Like Ben & Jerry, Hewlett & Packard, Lennon & McCartney, Jobs & Wozniak, Warhol & Basquiat, Keller & Anthony, Jagger & Richards, Fey & Poehler, Triplemint & The Agency.
In the wake of the big announcement last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about partnerships and what makes a good one. My mother always says that marriage is hard work, that till death do we part requires constant maintenance and communication. She’s pretty much always right, my mother. Yet, when I look at the above list of famous duos, it’s hard to imagine anything other than some kind of divine intervention at play. It’s the romantic in me, I guess. When John Lennon met Paul McCartney in 1957 at a church festival in Liverpool, it was, according to Lennon, “all terribly a non-event…you explain this to people, particularly Americans, and they expect there to be angels hiding behind clouds blowing trumpets.” See what I mean? Lennon had me pegged.
A simple definition of partnership is the collaboration between people (or organizations) with the purpose of achieving a shared goal through a division of labor that all parties agree on. How easy and intuitive it sounds. But let’s face it, great partnerships in real estate brokerages are not the norm. This is true on a company level and true of agents and agent teams. Why is that? Is it because real estate attracts the misanthropic, the extreme personalities, the doesn’t play-well-in-the-sandbox types? Is it because no matter how you slice and dice it it’s just, at base, a competitive dog-eat-dog business? No, that would be a grand oversimplification. So let’s examine the different ways in which agents collaborate and why it so often falls apart.
Take a simple co-broke scenario. You have one agent representing the buyer and one representing the seller with the shared goal of getting to the closing table. Easy enough, right? But inside of that shared goal there are often competing agendas and differing interpretations of what fiduciary responsibility means. It can be as basic as agreeing upon a closing date. The buyer needs to close within thirty days or their rate lock will expire. The seller is waiting on board approval for their next purchase and needs to stall as long as possible. You know the drill. Layer on top of this scenario a lack of transparency and two very different codes of ethics and you have yourself, well, a pretty typical real estate transaction. At face value, it breaks down in the shared goal part. Is the goal to get to the closing table or to represent your client at any cost? It can get a little blurry, to say the least.
Outside of a transaction, agent collaborations can be both formally and informally messy, depending upon whether it’s an actual team or just two agents working together on a specific deal or marketing initiative. Let’s say two agents who work in the same area decided to do a joint marketing campaign together and leverage their combined sold and closed. They work together on the creative and mailing lists, split the cost 50/50, even pitch and win an exclusive as a “team” and then one of them has conflicts on the day of the first open house and quickly it goes from unicorns and rainbows to hardened resentment. So here it breaks down in the division of labor part. Rarely do agents take the time to map out who does what and, even more importantly, who does what in the event that one of them cannot do. Now this can be compensated by over communication and shared values.
The best agent teams and partnerships, in my experience, are the ones that regularly communicate with each other about who does what and acknowledge when the scales tip and it’s no longer 50/50. They do “the right thing” in the end. There is trust and shared values. There is an open-minded feedback loop. Smart team leaders know how important this is for retaining team members. When it comes down to splits and payout, they throw in a little extra if they know the team member did the bulk of the work. Again, it can best be described as simply “the right thing to do.”
On a company level, great partnerships require vision, openness, cohesion, morale and service. All of these characteristics are innately human which is why company “culture” is so critical. If the cultures clash, it will inevitably fail. What looks like a perfect marriage on paper will blow up in reality because there will be screaming fights and slamming doors and/or they will decide to live in separate rooms and only interact when necessary. Triplemint and The Agency look very good on paper. It’s an easy luxury brand meets tech enabled pitch. But why I am particularly excited about the potential greatness of this partnership is in the shared vision and values. Look at the company’s 10 rules and you can see how similar our cultures are.
Rule #10 – Rules are meant to be broken
Rule #9 – Dare to dream
Rule #8 – More of the same is never an option
Rule #7 – Tell it like it is
Rule #6 – Make some noise
Rule #5 – We are here to serve
Rule #4 – All for one and one for all
Rule #3 – Stay hungry, strive to be better every day
Rule #2 – Always have fun
Rule #1 – No assholes
In many ways, it’s like a punk rock version of our very own Triplemint tune. Like Lady Gaga & Tony Bennet, Rick Rubin & Johnny Cash, Eminem & Elton John, Bing Crosby & David Bowie, Lou Reed & Metallica, Cat Stevens & Ozzy Osborne, it’s the birth of something entirely different and undeniably cool.
Until next week,