Are You Too Independent for Your Job?

Fired red stamp

Fired red stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had to explain to an agent last week why she was being terminated.

She was an articulate and experienced mature woman, with an MBA and strong business backgrounds. But she couldn’t take direction. Every time the managing broker in her office tried to mentor her and make suggestions to further her career, she responded that she was an independent contractor.  I suggested to my managing broker that we allow her to be independent somewhere else, and the woman was shocked that we wanted to terminate her.

As we spoke , she told me that she was first licensed 8 years ago and went to work at a competitor’s firm. She said that she had been hired and that, unlike our company, she was just set in an office at a desk without direction. “How did that work out for you? “, I asked. “Not too well”, she responded. I pointed out to her that if she couldn’t make money , even by accident,  in 2004 when the market was red hot, it would seem that she might need some direction to help her become successful.

When I asked why she refused to participate in activities in the office designed to make her more successful, she really didn’t have an answer, and kept saying, but I’m an Independent Contractor, I shouldn’t have to do anything I’m told to do, I should only have to do what Iwant to do. I explained to her that she had obligations under our independent contractor agreement (which she had read and signed) and that , more importantly, we operate as a team. Agents and management working together for our mutual success, and that it seemed that she was not a good fit for that type of arrangement.

After shaking hands with her and sending her on her way, I saw a post if a Facebook group I belong to that said ”

Are Brokers abdicating their responsibility to manage sales persons, ethics, and integrity? There are rogue agents who threaten to leave because their broker pushes them to raise the bar. There are rogue agents who don’t advertise their brokerage, which in Texas is legally required with all marketing including FB. There are rogue agents who aren’t honest in their marketing efforts in MLS or or on flyers. Brokers talk about these issues in team meetings, they may even send out letters, but they don’t reprimand or dismiss agents in most cases. Should they?

As Managing Brokers or Broker/Owners we are able to determine what our company culture will look like, and how our company will operate by choosing who we allow to affiliate with us.Our agents want to be part of a culture of excellence, and if we allow ourselves to be held hostage to the demands of an unreasonable agent, we fail our company, that agent, and our other agents. Companies, no matter what the size, should have a symbiotic relationship with their agent population. In other words,(specifically the definition of the word at we and our agents should by living in symbiosis, or having an interdependent relationship Agents likewise need to recognize that they can be most productive and most effective by leveraging their team.

All the conversations about who and what the consumer chooses fail to recognize that any combination of reasons is better than any singular reason. So it benefits everyone to put their egos aside and promote the entire organization. In other words, if the consumer has a brand reference, and they are well disposed towards the company, the preference for the agent has even more power than it does alone. In a market like today’s, more than ever before, agents should be able to rely upon their companies to support and enhance their efforts, and companies should be able to rely upon their agents to be team oriented, and pleased to support company initiatives to be profitable and grow.

While agents are indeed independent contractors, they need to remember (as does their company) that they are part of a larger organization, and that no business does well without structure and direction. Though individual agents are often the catalysts of change within their firms, they still need to value the team, and be part of the team – so everyone can achieve more. If they can’t value the team, then they should find a team they can value, or open a company and create their own team.

Wouldn’t our workspace be better if all of us worked towards the success of all of us? Shouldn’t an agent have reasonable expectations of their broker? And shouldn’t the broker have reasonable expectations of their agents?

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9 comments for “Are You Too Independent for Your Job?

  1. Erica ramus
    April 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Love this article! I let someone go in the past who would disappear right in the midst of a deal — for clients, other agents, etc. It happened over & over. Finally I let him go. I had never had so many good agents complain about someone He was shocked! He replied that broker A had said he could always come back. I suggested he do that! I believe we as brokers must raise our OWN bars, and set an example. 

  2. rockceptionist
    April 18, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Bill – Since I first started I’ve been fascinated by what I like to call the broker/agent disconnect.  As agents we have it drilled into our heads that we are independent contractors and I think, much like your example, affects our decisions.  We ignore broker advice, offers of support and training, and eschew company meetings.  Yes, we are independent, but like you mentioned, we are still part of a larger team – a thought that seems to be missing.

    In turn, I see brokers (and this is obviously not all of them, because I have worked under some excellent ones) who are reluctant to make investments (whether time or money) into agents because of this independent spirit (or lack of spirit some might say).  Simple tools that could help the agents improve their business, their skills, or their earning potential are often looked over because the cost can’t be justified because the broker knows that most of the agents won’t utilize them.
    For some reason the disconnect started and grew and grew and grew.  Some brokerages seem to be finding ways to reconnect (I look to Krisstina and The Good Life Team) and I think those models will be more successful long term as agents learn (re-learn) the process of being involved in not only their business, but the company.

  3. April 18, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I agree with your point, and that is why I wanted to write the post and point out that only we- together can end the madness and get back to working together for our mutual benefit. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. April 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

    We certainly see eye to eye. It has to be OK with agents for the company to make money and OK with the company to provide opportunities for the agents 🙂

  5. rockceptionist
    April 18, 2012 at 10:45 am

    And that is why you’re one of the good ones Bill.

    I guess I should mention…this is Matt, @rerockstar:twitter 

  6. April 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Excellent article Bill!  Agents and brokers need to work together to maximize their value.

    In addition to eliminating those who are too independent to fit in, brokers should set high standards of who they allow to join their office to begin with.  If a brokerage has an excellent reputation for having only high quality, productive and ethical agents, they won’t have any problems attracting more of the same.  Office management could become more of a management and marketing job, and less of a recruiting job!

  7. April 20, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Real estate is definitely a team sport. Some people I guess get into it because they want freedom, want to be their own boss etc (while blindly ignoring what they really need to be successful). You are spot on about leveraging the team.

  8. April 20, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more Dan . I guess we all have our blind spots, and eing aware of them may be the difference between success, mediocrity and failure.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. C21agent1
    May 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Bill this is fantastic.  It points out why you are so good at what you do, by letting us in on what is happening. Cheap from Cheap and easy

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