Be a Team Player

Discover 10 Building Blocks for Relationships That Let You Work Smarter.

We used to say, “If you're in the door, you're in the deal,” but in the current fast-changing atmosphere, that isn't the case. Today, commercial real estate practitioners must find ways to meet more complex client demands, offer a larger array of services, and add value to transactions if they want to see their businesses expand.

One method of doing this is team building -- assembling professionals whose strengths complement yours to work with permanently or on a deal-by-deal basis. Teams can consist of internal members, such as three or four brokers who combine their skills of negotiation, financial analysis, and relationship building. A team also can add external members who provide services such as local representation in a distant city, legal and accounting expertise, or analysis for an unfamiliar market.

What will happen if you do start building teams? Chances are good that your clients will be happier because you'll create new opportunities for them. Along the way, you'll also open new doors for yourself. You might get involved in new types of transactions, allowing you to create a different business in a year or two than you have today.

Lastly, creating teams in or outside your office with people that you like working with takes the boredom out of business. People who have worked with us on teams often say, “It was fun doing that.” They enjoy it and learn new skills while still accomplishing team goals.

Team building can be the key to generating greater profitability. Use these 10 ideas to unlock the potential of team building for your business.

1. Balance team chemistry.
When putting together a team, look for members whose strengths complement -- not duplicate -- your strengths. Our internal team had three full-time brokers with financial analysis, organizational, and relationship-building skills, as well as two full-time assistants for marketing, research, and package presentation.

Think about what you do well, and then look for teammates who cover your weaknesses -- do those things that you don't do well. Every team must have someone on it who understands negotiation and facilitation of a transaction. Mix the technicians with the people who know how to operate and add value.

2. Set goals collectively.
At the beginning of every year, our internal team met and said “OK, what are we going to accomplish this year? How many properties are we going to sell? What markets are we going to be working in?” We developed goals together because everybody has to buy in. If they don't buy in at the very beginning of the process, you're setting yourself up for failure.

3. Be open to team members' ideas.
When you move from being a solo practitioner to being a team member, recognize that the other team members are there because they complement the things you do best, so you need to give them credibility. With both internal and external teams, it's important that team members feel like they're part of the organization and the process. Schedule meetings regularly so team members can share ideas and thoughts. Allow them to participate and utilize their ideas.

4. Let team members shine.
A team is assembled to help clients get their deals done and add value to them, so clients should understand the strengths of various team members. Don't always take the limelight. Let other team members step up and be looked at positively from the client's perspective.

5. Be a good motivator.
Successful team leaders charge their people to work hard with them. Even when you go around the country and work with other brokerage companies and external teammates, if you're running the deal, you need to motivate them. Keep the other people in the deal active, involved, and working on behalf of you and your client.

Beyond that, a team leader has to be a generalist. You must be able to plan. Think through the organizational skills that you have. If you're not good at organizing, have someone on your team to complement you in that area.

6. Build personal relationships.
Building relationships is the most important requirement for successful team building. The more you're involved and the more you're out there in front of people, the better chance you have of being asked to join someone else's team or to put your own team together. Attend conferences and meetings, introduce yourself to other professionals from around the country, ask them questions about what they do, and find out their strengths and how they do business. Building personal relationships with other practitioners can allow you to move forward to do business and add them to your team when needed.

7. Anticipate your needs.
When you start putting together a team for a transaction, figure out what facets need to be covered and arrange ahead of time the help you need from external team members. Know the attorneys and accountants in your market. We did a lot of work with real estate investment trusts and UPREITs in the past few years, which have very technical legal concepts. We knew unique questions would come up, so we arranged to have access to the best UPREIT accountant and attorney.

If you're dealing in retail, have someone you can go to who does retail leases or understands retail redevelopment from a legal perspective. Environmental people, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialists, roofers -- know these people in your market. Socialize with them or be friendly with them so you can add them to your team if you need them.

8. Share expectations externally.
Although we were with a regional firm, we sometimes assembled external teams nationwide to do a significant amount of business in markets such as Houston, San Francisco, and Baltimore. People worked with us as teammates because we shared our ideas and creativity. We said, “We're bringing such and such a client into your market. We hope to do a transaction this size. This is what we need you to do, this is what we will be paid, and we are willing to share it with you on this basis.”

We created common goals whether it was a single transaction or a business plan by communicating expectations and results upfront. Of course your integrity also counts: Your teammates have to trust that you are good enough to get the deal done, because they are going to spend a great deal of their time working on it.

9. Create mutual solutions.
You're going to have conflicts within your team, even if everyone shares the same goals. We are all invested in our own ideas and team members may spend a great deal of time trying to sell the team on their particular solutions. Discourage that attitude and encourage teammates to be assertive but cooperative. A successful team has to look at all the options and come up with what's best for the client from a mutual collaboration perspective.

10. Trust your team members.
When you delegate something, the next step is to walk away. Go home, go play golf -- know that what is left at the office is something that is going to get done, get done right, and get done to the quality standard that your client demands. If you define responsibilities, you can say, “This is your project. This is what you have to complete; just let me see it at the end.”


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