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REAL Trending Special Edition: Leading Through a Challenging Market

Aug 14, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Jim Fite, CEO of Century 21 Judge Fite Company in Dallas-Fort Worth

Making the most of virtual recruiting, Fite and his team developed a series of virtual recruiting events to show value to potential agents as well as retain current agents. Listen in to find out more about these events.

 

Tracey Velt:

This is Tracey Velt, editor and chief of content for REAL Trends. In this special edition of the REAL Trending Podcast, we're speaking to real estate leaders about how they're leading. Today's episode focuses on recruiting. So, please welcome Jim Fite. He's president and CEO of Century 21 Judge Fite Company in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas to the Jim Fite Trending podcast.

Jim develops the strategies and longterm goals of the company while ensuring daily functions are producing desired results to meet those goals. Forming the Judge Fite Charitable Foundation in 2017 to support real estate professionals in times of need is one of the many ways Jim demonstrates his passion to serve others and give back. So, welcome, Jim.

Jim Fite:

Good morning, Tracey. How are you?

Tracey Velt:

I am doing well. So, tell me how you're doing. Tell me how your brokerage is handling the pandemic.

Jim Fite:

Well, it's been interesting times for sure. My wife and I have been hibernating for, as of tomorrow, 21 weeks. We have a lake house that we've been staying in and we go back to Dallas to pick up our mail and so forth every once in a while. But as far as business is concerned, as soon as it hit, we went into what we call a morning huddle five days a week, 8:00 AM of every morning.

Nine of us got together on a Zoom call and we talked about everything at first it was all of the city orders and the county orders. And finally, after a couple of weeks, our governor in Texas came out with an order state wide, which really helped because all of our county officials were all over the place. And we covered all of 12 counties in our North Texas region in our company.

Jim Fite:

So, it was interesting times. We immediately went into Zoom mode. We've been utilizing webinar technology for 10, 12 years, long time. We've had Zoom as a way of life for over three years. All of our leadership team has a Zoom account, their own Zoom account. And so, we just went into Zoom mode with training and our let's talk real estate meetings. Other people call those sales meetings, we call them let's talk real estate.

And quite honestly, Tracey, we didn't miss a beat as far as operating our business because of the technology we've invested in over the years. Didn't know we weren't going to miss a beat, but as far as communications and running our business, even though we weren't physically beside each other, we were mentally and we were by site via Zoom meetings. So, we've been doing pretty well, actually.

Tracey Velt:

That's great. So, what is the current state of your market right now? How are sales going?

Jim Fite:

Yeah, so sales were... Last statistics we have here, this is the 1st of August, we don't have July stats in yet, but June was up 13.2% as far as closed sales are concerned. Which, if you had told me that was going to happen back in mid March, I would have disagreed with you. So, we are pretty ecstatic, I'll say it that way.

And preliminary numbers coming in for July that we have as a company, of course, again, I don't have MLS data yet, we're up as well for July over last year. Not just month over month, year over year too. So, it's pretty remarkable based upon the state of our world.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, that's great. So, let's get a little more specific and discuss recruiting. Obviously, things are opening back up and have you noticed, are people comfortable making big changes right now or having one on one meetings? And have you changed your recruiting methods because of the market?

Jim Fite:

So, immediately we went into the Zoom interviews and so, again, our recruiters and managers certainly know how to use Zoom and that helped a lot. We didn't have any learning curve to go through, so we immediately started interviews via Zoom and we've been doing that ever since mid-March.

We also, in the last month or so, have gone into where people feel comfortable only when people feel comfortable with certain protocols in place. We've gone into live interviews as well. As far as recruiting methods, yes, we have gone to virtual career events where we were doing periodically at night or on a Saturday morning. We were still having those events, and they're now via Zoom.

Jim Fite:

And we're actually having experienced agent recruiting events as well. And those are via Zoom and we are also doing some community interest things. For instance, school is starting back in a couple of weeks or next week in some markets in some school districts and the following week. And then, some people... It's across the board, some schools are doing homeschooling until late September. It's just all over the place. So, we have put together a panel of two superintendents of schools, local superintendents, and one past superintendent.

And we are going to talk about what it's like to educate your children in this environment, whether it's going back to school and being safe or whether it's homeschooling. What does that mean to a real estate professional? We're holding that on Thursday morning at 10 o'clock as an example. And we're not only inviting our real estate professionals, but all licensees in North Texas. We might call it a recruiting thing, but I'll call it a community service thing. That's where it started out and then we just added to it.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, that's a great idea. I know school has been definitely on a lot of people's minds, what's going to happen. So, that's a great topic.

Jim Fite:

Absolutely, and it's creating stress. And part of this thing is how to deal with it mentally as well as physically.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. And now, do you have guests that you feature on these?

Jim Fite:

Yeah, on Thursday morning, we're having two local superintendents and one that's a past superintendent of schools. And yeah, I think it's a lady, she's now in administration in some other capacity. She's not a superintendent anymore.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. So, it sounds like you had mentioned that your managers handle most of your recruiting, I believe. Is that your recruiting strategy or do you have a person or a team devoted to recruiting?

Jim Fite:

Yes, I would say we all recruit. It's a team effort. Managers definitely recruit, managers definitely interview their real estate professionals or future real estate professionals. We also have two full time recruiters in our company and we've split our offices by two. So, one of them covers half the office's markets and the other one covers the other half.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. And just curious, what backgrounds did they come from? Were they in a sales capacity before or from an outside company?

Jim Fite:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, one of them was actually what we call an agent service manager. It's a staff person in our company. She's been with us four years and just got that great personality, loves our company, loves our people, loves real estate. Just a great lady. We of course went through the interview process and we've hired her. And then, the other one was a realtor in another market.

Actually, a couple other markets. Moved to Dallas, joined our company. And when we were looking for a person, we found her and she applied for the position. And so, she's been with us now for several months and so she was actually active in real estate sales. So, two different.

Tracey Velt:

I've heard of companies hiring a top Mary Kay salesperson and had a lot of luck with them as far as recruiting. It's the personality, that mentality and that's so important.

Jim Fite:

You bet. And in the past we've hired a professional recruiter. She was tired of the job she had and we had one recruiter at that time several years ago who she recruited for a chiropractic college here in Dallas.

And she came in and did a great job for us for about five years. And so, yeah, it just depends. You just want to look for that personality and somebody sold on our company. That's the main thing.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. And I should have asked you this earlier, but how many offices and real estate professionals do you have?

Jim Fite:

Yeah, we have 22 offices and 850 to 900 real estate professionals. I think we're just under 900 right this minute and then another 115 employees.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. So, talk to me a little bit about the process of recruiting. What do you see brokers doing right and what do you feel like they need to do better?

Jim Fite:

Well, that's a big question. Ready for a seminar? By the way, I'll be the student. I won't be the teacher here. There's always something to learn in the world of recruiting, but I would say the first one is our core value number five, and that is discipline to do a job at its best. It takes discipline, it takes a process of what are we going after? How are we going after it? And are we going after it?

In other words, are we going to make calls, set them up on campaigns, there's followups and then follow up. It is definitely a contact sport. We've got to make the contacts and you've got to follow up on the people. Couple of years ago, gentleman that we work with in a brainstorming group shared with us, the brainstorming group, that the CEO has to be part of the game.

Jim Fite:

If I were going to come up with something that we've done different the last year and a half, that's it. I literally pick up the phone and call every interviewee that our managers have, that what they want. And we have a whole process of the recruiters set the appointment, the managers set the appointment, agents will get them connected with our managers, the managers do the interviews. If the manager wants them, we have a process of communicating that to me real time.

They just fill out a form and it's automatically sent to my inbox and I pick up the phone and call them and I send them a follow up email if I get ahold of them or I don't. I have a couple of different emails that I send them, depending if I talk to them personally. I have a dialogue that I go through when I'm with them, and that dialogue helps set what they're looking for in a brokerage company, which has really helped us in identifying what we need to talk about in training our managers and our recruiters. Because if you know what they're looking for and you give it to them plus 121%, as we say at Century 21, then your odds are much greater in your favor.

Jim Fite:

And the personal touch from the president and CEO of the company, I won't say everybody cares about it, but a lot of them do. So, it might be a percentage of folks, I wish I knew the percentage, that might be that thing that gets them over the hump. So, it's a team effort, all of us working together and also tracking the results. Very important, accountability and tracking results.

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Tracey Velt:

Yeah, and what process do you use for that?

Jim Fite:

Well, our IT department's put together a form, so all the manager has to do is fill out the form of the name and the phone number and email address and comments. And that form automatically feeds into a Google Doc. And I have access to that google doc, I open it up, I have four to call today as an example, I called three or four yesterday. And so, it's a daily routine, it's a discipline and it takes about somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half a day for me to do that, but we're getting results.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Time well spent.

Jim Fite:

Time well spent.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, and I think in this type of market, that personal touch is so important, especially when people are missing being with people. So, I think that's a great idea.

Jim Fite:

Well, it seems to be working. Some days are better than other days, but our recruiting efforts are up, no question about it.

Tracey Velt:

That's great.

Jim Fite:

I'll also add, on the retention side, we have four of our six principles that divide the company up by four every quarter and we make a personal phone call to everyone in the company.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. That's great. Again, so important right now when people are feeling a little disconnected, even though I think Texas is much like Florida, where real estate has always been essential during the pandemic. So, they were still able to show properties if the sellers were comfortable and if the buyers were comfortable, but it's still been, I think, difficult on salespeople who are generally need other people for that energy. So, yeah.

Jim Fite:

Exactly. You're right.

Tracey Velt:

So, looking at the industry as a whole, what trends do you see in maybe the next six months that may have an impact on how brokers and managers recruit agents?

Jim Fite:

Well, I believe that the virtual interview or presentation is here to stay. Will it happen all the time? Absolutely not. But are there going to be times where it fits in certain circumstances? I think the answer is yes. And the good news is we know how to do it and it's easily trained in today's technology world. So, I think that's very important. It's a shame to me, and you didn't really ask this but you asked about trends, that seven out of 10 people who go into the real estate business will not be in real estate 24 months from now.

That's still very concerning to someone who's devoted their life to growth and development of people. And it's such a shame that recruits coming into our industry don't vet who they go to work with to a degree of really finding the best place for them to help them grow their business. That's very concerning to me.

Jim Fite:

And then, they make a mistake and then they think that it's the industry or it's something they did wrong. And so, they get out of the business. And so, we're missing a group of people that could be excellent realtors to serve the public because of that.

So, the trend of, "Well, I'm dedicated to and our company's dedicated to..." Because I know who REAL Trends brokers are that you deal with really focusing on growing people and giving them the tools and systems and technology and training that they need to be successful. I don't know if I answered your question, Tracey, but I feel pretty passionate about that.

Tracey Velt:

No, that is great information, so I appreciate that. My last question is really about opportunity. I think the real estate industry and the people in the real estate industry are a resilient bunch. They've been through a lot over the last what? 10, 20 years? So, where do you see opportunity overall for real estate brokers in the coming year?

Jim Fite:

Well, even though at least North Texas hasn't had the downmarket like it could have been, I truly believed that a lot of the brokerage operations are going to realize this is not worth it and I need to join a different company. And so, for me personally and for our company, merger and acquisition opportunities are out there and will be out there in a bigger way.

Especially as inventory drops and these smaller brokerages don't have the listing inventory and can't or don't compete in that realm very well, just because of the lack of tools and systems and so forth. I think that that's a great opportunity for mergers and acquisitions to bring them into our company and our fold as we continue to grow and develop.

Jim Fite:

So, time will tell whether the inventory issue, which I think is much worse than it was even six months ago... I don't believe it, I know it is, but inventory just continues to drop. New listings are down significantly. One full month from last year to this year of inventory, I think it was 3.4 months a year ago, now it's 2.5 months.

Well, you can't keep going like that. I say you can't, it's tough. So, mergers and acquisitions, people thinking they're in the right place and they're not, that's opportunity for us brokerages that want to grow and want to develop.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. Well, Jim, I really appreciate your insight and thank you for joining the REAL Trends Podcast. I appreciate your time.

Jim Fite:

It's my pleasure, Tracey. Tell Mr. Murray, thank you for all he does and you all do for our industry. Read your stuff all the time, I try to stay up with what's going on out there in the real estate world and you all are the best of the best to tell us. Thank you.

Tracey Velt:

Oh, well thank you so much. We appreciate that and I will pass the word along to Steve. So-

Jim Fite:

All right.

Tracey Velt:

... definitely.

Jim Fite:

You take care.

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