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Coach or No Coach?

Interested in jumpstarting your career or giving your current business a boost? Consider hiring a coach to guide you.  

Do you need a coach?
Kory Grayson reached a business plateau. The sales associate with Adams, Cameron & Co. in Daytona Beach had been in real estate for three years and business was good, but it could be better if only she could figure out a way to balance work and family. “My business was taking off, and I was having trouble balancing this with my husband and four kids,” says Grayson.

That’s when she turned for help to a real estate coach to give her business a boost, help her figure out how to be more efficient and teach her the steps to building a team.

“I attended a seminar with the JD Real Estate Group, where they talked about running your business and not letting it run you,” says Grayson. “I wanted to provide good customer service, to build a team to divvy up the tasks and spend time with my family, too. Getting coached helped me achieve this. In the past year, I sold $14 million with one part-time assistant, and now I’m adding more to the team, plus I pick up my kids from school every day.”

After moving from Long Island to Florida, Kelly Fischer, a broker-associate with Michael Thorpe Real Estate Inc. in Vero Beach, knew she’d have to work hard to build a new book of business, but she wasn’t sure of the best way to reach her goals. So, she hired a coach with the Mike Ferry Organization, and in the past year, she’s increased her income tenfold. She says her coach taught her “an outsider’s way of doing things that can lead you to great success.”

Coaching is the latest buzzword in real estate. But, what can a coach do for you? Quite simply, a coach can work with you one on one to figure out systems and processes to help you reach your goals. Whether you’re looking for help figuring out how to set up your team or you’re just looking for a way to streamline your lead-generating process, a coach can guide you to a personalized solution. Coaches can also assist you by providing the motivation needed to help you reach the next level in your business.

Consider Finances
Having a private coach doesn’t come cheap, although many sales associates find that hiring a personal coach is money well spent.

According to Ralph Roberts, a coach, former real estate professional and owner of Ralph Roberts Realty, you can spend anywhere from $100 or $200 to $5,000 per month, depending on the level of coaching you want. An experienced executive coach may charge $200 to $400 per hour. And, some companies charge upwards of $500 a month for two half-hour phone calls.

Because Connie Williams, a sales associate with RE/MAX Partners in Fort Lauderdale, was new to real estate, she opted for a “quick-start” program with her coach. She talks to the coach by phone six days a week (for 15 to 30 minutes each call), attends a weekly team meeting during which the group members review their assignments and meets with an accountability partner. She spends approximately $700 per month for her coaching program.

Sara E. Klawiter, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty Gulf Coast–Redington Beach, says monthly fees for her coach run $400 to $600. She has a weekly 30-60 minute phone call or face-to-face session with the coach and sometimes has the coach meet with her team.

Fischer spends approximately $1,000 per month on the Mike Ferry program, which includes a half-hour phone call each week, a 15-minute coaching phone call each day, weekly and/or monthly Web seminars and a personalized daily e-mail.

Some of the cost differences exist because of the services provided. While some coaches offer a range of training, including face-to-face role-playing to improve customer service or to expand a client roster, others rely on brief weekly phone calls to keep the sales associate on track. Individualized coaching programs frequently involve discussions on every aspect of the associate’s life, including his or her personal relationships and finances, unlike typical real estate training programs, which focus solely on career issues.

“Coaches have you write down everything in your life and [help you become] totally in control of your own finances,” says Elaine Wren, a sales associate with Century 21 Dynasty Ocean in Hallandale. “Lifestyle coaching is part of the process. Good relationships with your family and friends are important to your career, too.”

Have a Goal
Once you decide to commit to paying for your own personal business consultant, make sure you’re at a point in your career where one is necessary. It’s vital that you figure out what you need from a coach, and it should be more than just someone to push you to avoid procrastination.

Roberts says, “To be coached, you have to have something going on in your business. [New sales associates] should perhaps first work with a top producer in their office and rely on them for coaching. You need to decide what you need help with before you hire a coach.”

Williams, a rookie sales associate, felt inadequately prepared for some of the pitfalls of the real estate business. She began working with a coach from Richard Robbins International shortly after beginning her real estate career.

“I’m a process person, and I was looking for a process that could grow with my business,” says Williams. “People need to understand the kind of learner they are before they sign on with a coach. I appreciate the one-on-one attention, but I’m also accustomed to a team approach. The coaching I receive prepares me with the fundamentals of the business such as database marketing, tools to track productivity and scenarios that work in the real world such as converting buyers at open houses.”

While Williams appreciates the threefold approach of coaching, training and accountability, other sales associates focus the most when they receive encouragement from their coach.

“I have learned that if I pick up one word or sentence that these high-powered, high-energy coaches give me on a certain day, it can make a listing appointment or push a buyer over the edge [to offering a contract],” says Wren. “Having a coach is a little like having a trainer at the gym who pushes you to another level. But, you have to be in a place where you are coachable. If you’re in a mood where you don’t want to be held accountable for what you’re doing, it won’t work.”

Credible Coaches
Many sales associates choose a coach with real estate experience, but some coaches work with people in a variety of businesses and feel their expertise translates to any field. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want coaching that is specific to your business or that helps you become a better businessperson.

Nina Atwood, an executive coach with Nina Atwood Enterprises in Dallas, works with CEOs from around the world in a wide range of businesses. “Coaches work with people to develop their entrepreneurial strength, which is what people need to be successful in any business,” says Atwood. “What a coach can do is provide individualized focus in a confidential, safe place. Agents may turn to their brokers for advice, but they’re always aware that they need to look good in front of them.”

Atwood says people sometimes believe working with a coach is like hiring a therapist, but even though invariably personal life spills into business and business spills into personal life, the focus of coaching is on developing a vision for achieving success in both areas. “A coach can help someone frame up their vision and goals and determine where they need to develop skills and how to reach their goals,” says Atwood. “The accountability process comes in when we end each session with an action plan and then follow up during the next session to see what happened. Coaching can be especially helpful in getting people to deal with things they are likely to procrastinate about, such as talking with a boss about a problem.”

In addition to deciding what type of coach you want, it’s vital to find one that is a good fit with your personality. Interview at least three different coaches and ask for referrals before hiring anyone. It’s important that you call other sales associates who are using each of these coaches and ask them specific questions about what they like best and least about the coach. Also, try to determine whether the coach specializes more in lifestyle coaching or in specific business coaching. You may find that you want someone who can help you balance your work and family rather than someone who focuses solely on boosting business. And, if you find that you don’t mesh with the first coach you hire, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and start a new search.

It’s Kind of Like College
Just offering you solutions means nothing if you’re not held accountable for implementing those solutions. So, expect coaches to give you homework, and be prepared to turn it in for a grade.

“Lots of [sales associates] and brokers reach a plateau in their business, and they look for coaching about strategies and tactics which can take them to the next level. But coaching has two sides: one is strategies and tactics, and the other is accountability,” says Rich Casto, founder of Rich Casto & Co., The Real Estate Coaches. Casto says he views the word goal as a four-letter word, encouraging his clients to use the word commitment instead. So, once you come up with a strategy or tactic, your coach will expect to hear how it was implemented and help you tweak it to ensure success.

Accountability is what helped Klawiter. “Every week I talk in person or on the phone with my coach, and this helps keep me focused on what I need to do to grow my business,” says Klawiter. “During the first year I worked with Elaine, I doubled my business. The second year, I doubled it again.”

Other Options
Not everyone finds that paying for a professional coach is necessary. And, there are other options. Some associates choose to team with a seasoned professional who serves as a mentor. Others, like Carl Hildebrand, choose to work with their brokers. “My broker, Robert Ziehm, is really my coach,” says Hildebrand, a sales associate with Sports and Entertainment Realty Advisors in Miami. “He gives me his expertise and works on deals with me, so I was able to close on a $2 million commercial property and a $12 million hotel property within my first six months as a licensed agent.” Hildebrand meets with his broker every two or three weeks to discuss the local real estate market and to develop new approaches to the market.

The key, say the experts, is to find someone who closely matches your personality, understands your goals and is willing to let you succeed.

If you’re willing to invest your money, follow through and take the time to implement what is suggested, hiring a real estate coach can help you break through and ensure a long, healthy career.

Michele Lerner is a Washington, D.C.–based freelance writer.