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Building a Multicultural Agent Team

February 5, 2013

Agent teams, taking a wide variety of forms, have long played an important role in the success of many real estate professionals. From pairs of family members—husband/wife, mother/daughter, father/son, etc.—to other partners, or larger groups focused on a particular geographic territory, you can find just about every type of real estate team tackling all sorts of markets.

Why form a multicultural team?

There are many compelling reasons to form a real estate team. When it comes to building a multicultural practice, however, the reasons can make even more sense:

Specialization – Developing a niche market can be a powerful business-building strategy. Most agents prefer a be-all-things-to-all-people approach, for fear of missing out on miscellaneous, general opportunities. But in today’s real estate climate, consumers are especially hesitant to take chances and are more inclined to prefer working with experts.

Some agents who have chosen a niche, and worked it with passion, have enjoyed notable success. And specializing doesn’t necessarily preclude them from picking up an occasional ad hoc real estate transaction, as well as referral opportunities. The aura of “expert” can generate an image of strength, even beyond an agent’s primary focus, that engenders more trust than lesser-known generalists.

In a real estate team, specialization also means you can concentrate on your strongest skills or an area where you have more knowledge, like a particular country or language. But working with one or more people who have complementary skills gives the team greater strength. Examples:

  • A Spanish-speaking agent pairs with a Portuguese-speaking agent to cover all of Central/South America and local immigrants from these countries.
  • Two China experts pair up, one concentrating on Chinese buyers of owner-occupied properties, while the other shares their expertise in investment/income-producing properties.
  • Two agents focus on overseas retirement destinations. One travels to build relationships and scout out the market, while the other concentrates on finding state-side Baby Boomers interested in making an overseas move.

By specializing, everyone may be able to do what they enjoy most and the whole is stronger. Besides, if you’re trying to capture the attention of global buyers and sellers—whether currently in the U.S. or searching from abroad—you stand a much better chance of appearing on their radar screen if you’re part of a specialist team.

Leverage – Obviously one agent can’t cover as many bases as two or more. Relying on strength in numbers, agents can extend their reach into more territories or create a stronger presence in one particular market. The result is a bigger pie to be divided among all team members.

Additionally, a team may find it easier to cover business development and administrative expenses than any go-it-alone agent. Teams may also be more capable of providing the “extras” that can make a big difference in attracting multicultural buyers, and sellers, such as materials translated in their native language.

Convenience – If you are in business for yourself, it’s extremely difficult to tackle every item on your to-do list, much less step away for personal business. Working with a partner, however, you can divide up responsibilities and have a little more latitude to take time off for various personal appointments, and maybe even cover for one another for a long-overdue vacation.

Case in Point

Carla Rayman, CIPS, GRI, e-PRO and Patricia Tan, CIPS, GRI of Prudential Palms Realty in Sarasota, Florida currently lead a successful team of five agents focused on developing Canadian and U.K. business in Florida, including two buyer’s agents plus three part-time assistants. Among the assistants, two live out-of-state and handle basic administrative and technology tasks. The third assistant helps their U.K. buyer’s reps cultivate British buyer leads.

In terms of choosing the right partner, Rayman says, “It’s critical to find a person you can trust implicitly and who has the same work ethics as you.” Rayman is amused that others often assume she and Pat were first friends, then teamed up.

“The truth is that we sat on a committee together and noticed that we were always volunteering to get things done,” says Rayman. “We continued bumping into each other and realized we had the same interests in the value of education, along with expanding our business. It was then that we formed a team and really got to know each other. Now we are the best of friends and finish each other’s sentences!”

Tips for Building a Successful Team

Building a successful agent team can be tricky business, and there’s no perfect formula for success. As Rayman suggests, finding a partner who shares your values and goals is essential. Other important considerations include:

Formalize roles. To avoid confusion or duplicating efforts, make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are. Does one agent focus inward on running the business, while the other is client-facing? Will you hire any assistants, perhaps part time? Who takes the lead on key activities? Discuss these and other questions to help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Create a written compensation agreement. Even though you and your partner may be the best of friends now, don’t invite trouble by skipping this important step. An up-front written agreement, reviewed by your attorney, helps prevent future misunderstandings. It’s also a good idea to include a termination clause, or agree to a trial period, so you can make a clean break if your team doesn’t work out as planned.

Develop communication systems. Sometimes the trickiest part of working in a team is remembering to keep others in the loop. On the other hand, you don’t want to be bothered with unnecessary details.

Define expectations about what needs to be communicated when and how. In a multi-agent team, the lead agent(s) may expect to be apprised immediately of certain important details. Other information may be more appropriate for including in weekly summary reports.

When evaluating how to best communicate, consider alternatives beyond phone, text, or email. Online collaborative tools, such as Google Groups (free) or SharePoint (used with Microsoft Office 365), are designed to help teams share information and work together on key documents (no more confusion on which version is most current). These systems also live in the “cloud,” making them accessible wherever you have an internet connection.