Cooling Off Period: Using the winter months wisely

It’s no secret that winter is traditionally a quieter time in real estate, as vendors usually hold out to sell in the traditional booming spring and autumn periods. Last July the REIV recorded just 1,920 auctions in Victoria for the month, compared with 5,040 and 4,750 auctions during November 2013 and March 2014 respectively. In our Chelsea office alone, we secured an additional 28 listings over spring.

That said, winter also marks the end of the financial year – typically the time when businesses review their budgets, operations and set goals for the year ahead. So this quiet winter period is actually a great opportunity to set aside adequate time for the EOFY review process.

While every business will have its own planning method, our office has chosen to make an event of this. Each year we pick a day during June to undertake a team planning day, a time when the whole office comes together to reflect on the year past and plan for the twelve months ahead.

Here’s how the day pans out:

Step back in time

Taking a step back is a great way to gain some perspective on things, so we set our team planning day away from the office environment to help us clear our mind.

First up, we present our annual results, a review of the agency’s yearly KPIs, plus any highs and lows identified by the management team. This transparency with the team is essential, ensuring everyone is on the same page and understands where our business is at.

We then present our staff with feedback from the year’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys. To me, the Net Promoter Score is a revolutionary business tool. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a universal way for businesses to monitor performance through client surveys, an initiative which hockingstuart Corporate brought in some years ago. In the service industry, customer insights are imperative in identifying our strengths and weaknesses. In the end, our business is all about our clients so we want to ensure we’re delivering.

The feedback from the surveys is usually targeted at individuals, and generally positive. We read the individual and team comments out aloud. This isn’t as disconcerting as it sounds – in fact, it’s a great motivator for staff to improve certain areas. And when we read out the positive stuff, well it’s a great way for us to honour our team’s results from the year.

Go whiteboard crazy

This is called a “team planning” day, so naturally the next step is to set our business goals collaboratively.

Ahead of the team planning day, my business partner Bianca and I sit down to assess our previous year and build new goals for our business, from financial targets to workplace culture. It’s great for us to have a vision, but if the team doesn’t have the same goals as us, or they’re unattainable, it’s useless.

On the actual team planning day, Bianca and I write up these objectives on a whiteboard. As a team, we then break these goals down into smaller, achievable goals for our agents. The way I see it, if everyone in the agency has a smaller goal to work towards throughout the year, together we’ll achieve the business’ overarching targets.

This part of the session is also a great time to encourage staff to have buy-in to how the business is run. If they participate in the decision making process, they feel a greater connection to the business and will respond positively through their work ethic.

For the final stage of our planning day, the team takes away the information from the NPS review and the goals we’ve discussed and works them into individual business plans for each agent to work toward.

Get outside

Let’s face it – the team planning day is strenuous on all of us. So we like to conclude with a fun group activity, such as horse riding, rock-climbing or a flying fox course in the Dandenongs. These types of activities help bond the team and also encourage the staff to get out of their comfort zone.

And the other bits and bobs

There are a handful of other initiatives we organise in addition to the team planning day in preparation for the spring period, such as:

  • Additional training sessions and courses for our staff to strengthen their skill set, as highlighted in the NPS surveys
  • Preparing our database and ramping up prospecting ahead of the spring months
  • Touching base with our mentors, CEO of hockingstuart Nigel O’Neil and our leadership development trainer Dan Spencer, for extra insight and support

Of course, these activities should happen throughout the year, however they’re often the first to slip when things get hectic, so we like to ensure they get ticked off between June and August.

In my experience, I’ve found that our annual team-planning day has played a pivotal role in shaping our office’s success for the following year. To this day, our staff still recall planning days from years past, lessons learnt and shared moments with the team.

Daniel Wright is hockingstuart director in the beautiful beachside suburb of Chelsea. He has 15 years of real estate experience under his belt. His expertise in the bayside market is the result of his strong ties to the community and an excellent work ethic. His hard work-ethic has proven to be invaluable in recent years, contributing to the team’s success and helping Daniel and his team achieve a 17 per cent growth in property management across 2011/2012. The Chelsea office was awarded the prestigious hockingstuart Franchise of the Year award in 2012, a testament to the hard work Daniel’s team has put in each year.

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