Taking the helm: How managing brokers learn to lead

by Jason Porterfield

Succeeding as a managing broker requires a deep knowledge of the real estate market, superior organizational skills and a deft touch when it comes to handling agents. It’s a demanding job, but deeply rewarding for those who can handle those demands on their time and energy.

Of course, becoming a managing broker isn’t always a straight path. Some set out with the goal of managing in mind from the beginning or set their sights on it early on, while others discover their desire to run a brokerage later in their careers.

We turned to three managing brokers who are relatively new to the role to find out what they learned in the process of taking the reins at their offices.

Making the jump

As a 30-year-old professional, Grace Goro Kaage hadn’t planned on becoming a managing broker. But when the opportunity came up to manage the @properties office in Streeterville earlier this year, Kaage participated in a number of calls and meetings with @properties leadership about the idea of becoming a manager. Those conversations helped her realize that her nearly eight years of sales experience offered a fresh perspective on the current market that could help her agents succeed.

Also in this issue

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Agents explain what they want from managing brokers

To compete or not to compete? Selling while managing

Managing brokers on the challenges of leading a brokerage

Learning — and coaching — from your mistakes

“It’s a very different market today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. With all of the tech and social media and the way that buyers are purchasing at all generations, not just millennials, but everyone, we need to be able to access” those changes, she said. “I hope that I’m a really great person to help leverage that for our agents and help them succeed in that way.”

For Dave Naso, managing broker at Keller Williams in Lincoln Park, the transition to a managing broker role was the logical next step in a real estate career that began when he was 16, working nights and weekends in an administrative role for a Coldwell Banker brokerage.

“From there I just got really into the back end of real estate and enjoying what that looks like, being an important resource for the agents who were part of that office,” Naso said.

However, he took a circuitous route to get to his current position. He got his license at that same Coldwell Banker brokerage, joined a team and found some experienced real estate professionals to mentor him in his development. Naso was a solo broker for several years, then transitioned to a selling manager role. He took on a full-time managing broker position at Keller Williams in 2017, at age 28.

“I’ve been on the admin side, and I’ve been out in the field in the agent’s shoes. It’s prepared me and given me the experience to see from multiple lenses in my current role,” Naso said.

For others, the desire to move into management is based on finding the right cultural fit. Christopher McAllister, managing broker at Baird & Warner in Palatine, came to his current brokerage two years ago from Century 21 McMullen because he wanted to work on the management side. He’s been in real estate for about 17 years. McAllister was 38 when he was named a managing broker in June.

“I’m a person who loves to train, and I was a pretty successful agent for the years that I’ve been in it,” McAllister said. “I’ve had opportunities with other companies, but I really didn’t feel like I wanted to take that [management] position because of the company feel.”

It’s hard to know exactly what makes for a positive managing environment, but one observation was a good hint for McAllister. “I noticed when I was coming in that the people who work here work here for a very long time,” he said. “When I came to Baird & Warner, one of the reasons why is the team. Obviously, they have a great culture, which is very rare in our business. They have opportunities, and it’s a very good company to work for.”

Breaking in

With the update to the Real Estate License Act of 2000 signed into law this year, the state of Illinois increased the requirements that aspiring managing brokers must meet.

To qualify for a managing broker license, agents have to be at least 20 years old, “be of good moral character,” possess a high school or GED diploma, and have spent at least two of the previous three years working as a licensed real estate broker before becoming a managing broker. Candidates complete 45 credit hours of post-licensure education that focus on brokerage administration and management as well as residential leasing management within a year of filing a managing broker license application. That includes 15 credit hours of interactive classes, taken either in an actual classroom or in webinar form. After completing the course, prospective managing brokers must pass an exam given by the state.

But, similar to becoming a broker, getting a license is just the beginning of the learning curve. Some brokerages offer direct guidance for agents who decide they want to become managing brokers. McAllister entered Baird & Warner’s Leadership Program when he joined the company. He graduated from the program in February and became a managing broker in June.

“At some companies, they’ll take an agent who is a top agent and offer them a management position,” McAllister said. “Sometimes that just doesn’t work. There has to be something of a transition. So, what Baird & Warner does an amazing job with is being able to transition you. But not only transition you with support, but also kind of guiding you into what to expect. I think that’s rare in our business because sometimes an agent doesn’t know exactly what management is until they’re actually in the role.”

Successful managing brokers may learn many of their techniques by observing their own managing brokers. Whether they fully adopt the policies they observed when they were agents or add their own tweaks, having a willing mentor helps aspiring managing brokers figure out what the role is about before they have to take on the responsibilities of managing.

Mentorship doesn’t always come from within one’s own brokerage. Naso looked to David Hall, his managing broker at Coldwell Banker when he was first entering the business, as a mentor figure. He also sometimes consults with Drussy Hernandez of Fulton Grace Realty when he wants advice.

“We’re great friends, and I might call her if I have a question or if I need advice on how to handle a certain situation,” Naso said. “It’s really great that we can lean on each other as peers, especially as managers and with larger firms. We have to be able to communicate, and we have to be able to rely on one another.”

Kaage has taken advantage of the supportive culture @properties provides, garnering advice from managing brokers there. Her father, the late Chuck Goro, also served as a role model. She learned from watching him closely over the 40 years he spent in real estate, managing offices for several brokerages, which helped prepare her for what can be a challenging role.

“There were a lot of challenges and a lot of difficulties he encountered that I was very aware of,” she said. “When I took this role, I understood and I wasn’t naive to that.”

Still, Kaage noted that the culture has changed since those days. “Things are so different here at @properties than he experienced and what I saw him experience,” she said. “There’s much more of a culture of teamwork, especially among managing brokers. Everyone’s collaborating. Everyone’s idea-sharing. Everyone’s supporting each other. I felt like I was transitioning into this family of managing brokers, and we were all lifting each other up.”

Adjustments and expectations

Managing brokers at @properties don’t sell, and Kaage is in the process of winding down her sales business in a way that keeps her clients happy. She’s also pregnant, with the baby due in February.
Kaage hopes to be managing full-time around the beginning of the new year. Still, she doesn’t plan on slowing down. “I’m the kind of person who likes to have as many plates spinning as I possibly can,” she said. “That’s when I feel the most fulfilled and the happiest. I’ve been that way my whole life.”

Kaage plans to focus on agent growth during her first year. She’s meeting with each of the agents in her office to discuss their plans and brainstorm ideas for leveraging technology and her expertise to help them.
“Because our business can be so up and down, I think a lot of times agents are really struggling with consistency,” she said. “That’s one of the things that I’m trying to work with them on: creating marketing schedules and finding ways to run their business in a way that their income becomes very dependable and their growth more predictable and they can start to see that as a constant.”

Managing brokers are also tasked with setting the tone in the office. Naso describes himself as a “very patient person” and projects an aura of calm, whether he’s taking a call from an irate member of the public or training his agents. He offers lessons from his own experience in the industry to illustrate his points during training sessions and team meetings.

“Many people learn better by examples or stories,” he said. “Because I’ve kind of had this 15- to 16-year evolution in the real estate industry, I’m able to relate different stories or circumstances that have happened in my history in real estate to really help them in understanding how we got here or why we do it this way.”

McAllister made a note early on in his career of the urgent need to keep up with industry changes or risk being left behind. He’s doubled down on that now that he’s in management, making a concerted effort to stay on top of evolving technology so that he can help his agents succeed.

“Now it’s more of taking a step back and being able to look at my agents and say, ‘Where do you need the help?’” he said. “And in most cases, a lot of the help is needed in the tech part of our business. People have really good relationships and they work their sphere very well, but they don’t know how to turn it to the next level. And the next level is turned through the tech part of our business.”

McAllister feels his years of experience also help him communicate with and relate to his agents, especially since he only recently became a managing broker.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I can say to them, ‘Your situation that you think is crazy and you’ve never seen before — I’ve seen it, and I can give you some guidance on what I did to get past that point.’ And that has a lot of value to an agent, and it also brings a little more respect.”

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  • Natalie Carpenter says:

    Excellent perspectives. Successful managing brokers take their own real estate and life experiences and use them to help their brokers develop their own real estate businesses. Kudos to all that accept the responsibility.

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