The battle to recruit and retain productive agents has significantly reduced gross margins. Here are some other consequences.
The level of competition in the brokerage business has forced (and is forcing) great self-examination among leading brokerage firms. At the top of the list, of course, is the battle to recruit solid agents and retain them at a cost that allows room for a brokerage to earn a profit. After all, the battle for agents has significantly reduced gross margins, which leaves less capital to invest in the services that many believe will lead to better recruiting and retention.
Analyzing the Performance
In examining the performance of the largest 1,750 brokerage firms over the last three to five years, we learned several interesting nuggets.
1. They Don’t Just Stay for Money.
While there will always be agents who are driven by monetary factors, there are clearly at least as many who join and stay with firms for non-monetary factors. For example, among the top performing firms in terms of growth over the last three to five years, we have not seen any correlation between the amount they have invested in technology; or in core services; in whether it’s a national brand or a local brand; or in the average sales price of the homes they sell.
2. They Want Relationships. What we’ve discovered is that most of these top-growth companies are focused on deepening the relationships between their leadership, staff and agents. In some ways, it can be described as: If we take care of each other first, then we can do a better job taking care of our customers. I heard a similar thing, interesting enough, from leaders of a large health care organization. They posit that if they focus on supporting each other to deliver great health outcomes for their patients, they can achieve more of their goals in delivering great health care outcomes to their patients.
3. Start Studying Retention.
We think that brokerage firms need to move away from anecdotal thinking about recruiting and retention of agents and start studying it. Internally, brokerage firms need to establish their own research to find out why agents come and why they stay with their brokerage. Use these findings to strengthen your internal relationships and services. Don’t base your retention programs on what the world is saying. Base them on what your data tells you.
Further, rather than using guesswork as to the patterns of agent movement, use the tools and data that you already have access to and determine who is moving from one brokerage to another and develop data that lets a brokerage know who they have the greatest chance to attract and who they may be most vulnerable to losing.
Being large and well known can be a great position to be in, but, in this evolving market, running a successful brokerage will take more than that. Focus on using the power of relationships and access to information—it’s THAT important.