experts: real estate column Saturday, October 02, 2010

The downside of teams

The real estate business isn't a team game - I wish it were.

By Marty Douglas

As published in REM - independent news and opinion for Canada's real estate industry.

The Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Jurock, once said, "You're in business for yourself, not by yourself." I know he said that 'cause I wrote it down in my little red book where it occupies two lines of a 95-page journal of observations I've been keeping, largely to do with life and my 40 years in real estate. As a matter of fact you can follow Ozzie's and other pithy real estate quotes on Twitter under 40yrsrealestate.

"For yourself, not by yourself." I was thinking about the meaning of the phrase because I had written a note to myself for a column: "The real estate business isn't a team game - I wish it were." Is the phrase "not by yourself" encouraging to the extent we think others will ensure we meet our financial obligations at the end of the month? That we can rely on the kindness of strangers? I don't think so. Consumers may believe there's a communal pot of money we access when the deals don't flow our way but are we being encouraged down that socialistic slippery slope?

Let me say immediately I intend no disrespect to real estate teams. I have had several in my office and during the last decade or so. But at best they are a small, profitable office within the brokerage. At worst, they are a waste of time as two egos assume they can find someone to do the work they simply don't want to do.

How often do we see new Realtors give up on prospecting for listings because, "I'm really a people person and would be more effective working with buyers." It's really because prospecting is the daily essential grind that has to be done in order to achieve the financial levels new licensees were told could be theirs. Understand this "NO ONE LIKES PROSPECTING!" Top producers do it, they do it regularly, they do it in a variety of formats and styles and they do it well. They practice. They put in the 10,000 hours behind mastery as illustrated brilliantly by Malcolm Gladwell in The Outliers.

The next step after the transition from listing agent to buyers agent is usually to no agent at all

sometimes in the short term but all too often a couple of years down the road when with a shrug, they say, "I guess I wasn't meant to be in sales." Sometimes there's a segue into, "Maybe I'll try property management," where they discover the real meaning of low pay and long hours. Every now and then, while sitting around on floor duty, making their 649 quick picks and waiting for the elusive buyer to walk, phone or be carried in, they find a fellow traveller.

I'm sure the conversation goes something like this:

"Hey you're new here right, Howard isn't it?"

"Actually it's Brian and I've been here about a year."

"Yeah sure so how's it going?"

"Ah you know win some lose some. Listen, since you're here, I always follow you on the floor duty roster and there's something I've been meaning to ask."


"Do you have your own nail clipper or do you just bite off the bits I find on the desk?"

"Ha! Very funny! You're my kind of guy; probably use the Bic pen cap to clean your ears like I do! Say, maybe we should team up."

And so it begins. They spend days structuring how they will split their imaginary commissions, how much they'll save by combining their photocopy accounts, run the whole thing by others, perhaps even the boss, and when faced with some cautionary advice, ignore it as being negative.

The first crack in the makeup is usually over previous clients or personal acquaintances. Then comes conflicting vacation coverage, floor duty, open houses, ad calls, tour and "Why should I pay for your mistake? You're the one who said the stereo system was included." Eventually, one or the other asks for a private meeting with the boss and says things aren't working out; he's not living up to his side of the partnership. This predictable soap opera is usually followed within a day or so by the other partner and a remarkably similar dialogue.

Early in my career I got this advice: the very best partner is the one you're sleeping with. For the sake of discussion, let's assume that means your spouse. All other partnerships are constructed on sand.

Economist Richard Allen said bluntly: "If you want to consume, you've got to produce." You are in business for yourself and that means you are responsible for your success or failure. Only you. If you chose to put your future in the hands of another, to risk the food for your kids, your mortgage payment, your retirement; then that person must be worthy. Are they out there?



Why would they want you?

You can follow Marty Douglas on Twitter 40yrsrealestate or on LinkedIn and on Facebook. He is a managing broker for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., with offices on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of B.C. Marty is a past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of B.C., the Real Estate Council of B.C. and the B.C. Real Estate Association. He's a current director of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board.; 1-800-715-3999.

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Recent Articles by this columnist:

Surviving in a slower market
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thank you, FINTRAC
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Snapshot of Alberta
Thursday, January 03, 2008

No song and dance for weighty housing issues
Monday, October 29, 2007

Advice for a Real Estate Consumer
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

All articles by Marty Douglas

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