Illinois REALTOR® Magazine  | October 2013
By Bridget McCrea
Like many real estate agents, Jason Bacza came into the industry assuming he’d have enough time, energy, and drive to handle all of the tasks related to his new business. Licensed since 2005, this broker-associate with Realty Executives Elite in Lemont soon saw how easy it was to get bogged down by day-to-day tasks that didn’t really lend themselves to business growth and more frequent commission checks.
Bacza waited seven years before hiring his first, unlicensed assistant on a full-time basis in late-2012. The tipping point came when Bacza started missing out on leads that he simply didn’t have the time to pursue and caught onto the fact that the hours spent inputting listing data into the local MLS could be put to better use.
After reviewing the possible part-time, full-time, and virtual assistant options available, Bacza hired full-time administrative help. Using the $3 million to $4 million annual sales threshold as a benchmark, he reasoned out the financial side of the equation by looking at the time he’d save by not having to answer calls and input computer data.
“I also knew that in order to elevate myself in this industry I would have to get help on a daily basis,” said Bacza, “and not just on a virtual or part-time arrangement.” When assessing whether to hire a licensed or unlicensed assistant, Bacza says a quick look at the piles of paper in his office told him that there was “enough marketing, office, and secretarial work to keep an unlicensed assistant very busy.”
Intent on getting to the “next level” in an improving real estate market without having to work 24/7, a good number of Illinois REALTORS® have started thinking about their first – or subsequent – assistants. Some have found success working with one or more licensed or unlicensed assistants who work part time or full time. Others turn to virtual assistants or independent contractors who work offsite handling transaction management and marketing coordination.
Bacza didn’t have to look far for a good candidate. When a staff member in his office left for the construction field, Bacza approached her assistant about the job. The candidate already had three years of real estate office experience, solid communication skills, and “knew how to put out fires,” says Bacza. “She was the first person people saw when they walked into our office, so I’d seen her in action many times in the past.”
Some of her key tasks include ensuring seller disclosures are signed and filed, setting up appointments with inspectors, service providers and other agents. With administrative tasks off his plate, Bacza is free to do what he does best: sell homes. He’s increased his weekly listing presentations, schedules more face time with clients and spends more time developing marketing campaigns.
Bacza’s new assistant is also more organized than he’d ever hope to be – a trait that made her a perfect fit for his growing business. Within six weeks of hiring his assistant, Bacza says he had more listings than he’d ever had at any point in his career. “I completely attribute that to my hiring her,” says Bacza. “I realized at that point that I really should have made the move sooner.”
Chandra Hall, a REALTOR®, real estate coach, and owner of Chandra Hall Seminars in Colorado Springs, says one of the best ways to determine whether now is the time to start hiring help is by calculating how much money you’re making on an hourly basis. If, for example, your time is worth $100 per hour – and if you could free up even more time (read: make more money) by offloading mundane tasks at $20 per hour – then the latter should be a no-brainer.
“For REALTORS®, the most important money-producing activities take place in front of buyers and sellers,” says Hall. “When you get caught up in the administrative details and start spending too much time at a desk, then you wind up missing out on opportunities.”
One way to break out of the age-old mindset that you have to do everything and/or that you can’t afford help is to start thinking of yourself as the rainmaker or the quarterback – and not as the person who has to cover all of the bases.
“Quarterbacks don’t receive passes, they don’t kick the ball, and they don’t run with the ball unless it’s absolutely necessary,” says Jackie Leavenworth, president of Jackie Leavenworth Seminars in Cleveland. “They only get paid for what they do best; the team does the rest.”
Round out your team by coming up with detailed “task lists” associated with the various aspects of your business. Leavenworth says develop lists for buyers, listings, marketing, administrative duties, and any others that make sense. Highlight the tasks that you love doing in one color, and
those that you must do yourself in another color. When you’re finished, everything that’s not highlighted becomes a job description for your new assistant.
“If the entire sheet is highlighted in pink or yellow you’re probably a control freak who will never grow your business to its potential,” says Leavenworth, laughing. “There’s really no hope of making that quantum leap if you’re not leveraging yourself and working on your delegation skills.”
Leavenworth sees delegation skills as a critical component for any REALTOR® looking to clone themselves in today’s recovering real estate market. Now is the time to get systems in place, take a look at what can be outsourced, and identify candidates who may be able to take ownership of those tasks and get them off your desk.
In return, Leavenworth says agents can not only expect to see sales and productivity rise, but they can also anticipate a better quality of life and even some previously unattainable harmony. “If you do it right, you’ll wind up only doing the things that you love,” says Leavenworth, “while freeing up time and energy to spend with your families, friends, and /or children. That’s invaluable.”
The hiring and delegating strategies have certainly paid off for Bacza, who has seen his property sales jump 85 percent higher than they were for the whole of 2012. He’s now thinking of adding another administrative position to his team. To agents who may not want to hire someone full-time, he suggests kicking off the relationship with 15-20 hours of work a week and growing from there.
Bridget McCrea is a business, real estate and technology writer in Clearwater, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions about working with Licensed and Unlicensed assistants?
Rules Section 1450.740 under the Illinois Real Estate License Act highlights do’s and don’ts for unlicensed personal assistants.
Use IAR’s Personal Assistants Manual (Item #521) as your guide. It contains sample contracts, proposed rules, benefits and Q&A.
Steps to Virtual Success
The virtual assistant industry has grown considerably over the last 10 years as technology and communication tools have facilitated the remote-worker lifestyle. If you’re thinking about hiring a virtual assistant, check out these tips from Bob Corcoran, founder and president of Corcoran Consulting & Coaching in Swansea, Ill.:
Do your research. There’s an ocean of information about virtual assistants on the Internet.
As for finding them, consider these sites:
– REVStaffing.com and MyOutdesk.com provide virtual assistants for real estate
– ELance.com lets you put out projects for bid
Revisit your business plan. Identify tasks best handled by virtual assistants, then turn those tasks into a job description. Diagram every assignment the virtual assistant will complete in a workflow and show deadlines and required results. You’ll end up with detailed checklists for every task so all future virtual assistants will know precisely what’s to be done.
Know what you’re willing to pay. You’re not limited by location, so you can shop around for virtual assistants who live where wages are perhaps more reasonable.