Talk to any business coach, consultant, or leader, and inevitably at some point, your conversation will turn to talk of business culture. Although, sometimes the culture conversation isn't direct, and, sometimes, the word itself might not even come up. Things such as core values, mission statements, the interviewing process, the employee review process etc., etc., etc., might dominate the discussion, but, still, at its core, what you're talking about is culture.
And there's no way to undersell just how important culture is — both in your real estate business and beyond.
In the past ten years, my CEO peer group has often had at least one well-known speaker and, typically, book author, discuss business culture. This past year we had one such speaker that took a unique twist to his presentation and hit me with a line of thinking I had never considered before. During his presentation, he turned the culture-related discussion away from the usual business focus and directed it towards me and my personal life. This was a twist I had never experienced before.
During this speaker's presentation, he discussed not only business culture but family culture as well. He even pressed the family culture discussion further and asked if we had discussed our family's core values with our families or if our spouses and children also knew our family's core values. Admittedly only one peer in my group of 15 business owners could answer yes when asked if his family knew their family's core values. This line of thinking gave great pause to me and the other 13, who also said yes to having family core values. While we all actively work on culture in our businesses, 14 of us, unfortunately, had not done this yet with our families.
As a sidebar, before I bring my thoughts back to the business world, if you want to do something interesting, start trying to answer culture related questions that focus on you and your family, such as:
What are your family's core values?
Does your family filter your family's decisions against your family's core values and mission statement?
Is your family in alignment with your family's core values and mission statement...your family's culture?
Trust me, the family angle is an interesting line of questions to think through when you have time, and I encourage you to do it...but let's get back to talking about the business side of things...
The first point I want to make is that you must be purposeful in your culture. What I mean by this is that culture in your business is something that you are the architect of. And, since you are the architect, culture is something you need to take the time to think about and create. Ultimately, if you go through a culture exercise with a business coach, that coach will ask you all kinds of questions about who your team is, words that describe them, and what they value.
Two years ago, I did a formal culture exercise at Delta. The management team, a business consultant, and I spent about an hour coming up with our five core values. When we were done, we all agreed that our core values accurately described who we were and are as a team. The irony of our core values is that I have valued these things and worked towards them with the Delta team for over 20 years. However, I was not nearly as strategic then as we are today at Delta in building a team representative of these core values. Now, it's a different story as these values I've long respected have become a central theme within Delta's business.
Delta's Five Core Values are:
Get it Done — Being accountable and trusted to complete projects or tasks no matter the effort needed or how much time is needed.
Finds a Way — The answer is never "No." When we see a need, even when the platform wasn't built to do it, or it would require building something completely new, as long as it fits into our core focus, we make it happen.
Passionate — Deeply cares about outcomes. Demonstrates a winning attitude, and it hurts to lose.
Team Oriented — Excels at working inside of a team to work towards achieving a larger goal. Can clearly give and receive feedback about tasks to better the team. Is driven to make sure the entire team succeeds, no lone-wolf attitude.
Do What's Right — Through wisdom, honesty, and compassion, we take the path that will have the greatest positive impact on the current and future health, growth, and prosperity of our company, our team members, and our customers.
It has become much easier over the past two years to make hiring and firing decisions and business decisions by having our core values clearly defined and agreed upon within our management team. Core values are part of our formal interview process and part of our quarterly employee review process.
The second point that I want to make is that the leader ultimately feeds the culture they want by what they focus on with their team.
Last December, at our annual two-day planning meeting for 2022, the management team did an exercise where we each shared two things with every other member on the management team: What is the one thing most admired about the person by you and what is the one thing that you would most like that person to stop doing or start doing?
What the team shared with me that they most admired about me gave me clarity into some of the ways that I have fed the culture at Delta. They shared that they liked my ability to inspire, my honesty, my optimism in adversity, my work ethic, that I am down to earth, and that I am approachable. Now, before you begin to think that I am trying to build myself up with a list of accolades, I should point out that I have another list of things I need to work on that I won't share: My stop doing and start doing list. But, for now, let's focus on the most admired things list...
It is important that each of us as business leaders is modeling that which we desire; that we exemplify the culture, core values, and mission statement of the company we run and the team we lead. I can take each of the items shared with me during the exercise that people admire about me and tie them back to at least one core value. Unknowingly I was living out the core values of the business for the past 20 years, not always to perfection, but I was living them out, and others noticed.
What we need to do as business owners is foster in our lives what we want in our businesses and be intentional about it. To close out my thoughts, I put together a shortlist of questions that you may find helpful as you think through the culture in your business, and maybe even the culture within your family:
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
We hear the term constantly — company culture. Building it, honing it, creating something that defines a company is often at the crux of that company's success. But while they're familiar words and sentiment, we still have to ask ourselves: What is company culture all about?
In many other industries, "culture" is everything a business does to motivate its employees outside of paying them what they're worth. Trying to build a culture that values the team on a foundation of cut-rate compensation is saying one thing and doing another. Naturally, actions speak louder than words.
In real estate, however, company culture is a totally different ballgame. Because commissions are the norm for agents and brokers, everyone in the office brings some intrinsic motivation to the table.
Like other sociable, sales-driven industries, you will meet plenty of colleagues driven by the fact that they are the biggest factor in their own success. Every agent in an area faces the same housing stock, local economy, and "lake" of clients, though they might choose to fish in different spots. Company culture is a massive differentiator in how individuals make the most of these resources – and whether they stick around long-term, look elsewhere, or go solo.
The worst thing you can do is let culture happen by accident!
Some kind of culture develops any time a group comes together for any purpose. Really! But even if your culture has been on autopilot, it's not too late to change for the better. By focusing on supporting your people – with technology and humanity – you can create a culture that works.
There's no better time to do it than now. New year, new outlook!
Wrapping Your Mind Around Company Culture
The idea of "company culture" has been used a million different ways by a million different businesses, many of which use "culture fit" when looking to fill open positions. For this reason, culture can seem devilishly slippery. If it's something that bends to every definition, is it all really just hot air?
Company culture can be discussed in a way that's superficial and, ultimately, not very helpful. But there truly is something to the concept. Once you get a sense of how it affects your tangible business results, it becomes much easier to see how you can change it for the better.
There are two big things company culture is not:
• Company Culture Isn't Just a Package of Perks
Company culture doesn't just mean free coffee or a foosball table in the break room. The idea you can boil down culture to a certain idea of fun – one that's wacky and zany within carefully prescribed limits – comes largely from high-tech startups. Companies like these aim to recruit recent college graduates who haven't necessarily developed healthy boundaries or expectations around what work asks of them.
• Company Culture Isn't Just Your Company's Values
These days, companies of all sizes are being asked to articulate their values around various subjects. Millennials and Generation Z are growing their share of the economy, and they want to know they are spending their money in harmony with their worldview. But, while culture can spring from a clear statement of values, the values are only the beginning. They are not the whole story of what culture is.
So, then, what is company culture, exactly?
Company culture can be described as "the unwritten rules," the way things are done in an organization. It is less about written policies and more about how, whether, and when they are followed. Since it is more an art than a science, it is best understood through analogy.
You might want your culture to reflect a positive orientation toward learning and growth. But mistakes and oversights are often made along the path. If a manager's response to mistakes is punishment and scorn, that person values perfectionism and rules-following, not growth.
Luckily, it's simpler to understand how to fine-tune your culture to realize one specific goal, in this case, agent retention. And since company culture is very responsive, all you have to do is commit to a more intentional stance around culture and start taking some of the right actions. Positive change will follow, and then it will be easier to chart a course forward.
The Seven Best Ways to Create a Culture that Values, Cultivates, and Retains Agents
Equip Agents to Succeed with the Right Technologies
It was not that long ago when the average agent needed to dedicate hours every week to ensure they were on top of the latest changes with their prospects, leads, and customers. These days, Customer Relationship Management software centralizes all these functions in one place. A real estate CRM, like DeltaNET® 6, offers complete visibility and may even help you know when to follow up using artificial intelligence.
Remember: Priorities Emerge from Values
While values aren't all there is to company culture, they do matter. Values act as the North Star that everyone can consult when choosing between two conflicting priorities or courses of action. For example, a company that upholds compassion as a key value might make customer care a top priority and would choose to help the customer feel heard over handing calls off as fast as possible.
Encourage Support and Mentoring
Teaching others is often the fastest way to sharpen your own skills. With that in mind, it's wise to spark an interest in mentoring within your office. Allow junior team members the opportunities to think through their challenges without having to reinvent the wheel. As a result, genuine relationships are built that help you to integrate your company into the wider industry community and thus attract top talent.
Success happens every day, on both an individual and team level. Of course, when the team reaches its goals, it's cause for celebration. But personal milestones are also important, assuming the individual consents to have their story heard. So whether it's the big sale or a firstborn's birth, don't be afraid to cheer others on.
Create an Inviting Work Environment
Many agents and brokers are more productive when they have a quiet, enclosed space where they can do blocks of focused, uninterrupted work. That said, you can create opportunities for collaboration by setting up plenty of common areas where ideas can be shared. That makes for the best of both worlds.
Retention all comes down to whether someone feels valued. Agents and brokers often have a dozen other opportunities right in their own backyard, so crafting a retention-focused culture is crucial. These seven tips will put you on the path to long-term retention and the outstanding results it can lead to.
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
No matter what technology you incorporate into your real estate practice, one thing is for sure: It's all about people. Technology doesn't replace the human touch — it gives you more time and opportunities to make the connections that are so important to your success.
At Delta Media Group, we're going into the new year with a commitment to put people first.
Now is the perfect time for brokers and real estate agents to think about the best ways to place customers at the center of their practice. The idea of the "customer-obsessed" business has become a cliché in recent years, but nowhere is it more relevant than real estate.
Why Customer Experience Matters for Real Estate More than Virtually Any Other Industry
In today's modern market, there are no industries out there where customers simply don't matter. But the world of real estate is very different from the norm. Real estate professionals rely on achieving a level of customer experience excellence above and beyond other sectors of the economy.
Customer experience encompasses every interaction a person has with a brand, no matter big or small. Each one of those interactions will influence the customer's brand sentiment, adding up to a picture of what they think of you and what you can do.
It doesn't matter how you market yourself or sell your services if those brand messages are out of harmony with what a customer has directly experienced with you. In real estate, this effect becomes more pronounced because it affects your entire future.
Most people will be in the real estate market only every 5-8 years. Customer experience is the defining factor that determines whether they will come back to you, enhancing their lifetime value. Even more crucial, it can mean the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential referral business.
As real estate businesses mature, it is important to go from "chasing leads" to earning referrals. A healthy real estate business will have a strong mix of referral clients and new leads attracted to their digital properties through inbound marketing. There'll be very little "chasing" involved!
By putting people at the center of your business, you make it far more likely that they will stick with you over the dozens of competitors they might otherwise choose. Making a good impression on someone can transform your bottom line, even if you never work directly with that person again.
If you are part of a team, being people-centric has other aspects you should be aware of.
It means giving those around you the resources and opportunities to thrive. Paradoxically, it also means recognizing that people have limits, individual weaknesses, and significant priorities outside of work — and showing some grace to the whole, human person you work with. This is essential to stave off burnout as we enter the third year of a global pandemic!
The Biggest Ways to Put People First in 2022
Real estate technology makes it easier to bring your whole self to the work you do. To learn more about upgrading your business with real estate marketing automation, just contact us at Delta Media Group.
More businesses are talking about "values," but what does that really mean?
To an individual, "values" are most often seen in value judgments. These are statements about life that can't be proven or disproven in ordinary ways. They disclose what the person making the statement considers important but aren't necessarily held by other people.
For example, many would agree with the statement, "All people have inherent dignity and worth." That statement might be considered part of their desire to embody a given value, say respect or compassion. Values can be boiled down to one word, but they always require interpretation.
What does all this mean when it comes to your life as a real estate agent?
In short, virtually every brand "says" it has values, but not all values are created equal. It's not enough to simply write down a value statement or publicize it on your website. You also have to make decisions about what those values mean, how they affect your priorities, and how they get rewarded.
Let's explore how it all adds up — and what it means for the people who count on you.
To Make a Difference to Your Customers, Values Must Be Reinforced and Rewarded
Let's take a common example many of us have experienced inside and outside the business world.
Growing up, lots of kids are encouraged to value learning. But learning can be a messy process, and it often involves making mistakes along the way. If you aren't comfortable with mistakes, it's very hard to come to grips with starting off in any new endeavor since you always start from scratch.
If the same child who was told to value "learning" is punished or yelled at every time they make less than an A+ grade, they will quickly realize learning isn't the goal. It isn't what's valued. What's really valued in that situation is grades, as the difference between word and action shows.
Something similar happens in businesses every day!
For example, lots of businesses claim to value creative thinking. But creativity requires risks, not all of which will pay. If those risks are discouraged, the conflict between word and action opens up. People will get wise and stop taking risks to be creative – or else they will move on.
The smaller your group, the easier it is to make sure your words, actions, and objectives all align with your stated values. Indeed, it's easiest when you're doing it for yourself! But the lesson is this: To adopt a value, you need a concrete idea of exactly how it will affect your day-to-day work.
That's what allows you to know your values in action when you see them.
To Make Values Tangible, Understand How They Will Influence Your Priorities
Here's an example that crops up in the lives of many new real estate agents.
In the beginning, most agents need to focus on finding leads, and they don't want to lose a single one. They quickly conclude that they want to stand out for their customer service — "being there for customers no matter what." This is a statement of values. It could be simplified to responsiveness.
An agent who values responsiveness is therefore making a choice of priorities. They might interrupt another work-related task in order to return a call. Taking things further, they might also choose to return a call earlier in the morning or later at night than they otherwise would.
All these activities would be in keeping with the value of responsiveness. But it's critical to recognize some values-driven behavior can be self-defeating. Agents who find themselves returning texts at all hours of day and night to be responsive could burn out at the same time.
Choosing Values that Move Your Business Forward
Start the process of deciding on values by listing them out. Then, underneath each one, list the specific actions the value would motivate you to take. What commitments are implied by this value? What will you do when one value is in conflict with another? Which, if any, is your "highest" value?
In this way, you can incorporate your values into your business. When your values resonate with those of your ideal customer, upholding them will draw the right people to you. After all, your "brand," in real estate or any industry, isn't just what you say about yourself.
It's also what others think and say about you, online and off.
As you communicate and demonstrate your values, the kind of customers you want to work with will be inspired to maintain a long-term relationship with you. They will also be more likely than they otherwise would be to share their positive experiences with others, sending you more referrals.
Thus, by making a few decisions about what matters to you, you can energize your entire career.
What is your company culture like, and how does that culture impact the success of your team? These are crucial questions in any industry, and they're especially important in real estate. Building a strong culture starts from the top, but it also depends on every team member doing their part. Here's why culture is so critical to success and how you can foster a strong culture for your real estate team.
Individual excellence may improve results, but team culture is the key to building a reliable, sustainable business where team members look forward to working each day and providing an excellent experience for your clients. A healthy culture makes it easier for your team to collaborate, support one another, and seamlessly integrate new members into the team.
Your culture is reflected in everything that your team does. It makes your real estate business a more attractive place to work for top-performing agents and helps every team member perform to the best of their abilities. It's also reflected in how your clients are treated, how well your team helps them accomplish their goals, and how likely they are to generate referrals after those goals are accomplished.
How to Build a Strong Culture with Your Real Estate Team
As a team leader, other team members will naturally look to you as a culture setter and an example. When you bring a positive, team-focused attitude, a collaborative spirit, and a strong work ethic to the table, team members are naturally more likely to follow your lead.
No matter the size of your real estate business, team culture is a key ingredient in your recipe for success. Whether you're launching a new brokerage or working to boost the performance of your existing team, actively building a positive culture will help you accomplish your goals. No two teams are exactly the same, but the core elements of a strong culture apply across the board.
Aaron Geh (Head of Digital Marketing) with Delta Media Group interviewed Rod Messick (CEO) BHHS Homesale Realty on his organization is managing through the recent Covid crisis.
When working at Delta Media Group you have the ability to stay fit while working. As we all know sitting all day is bad for us. That is why at Delta our employees are enjoying the benefits that come along with using a treadmill desk and bike desk.