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Dream Big!

Broker Rescue

Our expert shows one broker how to grow her business without becoming a slave to her work.

Mia Pankey
Old habits die hard for Mia Pankey, broker of Arlyle Realty & Appraisal Services in Panama City Beach. Before she entered real estate, she and her husband owned and operated a chain of bakeries. She was intimately involved in every aspect of that business for 12 years, and it was during that time that she developed an “If you want something done right, do it yourself” mind-set.

Pankey inevitably brought that way of thinking to her new career. “I’m basically a one-woman show,” she says. “My duties include selling real estate, running the office, overseeing other [sales associates], light bookkeeping, clerical work for the appraisers and daily operations management.”

As if that weren’t enough, Pankey is also the sales and marketing manager for the company’s development division, and she’s always “on call” because the company’s incoming calls are forwarded to her cell phone.

By her own admission, Pankey is starting to feel overwhelmed.

She’d like to build a team that includes a handful of experienced sales associates and a skilled administrative staff. “I’m unsure how to build what I know [this company] should have,” she says, adding that a limited budget and a lack of manpower are holding her back. “How does an on-the-rise small-timer like myself attract a few good, productive [sales associates] to help me grow the company? This is my biggest struggle.”

Bring in the Expert
Real estate coach Bob Corcoran agreed to share his insights. “You’re wearing way too many hats, Mia,” he says. “I get tired thinking about it. By the way, I tell people what they need to hear—not what they want to hear—so I’ll go ahead and apologize now! But what I’ll tell you can help you build an unbelievable business and have an awesome life.”  Here’s his advice.

1. Establish Boundaries
Being a good manager doesn’t mean doing everything yourself, Corcoran says. “Figure out what hours you’re available for work and what hours you aren’t.” Setting and sticking to a schedule can help her attain work/life balance and prevent burnout, he says. “I don’t think anybody should work more than 50 hours per week. Make a conscious decision to stop doing it all. Doing things the same way equals the same results, which equals insanity. The first hour of every day, [you should] review what you need to get done. Then, in the last hour, check off those tasks that got done, and at the end of the day you’re going to go ‘Wow!’ It’s all about structure.”

2. Define Your Role
Pankey acknowledges that while she enjoys both real estate management and sales, the latter is her “bread and butter.” When Corcoran asks whether she has a passion for sales, she responds with a resounding yes. “I love what I do,” she says.

He recommends two books that might help Pankey find her way: “The e-Myth Revisited“ by Michael Gerber and “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” by Gary Keller (founder of Keller Williams Realty). “‘The e-Myth’ is a guide for small business owners,” he says. “Apply the principles in this book, and it will help you identify who you are in the company. [Sales associates] are master salespeople but [typically] horrible managers and trainers. If you’re the entrepreneur, then you’re definitely not the technician [i.e., the person doing the work]. It goes through the steps you need to follow to build your business. It’s a good, fast read too. We need to teach you to be the CEO because that’s what you are. Right now you’re the chef, the dishwasher, a little bit of everything.”

3. Recruit the Right People
Obviously, Pankey must hire a staff before she can curb her to-do list. “Identify the people you need, and have job descriptions for each of these people,” says Corcoran. “It doesn’t take a lot of money, and it can be done in one day.”

Her first hire should be an administrative person to handle tasks such as answering the phones. After that, she can hire sales associates.

A virtual assistant wouldn’t be a good fit, Corcoran adds, because Pankey needs someone on site. “You need a physical body in there to maybe handle floor calls and also to help you,” he says.

“Carefully spell out the characteristics of the people you want to hire,” says Corcoran. “Look at your own core values and say, ‘OK, this is the type I’m looking for. Start with five good agents or five average agents. You can take them from average to good to great, but with brand-new people, the learning curve is much higher. You don’t even need to meet with people [initially]. Have a phone conversation first and ask, ‘What is your commitment to real estate?’”

The ideal candidate, Corcoran says, is someone who’s been in the market for 10 to 16 months. “They have market knowledge and an idea how to write a contract because they’ve already blown through their sphere of influence.

“Look for career-minded people,” Corcoran adds. “If you’re not looking for part-time associates, don’t bring them on board.” There are certain personality types out there who are natural-born salespeople, Corcoran says, adding that he conducts personality tests on every potential new hire and that Pankey might want to consider using the DiSC personality profile to assess her recruits. [See the box at left for a list of behavioral assessment tools.]

4. Provide Training
One reason Pankey’s former hires didn’t last, Corcoran guesses, is that they didn’t receive adequate training. “You’re so busy being a secretary that the last thing you have time to do is train someone,” he says. “But without formalized training, [sales associates] don’t last very long.”

Corcoran recommends that Pankey set up a mandatory training program and hold it on weekdays (Monday through Friday). For example, she could have self-study from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by a meeting to assess which tasks got done and to discuss the topic of the day. “From 10 to 12 [new hires] could study scripts and dialogues or writing contracts,” Corcoran adds. “That gives you two hours to do what you need to do. Then, from noon to 1 p.m. you’ll break for lunch.”

Training should conclude with a “final exam,” Corcoran says, with Pankey testing sales associates’ knowledge so that she can gauge their strengths and weaknesses and determine whether more training is necessary.

Other sales associates can be part of the recruiting process as well, says Corcoran. “Offer them incentives such as [this:] ‘For every agent you bring on, we’ll pay you 10 percent on their first year’s production or a flat fee on every transaction they do for one year,’” he says.

“Mia, you’re not as out of control as you think,” Corcoran concludes. “Once you have systems put into place, it’s amazing how fast things grow. Take a step back and painstakingly write out your plan. Build it slowly but build it strong. Then, start leveraging your time through other people. Once you have the infrastructure set up you can run an effective business.”

This column, designed to provide advice from industry experts to real estate professionals who need help with technology, business or marketing issues, won the Bronze Award in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.

  • Overworked from trying to do it all and being on call 24/7. Duties include light bookkeeping, clerical work, running the office, real estate sales and sales and marketing for the company’s development division.

  • Establish firm boundaries by setting and adhering to a schedule. Hire administrative help to work on-site. Recruit, train and retain career-minded sales associates who have been in the business for at least a year. Delegate tasks to staff and concentrate on being the CEO of the company instead of “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”

Behavioral Assessment Tools
  1. DiSC Personality Profile—from $660;
  2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—from $89 per person;
  3. TTI Behavioral Assessment,Target Training International, Ltd.,(800) 869-6908;

Meet the Expert
Bob Corcoran is a nationally recognized speaker and the founder and president of Corcoran Consulting Inc., an international consulting and coaching company. He specializes in performance coaching, and the implementation of sound business systems into the broker’s or sales associate’s existing practice. For more information, visit his Web site at or call (800) 957-8353.