lead, Jordan Jankowski, discusses how his career as an MLB pitcher helped him create a winning real estate team.

Before being the team leader for the Pittsburgh-based Selling Steel City team out of Compass, Jordan Jankowski was a member of some other teams, pitching for several major league baseball teams including the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jankowski credits a lifetime of team sports to helping him successfully lead his team of 9 agents to close 230 transactions and generate $58.0 million in sales volume in 2021, making his team the No. 18 medium-sized Pennsylvania team in the 2022 RealTrends + Tom Ferry 2022 America’s Best Real Estate Professionals rankings.

“Real estate is very similar to sports,” Jankowski said. “It is very competitive. It is very performance based. If you take of the people around you, your clients and your team, you will be successful. From sports, I knew that if I put in the hard work and essentially outworked everybody else, the results would come.”

RealTrends recently caught up with Jankowski to discuss Selling Steel City’s team dynamic and how his experience as an MLB player has helped him succeed in real estate.

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

Brooklee Han: Can you tell me a little bit about your background in real estate and how you got your start in the industry?

Jordan Jankowski: After I retired from professional baseball I moved back home to Pennsylvania, and I got my license, starting out as a solo agent. It wasn’t real estate per se that attracted me, but I was at a crossroads of my life, and I wanted to be around family. Real estate allowed me to do that.

Early on, I found a system that worked for my business, and it got to the point where I couldn’t service my clients exactly how I wanted, so I started adding people and it worked, so I added a few more people.

My team is a bit different because every agent on my team handles and closes for their own clients. So, agents keep their own production. We obviously are building a team, but we try to make sure the agents keep their own name and their identity. That is also why our team’s name is Selling Steel City, I didn’t want my name attached to the name.

I first started in real estate in 2018 and I started my team about five months after I started. Some of the agents have been with me the whole time.

BH: Coming from professional baseball and a team sports background, how much of that informed your decision to start a team when you realized you couldn’t do everything you wanted on your own?

Jankowski: On the best teams, everyone helps, and everyone has the same level of drive to succeed. So, the types of people I look for with this team are people who not only want to succeed on their own, but also help each other. We help each other a lot here. We all get along. That’s the same thing with sports, the better the team gets along; the better it does. So, I try to find personalities and people who would be friends outside of real estate. Chemistry is a big aspect of any team that is successful.

BH: As you mentioned, allowing your agents to maintain their identity is important to you. How have you structured your team in order to allow this to happen?

Jankowski: We try to cover the city of Pittsburgh within a 20-mile radius. We definitely have people who are in different areas of the city and ,before one of us takes on a client or a project in an area, we can consult with each other or offer an agent who knows the area better the clients.

I try to keep things competitive though, and we use a claiming system. So, if a call comes in for a buyer or a seller, whoever is the hungriest person gets it. We don’t really specialize or divide by property type either. We have a few agents who came over from specializing in new construction, so they generally handle the majority of our new construction business, but they do existing homes too.

BH: Can you tell me a bit about the makeup of your team?

Jankowski: There are nine of us on the team. We also have a transaction coordinator who is in house and keeps things running smoothly for our clients. We are a pretty young team, so I feel like we are tech savvy and a lot of what we do is based on technology and social media. My team has grown a lot since we moved over to Compass in the early spring of 2021, going from three of us to nine in the last 12 months.

BH: What about Compass attracted you and prompted your decision to move your team?

Jankowski: Compass is very technology based and that tracks with a lot of the younger agents, which is what makes up my team. The technology just makes it easier to give your best to our clients. Everything is in one platform.

Before that, we were using a couple different platforms and services that we were paying for separately and this is provided to us at no additional cost. Then, there is also the marketing assistance they give you and that has helped our business dramatically. Plus, the brand is just very young and sleek and that was something we liked about it.

BH: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a team and how have you overcome those challenges?

Jankowski: People. People have been our biggest challenge. When we recruit agents, the really successful ones are afraid they are going to lose their identity if they join a team and that is something we really put a lot of effort into preventing.

We changed our structure this year so that nobody loses their identity because, I don’t want credit. I don’t deserve the credit for the work someone on my team put it. So, the challenge is explaining to people that we are not like everyone else. We have support and structure, but you are essentially your own agent on a team of people who are here to support you. A lot of people don’t think this model is possible, but it is working here for us.

BH: What inspired you to take this approach?

Jankowski: The deciding factor was when someone said they ultimately decided not to join because they didn’t want to lose their identity. I am not a big ego person, and I knew I didn’t want the credit for these agents successes. The more I thought about it, I realized that with teams it typically feels like agents don’t have their own identity. So, we changed the structure because I feel that if you do the work, you deserve the credit

BH: How has being part of a team changed your business?

Jankowski: I think it [allows me to] make sure that my clients get every opportunity to see the homes they are interested in or get the marketing they want, because we all work together and market each other’s listings. We try to help with showings if someone can’t make it. It enables us to provide a level of customer service that the single agent can’t always provide.

BH: What are some things you are working to improve with your team?

Jankowski: We are doing whatever we can to help each other put more structures in place. So, that means finding the best vendors to work with and setting up ways to grow the business so agents feel that it is worth their time to be part of the team.

BH: Teams have become more and more popular over the past decade or so. Why do you think that is?

Jankowski: It just makes sense to have people who can help you. Teams grow because there are multiple ideas floating around. We are not trying to hide ideas from each other. You grow more from each other than you can on your own. It’s just more collaborative.

BH: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you see to being part of a team?

Jankowski: The advantages is always having collaboration and working together toward a common goal. You also can learn from other people and how they do business. Plus, it motivates people. Whenever you see someone who is doing more than you on your team, you want to find out how they are doing it. Being on a team, they are more willing to explain their strategy.

For disadvantages, sometimes on some teams, agents can feel like certain agents get more opportunities. You need competition, but it doesn’t have to be negative. If you get one bad apple on your team is can hurt the rest of your team, but if you have good training and you make sure everyone has a common goal and a good attitude you should be OK. However, if someone doesn’t buy into your philosophy it can be a disadvantage.

BH: Why is real estate a good career option?

Jankowski: If you are willing to work it is a good option. I always laugh at the people who say you are your own boss in real estate. You aren’t your own boss; your clients are your boss. So, if you have that mindset that you are working for different people at different times and you put the work in for those people, they will be happy and your business will grow. If you sit back and wait for people to come to you and you aren’t always available, you won’t be successful.

BH: You team is still relatively new but has already seen quite a bit of success. To what do you attribute this to?

Jankowski: Finding the right people that want to listen and work hard and really strive to be something special. It is hard to find people that truly care and that want to go out of their way to give the best service they can, and I think that is the group I have managed to find. They work really hard, they strive to give great service and those are the types of people that will succeed.

BH: What is your best piece of advice for a new team or an agent looking to start their own team?

Jankowski: Your first hire is your most important hire. I got very lucky with the first person that I brought onto my team. But if that first person doesn’t work out, then you will be questioning if a team is the right option.

Also, when you are starting your team, you need to make sure you are providing your agents will value and make their lives easier, so they can do their job better. Bring in coaching, give them continued education — help them grow their business.

A coach might cost you a bit, and you may not see a massive profit, but that shouldn’t be your goal. The team leader should still be doing their own business. If you are looking at it like you’re going to make money off the team and step away from selling, I think you have the wrong perspective. Eventually, you can transition into another role, but in the beginning especially, you need to lead by example.