Not a Brokerage: How to Reach $265 Million with 40% Repeat Referrals Using a Team-First Approach

Mindset & Motivation
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There's no doubt real estate teams are all the rage right now. According to NAR’s 2018 Team Survey, 26% of Realtors are part of a team.

But that doesn’t mean it’s working for everyone.

Don’t get us wrong, being on a team has its share of advantages. Agents know the right team can help them:

  • Sell more houses
  • Grow their database
  • Close more referrals from past clients and their sphere of influence
  • Access a stellar support staff

And for many agents, that’s enough. But what happens when you’re on a great team and your team leader is ready to take the plunge into opening a brokerage?

That’s exactly what happened with real estate operations guru Emily Smith.

Emily’s team leaders, Mike and Jenny Wemert, had built an incredible team under Keller Williams. So when it came time to become an independent brokerage, their entire team had to pack up and start over. 

It was a MASSIVE professional pivot, to say the least. 

Luckily for Emily and her team, they thrives on chaos. The three worked together, alongside their entire team to build the brokerage from the ground up—keeping the pieces that worked, while developing a completely original brand and new culture code which serves as the foundation for all they do.

Although it is a brokerage, Wemert Group Realty truly functions as a “teamerage”.

Last year alone, The Wemert Group served over 900 families, producing $265 million in sales with only 30 agents, 22 support staff—and noted a whopping 40% referral rate.

This week we sit down with Emily Smith, COO of Wemert Group Realty in Orlando, Florida, to learn what it takes to transition into a true teamerage and talk culture, data, and more!

Table of Contents 

  • From Franchise to Brokerage: Inside the Making of a ‘Teamerage
  • Keeping Agents Laser-Focused: Culture First The Rest Follows
  • How the Rest of the Teamerage Is Structured
  • Tracking Team Performance: Expectations + Systems = Success

Just want the video? Watch the full interview here!

From Franchise to Brokerage: Inside the Making of a ‘Teamerage’

“We are successful because we have a great culture. The things you see us share and say about our culture are real, and we work incredibly hard at keeping this at the forefront of all we do. We believe that the people we work with and the people we serve THE most important part of our success.”

When Emily’s team leaders at Keller Williams, Mike and Jenny Wemert, decided to open an independent brokerage two and a half years ago, she was on board. In fact, their entire team made the move to build a premier boutique brokerage servicing 96 zip codes in Central Florida. 

Emily who heads up operations as the COO of Wemert Group Realty, says culture became the central piece in their plan. 

“We really believe culture is the piece everything else pours out of,” explains Emily. “Knowing who you are, or who you are aiming to be allows your organization to shape every piece of what you do with intentionality.’”

Emily explains that it took the entire team working to create a great culture and her brokerage became successful because of it.

The Annual Wemert Group Realty (WGR) Celebration showcases their culture-forward approach: “Every year we stop for just a moment to be together and celebrate the efforts of the past year and look forward expectantly towards the new. This year’s Greatest GALA on Earth was certainly a night to remember for the WGR team.”

As the team transitioned, they had to recreate the company’s core values and culture code from the beginning. 

“When your culture pieces are handed to you from a bigger entity and you are starting new,you have to go back to the drawing board so to speak. This is simultaneously freeing and frightening” says Emily. “It’s now up to you to define what those pieces are and how those will practically show up in your business.”

She highly recommends identifying other people who have traveled this franchise-to-boutique path to gather resources and ask big questions like:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What were your pitfalls?
  • What made this transition successful for you and your team?
  • What do you wish you knew?

Having the support of others was crucial to building the Wemert foundation. Still, the path to the allusive perfect culture, and a successful business was far from clearcut. 

The leadership of Wemert Group Realty had to wade her way through the chaos of the move, reshape the team’s inherited behaviors and build their own culture, systems and brand pretty much from scratch all while trying to keep an already successful business running and moving forward.

Here’s how she explains it:

Keeping Agents Laser-Focused: Culture First The Rest Follows

Regardless of whether an agent identifies as a listing agent, buyers agent, or hybrid agent—at Wemert, their primary focus is taking care of the client

To serve clients at the highest level, Emily’s teammates, which they call WeMates, focus on their culture code first and foremost as a catalyst to success.

WE - Always We, Never I

M - Being a MASTER of their craft

A - Being ACCOUNTABLE for their actions

T - Having TEACHABLE spirits

E- Elevating Others at all costs

S - Being SOLUTION based 

If their agents can do those things the Wemert team believes they can’t help but succeed. Emily and the leadership team at Wemert do see themselves as the rainmaking lead generator that can help agents skyrocket their business.

Agents on the Wemert team receive support from the team’s internal specialists so they can focus deeply on client care and doing what they do best.

By removing unnecessary tasks from their agents’ plates and providing a weekly team training  focused on culture and craft, agents are better able to serve clients and leads—a win-win for the entire team.

This service-forward approach eliminates the stress of day-to-day tasks like lead generation, marketing, and administrative work and generates more repeat business for the brokerage.

It’s a highly-focused strategy that led the team at Wemert to an impressive 40% repeat referral rate—and they’re firmly focused on making that 50% by year three for each of their individual agents on the team.

How the Rest of the Teamerage Is Structured

Both Emily and her team are very careful about the words they use to describe their support staff. For example, the word “transaction” never finds its way into their lexicon (or email signatures). 

Their internal partners cover all the crucial customer support areas that drive their success, including:

  • C-level executives and directors
  • Client Care Coordinators
  • Marketing Coordinators (both brand and listing focused)
  • An SEO content specialist
  • A Professional Photographer (and behind the scenes editing/virtual staging team)
  • Inside Sales Team (ISA)

At Wemert, one of the biggest touch-points for a client outside of their own agent is their Client Care Coordinator. (CCC)

“Our CCC’s are beyond knowledgeable, are natural proactive problem solvers, available to our clients while an agent may be in the field serving another family. They are chasing deadlines, dotting i’s and crossing t’s for every step in our contract to close process, and are an invaluable relationship to both our agents and our clients,” Emily explains.

Client care coordinators work on both the buy or sell side of a transaction, and function in a hybrid role. The CCC’s piick up the relationship on the buy side at the point of an executed contract till closing, and at the point of knowing the home will be coming to market till close on the list side.

“Many times our clients form great relationships with their agent and their CCC. We believe that if you go through an experience with someone on the buy side, and now you’re selling your house, being able to leverage those original relationships keeps trust and helps to care for our clients in the best of ways. This also leads to increased repeat referral business.”

Emily and the team are constantly aiming for Ritz-Carlton-level service in an industry that’s too often branded with a used car salesman stigma.

Team-building is huge at Wemert: “Our annual WeGrow team retreat gives us a chance to get away and spend the day doing something fun together.”

Wemert’s marketing team is just as specialized as the agents and client care coordinators.  

The team has a listing marketing specialist, brand specialist, a full-time photographer, and an SEO content specialist who all work in house. 

This dedicated team not only markets the homes for Wemert, but also the area, neighborhood, and lifestyle, all with the goal to continually build a brand people can trust.

Focusing on SEO has been a game-changer for the Wemert brand. Emily’s staff writer works to tell customer stories, elevate agents, educate the consumer, and highlight what it’s like to live in Central Florida. “We are truly focused on only putting out there what’s genuine, real and authentic for our company. Everything we post is held against our culture code and we believe the trust we are building brings the right clients to us. We want to be THE local expert and a brand that when research both shows and proves that we will take care of our clients every single step of the way.” 

With every piece of content they publish, the writer’s whole job is centered around elevating the brand.

“It's not about us ever. It’s always about our clients and the people that we serve - and always will be.”

Consistent brand messaging reiterates the importance of customer relationships for Wemert.

Their message is consistent in all of their branding from social media to ads, and website copy to email marketing. Staying on brand in your messaging is essential for building trust with customers. 

And ‘trust’ is a word Emily uses often, but doesn’t take lightly. 

Agents also have regular interactions with the leads manager to make sure they are using and leveraging their database to its fullest potential. Additionally, Client Care Coordinators and the Wemert Compliance Officer ensures things are running smoothly on the transaction side. 

Tracking Team Performance: Expectations + Systems = Success

Emily and her team use their new agent onboarding system to set expectations early, which also helps new agents find success quickly

Because Wemert is a boutique brokerage, they don’t typically take on brand new agents as hires. Knowing basic real estate allows agents to focus on their goal of first mastering their new Wemert systems and then mastering their craft the Wemert way. And when a core value of your culture is mastery and having a teachable spirit - there is always more to learn.

When new agents come aboard, the leads manager gives them a little extra TLC to help them build good habits when it comes to leads, database and to accelerate their adoption of the company’s culture code. 

And Emily and her team aren’t afraid to show new agents how they can pave their own path to success. 

“There’s no easy path in this business to relationships. If you’re really going to build a relationship-based business, you can’t be absent from your database. It needs your attention, it needs your time, and it needs effort. You truly do have the control of the success based on the time you spend nurturing it.”

Along with serving their customers and clients, agents also fill out a weekly database tracking sheet. “We believe this helps give agents a necessary weekly look at the pipeline of their business, and holds them accountable for their success. On our end, we are looking at those numbers to make sure we can help agents accomplish the goals we have set in partnership for their year.”

Habit-building begins on day one, and the team uses six and twelve-month evaluations as touchpoints to make sure agents are meeting their goals. 

Follow Up Boss makes this easy as team leaders can track what agents are doing right inside the database.

Emily and her team can track agents’ success using Follow Up Boss’s behavior-based reporting. 

By consistently tracking agents through their CRM and through their reports, both Emily and the leadership team can sit down with the agents twice a year to work on ways to improve interactions with leads and clients, and to help agents find a definitive path to success.

The leads manager also offers weekly training for agents to come in to the office and do a deep-dive into Follow Up Boss so they can better engage with their leads. This is an optional training, and often agents come in with specific questions they’d like to solve or need help with. 

Here’s the inside view of how Emily tracks her agents’ performance:

By having agents consistently set their tasks in Follow Up Boss and update their pipeline tracking sheet, they’re free to focus their energy on serving those that need their attention, and move their business forward.

For her part, Emily and her team regularly track consistency in the pipeline to pinpoint where they need to focus more time, energy, and marketing spend.

Wemert Group knows each agent has their own unique goals coming into the business. With multiple sets of eyes on the pipeline, both Emily and the leadership can help agents decide how they want to reach their goals while giving them everything they need to knock it out of the park.

“We’re really careful that our pipeline and our ability to bring in more leads or help them generate from their own database is going to match up with what goals they have for themselves,” says Emily.

At the end of the day, she knows her agents are real people with real needs, “so we take that pretty seriously. We don’t hire unless we know we can commit to that family and help support their needs.” And truly that is what Wemert Group Realty is aiming for. The brokerage functions as a family - serving as many families in their community as possible, all while holding the highest standard for service and care.

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