Opinion: If change was easy, everyone would do it

I don’t think many people would disagree that 2023 has been a year full of challenging landscapes and uneasy terrain for many real estate brokerages.

Many brokers and agents expected the summer housing market to help save the year. But for a lot of local markets, that summer sun didn’t shine so brightly. As we approach fall and winter, some companies are having to make some hard choices and painful changes – that is, of course, the companies that are still in business.

The big question is, “How do you make hard changes without losing agents or losing face?”

Spoiler: I don’t have the answer. However, let’s look at some ways to help mitigate backlash when you do have to make tough calls. 

Offer alternatives

My No. 1 rule when axing a program is to try to have an alternative in the wings. Even if a piece of tech or a marketing initiative is relatively unpopular, there is invariably someone who loved it and will be upset that it’s gone.

While you can’t please everyone, try to show your agents that you’re attempting to solve a problem and not just saving money. In my experience, people get more upset when they aren’t clear on your motivations, and they’ll make their own assumptions. 

Rip off the bandage

Sometimes, we avoid making difficult decisions. Those delays can occasionally make things worse than taking action right away.

Keeping toxic employees is a great example of this. They say, “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” That statement holds true when it comes to work culture. A toxic person will spread their negative attitude to all corners of the company.

The same can be true for a bad tech suite. The longer you keep it, the worse things get. Ripping off the bandage, while painful in the short-term, is the preferable ending.

Own your narrative

If there is one thing this industry is known for it’s gossip. News travels fast, but bad news practically travels at light speed. If you have to make some unpopular changes in your brokerage, expect people to talk about it.

The more public the changes, like closing or right-sizing an office, the louder the comments will be. Arm your agents and staff with talking points on why this is the best course of action for the brokerage and how it will benefit them.

Depending on the relationship you have with your people, you can be vulnerable. Maybe the choice was down to close the office or lay off employees. You can humanize the situation by sharing that. It shows that you value people over property. If you can win the buy-in of your folks, it doesn’t really matter what everyone else says. 

Final thoughts

These are just three of the many things you can do to smooth things over when difficult choices cross your path. No one likes to show weakness or appear as a failure. However, as we learned from the Great Recession, brokerages that made swift changes and adapted fared much better than the ones who let ego dictate the course of action.

It’s not fun to be in a position of making tough choices. In this business, it really is the strong that survive. Sometimes, that strength comes at a price that seems too high at the time. Only you can know what’s best for your business. At the end of the day, you have to feel that you made the right decisions when the time came.  

Stephen Meadows is COO of Coldwell Banker Premier in Virginia, a firm that was named a 2023 RealTrends GameChangers for its growth in transaction side percentage over the past five years.

To contact the author of this story:
Stephen Meadows at stephenmeadows@premiermove.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Deborah Kearns at deborah@hwmedia.com