The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on our Chicago community, and the economic impact may continue to be felt for months, if not years to come. This is an unusual and unpredictable time, to say the least — including in the world of real estate.
We’ve faced some significant challenges in the last 10 years from a real estate perspective, whether it was the financial crisis back in 2009 or the pandemic that we are facing right now.
In these challenging moments, it’s important to take stock, and think about where you are, and where you’d like to go.
Do you have the tools and resources you need to rise to this moment?
Are you getting the support and training it takes to thrive in any market?
Recently, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with experienced brokers from across Chicago. Market-wide, companies are pulling back on the support and resources that they are offering to the brokers and their offices. This means delegating more to the brokers, while limiting the staff at the office level.
In moments like this, I believe that support that we offer on the office-level is an important resource to help brokers stay ahead of the curve, pivot quickly to new challenges, and offer a better experience for their clients.
Keeping a Local Focus
At Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park, we know the importance of getting local and timely information, to help our brokers and our clients take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. At the office level, we have been able to continue to provide a very high level of very local, individualized support for our brokers — to the point where we’re starting to take market share from our competitors who do not have this level of office support.
Baird & Warner has done a fantastic job of empowering their Managing Brokers over the years. One important element of this is that we are a company where our Managing Brokers only manage one office.
As we scale up the size of an office — in terms of both productivity, and the number of brokers — I believe that we are the only company that scales up management at the same level. At some brokerages, you may see one Managing Broker overseeing 500-plus brokers with only administrative support. Baird & Warner chooses to scale up while continuing to maintain the office-level management support that can help brokers to truly grow their business.
With a full-time management staff of three, brokers in the Lincoln Park office have unrivaled support, guidance, coaching and mentorship throughout their careers. Meanwhile, our support team keeps the flow of business moving, allowing our brokers to be some of the most productive in the city. Our support staff is made up of four full-time administrators to help with listing management, marketing production, closing logistics and much more.
This is even more important in a remote environment, which we are all facing right now. When you only have one centralized training program or opportunity, you cannot equip brokers with the tools they need for their unique market.
The opportunities that exist right now in Chicago, for instance, are very different from the opportunities and conditions in Naperville or Highland Park. Having someone who is on top of the local market where our brokers are working has given our agents a great competitive advantage.
As an example? In a market that is as fast-moving as ours, we quickly realized the importance of analyzing weekly data over monthly data, so that we could offer our brokers the resources and tools they need to give meaningful guidance to their clients.
The market is typically about three to five weeks behind, compared to the message we share with our brokers. For example, let’s say that the “market message” is: Inventory is very low, and we need more homes to sell. With timely, hyperlocal data, we can beat that market message by three to five weeks, giving us a head start on activities that might help drive more inventory. This allows our brokers to gain more market share, and better serve their clients.
Giving Brokers the Personalized Coaching and Support They Need
It would be incredibly hard for our management team to reach out and check in on individual agents if our offices were structured so that we only had one Managing Broker for 500-plus brokers.
Instead, Baird & Warner is built on the belief that individualized support at the office-level is essential to helping new and experienced brokers succeed. This goes all the way to the top: I know that our CEO Steve Baird himself really does care about each and every individual broker.
This structure makes it possible for us to reach out to individuals in our office to see what they’re up to, and consult on the actions that they’re taking to drive results right now.
In our environment, we have been able to really drill down into the specifics, even from a remote setting. We can talk with individual brokers about their goals and their business plans, what they want to get done, and what steps they can take to keep up momentum in this unusual market. We can also check in on our brokers personally, to make sure that they’re feeling their best in these trying times.
The bottom line is that we don’t want anyone to feel lost. I have heard from brokers at other companies around the country, who have said that they haven’t talked to their Managing Broker or support staff in weeks, maybe even months. It is frustrating to me, personally, to hear that people are not getting the support they need.
Ultimately, real estate is a relationship business. At Baird & Warner, we care about each individual broker. We’re not a mass-production game. We want a larger and more productive office, but at the same time we care about everybody’s business — and we want everyone to be successful.
Pivoting and Adapting to Changes Quickly
Any time there is a significant challenge in the business world, you generally have people that respond in one of two ways.
On the one hand, there are people who start to feel somewhat paralyzed by that challenge. They don’t have a plan, don’t know what to do, and they just think: “I will just become more active when things get back to normal.”
On the other side, you have people who are engaged in their business and practicing on a regular basis. In a challenging moment, these people figure out where the opportunities are going to be — and they pivot faster than the next person. As a result, they are able to leverage the challenge into an opportunity.
In this moment, it’s important to work in an environment where you can feel supported, and where there is a structure in place that empowers you to adapt and pivot without missing a beat.
As an example? In the early days of the “Stay-at-Home” order, brokers in our office had to rapidly adjust to setting up successful Zoom calls and high quality Google Meet presentations. Thanks to the incredible efforts of our administrators and managers, our office was able to make those adjustments on the fly, so that everybody could operate in a virtual world seamlessly.
I’ll admit that this is not something that I could have personally done on my own. Thankfully, I had the right support around me. We all had our roles to fill, and we all embraced the change and kept going.
Similarly, we knew that our MLS would only track monthly data — which is not very helpful, in an unpredictable moment like this. We needed weekly data to really inform our clients about opportunities. So we pivoted, and started manually aggregating this data for our brokers and sharing it with them, so that they could share it with their clients, improve their experience, and truly lead the market. Now, I’ve heard from brokers around the area that they are coming to our brokers for insights and timely data!
Want to Keep the Conversation Going?
As Managing Broker of the Lincoln Park office, I take ownership in creating and maintaining an office culture and brand that I am proud of, while fostering an environment that promotes continuous improvement — especially in challenging moments.Want to continue the discussion? I always welcome the opportunity to discuss your real estate career. Whether you are considering a career change or looking for a new partner in your existing business, I truly look forward to connecting.