I’ve been in the real estate business for 36 years. During that time I’ve had partners on different occasions, but it was only recently that I decided to put together my own team.
Over the years the business has changed and gotten much more complex. I found that as my business grew, it was very hard to work alone. In the past there were certain things I liked to do and certain things I did not like to do, so I thought to myself ‘why not become more of a specialist and build a team of people who were better at doing the things that I was not as good at?’
The process was an organic one. The members of the team fell into place over the years, each bringing with them their own unique backgrounds and specialties. I think a lot of teams make a mistake by trying to find carbon copies of the team leader. What they should be looking for is someone who is completely different, who has different talents, and can focus on different areas.
Personally, I see myself as more of a marketer, as someone who is very good at listing properties and at negotiating. But there are other areas that I need help with. These days, in a city that has a hundred-some-odd projects a year being built it’s very hard to be an authority on both housing and condominiums. I was beginning to find that with some of the older buildings I was very knowledgable, but some of the newer projects had me at a loss. I needed people who understood the demographics a little better and people who understood the product.
Sometimes you end up with clients coming to you looking for something that you may not be able to help them with or you may not be the best person for the job, but someone on your team is. One of the joys of real estate is meeting so many different types of people and dealing with a lot of different personalities, but sometimes you realize that you’re not necessarily a good fit. You’re the wrong age group, or you have a different agenda. Having a diverse team can be a great benefit in situations like these. As the team leader, you have to be very good at fitting people to one another. Make sure everybody is happy and if they’re not happy, do everything you can to fix it.
One of the main reasons that I built my team is the multicultural nature of Toronto. We have a lot of international visitors. About 30 per cent of our business is non-Canadian-born and as realtors we need to be aware of their needs and customs. So, on our team we have quite a variety of perspectives. Sherille is originally from England and has a Sri Lankan background, Tania is Portuguese and speaks the language fluently, Kimberley is First nations, Tracy is Mandarin Chinese and I speak French. One of the things we pride ourselves on is the international focus of our team and of Sotheby’s.
For example, recently I listed a property in the Don Mills and Yonge area. The sellers were New Zealanders, but I found that 90 per cent of the prospective buyers were Mandarin-speaking Chinese, so I depended on Tracy a lot to help us explain things.
If one of us has to be away, the other fills in; if one of us has questions about technology, the other can answer it; if one of us has questions about a buyer, the other one can answer. Since forming the team business has improved, but also our way of doing business has improved. We meet weekly and go over all our files. We weigh pluses and minuses of different projects, we discuss buyers and sellers, and we take suggestions and generally throw ideas around. It’s a format that works really well for us. We’ve become very comfortable sharing suggestions with our teammates, and I believe it works to the benefit of the sellers and buyers. Instead of having one person out there working for them, they’ve got seven people on their side.
But as I said, it’s ultimately about the people you have on your team, and you have to be very, very careful about who you choose. There needs to be a comfortable relationship with your teammates and again, make sure to not choose people like yourself. Choose people who are different. Of course, that can be a challenge at times because you are dealing with different personalities, but you have to bend a little bit for each other, to allow for change. Part of our business is negotiating, and that includes with your coworkers.
We are a very project-oriented team and that’s how we run our meetings. Staying organized is important. We use Evernote, an organizer tool that we’ve organized in a way so that when we have a team meeting we all have access to the program and we’re able to see what listings we’re all working on. There’s not one of our listings that not one of teammates has gone through. That’s what works for us, but find what works best for you when putting your team together.
We have a great time and I can’t say how much we enjoy each other. Like anybody, we still have our issues, but we just enjoy working with each other so much. Building a good team around you and your business can be one of the best and most productive things you will ever do.