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!
Ready for a transaction coordination platform that makes your brand shine? Find out how team leaders like Steven use PrecloseGO! to standardize communications across hundreds of transactions in a single click. Try it for free today!
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.
“Whenever I’m looking at a new piece of technology, I’m looking to talk to other people who have used it,” Steven says, “because at our size, we can’t just change something and then find out that we didn’t make a good decision. We’ve got to have these things vetted at a large scale before we adopt them.”
2. Consider the tool from different angles
Everybody works in their own way. That’s why Steven goes out of his way to get multiple perspectives from different team members in different roles.
“There’s a big difference between what a single agent, a team, and a broker need the system to do. What works great for a single agent might have a team leader or a broker/owner saying, ‘This is horrible! I can’t get the reports I need, it doesn’t do X, Y, Z…’ You’ve got to make sure you’re asking the right people.”
It won’t surprise you to learn that Steven first heard about Preclose from an actual transaction coordinator.
“It wasn’t some broker/owner. It was the TCs telling me, ‘Your people need to use this, it’s going to make their lives so much easier,’” he says. “When it comes from another TC who’s been in the same boat as my TCs, experiencing the exact same pain — that means a lot.”
3. Time your implementation right
Okay, full disclosure: Steven learned this one the hard way recently when implementing PrecloseGO! with the team.
Their lead TC was slammed: “She was in the middle of training two virtual assistants, and then somebody else quit and her file load doubled. She’d been working overtime plus training… and then I said, ‘Oh, can you go train on this new platform?’”
It was a lot (maybe even too much) to put on her plate.
The good news is, the experience gave Steven some valuable takeaways in understanding how and when to introduce a new platform to the team. “It should have been done at a time where she was not so busy, that wasn’t such a high stress point,” he says.
Luckily, Steven’s rockstar TC hit the ground running. Today, they use PrecloseGO! in perfect tandem with the team’s other systems to efficiently close dozens of files each month.
4. Show them how it’s going to change their life
Change is hard no matter how you slice it, and too many people let their fear of change hold them back. This is especially true when it comes to technology, where the learning curve for new tools tends to be a bit steep.
That’s why helping team members catch the vision of what you’re trying to accomplish with a new tool or system before you start implementing it is so important.
“What I try to explain to our team is that I wouldn’t be asking them to do something if I didn’t think it was going to help them,” Steven says.
If he had it to do all over again, Steven would bring in the big (and super trustworthy) guns: “I think the right way to do it is to introduce product pros like the TCs who recommended it in the first place. I want them to be saying, ‘Hey guys, we’re TCs too. It’s great that your team is investing in these things. You’re going to love it.’ I think that would have been a much better starting point for implementation.”
Psst! Want to know what real estate’s leading TCs have to say about PrecloseGO!? Check out our interview with Keller Williams TC Kelly Blackmon and find out how she uses Preclose to close up to 40 transactions per month!
5. Look at the bigger picture
Just because you’re trying to solve a specific problem doesn’t mean that’s all a new system is good for. Consider how a new tool, application or platform can be leveraged throughout your business to help create even bigger wins across the team.
The Rovithis brokerage got on board with Preclose GO! because of how it empowers transaction coordinators to work more efficiently and effectively. But a conversation with Preclose founder Rebecca Guthrie showed him what was really possible: “When I heard about the vision, that it’s really about the customer experience moving forward, that was the cherry on top for me,” Steven says.
Changing Industry + Changing Agents = Greater Transparency in Real Estate
Steven has his finger on the pulse of the real estate industry and his eyes on the future — and what he’s seeing might surprise you.
“I think the avatar of the agent moving forward is changing dramatically,” he says. “It used to be the person that would beat their chest and be the life of the party, getting clients not because they were the best at the job, but because they were the loudest.”
However, as teams and brokerages like his have grown to include more services and roles in-house, things are changing for the better.
“I think now there’s this opportunity for people to really be good at their jobs. Let marketing be loud — you just be a nice person and guide people through the most difficult transaction of their life.”
Some careers are particularly well-suited to make the switch into real estate, in his opinion. “We’re having really good luck with teachers, healthcare professionals, really any kind of service industry that’s focused on people. Those are the folks that are doing really, really well.”
Hear Steven share his insights on how the real estate customer experience is changing — and what agents can do about it.
Get Your Team in the Right Seats
As we’re seeing a shift in the typical agent personality, the real estate industry is also expanding to include more types of roles and responsibilities.
“When I first started at Century 21, either you were an agent or you weren’t part of our business,” Steven recalls.
“Now, you can be a listing specialist, a showing agent, a full-time-round-the-clock agent, a transaction coordinator, a listing coordinator, you could be on the marketing team…there are all these different places for somebody to fit.”
So how do you get the right people filling the right roles — or in the “right seats on the bus,” as Steven would say? It all comes down to understanding your preferences and strengths. He recommends using the DiSC profile.
“If you’re more of a numbers guy, going over to our investing and flipping arm might make more sense. Or if you really love paperwork, being a paralegal with our in-house closing attorney might fit you better,” Steven explains.
But even if you don’t fit the typical agent profile of the last few decades, now might be your time to shine:
“Today, I’d almost rather have an agent with a cautious, systematic approach — an S and C on the DiSC profile — who does the same thing every day, goes into the CRM, calls their people, follows up, and nurtures,” he says. “Those people would have never survived in our industry because they just didn’t have enough at-bats before. But now, I think those people who are systematic are going to have way more at-bats.”
Know Your ‘Why’
When Steven talks with his team, he knows that being in “the right seat” is vital to job satisfaction and business success. But it’s more than just who you are and what you’re good at, it also comes down to knowing why you do what you do.
“This year, we’ve really tried to make sure people are finding out their ‘whys’ and doing things for the right reason, not just trying to sell 40 houses to sell 40 houses,” he says. “Maybe you could sit back and just sell 20 and have a better life or live outside the city.”
With all the changes that have occurred due to the pandemic, Steven has witnessed a shift in his team. “I think it’s gotten people to slow down a little bit and really think about why they’re doing what they’re doing, and if they’re in the right seat. This year has really helped expose that.”
Making sure he’s got the right team members doing the right things with the right tools has made Rovithis Realty a powerful real estate resource for their clients, and we can’t wait to see where Steven will lead them next.
If you’re ready to give your customers and team members something to brag about, start by taking control of the transaction coordination process. Preclose GO! offers agents, teams, brokers and transaction coordinators a home buying and selling platform they can be proud of.