Howard Schultz, the legendary founder and CEO of Starbucks, once said, “The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company”. It’s a sentiment that I think is just as relatable in real estate as it is in selling cups of coffee: The culture you create is a key driver in what sets you apart from your competition. Just like the coffee market, we have an industry of competitors both large and small.
But there’s a bigger reason why I believe culture is important. More than just setting you apart from your competition, building a strong culture might even help your business survive. I spoke about this at the recent Business of Real Estate event. In such a competitive job market, we need to be attracting the best employees, those that will become the future agent. Your culture will be a key factor in positioning your business to leverage the era of the Millenial Employee.
What makes a good business culture?
So what is culture? For me is its all about the attitudes, values and beliefs that you instil within your business.
Team Curran have based our culture around teamwork, focusing on the collective vision for our business. We’re all part of the successes and failures, no matter your role or title. I’ve always taken the view that being transparent in our dealings, both internally and with our clients, is a key pillar of our success. You always know where you stand; it’s something both our employees and clients value.
A good culture is often hard to explain but the best businesses have it. You can see it in their employees, in the way that they operate. Most importantly, the biggest generation coming into the workforce, millennials, value your culture highly. They want to work somewhere that values their employees, is ethical in the way it operates, and provides growth opportunities for the future.
How can you future proof your culture?
For me, there’s three key areas that all real estate agencies need to review to make sure they have the right culture fit for the new age workforce.
- Make sure your brand and culture are aligned: Be clear on what your brand stands for, particularly if you’re an independent like me. Identify out the causes that you support, involve your employees in selecting them. The best millennial workers want to know that your business is ethical with a strong moral compass. Make sure you foster that as part of your community engagement.
- Be flexible on work styles: I’ve written before about flexible working; it’s expected in the modern workforce and we’re no different. We need to embrace it. However, I still believe in the fundamentals of our industry; real estate is based on personal relationships with our vendors and buyers. I think the best way to future proof your business is to combine the best of the old and the new. Get your most experienced agents to mentor your emerging talent. Let the new agents bring their innovative approach in areas such as technology, and combine it with the best skills of the traditional agent.
- Make career opportunities a priority: The future agents we’re targeting will want to know what their career looks like. They’re quick to move jobs if they can’t see a path. To retain the best, make sure you’re clear on expectations around when they can expect a pay rise or a promotion. Become a mentor rather than a boss, by providing regular feedback.
Build it and they will come
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the biggest external investor in Facebook, had only one piece of advice for the CEO and Founder of Airbnb, as he handed over a cheque for $150 million: “Just don’t “f**k up the culture”. More and more this will become the key to your success. If you don’t have a strong culture now, how do you expect to attract the best talent in the future?