Why Obsessing Over Team Culture Is Crucial for Building Your Real Estate Brand
Doubling your transaction volume in a year may be an audacious goal — but being bold is kind of the M.O. for Steven Rovithis.
Since starting his real estate career in 2006, Steven has gone from solo agent to franchise owner and back again. But along the way, he’s picked up some serious real estate savvy and now leads a fast-growing brokerage with a killer reputation for quality.
In this interview, Steven shares his key strategies for building a standout real estate brand, from being a stickler for culture fit to integrating the right tools and systems to keep the customer happy. He even offers insider insights on the future of real estate as a profession (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
Today, Steven leads an agency of 113 agents and has successfully positioned Rovithis Realty, LLC at the head of the pack as an Inc.5000 Fastest Growing Company. Let’s find out how he did it!
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Inside this interview:
From Bloated Brokerage to the Big Leagues
Navigating Real Estate Team Dynamics & Culture Fit
5 Strategies for Crushing Change Management in Real Estate
Changing Industry + Changing Agents = Greater Transparency in Real Estate
From Bloated Brokerage to the Big Leagues
Steven Rovithis started his real estate career in 2006. Just one year later, he was offered an opportunity to become a partner in a Century 21 franchise covering all five offices in western Massachusetts. He oversaw more than 100 agents and over 500 annual closings, for eight formative years.
But something had always bothered him.
“I really got frustrated with the quality that we were putting out,” says Steven. “There are a lot of people in this industry who don’t have quality at the forefront of what they’re doing. It’s just not professional.”
For Steven, working with a big real estate brand felt like a numbers game — everything was about the bottom line. So he decided to break out in 2015, put together his own small team, and get back into sales again… but pretty soon, he had put himself so far out of production that he was back to pushing paper in a management role.
“That’s when I decided to get back down to basics and just be the best team leader in our marketplace,” he explains. “I got some coaching and training with the Tom Ferry Network, and that really started to change my mindset on how much greater potential there was to be a leader in this industry. I’d done some training before then, but definitely wasn’t playing in the big leagues.”
So he started again, building and designing a highly structured team — one that embodies quality and professionalism first. But even as the Rovithis Realty brand grew, the team structure wasn’t a great fit for everybody.
“People started to say, ‘Look, I love the brand, but I don’t love the structure. Can I become an independent agent in your brokerage?’”
At first, Steven didn’t love the idea of growing another brokerage. He could still feel the headaches from the first time: “In my first brokerage, we had 150 agents at our peak, but they had 150 different business plans and 150 ways of operating,” he recalls.
This time, he was determined to do things differently.
Now, Rovithis Realty is home to 113 agents, 50 of whom are on Steven’s personal team.
“They all bring their unique personalities to the table, but for the most part, they all do business the same way.”
For Steven, standardization is synonymous with integrity. His system applies from the moment a lead hits the team’s database and continues all the way down to the emails his agents and TCs send during closing.
“About 95% of them use the same email templates that go out for every client. And what I love about it is I can make a change in one place and now a thousand transactions get affected.”
With his agents and his clients perfectly in sync, Steven has created a stellar level of consistency across the Rovithis Realty brand — which has now expanded to serve markets in New England and southern Florida.
To further build that brand unity, Steven has implemented numerous systems and technologies that help everyone stay productive and deliver a cohesive customer experience from A to Z (and have as much fun as possible in the process).
Steven shares how his team creates a stellar real estate experience before, during, and after the transaction.
Steven and his team use PrecloseGO! to close more deals, faster — minus the cut corners. Want to see what Preclose can do for you? Check it out for free today!
Navigating Real Estate Team Dynamics & Culture Fit
Today, Steven is crystal clear about the secret ingredients that define “the Rovithis way”, but this clarity of vision didn’t happen overnight.
His experience managing a large brokerage of both team members and independent agents has given Steven a unique perspective on team dynamics and company culture — from helping different roles relate to each other to making hard decisions in service of long-term goals.
Here’s a peek inside his winning team leadership philosophy.
We All Need Each Other
Rovithis Realty recently made the move to include transaction coordinators in what were previously agent-only team meetings.
“They are just as integral to the process as our agents,” Steven says. “Now, our transaction coordinators are there so they can get their voice heard and share what would help them make the transaction process easier.”
But as Steven and his team have come to more fully appreciate the role of their TCs, he’s also found himself changing his mantra.
“I always used to tell these TCs that without the salespeople, they wouldn’t have a job. And it’s true that salespeople bring in the business and the TCs get to work the business…but I think a better way to put it is, ‘If the agents were as organized as you, you wouldn’t have a job!’ It helps them see how they fit into this whole thing. But both sides need to understand how the other side needs them.”
Culture Fit Is All About the Long Game
Back in the day, Steven couldn’t imagine letting a top producer go — but he has since changed his tune. “We’ve let more agents go with this brokerage than I would guess most brokerages,” he admits.
Why? Two words: Culture fit.
Of course, letting someone go is never a painless decision. There are real emotional and financial costs to making hard calls in your business. “I think most brokerages look at the bottom line, and our most recent example probably will cost us $50-60k to our bottom line,” he says.
But as we all know, hanging on to the wrong team member can cost you way more over the long term.
Steven is looking at the bigger picture. “That’s only the short term, right? If you really look at the long game — and that’s what I’m really trying to play — your perspective changes. No decisions are being made in the short term.”
In his experience, the cost of a bad culture fit is even bigger than most brokers think.
“If you’re not a good culture fit, how many recruits did it prevent us from bringing over? How many agents at another brokerage thought, ‘I don’t want to work there, because that person works there?’ If I really stepped back and looked at a three-year or five-year view on what it was doing to the bottom line, the impact of a bad culture fit was probably hurting it.”
Now, because the brokerage is so synced on culture, they know the kind of person they’re looking to recruit. “If our agents are in the marketplace and find someone who’s the real deal, who’s always looking to make things work without blaming others — that’s what we’re looking for.”
For Steven, this team player quality comes down to the fundamental essence of real estate.
“Our industry is very unique in that I could be competing with you today for a listing, and tomorrow I need you to bring your buyer to me. So we can't be cutthroat because we're going to work with each other eventually,” he explains. “That’s why we're looking for people that are effective and easy to work with. Because the cutthroat thing... it's very short term and you will get exposed in the long term.”
If he’s learned anything in his nearly two decades of experience, it’s that the definition of a true team player is always changing. Here are a few of the ways Steven delivers a consistently high customer experience, despite the ups and downs of being in this business.
5 Strategies for Crushing Change Management in Real Estate (While Keeping Customer Experience at the Forefront)
One of the strategies Steven leverages to keep his team ahead of the eight ball with customer expectations is syncing around the right tools.
Here are his top five hard-won strategies for successful change management, including how to choose the right real estate tools, get your team on board with using them, and make the most of your investment over the long term.
1. Talk to real people (i.e. not sales people) who are succeeding
When you’re exploring different real estate tools or services, your best resource is never going to be the person trying to sell it to you. It’s crucial that you include conversation with real users as part of your decision-making process.