10 Rules to help 100 percent of your team make $100,000 in a year
It’s one thing to call yourself a “team leader” and it is quite another to understand where it is you are leading your team. It’s sexy to say, “I have a real estate team.” It feels so fancy and HGTV. Everyone is doing it! But why? Starting a real estate team is one of the most difficult things you could ever do in your entire life! (Unless you decide to climb K2 or join the military or carry a human being in your stomach or like, step into the octagon with Connor McGregor or something.) There is a reason why the failure rate is so high. Hang in there, you’re going to think about quitting 10 times before you take off and another 37 or 38 once you “start making money” but it is so extraordinarily, overwhelmingly, awesome to be able to say, “I helped 100 percent of the agents that have been with me for over a year and a half make over $100,000 in the last 12 months.”
The reward doesn’t come from being able to say “I am a team lead” and getting a bunch of people to stand behind you for your branding session. The reward comes from having agents crush two-year goals in six months, having them thank you when they buy a home, put in a pool and pay for it in cash, get out of debt, buy a car, stand on their own two feet, make more money than their supportive husbands, become whole people, financially independent, and proud.
I want to help you fast track the success of your teams, so here are my ten rules to live by if you want to make your buyer’s agents money and start getting the phone calls and text messages that have become a staple in my life (so much so that I have printed them out and I keep them in my personal office).
1. Accountability is paramount.
There’s a reason I put this on here first! I start every Monday morning with a 7:40am conference call with some of my favorite people on planet earth! I love it! I yell, “Are you ready to rock?!?!” I encourage sleepy agents to “have another cup of coffee and we’ll double back” and I get an opportunity to view their daily call log, ask about their open house, answer any questions they have, and, most importantly have them hear each other being positive and writing offers. They get to hear about actionable items other members on the team are taking and they get to be inspired by the amazing people that inspire you to keep this thing going every day! There’s a reason you hired these wonderful people; they’re inspiring. So let them inspire!
2. Create a culture of collaboration.
You can’t fake a culture of collaboration! You either have it or you don’t! If you don’t, you’re headed out in a hurry because a bad apple will ruin the whole bunch. You want your team collaborating as much as possible. I have two group chats going constantly; one is a “work thread” for work questions and the other is a “fun thread” for less urgent conversations and more personal and praise items. Now it isn’t just me that can answer work questions! I am surrounded by people who are truly invested in one another’s success. They are coming from a plentiful mindset. They know their success is not tied to another’s failure, so they encourage and collaborate constantly.
3. You are not the best person for every job!
This is why you started a team. The goal is to allow team members—that are better than you are at certain systems—make a healthy living by doing things they do better than you anyway, which frees you up to be the rain maker. I use to hang all of my own flyers in a suit with a fused ankle. I was addicted to “the grind!” I was farming in the rain, wearing a suit. I looked like a homeless Realtor! Wake up every day and think, “Who can I get to do this for me?” I said this in front of a crowd once and an older agent scoffed at me. The audacity of thinking I should create jobs! After all, that’s what employers think. Employees think I’m the best man for every job!
The right assistant will change the game. Your first hire will be a TC. Do it immediately. Then find a couple buyer’s agents. Then you will need an amazing assistant! This will be your most important hire. Read The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and use it as a guide in the team building process. I had the wrong assistant. The person was well-intentioned but not the right fit. Your assistant will be the person that will replace you on the operations side of things, be your sales and administrative team’s main point of contact, and keep you where you need to be. Your assistant frees you up to live in the world you thrive in so that you can continue to build systems, make calls, create content, or god forbid, turn off your phone.
I am not an “i” dotter or a “t” crosser. I can’t live in the contract world. I don’t like to do things like field phone calls, answer emails, write contracts, or pay bills on time. I know, I know. For those of you implementing the DISC profile on your teams: Hire “S” or “C” personalities here. Don’t put a “D” behind the front desk and, if you’re bringing in an “I” as an admin, make sure the life of the party is able to leave the party at home and stay organized! (I love my “I”s.) Also, the DISC profiles are not written in blood. There are beautiful exceptions!
Remember: “It is not the genius at the top giving directions, directions that makes people feel great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.” -Simon Sinek. Without the Leslie Tribbles, Megan Wolfs, and Katie Bouchers, there is no David Serpa.
4. Leaders Eat Last.
Simon Sinek wrote the following in his book Leaders Eat Last: “Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off of their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.” You have to put everyone else before you. It sounds unhealthy! It is unhealthy! You eat last, I’m sorry to say but it is true. I took out a personal loan to make payroll to keep us afloat during a rough patch. I was several months behind on my mortgage but I didn’t stop going. Do you think anyone will begrudge me eating what spills over when they are thriving, even if it is plentiful, when I was willing to go down with the ship? Trust your team. Tell them everything. Eat with them. But above all things consult with them! They know your business better than anyone and they also understand your impulses. Open yourself up to the truth they can give you about yourself and your business.
5. Transparency is king.
And the right people will love you for it. I almost held back here with the title and said “when you don’t over-disclose” but EFF that noise. I want to bring transparency to everything I touch. I love and trust people and can’t hold back because I got something back that I didn’t want from the world. You get to put whatever you want into the mixing pot that is your life. You also get to put whatever you want into the world and it will come back to you! If what you’re putting out there is—“Hey I am going through a divorce. Times are going to be tough. They are tough! But I promise you, I will show up. I just ask you do the same.”—you will attract the “ride or die” types to you. They will stay. On the contrary if you say—“I’m going through a divorce. My life is in chaos! I might burn it down so perform or you’re out!”—well holy crap! A lot of agents will jump off what they think is a sinking ship and move on.
Through honesty and transparency you will find guidance from the people that love you most. The people that love you most will rise to the occasion. Let you stand up on your own. Dust you off. And remind you that there is “no such thing as failure.” Robert Brault once said, “I like friends who, when you tell them you need a moment alone, know enough not to stray too far!” “Tribe” is catching on. Right on! Let it catch on! Start your “tribe.” I don’t own it. Sebastian Junger brought this to light in my life but it is a macrocosm of what people have been saying for years! But I digress. I am an ENTP and a Pisces. This is where I live but you might be an Aries and ready to move on so let’s push… Take it and build it! Just know what you’re building. You can’t be a secretive tribe leader hoarding secrets like little acorns for a long, desolate winter. Give knowledge, give information, train your team in the systems that honor their design, let them understand the aspects that don’t, and disclose your life within that make you feel comfortable.
6. You can’t completely leave the grind but you can transform it!
I am addicted to a new kind of grind than I was six months ago because I am a creator of systems. An “inventor” or “Debater” (ENTP) when it comes to my Myers Briggs homies out there… I am fortunate in that I found another ENTP as my business partner (the handsome Bobby Lee Morrow) who is addicted to a different kind of system—technology. So I love to create the “perfect” buyer script or the “perfect” listing presentation, I love to find the perfect agent that wants to go on the appointment and cultivate the relationship with the client, I love to help transform the agent to run the system, get them paid, and create other opportunities for people. I like working with entrepreneurs that want to scale their businesses while working with me, like my excellent video guy Cody Groom at Film Estates or my amazing transaction coordinator that is starting her own business to start working outside files. I want to support them in any way I can. Why? Because I believe in their product and I enjoy seeing great people make money! Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything you need in life, if you just help enough people get what they want.” So… still think I’m a bad person because I wake up every morning and think, “Who can I get to do this for me?” I am surrounded by people who are experts in their respective fields. Why not help them with their expertise and get the hell out the way, let them get paid, and manage it? “Delegate, delegate, delegate” is the mantra echoing through every good non-commissioned officer in the Marine Corps. Keep it in mind!
7. Be okay with letting people go!
You’re going to get a lot of B.S. on this one. People are going to tell you, “You taught them so well, that they left to blah… blah… blah.” And you will think to yourself, “I have to be a hoarder of information” but fight this ugly beast my friends! I am a huge proponent of teams! I love them when they are run the right way! I feel like few are, but the shining bright ones shine like the North Star and I have met several at conferences and seminars and in my office that inspire me! Repeat this phrase: “Thank you for being here while you were here” to yourself over and over again. Repeat it when your gut says “This person is a spy” or “They’re going to leave eventually, I should just fire them so I can control it.” You have to be zen as a team leader! You have to be so zen! Stop worrying about what everyone thinks. Stop worrying about the reports from Varys and Little Finger. Listen to them with caution and address them when necessary. This person is either a net gain to the team or a net loss to the team! I am an eternal optimist. I love to believe the best in people.
Remember; just because someone is making money does not make them a net gain if they don’t want anyone else to succeed. If they are a net gain, repeat to yourself “Thank you for being here while you were here” and when they smash their goals, pay off their debts, begin thriving, and get there sooner than they ever thought possible and sit down across from the table to tell you why you aren’t worth the money they are now earning, you have to take a deep breath and say, “Thank you for being here while you were here. Thank you for showing everyone it was possible to make so much money! Best of luck!” Wish them fair seas. Don’t bash them. Stay present in your journey, friends. In the past lies depression and in the future anxiety, so be present and when the time comes they need to be fired, they need to leave, and whether that is a good or a bad decision for them, you will be able to let them go in peace when the time comes because you will know! So stop analyzing, over-analyzing, and re-analyzing. The truth is, madness lies down that road. Be present. Breathe. Be intentional. And say “Thank you for being here while you were here.”
8. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.
Your success will come with following your path and truly evaluating your goals, what is important to you, and then working your A-S-S off to get it done. I was at our monthly meeting and I asked, “Did anyone notice that I didn’t read off the regional rankings? We’re still #2. Way behind the Forss Team, and significantly ahead of #3. We may beat the Forss Team eventually, but it’s not going to be this year! And that’s okay.” Everyone laughed. Relieved. We want to be #1! Trust me. I’m not trying to act above that, but I will keep enjoying my life between now and then without the expectation. After all, what happens if we fall to #3? There is plenty of room in the sun! I love and respect The Forss Team. The few times I have had the opportunity to sit and have a drink with Lisa and Goran have been excellent. They are truly setting a new standard of excellence in this industry. What you think about you bring about. I refuse to hate them for their success but I know people do. Just like people hate us for ours. So hate me for being successful, just as long as you’re thinking about my success. But I would much rather you just think, “Life is good, I am happy, I have so much to be grateful for,” and get your own slice.
9. Seek and maintain balance.
“Holy crap, guys! David Serpa just said ‘balance’…. it must have been a weird year for him…” Yes. It was a weird few years actually but here we are! In my early talks I railed against balance with a sort of contempt and arrogance but… Here we go. You have to freaking take breaks! Your body, your mind, your wife, your kids, your husband, your dog, your friends, they all want to hang out with you! Set down the work-ahol! No one lives life the way you do. They are not you. So find the balance for them. You’ll do it for them. Then at the end of this it will be for you and you will write to me and say, “David! I took time off and the world kept spinning! In fact, I get voicemails from people asking me to list their homes while I’m eating dinner!” Good. Start with turning your phone off from 5:00 to 7:00 every night. Can we start there? “But I don’t have a wife.” Find friends. “I don’t have friends.” Find a hobby. “My hobby is real estate.” Okay, maybe you would find more of all these things if you found another hobby. Winky face. Yes, I said winky face.
I have to hand it to Michael Hellickson at Club Wealth! When everyone was calling to coach me, he told me he wouldn’t coach me unless I committed to taking one full day off a week. Consider me intrigued, Michael, you saucy, little mind-warrior. Cheeky, dimpled, Michael Hellickson, with his 15-minute listing presentation, baby blue eyes, and guaranteed sale program, won me over. I committed to taking a day off. I may have snuck in the bathroom to check my phone. I re-committed to the process but then I really had to go to the bathroom again so I brought my phone. Then I committed. And here I am, thanking him for holding my feet to the fire. It was a game-changer!
You have to treat you the way you want to be treated. It’s about more than real estate! If you don’t have boundaries with you and your time, your clients won’t either. If you do, they will love and respect you for it. Take the time to eat dinner with family. Eat dinner with you. Eat dinner with a book. But be unreachable for a moment. Your brain needs it. The problem with a society where you can always be reached is people expect you to always be reachable. Is your doctor always available? Is your lawyer? Your tax guy? If they are, they need to read this blog. Establish boundaries immediately, at the open house or at the listing appointment, leave it on your voicemail to remind them, and the right people will respect you for it. Here, this one is free:
“Hi you’ve reached __________ with ____________ and ((((FOR TEAM LEADS “if you are calling about an active escrow please call __________ my TC at _________ or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our team please call my operations manager _______________ at _________________ ))) if you have reached this message between _____ and ______ (and/or on Sunday) please understand I am spending some time with my family and will get back to you by _________. Thank you for calling and have a great day!”
Now relax, let it go to voicemail and take your wife on a date, your son out to play basketball, go for a hike, read a book. It’s your time and it’s all you’ve got.
10. Stay positive.
This has the largest effect, will take the most time, and can be the most difficult item to implement because it requires the constant work of policing your own thoughts over time. This can be exhausting but mindsets are mental work and require mental energy but you have to flip the switch! I can’t quantify it for you completely but I can tell you I have witnessed Realtors “flip the switch” and decide to become more positive and it really is a moment. I even created the “Stew Smith Award” for it! Stew Smith is a Navy Seal that said, “Most people think it takes two to three weeks to develop a habit. I say it takes two to three seconds.” It is a mindset! Last year I gave this award to an agent on my team who I watched go from making just over $30,000 in the first seven months of the year, make almost $80,000 in the last five. Damien Simon flipped a switch.
There’s a story behind this one, and it has been a turning point for me in my career, but it’s a long one. Hopefully I can help you to avoid the mistakes I have made.
I had two agents severely out-performing the rest, with the same systems, leads, etc. I was told by my coach at the time, Michael Hellickson, that I might need to “shoot a hostage.” It was a moment for me that created a spark of madness! Even though I disagreed with Michael, it was our mastermind that got me where I wanted to go… It was even more insane. As Michael described it, “I told you to shoot a hostage! I didn’t tell you to go and wave the gun around at everyone!” I decided I was going to put up everyone’s numbers on a screen and tell the three of them that they had five months to make $30,000. What happened was chaos! Davida went next door and started making calls. She said, “No one is going to take my spot on this team!” She made over $48,000 in 5 months. Damien went silent. Worked his ass off and made almost $80,000 in 5 months. Jaime almost quit the team. It almost cost us our friendship but I told her, “You need a bad guy. You need someone to be angry at, so be angry with me but make money. Whether you stay or go.” Now, she’s a walking dynasty. She just bought a Mercedes, and she’s on pace to make over $300,000 this year. Jaime Lynn Burlile. Goodness gracious sakes alive young lady! I am proud of this woman!
Later I recruited again. I tried to replicate my success of “waving the gun around” and stressed everyone out. Most rose and even thrived but I was left with a decision; do I cut this person who hasn’t opened an escrow in 7 months, or do I throw out the stupid guidelines and realize that this is on me? I was part of the problem with our society. We are great at making people feel expendable. Where did that start? We sat down two weeks before our arbitrary deadline both stressed out. No matter what we did, she was doomed because we were focused on “don’t fail” instead of “thrive” and I’m the idiot that led her there. We threw it out. I told her she has a home here for as long as she wants to stay. That, in 90 days, I would turn her leads off if she can’t open an escrow, but she has a full pipeline and, if that happens, I would help her with her pipeline while her leads are off. I believed in her. I let her know I’m “ride or die” for her by letting her know she is in my tribe. In the last 30 days, Kristi has closed an escrow on the listing side, the buying side, just took a new listing, and is working several active buyers.
Last year was a difficult one, I was in a transitionary state for most of it, and the affects were seen on my business. That’s the thing about business and children for me! They’re like canaries in a coal mine letting miners know when oxygen levels are dangerous. They’re the first to pick up on you being out of whack. Now I know that if my kids are acting up, a lot of times, that stress came from me. Well, stress comes from the anxiety of problems at work. Anxiety comes from living for the future. Hey David, be present with your kids. Put your phone down. Put a timer on for 45 minutes, play with your kids, sit down for 15 minutes and crush those calls you need to handle. Your clients deserve a better, more balanced, clear-headed version of you. You can only be clear and concise when you are being intentional. In order to be intentional, you have to breathe. You can’t breathe while you are being reactive. So take that time.
Clear your headspace and take a deep breath. You can’t have a bunch of priorities and no priority. “How? I have so many priorities?” Be present. Focus on what is your priority for this time block. Joy will come from being present. So time block your priority, single-mom. Time block your priority, dad-taking-on-a-second-job-to-help-cover-bills. Right now, my priority is my kids. Really play. Play like this moment is forever because it is. “What we do now echoes in eternity.” This moment is for you, too. Look at your kids. Listen to them. Pretend. Why? Because this job sucks sometimes! Leave it behind and be Captain America! Be Princess Elsa because you’re little girl wants to be Princess Ana!
Okay, now step outside. Breathe. Really work. Do whatever that looks like for you at this stage in the game. But you decided to do this. You owe it to your clients to see them through it and make it stress-free (we all fail sometimes but that’s for another time), more importantly you owe it to yourself to honor your design. You weren’t put here to be miserable. Whatever you believe, you know you have a great capacity for pain. We’ve been down that road. It’s time you see your great capacity for joy.
Bonus! 11. Hire the right coach.
In writing this article I realized how important coaching was/is to me. I will always butt heads with every coach I have. I am a debater (ENTP)! Let me tell you, I currently do not have a coach. I have not had a coach for quite some time now, but coaching changed my life. I have only, ever, coached with Club Wealth. At some point, I may change that, but I like those Club Wealth types. Coaching put me in rooms where I was, literally, hazed with information at my first mastermind. It put me around the game changers in the industry, the people that figured it out, are figuring it out, and are continuing to work on the algorithms of life (many of whom, you will hear on my new podcast). Go into coaching with an idea of who you are, establish what you are willing to do, take what you can, leave what you can, listen more than you talk, and walk away with something to implement. I got so full of ideas to implement that I had to take a step back to work on how to implement them. I didn’t hire a coach for the first couple years of real estate. It would have streamlined my success. It would have built the systems for me “the right way” the first time but I earned a lot of stripes the hard way and surrounded myself with people I loved, got an idea of where I was, jumped into coaching and it was amazing! But the lessons I pass on here were earned, whether it was by my coaches, me, my team, or by all of us (because some of us are that stubborn). They were earned by someone the hard way.
Somewhere along the way adults stopped looking you in the eyes and asking about your dreams. It’s easy to look a child in the eye and ask them about their dreams. It’s five years out, it’s ten years out! But when you look an adult in the eye and you ask them, “What are your dreams? What do you want to accomplish in this life?” That’s dangerous. It makes people uncomfortable. Why? Because it requires immediate action. It’s no longer someday. It’s right now. Aren’t you lucky that you got to stand with such an amazing group of people behind you? Now earn it. Every day earn it. You got the coolest job in the world. You are a team leader. A group of people stood up, all at different times in their lives, and said, “Yes. I want to follow that person.” Be worthy of it. You already are. You didn’t get here on accident.
Breathe. Be present. Be intentional. “What we do now, echoes in eternity”… You are set up to change lives. Wow! That sounds so much sexier than “I run a real estate team.” Go change lives and, while you’re at it, be open to having yours changed.
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