Real estate coach Donna Stott on hiring an assistant 

Real estate coach talks hiring, training and paying your new assistant

“Hiring an assistant.” It has a very official ring to it, like a wild dream, or goal that is far off. However, as professional coach Donna Stott sat down to share with RealTrends, she said hiring an assistant is more attainable than many agents realize. 

Donna Stott is a real estate professional with decades of experience selling homes. Stott harnessed her experiences in real estate to found Your Coaching Matters in 2009 and dedicated her remaining career to empowering housing industry professionals looking to gain a competitive edge. A portion of her coaching includes a specific course on hiring assistants. 

RealTrends: What are some of the business benefits of hiring an assistant? 

Donna Stott: Time and Service. Until you hire an assistant, you are acting as one. No judgment there. This is fine for many agents. However, hiring an assistant improves customer service, which creates more referrals. And, it allows you to take time off without destroying the business. 

If you want to grow, and develop more stability in your business, getting support is step one. 

As an independent contractor, by definition, you own a business. Business owners generally want to be profitable. Long-term profitable businesses simply cannot rely on just one person. 

Agents are the primary worker and the boss. You create stability and profit and look for long-term repeat loyal clients who make referrals. You are in it for the long haul. 

Like small business owners, agents may have employees and even have people that cover for them when they are away, but they are the key component. Without them, the business will not be as valuable. Most highly profitable — and salable — businesses have support staff, whether that is one key person or many. 

RT: Hiring an assistant is a pretty big financial commitment, what are the arguments for making that investment even in a down market

DS: Most agents wear every hat of the business alone: lead generation, marketing, sales, customer service, etc. They are all necessary activities.  

That said, the value of each activity varies. For example, filling out routine paperwork may be a $20/hour job. Meanwhile, sales may be a $2000/hour job. That’s a big swing in value. And, so many agents have success but then become overwhelmed with the number of hats they wear and can’t spend enough time on their profitable tasks. 

The cure to being overwhelmed and reaching higher profitability is to hire an assistant. Even in a down market, not many agents have enough time to go to another listing appointment, negotiate offers and fill out paperwork. 

Stop spending too much time on the actions before or after the profitable activity, and instead focus on those money-making activities. Give the other processes to the assistant. 

RT: As a coach, you’ve seen real estate professionals and small business owners catapult their businesses. How can hiring an assistant play a role in that? 

DS: I have hundreds of examples of agents completing about 20 sales per year, working 16 hours a day for six or seven days a week with no vacations and being told the agent “could never do anymore, so they weren’t even sure why they were talking to a coach.” 

A few years later, at over 100 sales per year, the agent was successful and taking vacations thanks to a few assistants. 

The only thing that will help is getting support.

RT: Is there ever a perfect time or moment in the lifetime of a business to take on an assistant? For example, a benchmark to surpass before considering adding an assistant to your payroll? 

DS: For most agents, put away 20% of each check until you can afford to pay someone for four to five months. Put that money in a separate account, then hire and train. After a few months, you should be making more money, thanks to the extra help, and can pay them easily. 

If an agent is struggling to find the right time or financing to hire an assistant, I suggest arranging a payment agreement that is a small salary plus a bonus for each listing taken or sale closed. Then, their income is very closely tied to your business’s success. 

RT: Do you have any projections for 2023 you’d like to share?

DS: It’s going to take a lot to match your business from 2020-2022. In my opinion, the three best sources of business are past clients — friends, neighbors and your sphere of influence — local groups and small geographic farms. 

I would suggest steering clear of paid internet leads and advertising, at least in terms of the ‘bang for your buck.’