In the following excerpt from CareerBuilder’s recent interview with Martin Rueter, President of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., Rueter discusses the importance of empowering people to succeed and how a little empathy never hurt anybody.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE WEICHERT’S CULTURE, AND WHAT ROLE DO YOU PLAY IN REINFORCING THAT CULTURE? The culture of Weichert is one of unified thinking. It is one of high expectation on performance. I believe NAR (the National Association of Realtors) states that 30 percent of agents who are brand new make it past the first year. At Weichert, 70 percent make it after the first year, because we provide them the structure and unified activities. We can measure and monitor the activities and track the trending. It is very structured, which is somewhat contrary to the real estate business, where you have a lot of high-flyers doing their own thing. We have a fine balance between empowering people to succeed and at the same time saying, “And here’s the way to get there.”
WHAT ARE SOME KEY LEADERSHIP QUALITIES THAT YOU LOOK FOR IN PROSPECTS WITHIN YOUR OWN BUSINESS? I tell my owners and managers that their job is to paint a picture—a future picture that the prospects can see themselves in. While we have a very clear, consistent way of doing business, it is much more collegial, circular and artistic. New people need to be told what to do, and experienced people need to be applauded for what they are doing. There is a big difference, and having that flexibility is an art form. Different strokes for different folks. I have always believed that people drive the systems, and great leaders drive the people. But systems are what make our company succeed. Great people working new systems makes it even better, and great leaders keep that steady flow of people in there.
ARE THERE ANY KEY LESSONS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED IN YOUR TENURE AS CEO OF THIS ORGANIZATION? I am absolutely convinced that all the good ideas are not centered in this company. One thing you have to do is go out and hear what other people are doing. CareerBuilder helps us locate potential new customers who are not really in the business yet. An example is the idea about new agents, possibly, or existing agents when you buy a franchise. I really believe in having a mixed bag within your company: ages, generations, cultures and languages. I think the company needs to be a snapshot of the community that you are serving. Particularly in real estate, there is a tremendous age gap. I consider myself probably the oldest realtor around here. This is my 51st year in real estate, and yet I consider myself pretty cool because I realize that we need a lot of young people in here, and we need some young ideas.
SPEAKING MORE SPECIFICALLY TO YOUR BRAND, HOW DO YOU CONVEY WHY YOU ARE SPECIAL – ESPECIALLY IN THESE CHALLENGING TIMES? I ask my employees what their value proposition is, how they are better, how they are different and why they are worth the money. If they believe that 6 percent commission is appropriate and somebody else thinks it’s 3 percent, what’s the 3 percent difference? I need to be convinced why they’re 3 percent better. And don’t tell me about your attributes; tell me about your program. So what I spend most of my time doing is showing people how they’re better and how they’re different. Selling today is conveying the knowledge of product and belief in your product with conviction, enthusiasm and sincerity. I think great leaders need to kind of constantly reinforce their value proposition and that their people are in the right place at the right time.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE YOUR PEERS FROM A LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE? “Put yourself in their shoes.” I think a little empathy is good, particularly if you are working with younger, aspiring executives. Give me a person who is willing and unable. I would rather have them than someone who is able but not willing. Unfortunately, we put comfort zones around ourselves that sell ourselves too short.
ABOUT MARTIN RUETER:Martin Rueter is president of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., the franchising arm of New Jersey-based Weichert, Realtors. The Weichert Family of Companies is comprised of nearly 500 company owned and franchised real estate offices in 36 states, with 18,000 sales associates, offering a full complement of real estate, mortgage, insurance, relocation and settlement services. A fourth generation realtor, Rueter joined Weichert in 2001 to create and develop its new franchise operation, following a 20-year executive career with Century 21. Weichert Affiliates was named one of the fastest growing franchises of all types by Entrepreneur magazine in 2005.
ABOUT WEICHERT:Since 1969, Weichert, Realtors has grown from a single office into one of
the nation’s leading providers of homeownership services by putting our customers first. Today, we take the most pride in our ability to go beyond “full service.” In recent years, we’ve responded to the changing needs and concerns of people like you by turning Weichert sales offices into true “one-stop” destinations for the full range of real estate products and services. Instead of calling an 800 number, you can now meet face-to-face with a Weichert Gold Services Manager who has the expertise to provide mortgage solutions and advice as well as assistance with insurance and all the details of moving.