If you want the best out of your people, you’ve got to give them the scope to be their best.
Lew Geffen is a force to be reckoned with as one of the country’s biggest real estate agencies.
Here, the man behind the brand, Lew Geffen himself, talks tricks of the trade and how he keeps his people performing in one of the most competitive industries around. And here’s something of a surprise, his biggest lesson came from his eight year old daughter.
What was the lesson your daughter taught you about business?
She was eight years old at the time and we were on a family skiing holiday. I had received business advice from my team that agent expenses were a little too high and that we should cut costs by charging them for the reams of paper they were using.
By charging we’d save on costs as agents would ‘waste’ less if they had to pay for it. I implemented the policy and six or seven of my best agents left at the same time.
It was a big blow to me. So I was complaining about this to my wife while on holiday and my daughter, now tired of the story, yelled out, ‘It’s your own fault dad!’
I suddenly realised that she was right. It was my own fault: The people working for me are effectively my clients and I had to treat them well.
If they’re going through lots of paper but are meeting or exceeding their targets, you have to balance costs. It would be a whole lot more expensive to replace a top seller.
What tricks have you learnt about managing your team well?
Similar to the lesson I learnt from my daughter, you’ve got to let people do things in a way that they’re comfortable with and good at, but also train them well.
I’ve worked my way through every level of the business and so I know just about everything there is to know about the different jobs.
I’m now in a position to mentor my staff to ensure that they’re able to do their job as best they can – once I was in their position too and I can empathise and advise them with regards to the challenges they’re experiencing.
I’ve also learnt the importance of treating staff with respect. When you do that, you get their best efforts because they feel valued and respected.
While it’s important to ensure that you hire right in the first place, it isn’t necessary to be disrespectful to a staff member who isn’t performing. If they’re not right for the job, they won’t be able to perform and they won’t last long.
In terms of staff retention, the real-estate industry is cut-throat and poaching is something that all agencies have to deal with. I’ve learnt that if you want your staff to stay, you need to set up infrastructure and environment that will encourage loyalty.
For example, at Lew Geffen we leave our agents to their own devices rather than watch over their shoulder the whole time. They have targets they need to deliver on, so let them get on with it. Yes, monitor the statistics and advise them when they ask for it, but it takes a lot to be able to step back and not try control everything.
How have you maximised your strengths through your team?
I’m lucky that I’ve got a nose for picking brilliant people who are able to take on a lot of responsibility.
My personal strengths lie in marketing and so I’ve hired my executive team in a way that frees me to think laterally and focus on the marketing.
It was hard in the beginning because I couldn’t always afford the best, but you develop a sense for the x-factor.
Sure, you won’t be right 100% of the time with everyone you hire, but you will be 75%. If you can’t afford the best, look for the passion in people.