May 13, 2022

Can You Be A Director of Operations Virtually?

Today’s job market means it’s much more common for employees to want to work virtually. Low unemployment and a plethora of open jobs mean people have more choices than they used to. Two years of Covid also means priorities have changed.

But when you are the Director of Operations of a real estate team, does it work to lead from afar?

Aly Flaningan, one of the members of our Ops Boss® Coaching Community, recently found out her family was moving across country. (Her hubby took a job at the new Amazon HQ@!) She would like to remain as Operations Manager of the real estate team she loves so much (Kimberly Davis Group). She and her Team Owner are trying to figure out what that looks like. The team is in Texas. The DOO is moving to Virginia. So she did some research.

We connected Aly with 5 successful DOOs who lead remotely. The teams range in size from 7-19 team members, and are with a variety of brokerages around the country.

After her interviews, she graciously shared her notes with us and said, “I’m just really grateful to be a part of a community that spring into action when I said I needed help!“)

Here’s are 31 Things Aly Learned:

  1. Relationship with your team is key.
  2. Make time to personally & professionally connect with the people you work directly with.
  3. If you are part of a national brokerage, you can get plugged in locally to meet other ops people and get that socialization.
  4. Be upfront & honest about what’s not working as it comes up.
  5. Have direct conversations on whether you can or can’t work through it together.
  6. Set expectations (if that’s what you want) that you want to be involved in daily business decisions and still know what’s going on.
  7. Know who your in-person office handler will be, who is your point person in the office?
  8. Having a good courier is key. Is there HS/college student you can use, or a family member of someone on the team? (At the Manager/Director level, these things should be leveraged out already anyway.)
  9. If you are the legwork for things getting done in the office you need to have a new point person.
    Hire part-time runners to come into the office to organize stuff, mail, etc if you don’t have a point person in the office. Someone that commits to a small number of hours a week.
  10. Just because you are gone doesn’t mean you can’t do physical things. If you have trust, take the checkbook with you so you can pay invoices, you can still mail from where you are.
  11. The caliber of agents you recruit will help determine how successful you are. Do you have really needy, not self-sufficient, new hires? Being remote can really up your recruiting game because they have to be talented hires.
  12. Hold office hours on zoom where people can join daily at a specific time so they can have you accessible.
  13. The technology that we have now allows for being fully remote to be possible, so the only limitation could be your systems.
  14. It can actually be easier to be remote because it forces you to train on zoom, which allows you to record everything you do. Then you get to send them away with the recording to practice & re-try.
  15. If you are in a pinch, there’s no shame is using a combo lockbox instead of Supra. That way anyone can pick it up and they don’t need a Supra account to get it off.
  16. Most people fly in or travel for the big team database events. It ranged from once a quarter to twice a year, and everyone’s team paid for them to travel.
  17. Most people do their team meetings completely via zoom. Some did a hybrid model and zoomed into the in-person meetings. Some don’t have anything fancy tech-wsie, some have a speaker that connects so everyone can hear/see better.
  18. Many teams are using zoom in most areas of their business, not just the remote person, so it seems to become a part of the culture not just one way you communicate with one person.
  19. Working remotely is a good way to see issues with systems and fix them, and you’re usually so productive you can fix them quicker.
  20. If you have a good relationship with your team, you know your systems, you know your tech – you should be fine.
  21. Implement a remote method of communication (like Workplace or Slack) that can help you feel close to your team and vice versa. Make an effort to be really present and share in their personally & professionally
  22. It seems to be a good practice to work in the time zone that your team is working in even if you live in different time zones.
  23. If you are someone who onboards, the model works best if you’re focused on the systems + tech + ops side of the onboarding process. If your team is relying on you to manage anything sales-related, that system may need to be re-evaluated to work best. Having a Sales Manager seems to be KEY once you get to this stage of growth and expanding your reach remotely.
  24. Buttoning up the hiring process and hiring very strictly can make or break your systems and your systems need to be solid to execute things remotely.
  25. Take your breaks seriously when you are remote. It’s so easy to get sucked in and get tunnel vision because you’re in a more productive mode. (We learned this during Covid, but good reminder.)
  26. Have a separate working space, especially moving to a new place (We learned this during Covid, but good reminder.)
  27. Still plan the small things for your team even if you aren’t there. Plan for a guest to come speak, plan for lunch to be delivered, plan for Happy Hours, etc.
  28. Match the energy of your team. If you’re zooming with people who are in office, or on team meetings, dress up a little bit. Match their level of effort. If they look nice, you should too. It can get easy and comfortable to wear a t-shirt every day.
  29. Working remote is great because it makes you re-evaluate your value as a team. Because if you take away having someone that sits in the office that you can ask random questions to, and someone who can run your stuff around to listings; only then do you get to the important stuff. Agents can find anyone to do those basics, so what is your true value and retention tool if they are upset that you are remote.
  30. How to respond to your team owner’s elephant in the room question: “Why wouldn’t you just go find another team?” Help your rainmaker understand that you like where you are. Ask your rainmaker questions that prompt an open dialogue and strong conversations upfront, especially if you have RMs who are anxious. Use this conversation to find holes and dig into why they are nervous about you leaving. (Example: Do you feel like I have earned the right to this level of trust?)
  31. Working remotely should not be your only perk. This is a good time to evaluate your teams value to you

BOTTOM LINE:

Can it work? Yes. Many of the nation’s top teams work this way.

Is it guaranteed to work? Nope. There are just as many teams who insist that in person is best.

There’s no right or wrong. Whether it works or not depends on the level of talent of the person, the culture of the team, the team’s value proposition, the leaders’ degree of purposefulness and more.

Aly – We applaud you for sharing your research with us. Finding out what works, what doesn’t, and having REAL conversations ahead of time are keys to success. We find that rather bossy.

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