Business Management

Putting Together a ‘Team’ for Your Real Estate Business – It’s About Results

Expertise: Personal Development, Personal Finance, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Real Estate Investing Basics, Flipping Houses
249 Articles Written
real estate team - capital blueprints

Many on BiggerPockets, me included, often refer to the ever present, but somehow nebulous, Team. Speakin’ only for myself, Team has a very well defined meaning as it relates to what I do. Before abandoning my hometown real estate market, my Team consisted of assistants and a transaction coordinator. That was pretty misleading though, using 20/20 hindsight. Consider that from 1977 through 2003, 27 years, I used a grand total of three lenders. The last 19 years, ending in 2003? Just one. How was he not only a Team member, but a virtually irreplaceable one at that? During those same 27 years I did business with only four title reps/companies. Woulda been two, but two of ’em had the temerity to retire. Same with escrow officers. It’ll be 43 years in the business this fall, and I’ve yet to use 10 escrow officers. In fact, the San Diego company I use for clients’ tax deferred exchanges, as the ‘Accommodator’, is run by the son of its founder, who did business with Dad. How is he not part of my team for Heaven’s sake?

For the record, my current Team has around 10 members. The shortest tenured is now a bit over a year. One goes back to 1974. Most have been with me 2-5 years or so. Without them I would be dead in the water in about 72 hours, max. Sure, it’s a tired cliché, but they are a well oiled machine.

What makes a great real estate team?

The consistently reliable production of RESULTS. As you might suspect, that’s WAY more difficult to construct in real life than it is to talk about it. For example, my current Team is possibly the best group with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work. It took about two years, maybe longer to put ’em together. For example, my lender is better than I deserve. But it took three failures, one epic, to find the guy. Same with my title/escrow company. They’re proof God exists and He loves me. They’re the third try in that department, and well worth the suffering we went through to finally end up with them.

Whenever we need to bring on a new Team member, I get nervous. This is especially true when bringing on a new financial ‘discipline’. The last time we did this, it wasn’t ’til the third ‘audition’ that we struck pay dirt. Investing for retirement is a lotta things, simple ain’t one of ’em. We’d all like to believe that, but know otherwise. Simple on paper is almost always a pain in real life. An example of this was my seemingly endless search for a highly experienced EIUL expert. Went through three in quick fashion before landing on Dave Shafer.

Investors, especially ones with either large portfolios or who flip a lot, (Often both.) rely on their Team almost daily. When one member fails, the entire endeavor suffers, sometimes to the point of sabotaging the Team goal altogether. Whether you’re serving clients, flipping properties, or keepin’ track of your rentals, your Team must consistently produce, avoiding the ‘ExcuseTrain’ at all costs. There are those who do, and those who make excuses. The latter will pull you down faster than most of us realize at first.

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People talk a good game, so watch them when it’s their turn to produce.

  • Are they really experts?
  • Do they interact well with everyone?
  • Are they a pain to contact?
  • Do they return calls/emails quickly.
  • Do they hit deadlines? Produce as promised, when promised?
  • Can they communicate without resorting to what I call, ‘ProSpeak’?

Clearly that’s a severely limited list, but you see the trend, right? Back in another life when hiring my first ever assistant, I soon discovered the vetting process also served as a window into what my clients might expect. When things didn’t go as planned, (Grandma called that ‘life’.) were they a Gatling Gun of excuses? Were they always the victim of circumstances conspiring to block the successful execution of their agenda? Yes? Avoid those folks like the plague. I’ve found they’re most often nice people, who always have world class excuses for their consistent failure to produce results. Move on to somebody else.

But what if you’re really, really impressed with their resume? Take from me, the guy who insisted on learning this lesson the hardest way. Run. Far. Away. What good does superior knowledge, expertise, and experience matter when they’re constantly explaining why everyone but them is producing the desired results, and in the time allotted? I know, cuz as a whippersnapper, I was that guy. When I listened to my mentors who told me to hire an assistant, I stopped being that guy. Who knew? 🙂

One day I was told in no uncertain terms, that nobody was as important as apparently I thought I was. He said, “I own this company and I’m not that important, not by a long shot.” Ouch. It wasn’t that I thought I was important at all. It was that I was trying to do too much in far too little time. But, if it’s perceived as having the ‘Let ’em eat cake’ attitude, you’re sunk.

Your business must not only produce results, it must be consistently accessible.

This is one of the gems I learned upon benefitting from my first full time assistant. The world didn’t fall apart cuz I didn’t do everything. In fact, many told me in no uncertain terms that my assistant did about 10 things better, AND faster than I had. Ouch. But the real eyeopener was when so many of ’em said they very much appreciated how much easier it was to find me. As investors running your Teams, nobody should be more reachable than you. You’re where the buck stops.

Photo of the team at the BiggerPockets Summit 2012

Licensed since 1969, broker/owner since 1977. Extensively trained and experienced in tax deferred exchanges, and long term retirement planning.
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Funny you should mention picking your team. I just wrote a similar thing, only from an investor’s perspective. To me, it’s important you and your team share the same values, and it ultimately comes down to YOU.
    Jeff Brown
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Hey Greg — Loved your take, big time. Your post is thought provoking in the best possible way. The best part? Your version of my MomRule. I’ve always had that rule myself, too. Great stuff, Greg.
    Jim Pratt
    Replied over 7 years ago
    I learned a long time ago, not soon enough, that to get ahead one needs to hire people that are smarter than you. I resisted for years. One day I hired a person who knew more than me and WHAM, was I doing good. Their called experts for a reason. A lot of people tell me how great I’m doing, how smart I am, it’s my team that make me shine. No more sweating to the oldies, they can handle most situations and keep me out of trouble while producing great results.
    Jeff Brown
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Very well said, Jim. As far as I’m concerned, this lesson was also learned late.