When it comes to his team, Lee Kiser of Chicago-based Kiser Group doesn’t play by the old rules. He believes an industry shift in management style between firm leaders and the brokers they manage needs to take place, and he is leading by example with his hands-on approach to nurturing new talent.
Find out how Kiser Group doubled the size of their brokerage in a just a year by investing in training their people.
What do you look for when interviewing potential new brokers?
From a viability standpoint, I look for someone who has real life experience yet is still willing to take risks.There’s no way around it — getting started in brokerage is a risk. You need to have the financial runaway to support yourself for at least a year without income. The best candidates typically come from middle management roles in other industries seeking a more entrepreneurial position.
What about personality?
Personality wise, I’m looking for someone who has an edge. Let me explain. I’m from the Southeast where everything is described in metaphor, so bear with me…
When I played little league, I was terrible at hitting because I thought too much about the pitch and whether it would be a strike or a ball. My coach taught me to have an “I don’t care attitude.” What he meant by this is that you have to say to yourself, "I don't care what you throw, I'm hitting it." It was a game changer for me. So, that’s what I’m looking for: someone who can say, “I don’t care what’s coming my way. I’m going to figure it out and i’m going to hit it out of the park.” That’s the edge I'm looking for in a candidate.
What are some red flags to look for when interviewing?
I’m weary of people who ask too many questions surrounding what I or Kiser Group can do for them. To me, that’s a red flag that their focus is on what they can get versus seeking a mutually beneficial partnership. I seek entrepreneurs looking for the best platform from which to launch their business.
Once you’ve brought on a new broker, what does the training process look like?
We have a formal training guide set up for onboarding new brokers. The first few days take them through getting set up in all of of our systems, then the next two weeks are spent gaining an in-depth understanding of those systems on a concept level.
During their first month, they will also have extensive training in our underwriting processes. I spend a lot of time with brokers on an individual basis helping them establish a business plan and focus. I work with them to set income goals and use data to determine if the market they are interested in has the potential for them to meet those goals. We use every resource and data point available to make our brokers as successful as possible.
What do you expect to see a new broker achieving within the first year?
The goal is to build a business, not work for a deal and earn a few commissions, only to start over after the closings. The first six months should be spent building out a database and methodically figuring out how to ingrain themselves in their chosen market. If done correctly, the broker should begin getting traction about mid-way through the first year. Because it takes six months from a real lead to a closing, we say the total time to start really earning money is approximately a year.
How do you think your training is different from other brokerages?
Our focus is not exploiting new brokers to boost revenue — we treat new brokers as what they are: business partners. My obligation to the partnership is to bring everything to the table that I can to help them start their business. Our training is very hands-on for the first year. We have also established a mentor program with our senior brokers that incentivizes them to help newer brokers. You consistently see newer brokers shadowing mentors, going on tours, and attending client meetings.
Why did you shift to this more intensive onboarding approach?
A year ago we had a bunch of brokers leave the company. This caused us to take a step back and look at why that happened and how to prevent it happening in the future. Our existing brokers wrote the plan we now incorporate, including a complete overhaul of our compensation plan so that the more successful a broker is, the higher share of gross revenue goes to them.
What have the results of this approach been so far?
In the past year we’ve doubled the size of Kiser Group, mainly because of this new approach. We are growing Kiser Group's brand and being recognized as thought leaders in our industry.
It wasn’t an immediate shift and it took a lot of work but to me, investing in your people is always worth it. What wakes me up in the middle of the night is worrying if I'm doing enough for my partners.