By James Nelson
Having been in the real estate brokerage business for 25 years, I can attest that I would have only achieved a fraction of our success if not for my incredible team. For those looking to start a business team, it can seem daunting—especially when you’re used to working on your own.
I was recently at a sales conference, and the number one question I was asked was, “How did you go about building your team? Where do I start?”
As Jim Collins, author of
Good to Great, phrases it, “You need to get the right people on the right seats on the bus.” Here are some steps that have helped me along the way.
Steps to building a strong and successful team
1. Create a business plan
Before you can start bringing on team members, you need to establish goals for where you want to take your business and then determine the type of team it will take to get you there. Making an organizational chart is essential. Before I began hiring, I already knew the roles that I needed, how they would be organized, and how they would be compensated. A good business coach can certainly help you with this.
2. Develop detailed job descriptions
Before advertising a job opening, really think about what the role will entail. List the specific duties and don’t try to make the position more glamorous than it is. The description should be accurate and include some of the more mundane tasks.
3. Start with an intern
There are college students who would love the experience to work and they are often willing to work part-time during the school year. Post a job description on the local university job boards.
4. Hire an executive assistant
There’s an expression: “If you don’t have an assistant, you are the assistant.” If you’re having difficulty finding a full-time person, there are also plenty of virtual assistants available.
5. Look online and in person
LinkedIn is one of the most valuable resources for finding applicants. Also encourage friends and business contacts to send candidates your way, post job descriptions to your social media accounts, and join alliances to make local connections.
You can also go to industry events and strike up a conversation with those in attendance. When I meet a professional at an event, I like to ask, “What are you working on? How can I be helpful?” These networking tools can lead to job referrals when needed.
6. Find the right people
As Jim Collins, author of
Good to Great, phrases it, “You need to get the right people on the right seats on the bus.” At my first company, our founder loved hiring captains of sports team. We found they were self-starters, goal oriented, and good team players.
7. Check references
This is an important step. Sometimes you can’t call a candidate’s current employer, which makes it all the more important to check in with past employers. If you’re building a team, you need to make sure you’re hiring team players. Cream rises to the top, as they say. Ask the candidate for references and listen to what others say about their previous performance.
8. Remember it will get easier
Hiring the first employee is your most challenging hire. One of the pushbacks I hear is that it takes too long to train the person, and then they oftentimes leave. Yes, this may happen. And even if it does, you will have helped established a role and also have a better sense of the person you need in the future. If the employee stays on, they can train your next hire!
9. Form standard operating procedures
Ask your team members to create a checklist of their key tasks. Later if they move on or are promoted, the document can be used to train the incoming person. It will also help with accountability.
10. Meet regularly in person
Our group holds a morning stand up every morning—a quick 15- to 30-minute meeting. It allows everyone to know what’s going on and it’s also very important for helping new people to learn.
11. Carry out 360 reviews
Our team does this twice a year. Everyone anonymously evaluates each other’s performance by answering five or six questions. We use a 1 to 5 rating scale to evaluate skills such as work ethic, expertise, and whether an employee is a team player. We also allow for comments on strengths and areas for improvement. I certainly benefit from this exercise as well.
12. Lead by example
You need to show your team members what it takes to be successful. Be willing to chip in on any task to show you’ll do whatever it takes for success. I see relationships as a two-way street. There are ample opportunities to listen to what others need and to help them develop a skill or share your knowledge. When you need assistance, they’ll be ready to pitch in and get the job done.
13. Have fun as a group
This is especially important when people are putting in the hours. You also want to have fun with the team outside the office. We have regular lunches, happy hours, or events like bowling. We also do an annual off-site event.
Why a great business team matters
Strong relationships form the foundation for a solid, high-performing team. So much in business (and my specific industry: real estate) depends on connections, and who you know matters. If you have people you can turn to that will help you gain a competitive edge, you’ll have a great advantage. When individuals interact with integrity, you can learn from tough times and move forward. The stronger the relationships, the better everyone will work together.
When people ask me about my track record, I like to say, “Success is a team sport.” Building a dream team takes time and effort. There are bound to be setbacks along the way. Use those experiences to reflect and learn, and then carry on. As your team grows, so will the rewards. You can encourage each other at every step and celebrate the wins together. The greatest satisfaction comes when you rise to the top as a team.
Highly acclaimed investment sales broker James Nelson is principal and head of Avison Young’s Tri-State Investment Sales group in New York City. During his 25-year career, James has sold more than 500 properties and loans totaling over $5 billion. His accolades include being named to Commercial Observer’s Power 100, CoStar’s Power Broker, and receiving the Deal of the Year award by REBNY. James is a serial real estate investor, and has launched two real estate funds with total capitalizations of over $350 million. He is passionate about helping others achieve real estate success, offers regular training through his podcast,
The Insider’s Edge to Real Estate Investing, and is the author of a book by the same name. James regularly lectures at Columbia, Fordham, NYU, Wharton, and his alma mater, Colgate.