Are You Team Building? Company Building? Where Do You Start?

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Anthony Lamacchia :

Good morning, everybody. I want to talk to you about hiring building teams, bringing on an assistant, building brokerages, things like that. I do a lot of coaching and training with people across the country, realtors across the country. In the last couple of weeks I just feel like there’s just, I don’t know if people got the winter blues or what but a much larger amount of people telling me not only coaching customers and things like that, but just friends, just having problems with people they hire or if they bring buyer agents on, they’re having trouble. I just figured I talk to you guys about that for a little bit while I’m driving here to Worcester Brighton early on Saturday morning.

First of all, let’s take it in the order in which you should hire people. If you’re a very successful realtor, first of all, in my opinion, you should be able to, if you’re implementing the proper time management, you should be able to have or do 30, 35 sales a year on your own. Maybe some assistance from your office transactionally but you really should be able to get to 30 sales on your own before you start hiring someone. I’m seeing a lot of people across the industry that are putting the cart before the horse. They’re getting 15 sales and they’re hiring people and then saying why aren’t they doing more sales.

In some cases, they’re doing less because they’re spending their whole damn day worrying about everybody else. Number one, you should really be at about 30 sales before you hire anyone. Number two, first hire should be an admin, administrative assistant. Administrative assistants are gods in my book. Back when I started in ’04 I had an administrative assistant who’s now the VP of all our companies. She was started with me in ’05. I want to say we had two or three administrative assistants before we even got to bringing on what we called in those days a buyer’s agent.

Sorry, it’s kind of dark but you guys don’t need to see me. You just need to hear what I’m saying. First of all, step one is administrative assistant, that should get you over 50 sales or 45 ish sales. A single agent in an administrative assistant if they’re properly managing their time, not doing time-wasting activities, if they’re being the doctor and their client is being the patient, not running around all day by the nose, running to wherever the client says, you should be able to sell 45 or 50 homes without any problem with one administrative assistant, and then you should add another administrative assistant.

I recommend that unless you really hate to show homes for buyers, that would be the exception but if you don’t hate doing that, I think you should have two administrative assistants and then go do a buyer’s agent if you’re trying to build the team. A couple of tips with respect to administrative assistants and buyer agents. No matter who you’re hiring, a lot of people say to me, “Boston Business Journal was nice enough to do a wonderful article and it was very gracious of them.”

They asked me a lot of questions and not at all of them made it in the article but one of the things they said is they said, “Anthony, you have a lot of people that are with you for years and you have several people on your management team that are either approaching a decade with you or over a decade, why is that? What do you do differently?” I was fortunate to work with my dad at a young age and watch how he treated employees. Though my dad can be very harsh, and I’ve known to be very harsh if people act in a way they shouldn’t, he cares about his people like no boss I’ve ever seen. I grew up in that and I do it the same way.

We have over 30 employees and over 200 agents in the company and when someone’s having a personal problem, it affects me, it bothers me and I go out of my way whether it’s with money or whether it’s driving three hours to see them face-to-face, to talk to them around trip or whatever, making an example. The other thing that I always do is I incentivize all employees, everyone from our top people in the company to our admins. Guys, this is a very big nugget, if you’re team building you have to listen to this specifically. Everyone gets an incentive, even our Saturday receptionist, everyone gets an incentive.

What I mean by that is we make our salary sometimes a little bit on the lower side so that we can give people a bonus per closing, a bonus per transaction closed, a bonus per this, a bonus per that because I want them to care. I recently had a call, and I don’t want to say what state, but with the number one broker in a certain state down south. If I say it, it will give it away who the person was. This person said to me, “I feel like none of my employees care, none of them care”, and I knew what the problem was but I asked the question. I said, “Tell me something, how are you paying them?” I knew the answer. “Hourly.”

I said, “Okay. Are they getting any incentive?” “No, they came in, they should do their job and they should care?” I said, “Okay. Do you think they’re going to care because you tell them to care?” He says, “Well, isn’t that a job?” I said, “No, if they don’t get a bonus for a closing or some type of incentive for closing, why should they give a shit if it closes? Tell me that. Why should they give a shit? Tell me.” He’s, “Well, I don’t know. I guess I never thought of it that way as well.”

You need to think about it that way because you want to put your employees in the same boat as you. You want them to care. If something doesn’t close, you want them to care. If you have an angry customer, you want them to care. If something falls through, you want them to care. They’re not going to care because you tell them to care. Guys money motivates but it’s not just money, it’s putting them in the same boat as you. A deal doesn’t close, there’s a financial sting to you. You want there to be a slight, not as big as you, you’re the owner, you’re the boss, you should have the biggest sting but they shouldn’t have as biggest sting as you but it should be something.

We’ve had this model since we started. Sarah, who’s like I said, the Vice President of all three of our companies she has had incentives like that since the beginning. Many of our top people make more money from incentive than from salaries. Then you look at agents, it’s the same thing with agents. Too often do I talk to team leaders around the country, both friends and coaching customers they treat team members like they are beneath them.

Look at what I’m doing with my thumb. No human being wants to be under someone’s thumb for life. There has to be an upside. They have to see. I don’t know if you can see my eyes. They have to see an opportunity, they have to see a path for them. In the last year or two, we’ve had a lot of people join our company from other teams and other brokerages and many times it hasn’t been specifically because of our training or our systems and processes or upside, well, when I say upside know I’m convoluted here, hold on.

It hasn’t been specifically because of those benefits we provide, it’s simply been because they feel with us there is a path to a greater good for them because we have created a path that they can see. I don’t know if I’m being clear enough, maybe I’m not but I hope you guys are getting me and following me here. People have to see there’s a path for them to succeed. No one wants to be, or very, very few people and I don’t say this to belittle the position because I started in the position, very few want to be a buyer’s agent on a team for life, very few want to be a transaction coordinator on a team for life.

Too many team leaders in small smaller broker owners think that people are bad if they want an upside. Well, I don’t they like that I feed them business, yes, but guys after three or four years they’re like, “All right, what else can I do?” That’s natural human behavior. Jon Cheplak our recruiting coach and overall coach for us I talk to him probably once a week. He talks about how you’ve got to feed the heart, you’ve got to feed the mind, not feed the heart but you’ve got to feed the mind and you’ve got to think about the heart. What does the other person want to do with their life?

When you talk to them like they’re going to be a buyer’s agent for life, they’re not going to stay there. When you pay them, there’s no upside or so little, they’re not going to stay. I have a lot of coaching customers around the country that we’ve changed their business, talking to them about these kinds of things, and creating an upside for their agents and making it so that there’s a next level for them. If they bring in business of their own, there’s a next level, there’s more money in it for them, they feel better. I hope you guys can understand what I’m explaining here.

I’m talking about whether it be an employee or agent. We have several agents in the company. We were a team model until 2015 and we made a shift in that year. It was a hard shift to make to a brokerage model but I’ve got a lot of people, a lot, probably a dozen agents, not employees. We have a lot more if you count the employees that have been with me since 2012 and 2013. I’m not special, I’m not. I’ve shown them the upside. I’ve talked to them about how we’re in the boat together and we’re going to get there together.

Now, we have agents that are coming into the company and saying they’re never going to leave. Of course, we’ll have some leave, that’s the nature of the business, but our retention is extremely strong. That’s not simply because of all we have to offer. It’s because we’re showing them upside, not just showing them, but we mean it. We want to get them there. I genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, want every person in our organization to grow their business, to make more money, to have a better life because I know that if I help them get that, inevitably, I’m going to get that too. Not me first, it’s them first.

I forfeited so much personal income over the years because I have invested in other people, taking less money so that they can make a little bit more so that they can grow up in their position. If you do that and you genuinely mean it and you genuinely feel it. When I get up in the morning, I am genuinely all day thinking about, how do I make our agent’s lives easier? The management team might not believe this. How do I make their life easier? How do I support them so that they can do their job even better, our leadership team and grow our company even more?

How do I support our administrative assistants? How do I support our business development folks? How do I support everyone across the organization? High tide raises all boats. When you have trouble in your organization, you’ve got to look around and say, “What am I doing wrong? What should I do differently?” I’ve got a friend of mine, I’m actually excited I’m going to see him tonight. He’s a child psychologist. He’s been working with families for 25 years, very different type of business.

Do you know those things in life that people say to you that it’s you never forget it? He was my wrestling coach in high school. He’s a great guy. We talk probably once a week for 20 years. He told me one time, he said, “Anthony, 75% of the houses I go into when they’re having problems with their children, it’s the parent’s fault.” It stuck with me forever. I think of it all the time raising my four children, my wife and I openly talk about it, we’ll say, “Wait a second, this continues to happen with this one, what are we doing wrong? What could we do differently?” I treat the company the same way.

Of course, there’s one-off scenarios where you hire someone that’s just not a great person and you’re realizing, you ask them to leave, or there’s someone that comes into the company, they’re just not team players, right? In our company, we don’t allow that. Those people don’t last. When we notice a pattern, three and four agents bringing up the same thing, three and four agents feeling emotionally the same way about something in our company, I don’t scream and yell and say, “They’re wrong and they should recognize what they get and this and that.”

Maybe I have those periodic moments but I think about, “Wait a second. They’ve got a point here. From where they’re sitting, how are they feeling in their mind and how can I solve that?” I genuinely operate like that every single day of my life, with our agents, with our staff, with our management team. It’s not hard for me at all because it comes natural to me. Again, I’m not special. I was fortunate to grow up in a family business and see my dad treat people this way.

I was very fortunate to be raised by my grandparents who are the two most caring people I’ve ever met in my life and they’re no longer here but they were just fanatical about taking care of those around you more than anyone I’ve ever seen. They’re the best people I ever knew. If I keep talking about them the more I cry so I won’t, but it’s true. They instilled a lot of that in me and I do that in my company. Guess what, guys? It starts at the top and it trickles down.

We have managers that lose sleep if we have agents that are having a hard time. Literally, lose sleep. Call me, I’m worried about so-and-so. They’re having a hard time, or we have a staff member that’s got a personal problem. Maybe it’s divorce or separation or money problems. Managers are freaking out, what’s going on? How are we going to get behind this person?” Do you know what I mean?

People need to think about that a lot. You’ve got to really think about this when you’re growing your organization, because guys, it’s not about you first, it’s about the people first. You put them before you, you will grow up with them after. I’ve done that across my business and we’re not perfect. I did a video two weeks ago about how don’t wait for perfect to improve things. I named every year in the company and I said, “Every year is not perfect, but we’re always striving to get it there.”

All right, guys, that’s enough ranting. I’m heading out to Worcester. We finished the building a year ago. Now, we’re finishing the other side of the basement because we’re expanding so much there. We have so many wonderful people there. It’s just been fantastic. It’s our fastest growing office right now. I’m happy about that. Heading out there for a 6:00 AM meeting with one of our field guys, our handyman and then we have a framer coming at 8:00.

Big day, guys. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. I hope this video helps you. It’s the longest question video I’ve ever done. I hope for those of you that are looking to team build, and who to hire, when the higher, I hope that gives you a glimpse of how you should go about it as I talked about at the beginning of the video. I hope that gives you some insight into how I do it. End of rant. Thanks, guys.