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5 real-life lessons from managing brokers

by Mainstreet Organization of Realtors

5 real-life lessons from managing brokers

Real estate professionals are hardworking, ambitious and goal-oriented people. No matter where you are in your career, it’s only natural to be thinking about what comes next. For many, that could include leadership roles, from assisting the managing broker all the way to the top spot: managing broker or owner.

But making the jump from agent to managing broker might be more difficult than you think. Can you go from being an independent contractor to having everyone depend on you? Is your success as a broker repeatable for an entire brokerage?

We spoke to three managing brokers to learn more, and they shared these five items to add to your to-do list if you’re considering becoming a managing broker.

Create an actionable blueprint for the whole brokerage’s success.

As a broker, you’re likely focused on one thing: the success of your business. That’s not only common — it’s expected. But once you become a managing broker, things shift quickly. Brian Kwilosz, managing broker-owner at EXIT Real Estate Partners and president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors joked, “Becoming an adult is realizing you have to make dinner every night. But becoming a manager is realizing that you’re responsible for everyone’s success, not just your own.”

For brokers looking to take on more leadership roles, he suggested looking at the rest of the iceberg — not just the title at the top of it — and working backwards if you want to succeed. “You have to create an actionable blueprint, one with flexible systems that create consistent support, but can also work with different types of agents,” Kwilosz said.

Establish an open-door policy that works for you.

When you become a manager, it’s not about what matters most to you — it’s about doing what’s best for the business. For Stephanie Szigetvari, vice president of brokerage services and managing broker of @properties’ Arlington Heights office, that means making herself available. “I earn the trust and respect of my agents each and every day,” she said. “As a managing broker, I’m a partner in their business. If they need my help or insight, I make sure I’m there for them.”

Szigetvari said the best advice she ever received was “check your ego at the door.” That way, when people come to the office with their own issues and problems to troubleshoot, you can help them with a clear mind that’s focused on them.

Find support systems that can help you and your business thrive.

For Kathy Nosek, managing broker-owner at 4C Realty and member of MORe’s board of directors, starting her own business was a big decision. “I went out on my own because I was unhappy; I needed a change,” said Nosek, who started her business during the crash in 2009. “I thought to myself, ‘Great things happen in times like this, and this was the perfect time to make it happen for me.’”

What she didn’t realize, though, was what she’d immediately miss by starting her own brokerage: networking with people in your office. “You get a lot of the social aspects in your life from your office. That was a big challenge at first. But it pushed me to go outside my comfort zone to get that social piece.” Nosek became involved in Women in Business, the Naperville Chamber of Commerce, MORe and Women’s Council of Realtors, where she served as treasurer and president.

Master the art of the pivot.

Part of what makes Szigetvari successful as a manager and leader is her ability to quickly change course. Throughout her career, she’s learned how to effectively pivot from problem to problem — it’s one of her biggest strengths.

“I may not always know what obstacles I’ll run into throughout my day, but one thing is constant: when my agents need me, they need me to be at 100 percent,” she said. “Being flexible and focused allows me to come up with creative solutions that are good for them, and good for our business.”

Draw on every part of your background.

Though their paths to becoming managing brokers varied wildly, all three of the leaders we spoke to had one thing in common: a wide variety of past work experience.

Kwilosz credited his leadership and business success to his work in the food service industry. “Owning a restaurant gave me experience in the back office, dealing with things like staffing or customer complaints,” he said. “But it also gave me a leg up because I knew that everything, at the end of the day, fell on me. Even if I didn’t know what that all entailed, I knew that I was the one responsible.”

Szigetvari didn’t go straight from being an agent to a managing broker — she worked in the title industry for a decade before becoming a manager. “Working in the title end of the business helped me as a managing broker because in both cases, agents are my clients,” she said. “I got to learn about their specific needs ahead of time.”

For Nosek, previous career experience managing three departments at a resort hotel gave her the skills she needed to thrive as a broker-owner. “Real estate is demanding, but it can also be flexible. It was only through going out on my own that I was able to push my career beyond anything I could have imagined, while also prioritizing my family,” she said. “I owe so much to this career — and this industry — for allowing me the flexibility to be a hands-on grandma, with no signs of slowing down. … I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”

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