“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – unknown
What is the best way to achieve the highest level of success in your land brokerage career? The answer to that question varies greatly depending on your definition of success. Many brokers would like to see an increase in income earned, number of transactions closed, quality agents hired or retained, or any combination of other metrics used to define success. There are many definitions of success that do not have their own column in your firm’s P&L sheet, such as: spending more time with family, creating a steady stream of income, or dominating your local market. Figuring out the best way to achieve those goals is a real challenge for real estate salespeople.
“If you want to succeed, buckle down and work harder. You need to make more calls, set more appointments, and spend more time in front of decision makers.” This is good advice, but at a certain point in your career it becomes unproductive to pour yourself into more of the same. You can reach a plateau where spending more hours at work does not yield the desired results. In economic terms, this concept is called “The Law of Diminishing Returns.”
In 2013, my co-worker, Robert King, ALC, and I candidly discussed our goals for the year and how our numbers were tracking to date. Robert shared how his goal for the coming year was to increase the size of his average transaction to raise his total commissions earned. At the time, Robert was closing forty land transactions per year and was one of the top producers for Southeastern Land Group. The next year, he and Randall Upchurch teamed up and formulated a plan to increase their business and target a market segment that was largely under-served in Alabama. They focused on marketing and selling poultry farms across the state.
Poultry is the leading agricultural product in our state, and both Robert and Randall had previous experience with poultry operations and real estate brokerage. In 2014, they formed PoultrySouth to focus on marketing poultry farms. It took only two years for Robert to not only increase his commissions, but he was also able to more than double them as a result of teaming up with Randall. This is a perfect example of how two REALTORS® Land Institute members can partner to totally transform their business.
Randall is grateful the partnership has worked so well and, as he recounts their success, he does not take it for granted. “By working together the past three years, Robert and I have helped our clients close twenty-five poultry farms for a total of about fifty-five million dollars in sales. We currently have six pending farm deals, and are working on others.” Robert explains the upside of their partnership this way, “The benefit of two minds working through the issues of real estate transactions is a multiplying effect, not merely additive.” King continues, “Having slightly different perspectives focused on the same goal is a win-win for agents and clients. Additionally, we have seen the unexpected benefit of being able to multiply our effective handling of listings. Randall and I could probably only manage twenty-five or thirty listings apiece. Together we are able to handle one-hundred or more listings, while providing good service to our clients.”
The financial success of the partnership at PoultrySouth has opened doors for Robert and Randall to add cattle to their personal herds and each have purchased additional acreage for their family farms. The benefits from their business have overflowed into achieving goals for their families and farms. They are the perfect example of how real estate teams are supposed to function.
How do we achieve the positive outcomes we desire in our careers? One way is to align yourself with like-minded people. The power that comes from working together to achieve a common goal cannot be overstated. Fletcher Majors, an ALC from Alabama, has done a great job fostering an atmosphere of cooperation at Great Southern Land, both internally and with outside agents. In early 2015, Fletcher and three of his agents worked tirelessly to help one of their clients sell 6,477 acres in forty-five different tracts to thirteen different buyers in a single bid sale. Calvin Perryman, an ALC who works with Fletcher, explains why they believe in the team approach, saying “We often use a teamwork approach on special projects as well as everyday listings and appraisals. We believe having multiple opinions and ideas along with additional boots on the ground helps us better serve our clients.”
Each winter, nature demonstrates the power of teamwork when we see the V-shaped formations of geese as they fly south from Canada to warmer climates. The flock is able to survive by travelling great distances with maximum efficiency because of the cooperation of all the individuals. Each member of the flock benefits from the cooperative efforts of the group. This collaborative effort only works because each individual is clear on the objective, their responsibility, and they expend the effort to achieve the desired result.
There are many ingredients to creating a great team, but there are three essential elements that this article seeks to address. In order to form a great partnership, you must ACT like a team.
Agreement- “Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” This question was posed by Amos, a shepherd turned prophet, that lived about 750 B.C. This question is still relevant millennia later. For a partnership to be effective, the partners must hold a common vision and agree on implementation of their strategy. The objectives must be clear so that everyone knows what they are working toward and how they will achieve the desired result.
Communication- Operation without communication leads to frustration. Sharing frequent updates, addressing problems jointly, and asking accountability questions helps ensure that the partnership stays on track. No member of the team should blindly assume that everyone has the most recent information or is acting on it. There will be hiccups in every partnership, but as a mentor often told me, “Communication covers a multitude of sins.” Receiving information makes people feel important and in the loop, so, be sure to share all that is appropriate with your teammate to increase the chances of mutual success.
Trust- The single most important ingredient to a well-functioning team is trust. Working with people that you know unquestionably have your best interest at heart frees you to focus on the challenge before you, and not on defending yourself from the people around you. Trust is very difficult to manufacture or bestow, and is generally built gradually and methodically through shared experiences. Trust breeds loyalty. Loyalty begets a willingness to work hard and take risks together. Working hard and taking calculated risks together is the formula most successful entrepreneurs use to achieve their goals.
RLI’s 2016 ALC-to-ALC Networking Award was recently presented to three ALCs from Hertz Real Estate Services in Iowa. ALCs Kirk Weih, Troy Louwagle, and Kyle Hansen teamed up to close a $12,263,100 transaction on 998 acres. This size and type of transaction requires that teammates have a lot of trust. Kyle’s advice for creating this type of success is, “Remember why you are working with another broker. It isn’t because they provide the highest referral or pay the best commission; it is because they can provide the best service to you and your client. We are in business to provide the best product and experience possible. To do that, you need to work with the best brokers possible. That’s why I like to work with Accredited Land Consultants and agents that I trust. That is what our clients deserve.”
A quick search in the “Book” category on Amazon.com for “Team” returns about 310,000 entries. With that much written on the topic, the best this article can hope to do is highlight a few essentials to creating positive teamwork for land brokers. There are dozens of free resources on teamwork available at the National Association of REALTORS® website. We face a challenge when we take a competitive vocation and ask individual agents to work together; however, good brokers know this is the formula for long term success.
“Our industry is unique in that it helps to have salespeople that are fiercely competitive, and yet be able to work well as a team. In many land brokerage companies, the agents are independent contractors and not traditional employees. In that type of relationship, you mandate only what is necessary and encourage your group as much as you can,” says Dave Milton, ALC and President of Southeastern Land Group. Dave adds, “For agents to succeed in this business, brokers have to do all you can to create an atmosphere of trust that leads to a strong team. The best way to help new agents launch their career is for them to team up with someone more experienced. Hiring the right kind of people is the best way to ensure buy-in from existing employees and protect the continuity of your team.”
A wise writer of antiquity once observed, “Two are better than one for they get a good return for their labor.” My hope is that by hearing other brokers involved with RLI share stories about the success they have had by teaming up, that you will find new ways to foster teamwork in your land brokerage business. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Here’s wishing you all the best as you “Go together!”
This article originally appeared in the 2017 Summer Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.
About the author: Jonathan Goode, ALC, is an active member of the REALTORS® Land Institute. He is a Co-owner of Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. He is passionate about helping people buy and sell land.