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Navigating Rough Waters: How To Manage Your Brokerage Through A Crisis


Following the seismic crash of Wall Street in 2008, the housing market plummeted. The whole real estate industry fell underwater, and we were all faced with unprecedented challenges. If you were a leader in real estate, there were likely times that you felt like the floor was falling out from under you. It is in moments like these where your leadership is tested.

Brokerages will face economic downturns, potentially public lawsuits and even natural disasters. It’s shocking, uncomfortable and unpredictable. But ultimately, crisis happens — and frankly, should be expected. The real questions are not “what is the crisis?” or “when is it happening?” but rather, “how will I respond and lead my company through it?”

When you can face problems head on, you’ll be in better shape to handle any crisis.

Keep Calm And Prioritize Communication  

When crisis strikes, managing brokers must remain calm and confident. As a leader, you must reflect strength and security.

Your agents will be looking to you as their North Star, and you must lead by example. If you convey uncertainty or instability, agent sentiment will mirror yours, and the prospect of losing your agents becomes very real. Despite the importance of maintaining a calm demeanor, do not downplay the situation. Instead, you should acknowledge the facts and face the truth.

Clear, timely and transparent communication is essential in any crisis situation. Determine the best medium for your brokerage — in-person meetings, email communication, Facebook groups, etc. — because effective methods of communication can vary across agents and crises. No matter the medium, managers must share frequent and consistent updates with their agents. Silence allows fear to creep in and, ultimately, leads to doubt among agents and other stakeholders.

Lean On Your Resources

Being a leader may feel like you’re running a one-man show, but the reality is you’re not. Even if you don’t have a corporate team, you do have an army of agents who are there to support you and present a united front. Lean into these resources to:

• Pull together an agent leadership team to address crisis management within your brokerage. Designate point people who will be able to assess the situation from a bird’s eye view. This team will be responsible for identifying the problems, developing a plan and implementing a solution.

• Consult with a public relations professional. Depending on the crisis, your brokerage may be contacted by the media. A PR professional will be essential in providing direction on how media inquiries should be addressed, crafting a statement that effectively communicates your company’s solution and arming your agents with talking points to the crisis at hand. At the end of the day, this resource will be indispensable in ensuring a fair trial in the court of public opinion.

• Additionally, always have a legal expert at the ready. Whether you’re facing a lawsuit or interpreting new housing policies, a lawyer is an invaluable resource.

Seek Opportunities For Growth

Flaws often go unnoticed while a brokerage is operating at peak performance. Sudden changes in the real estate landscape may shake up your brokerage and unveil cracks in the foundation. Instead of succumbing to the fear of failure, take this as an opportunity for growth. Be open-minded to new and improved practices that will enable your company to come back stronger.

For example, if the housing market takes a downward turn, agents’ client pools may shrink. Agents will need to rely on new lead generation tactics to stay afloat in these situations. While traditional transactions may be a smaller piece of the pie, there are alternative tactics that will provide value for clients. For example, the housing market was filled with short sales and foreclosures during the Great Recession. Agents who targeted that business thrived during those years.

Additionally, pay attention to the community in which you practice. On top of generating new business leads, encourage your agents to be a resource for the public. Do past clients need counsel on recent and/or future purchases? Do potential clients need advice on what to do next? Answer these questions, earn their trust and be proactive. This is where you’ll find an opportunity to build a new client base and strengthen your current one who will be ready to buy or sell once the market does turn around.

If agents prove themselves to be versatile, they will prove valuable in any housing climate.

Arm Your Agents With Education

Are your agents prepared for a potential crisis? If you don’t know the answer, you need to find out.

Changes in the housing market and in the economy are inevitable. Sometimes downturns are unexpected, but there are often indicators. It’s imperative to educate your agents from the very beginning. When it comes to a downward trending housing market, teach them about the signs and consequences of a depressed market and how to navigate it. What are the advantages in any type of market? What are the biggest challenges? What kind of clients can they expect in these markets? Should they be prioritizing buyers, sellers or investors? No matter what, agents must be proactive in all aspects of their job in order to compete with other brokerages that may be just as or more prepared when crisis strikes.

At the end of the day, every crisis will be different. Managing it will require quick action, a steady demeanor and the willingness to adapt and change course. But leveraging these strategies as a starting point will allow you and your team to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other end.

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