Being a team player in the office makes you strong, the office strong, and the industry strong. In addition, being a team player in the office will make you money. “Well, I’m an independent contractor and own my own business and don’t really have a boss and don’t entirely need the office.”

Well, let’s talk about that.

As producers, we own the job. Technically, most of us do not have a boss and we can control our schedule, that’s true. We do run a small business, that’s true. But I like to say we “own the job.” We can choose to take the job to this office or that office because we have ownership of the job, as opposed to a corporate job at Apple Computers, Apple owns the job; that job requisite stays at Apple, period.

Here is the distinction: a more traditional business is something that would and could continue to operate without the principal. In real estate, 99 percent of the time, when the producer stops, his or her production stops as well. If you really want to own your own traditional small business, then open up your own (lending or brokerage) shop, which would include capital, personnel, leasing an office, licensing, insurance, heavy risk, managing, and on and on—then, the difference between owning the job and owning the business will became glaringly obvious. As independent lenders and real estate professionals, we run a small business and own the job.

So whether or not you are convinced we own the job in real estate, let’s continue. What do we need to survive in this business? Naturally we need strong marketing, strong finance, and strong operations. We are talking about operations in this case. I am guessing that in most or all instances, your office does not hand you home-run, cash-the-check leads on a daily basis. That’s just not the way the business is structured. Therefore, we generate our revenue/income through our own efforts and ingenuity as independent real estate professionals. Fine; that’s why we love this business—because the sky is the limit.

Now, we need to take a portion of that revenue and purchase operational support and services (i.e., the split). What kind of services? Office leadership, management, culture, insurance, synergy, and energy that comes from being part of a team, a roof over our heads, technology, administrative support, furniture in most cases, copiers, HR in some cases, and more. We are asking the office to provide all those services short of us doing our job, which is 1) finding deals and 2) successfully closing deals. Embrace the fact that the office (or the company) needs us and we need the office. Just a fact, Jack! It’s a codependent relationship. Be a team player within that office. It’s in your best interest to do so.

I believe it’s an interesting topic, and I will be the first one to admit that I always struggled with this codependent relationship. Why did we get into this business to begin with? I believe freedom and limitless income would be at the top of the list for most of us. “Well, Jim, I don’t agree. I just love reading about subterranean termites. It’s so much fun to understand how they crawl around in the dirt.” Okay, cool, but for the rest of us, freedom and limitless income. Who is attracted to this type of business? In many cases, entrepreneurial-type personalities that want to run their own show and not have a boss. Therein lies the rub. We are asking free-thinking, independent, entrepreneurial-type personalities to be team players, to take a back seat in some instances, and to root on the team. Interesting cultural dynamic. Understand it. Accept it. And do it. It’s in your best interest that the company does well and colleagues in your office do well.

By nature I have always been a relatively positive, happy person. The only time I had a bump in the road emotionally, however, was when I worked from my house. I was building my personal residence at the time and the house had been completed, but now came the landscaping. I wanted it done right, so I moved my office to my house for six months so I could keep my eye on things. Bad idea. After about two months I was dragging myself from this to that. I would say to my wife, “What in the world is wrong with me?” And then it finally hit me. It was the first time in my career that I had worked in the house and from the house on a day-to-day basis with little to no face-to-face interaction with colleagues, friends, etc. I know that can work for a lot of people. But wow, not for me. I quickly got my butt back into the real estate office and was cured. There is just something about the hum of the office. Even if my door was shut, I could still feel the daily chatter, deals moving, and people trying to achieve. That experience reminded me of the importance of office team energy—an invaluable service that the office/company provides for us.

You will make money by being a good team player in the office. Wow, where do I start on this one? First, what characteristics could be consistent with the definition of a good team player? Quite possibly being trustworthy, reliable, loyal, honest, friendly, skillful, inclusive, and others. When I started in the loan business, there was a lender in the office that was skillful and friendly to everyone in the office. I literally walked in off the streets for the first time with ten to fifteen leads that I had no idea what to do with. The manager said, “You work with Lender C on these deals.” So that’s what I did, and we decided to split all of them, since I had no idea what I was doing at the time. I did all the work and she coached me. She earned roughly $10,000 on those deals just for having a good reputation and being a good sport in the office.

Several years later, management in my office was involved in a small real estate development deal. I was asked to participate along with a handful of other people. I know, every deal has risk, but if you knew the details of this deal, risk was very low and upside was high. This was really a tangible reward for being loyal, reliable, fighting the battles when necessary, and being a good team player. That investment required $50 (add some zeros). In the last ten years, I have received an average of $1 monthly from that investment, and the $50 has turned into equity of roughly $500. I would have never been asked to be part of that deal if I was not a good team player for management in the office. Being a good team player can pay well.

Let’s talk a little further about how being a good office team player can grow your revenue line. Why? Because at the end of a day, we are in this business to support our families by providing a good service. And also, people pay attention when we talk money. So here is another example. It’s naturally just the right thing to do to be nice to everyone in the office, but I can say with all sincerity, I always did my best to reach out to the administrative staff in particular (i.e., secretaries, helpers, runners, receptionists, admins, etc.). One day a call came in to the office from a person in the community that wanted to talk with an agent about listing their home. The receptionist rang through to my office. “Jim, you are always nice to me. Do you want this lead?” I can probably count on my hands how many times over twenty years I have closed deals through office leads, but this was one of them. Yes, for sure I wanted it, and thank you. Listed, closed—and drove $21K to my revenue line. Be nice, be a good team player, and possibly make a little extra money.

There is a tremendous amount of business that can be sourced to loan processors. When I started out in the loan business, we had four total processors on site and a manager that chipped in when things got busy, so five. My manager at the time was a seasoned real estate pro and told me early on, mostly in frustration, “Our loan processors have huge personal networks, and it’s crazy that no one reaches out to them!” Hmmm, that’s interesting. When you came in the front door of our mortgage office, you walked straight ahead to go to the agent desk area but had to take a hard left to get to the loan processing area. In other words, the processors were off by themselves in the corner of the office. As often as possible, I would come in the front door, take the hard left, and say hi to everyone as I walked by; I did the same thing as I left. Hey! How about just paying attention to people, being friendly in the office? Pretty simple, really. I probably generated roughly $25,000 that year just through processor networks, and they made money too. Starting to be convinced that being a team player pays?

Are you approachable in the office? There are deals that will happen in the office and stay in the office. But if we are cold, standoffish, naturally, we are not going to be part of those conversations. That’s fine if you don’t want to be part of those conversations; I know people that are not such good team players that do a lot of business and are not part of those deals. But if you want to be part of that “deal flow,” then you have to be in the office and approachable. And every once in a while, you may just pick up a pearl and make an extra $10,000 to $50,000 yearly—not bad for just being a good sport.

This can be a lonely business without the support of the office. As independent contractors, we are part of a team within a very competitive industry, an industry that attracts some doggedly competitive personalities. It’s nice to have a group of people in your corner to help fight the daily battles and share in those successes and occasional setbacks. For business advice, I lean on one of my most successful college teammates from time to time. When advising me, he always starts it off with, “Jim, what can I tell you, the world is competitive.” It’s better to take on the world with a team.

A united real estate office will make everyone in that office more money.

I could have put this section in “Marketing” because, as indicated, your willingness to be a team player will have a direct correlation to your revenue line. In other words, you will do more business by being a team player in the office. But again, we are mostly on our own in this business to produce our own leads, and the operations side of the business is equally important to marketing. The quality of the relationships that we build in the office will ultimately affect a) the quality of service we are able to provide for our customers and 2) our ability to serve more people over time (i.e., make more money). Therefore, marketing and operations in this case are forever interdependent.

Go get ’em!

If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin

Chapter 44 - Be a Team Player in the Office

"There’s no better person qualified to deliver this message - funny, insightful and useful.”
Dominic Nicoli,  Inaugural Member of the Intero Real Estate Services Hall of Fame

​​​"Inspirational and entertaining while literally providing a pathway to success."
Adam Eyre, Top 100 Lender at PrimeLending and previously Top 100 at Wells Fargo Bank

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