How to Choose the Right Brokerage for Your Chicago Real Estate Career

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As you get started in real estate, joining the right brokerage is one of the most important steps you will take on your journey. The support of your brokerage is one of the biggest contributing factors to getting your new real estate business off the ground quickly and successfully. But with so many choices out there, how will you find the brokerage that will be the right fit for you — and for where you want to take your career next?

I encourage new-to-the-business brokers to look at seven factors when researching real estate brokerages. From most important to least important, those criteria are: 

  1. Access to management and support
  2. Training and coaching
  3. Office culture
  4. Technology
  5. Broker services
  6. Business opportunities
  7. Commission structure

Choosing the Right Brokerage for Your Chicago Real Estate Career

In my opinion, it all comes down to choosing the brokerage that will give you the support, training, and resources you need to accelerate your growth and build a thriving and sustainable real estate business.

Baird & Warner has been the right choice for me — and it has proven to be a great fit for the hundreds of agents who have built successful businesses as part of our Lincoln Park office. 

Let’s dig into the seven factors that can help you identify the best brokerage out there:

1.) Access to Management and Support

Building a successful real estate business takes drive and determination — as well as the support and mentorship you need to reach your biggest personal goals. A key part of finding the right local brokerage will come down to finding the management and support staff who can help you truly excel.

At Baird & Warner, our managers are non-competing and only manage one office at a time. This is fairly unique — and it means that each one of our agents is able to get the personalized training, support, and mentorship they need to reach their individual business goals.

A non-competing Managing Broker’s sole focus is the success of the agents in their office. Their priority is to support agents, in whatever ways they can — through teaching, coaching, guidance, and mentorship. And because our Managing Brokers only focus on one office, they can be truly engaged and hands-on. Our managers are always available and ready to assist agents personally when they have any questions, or if they experience challenges with clients and transactions. 

We also place a strong emphasis on one-on-one coaching — including helping our agents set a business plan each year so that they can continue growing their businesses over time. 

In our Lincoln Park office, we also have four full-time administrative staffers who are on hand to provide support to brokers on everything from social media to transaction management. With support staff helping to handle day-to-day essential operations, our agents get more freedom to focus on generating leads and pursuing the opportunities that interest them most. 

2.) Coaching and Training

The people who build long-term, successful careers in real estate focus on acquiring as much knowledge as possible, and then applying that knowledge in creative ways. 

At Baird & Warner, we equip each and every agent in our company for success with three exceptional tiers of training: corporate training, office-level training, and individual coaching and mentorship. Learn more about our three-tiered approach to agent training here. 

Above all, we know the importance of individual training sessions and ongoing one-on-one coaching. In addition to helping all of our agents identify their strengths, set goals, and create a custom-tailored business plan, we also schedule weekly check-ins with our managers to encourage all of our agents to stay accountable and on track with their business plans. 

And for when things get busy, Baird & Warner offers on-demand training that’s easily accessible online to all agents. No matter how busy your day gets, you can rest assured that you will always be able to go back and get the information and support you need on a schedule that works for you. 

3.) Office Culture

Our Lincoln Park brokers have a city-wide reputation as some of the most knowledgeable, ethical and professional in the industry — and everyone in our office strives to create a collaborative environment where everyone feels supported.

I think your office should be a place that you look forward to going to every day, and a place with people that you look forward to working with.

Our agents are collaborative and friendly, and make it a point to truly work together so that everyone excels. For example, we have a group of new agents who have put together their own accountability group and meet once a week. They’re not only collaborating with their colleagues, learning and building professional relationships, but also building friendships and staying social — which is so important, especially during COVID.

You could say that rather than a formal mentorship program, we have a very organic one. For newer brokers looking to build on a specific skill, for instance, our managers will make introductions to experienced agents who have been successful at those same tactics. This is a much more authentic and efficient way to help our brokers form connections and support one another — and we have seen firsthand how it can help newer brokers discover opportunities and accelerate their growth. 

4.) Technology

In our digital age, real estate professionals need to be able to count on efficient systems and tools to be competitive and successful. 

At Baird & Warner, our agents don’t just have a few tools lying around to pick up and experiment with from time to time. They have a sophisticated workshop full of ingenious tools designed to increase efficiency, drive production, and facilitate their success.

When you think of Baird & Warner, real estate technology isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind because we have so many other offerings where we lead the pack, like our management and our training. With that said, I know from experience that our technology is not to be overlooked.

We’re very innovative at Baird & Warner, and offer the best technology and resources available to every one of our agents, putting them in a class with the top producers from around the globe. Our agents have access to an advanced suite, including: 

  • Business management tools
  • Productivity tools
  • Communication tools
  • Marketing tools

Being able to seamlessly access these cutting edge resources helps our agents set up, grow, and execute on their businesses.

As a brokerage, Baird & Warner has always focused on innovating in the technology space, so that we can stay ahead of the curve and compete with the “disruptors” in our field. But where many of these newer companies actually operate by trying to take agents’ business away from them and then referring it back, our platforms and tools empower agents to give their clients the best possible experience, while making the most of the leads that they’ve earned. 

Bottom line? Baird & Warner has developed and implemented some of the most sophisticated tools out there to empower our agents to succeed. This includes our public-facing site, which has consistently been rated as Chicagoland’s #1 real estate website by Chicago Agent Magazine.

5.) Broker Services

If you want to be one of the most productive brokers in the city, strong support is essential to keep the flow of business moving.  

In my view, Baird & Warner leads the industry in its ability to offer agents the support services they need to grow, and the high-quality assistance needed to produce a true team experience — even for solo agents.

We have several excellent services that brokers can opt into. One is our contract care team. Available on a per-transaction basis, our contract care department will provide a representative to help you manage your transaction and all of the paperwork, from contract to closing. This is a great service for busy agents handling multiple transactions at once, or for maximizing your productivity during the busiest times of the year. Personally, I’ve used the contract care team in the past and found them to be incredibly responsive and helpful. They were definitely a value add. The busier I got, I could still keep everything moving forward and focus on my clients, knowing that I had a trained professional who could help process the paperwork.

Baird & Warner also has a partnership with Curbio. With Curbio, agents can connect their sellers with a knowledgeable construction expert to do an evaluation of the property and put together a plan for improvements, along with a budget. If the numbers make sense, the sellers can hire Curbio to improve their property with no money down. Once the property sells, Curbio is paid from the proceeds. This is a great way for sellers who may not have access to a lot of cash for renovations to make targeted improvements to their property, in order to speed up their sale and increase their profits at the end of the day. 

A new service is our agent assist program, which allows agents to hire out other agents in the office to assist with everyday activities like showings and open houses. This makes for a structured and efficient way to facilitate connections and make sure agents can always get the help they need, when they need it. 

The benefit of all of these services is that our agents don’t have to do any of the hiring, or worry about payroll. Baird & Warner has vetted all of the professionals that are providing these services, so it’s assistance that you know you can trust. These services give agents the support they need to grow and become more productive, with none of the hassles or stress of pulling a team together. 

6.) Business Opportunities

Successful real estate agents get their business and build their “pipeline” from many sources. As with most facets of real estate, there is not necessarily a right or wrong way. It’s about finding the way that works for you as an individual and sticking with it consistently over time — whether that means using digital marketing, sitting open houses, hosting seminars and workshops, or joining networking groups. 

“How do I get leads?” This is a question that I get all the time when I’m sitting down with new-to-the-business brokers. 

Here’s my very honest answer: When you become a real estate agent, you are an entrepreneur.  You are a business owner. As a business owner, your number one job above all else is to find your business. 

Most successful real estate brokers are self-motivated, and see this career path as an opportunity to work for themselves and create a business they can be proud of. Quite frankly, if you want to go someplace where they supply leads to you, then you’re not a business owner — you’re an employee. 

As  a business owner, you need to be able to seed the funnel and develop your own opportunities. That being said, your brokerage should be able to provide some opportunities for you, and connect you with individuals that may be able to assist with developing your business. 

In our office, some of the best resources are our agents and our managers. Our managers are always here to help you develop and stick with a business plan over time — one that speaks to your abilities and your career goals. At the same time, our managers are happy to facilitate connections with other agents who can help you advance. For example, we have a lot of listing agents who need help with hosting open houses. Sitting open houses is a great opportunity for agents to meet potential buyers and sellers, and pick up free leads. One of the best ways to capitalize on business opportunities at your brokerage is to network with your peers, and let your managing broker know what you would like. You have to ask, and then they can be mindful to look for certain opportunities for you. 

We also provide sophisticated tools to our agents that empower them to capture and follow up with leads online, including beautiful conversion-optimized landing pages and squeeze pages. 

In other words? Instead of handing over leads, we believe in teaching agents how to find, nurture, and develop them in the first place. You should be coming in with the mindset that you need to build your own business. We will give you all of the tools, all of the resources,  all of the support, all of the mentorship, and all of the technology you need to do just that — as long as you’re willing to put in the work.

I think it’s also fair to say that whether it’s on a team or at a brokerage, you want to make sure that you can take your leads with you. Sometimes, leads that are “given” to you belong to the team or or to the brokerage — so that if you ever leave, you are basically forfeiting those clients. 

7.) Commission Structure

As a real estate broker, the amount you take home is a direct reflection of the time, energy and effort you put into your career. Impactful support, training, and business planning can help you develop a more sustainable long-term business — and put more in your pocket over time. 

This is the last point on my list for a reason — because I truly feel that it should be the least important factor you evaluate when considering brokerages. 

Baird & Warner offers competitive commissions, compared to what other brokerages out there offer — but that’s not where we place our focus. Instead, we believe that agents make more money and become more productive when they get true investment from their brokerage, at every stage of their careers. 

Different brokerages have different commission structures. However, in my experience, a higher split is often due to a lack of value for the agent. Let me put it this way: You could go somewhere where they offer you 100 percent commission on sales. But does this brokerage offer unbeatable training? Unparalleled support? Personalized coaching and access to management? In other words, they might pay you 100 percent — but are they actually giving you anything you need to generate sales and truly build your own thriving business?

After all, 100 percent of zero dollars is… zero dollars. What good does that do you? 

In the absence of the true value that a brokerage can provide to their agents (meaning numbers one through six on this list), all some places have to negotiate with to get agents to come on board is the commission split. At a brokerage like Baird & Warner, it’s not just about one transaction, but setting you up with the skills it takes to grow and scale a business that can support you and your family and create your legacy for many years to come.

Want to Learn More About Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park?

Interested in becoming part of a brokerage that just had a record-crushing year? Curious about how our office’s training, support, and services can help take your business to the next level? If you’re interested in talking about your career in real estate, we are always here to listen! 

Whether you are considering a career change or looking for a new partner in your existing business, I truly look forward to connecting. Get in touch today to get the conversation started.

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