The harpoon and the rowboat

“Recruiting and retention.”

Terms we say often and without thinking.

Which is too bad because today’s agent is a different breed. They’re smart. Enterprising. Educated. Independent. Branded.

The old way of approaching this in the brokerage business might need to retire.

Fixing what’s broken

Over the years, we’ve had a lot of conversations like this with brokerage leaders:

“On a scale of 1-10, rank the importance of recruiting.”

“It’s our most important objective.”

“OK, whose full-time job and focus is this?”

“No one person owns it. It’s spread out across the managers.”

“Is there a process or documentation for this?”

“No, not really.”

“Are there support and accountability measures in place?”

“Well, we offer some training, but managers are typically on their own.”

In other words, they’re floating in row boats, shooting harpoons from the hip, hoping to land something.

We dig further.

We review materials: handouts, brochures, booklets. They don’t differentiate. They aren’t tuned to an emotional frequency.

We ask to review outbound campaigns: email, postcards, texts, landing pages.

Switch out the name, the color, the logo and it’s often interchangeable with other brokerages in town.

We move on to managers to get their take. Common themes include:

“We don’t like recruiting.”

“It’s not in our wheelhouse.”

“We squeeze it in when we can.”

“We’d rather focus on the agents in the office than go after new ones.”

We ask about the target agents — the profile or profiles they’d want to have in their office.

“We want new agents.”

“We want agents who do ____# of deals.”

“It doesn’t matter. If they want to join our brokerage, great.”

Not good. Broken, really.


Words convey intention. They set the tone for thinking, perception and behavior.

“Recruiting” sounds like herding. The current practice often feels like it. “Retention” sounds like possession. Ownership. Both emit a musty aroma. “Agent” is another mucid word. In a world where people seek individuality, it lacks personalization. Humanity.

Conversely, attraction. Invitation. Partnering with. Investing in. Advisors. Professionals. Talent. These words are attractive. Fresh. Respectful.

Older, traditional brokerages often tell us they yearn to shed an “old, stodgy” perception that dogs them. We’re often hired to help repair that. But unless they also change their behaviors, practices and speech, a new visual identity and better brand copy are just so much lipstick.

Today’s real estate entrepreneurs seek recognition. They want to be respected. They want to understand how brokerage fits their needs. “Recruiting and retaining” isn’t a great paradigm if you want to align with that truth.

Today’s agent is usually the premier brand. The brokerage is the ingredient brand, the Gortex to the agent’s Patagonia. Most recruiting materials don’t convey this. Most agent-directed marketing doesn’t express this. Many managers don’t speak that language.

When your company speaks this language, you create conversations that weren’t happening before. And fish that were always forever beyond your harpoon jump into your boat.