Work-Life Balance for Brokers

Got health?

October 1, 2004

Wally Folks, GRI, has been known to give out vitamins to friends and associates. He’s been encouraging his sales associates and staff for years to pay more than lip service to their health.

“In 1989, I learned I had high levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides,” says Folks, broker-owner of Century 21 Folks Realty in San Antonio. “They were off the charts. My doctor said he knew four people whose levels were that high, and three of them were dead. From that point on, I knew the importance of taking care of yourself.”

When one of Folks’ associates finally took himself in for a physical earlier this year, the results brought the same reality home to him: testing identified several polyps in his colon.

The polyps weren’t cancerous, but for a man in his mid-40s, as this associate was, getting at them early meant the difference between a routine procedure and a major operation.

For Folks, success in real estate is as much about taking time out for yourself as it is leaping from the dinner table to meet with a client. “We’re on the go all the time, and with all the stress in our business, it doesn’t make sense to ignore your health so you can earn $1 million a year,” he says. “If you have a stroke, you won’t be earning that anyway.”

Whether your company is large or small, putting health on associates’ radar screen is less about implementing expensive programs than setting the right tone, say brokers.

Several associates at Wilshire, REALTORS®, in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a 25-associate new-condo specialist, acquired the exercise habit several years ago after watching their two brokers, William (Lynn) Borland and Bill Schwarz, compete in marathons and sailing races, respectively. “We don’t have the resources to get a bulk discount at a gym for our associates or bring in speakers for a nutrition seminar, but we can lead by example,” says Borland, a veteran of 45 marathons who runs each morning. “All we can say is, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ and it works. Your associates realize that, with a little effort, they can do it, too.”

Put family first

Just as important as exercise is time spent with family and engaged in activities you find intellectually stimulating. That time helps promote the work-life balance that’s essential to staying at your peak, says Marianne Barkman, senior vice president at John L. Scott Real Estate in Bellevue, Wash. “When you promote a balanced lifestyle in the office, you can’t measure the effect it has on your associates. But from our experience, they’re hungry for the chance to focus on personal growth,” she says. “Whenever we offer activities that help them find ways to gain balance, they jump at the opportunity.” The company offers work-life balance training for all of its roughly 3,800 sales associates and brokers.

Now, even the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is getting into the act of helping members gain balance in their life. The association’s FamilyTime Initiative, to be introduced at the 2004 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando in November, is designed to help you carve out quality family time. There’ll also be family-first resources, in DVD format, that you can share with buyers and sellers as client gifts.

“How do you strengthen the time you have for you and your family and make it more meaningful?” says Al Mansell, NAR president-elect, who’s spearheading the initiative. “That’s something we’re hoping these resources can help you with.”

The DVD is being produced jointly by NAR and Million Dollar Round Table, an organization of top insurance and financial planning advisers that developed the first FamilyTime program in the 1970s. The program’s goal, like that of Folks, is to help you focus more on the quality—rather than the quantity—in your life.

Low-cost ways to promote health

Ready to get your associates thinking about their health? Start with a few ideas from brokers who are already doing it:

Launch a book club. Start out meeting once a month, then increase the frequency to once every two weeks as demand warrants. Focus on leadership books such as The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell, or keep it broad to include inspirational books such as The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. “Associates appreciate the opportunity to get to know their peers on a different level, and it gives them a chance to read thought-provoking books they wouldn’t otherwise find the time to read.”—Marianne Barkman, senior vice president, John L. Scott Real Estate, Bellevue Wash.

Hold friendly competitions. Three possibilities: bowling, volleyball, and “wallyball” (volley ball played inside a racquetball court). Start out meeting one weekday evening every two months, then increase the frequency to once a month if demand warrants. If you have two or more offices, have one office play another, or have brokers and managers play associates. “For some of our associates, it’s a great release, and more are expressing an interest in joining.”—Todd Hetherington, CRS®, GRI, CEO, Century 21 New Millennium, Alexandria, Va.

Help associates get family support for their work. Since even top associates can fail if family members aren’t on board with their hectic schedule, brokers should help associates make planning a family affair. That means encouraging associates to

  • Involve their family in goal setting. Chasing a sales goal might be gratifying to associates, but it could foster resentment in the family. Family members should have input into associates’ goals and work schedule.
  • Schedule time for family. If associates coach soccer or just like to be there when their children engage in certain activities, make it clear you support their absence from the office at those times.
  • Schedule time for solo activities. If associates take two afternoons a month to, say, deliver meals to senior citizens, encourage them to build that into their schedule as rigorously as they do sales meetings.
  • Celebrate their successes with their family. Encourage associates to have pizza night or another regular activity after a closing, anything to make their family feel a part of the success.—Matt Williams, broker-owner, Realty Executives Williams-Sykes Realty, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

Encourage tag teams. To give associates with young families flexibility to spend time with their children, create sign-up forms to enable associates to tag team with other associates who can cover for them when they’re on a family matter. The sign-up forms can list dates and times when people are available, to help associates match up with tag-team partners.—Hetherington

Encourage health maintenance. At a median 51 years, sales associates are at an age when regular medical attention is crucial for nipping health problems in the bud. Provide them friendly reminders to

  • Have regular blood, urine, and other diagnostic tests. This helps them get the jump on cancers, diabetes, and other degenerative disorders.
  • Get plenty of rest. Is five hours a night enough? They should check with a doctor.
  • Ask about supplements. Is it appropriate to take supplements such as Vitamin C and beta carotene? Encourage them to find out what a doctor thinks.—Wally Folks,GRI, broker-owner, Century 21 Folks Realty, San Antonio

Offer healthy alternatives to snacking. Replace your soda and other vending machines with fresh fruit delivery and your conventional water cooler with one that filters impurities, such as those using reverse osmosis. And subscribe to a wellness newsletter that you can circulate through your office.—Kim Cipriano Prior, executive director of corporate business and marketing, Lyon Real Estate, Sacramento, Calif.

Partner with others to leverage resources. Work with other local companies or your local REALTOR® association to bring in speakers or sponsor health and wellness programs you otherwise couldn’t afford.—William (Lynn) Borland, broker, Wilshire, REALTORS®, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Helping your associates maintain their good health can be as easy and cost-free as offering them a little encouragement. But the benefit to you and to them can be as great as a lifetime of productivity and sound work-life balance.

The feng shui way

Good health isn’t just about getting the right mix of vitamins and exercise. So says feng shui consultant Suzee Miller. The former broker-owner of Paradigm Properties in Laguna Hills, Calif., now teaches clients about arranging their office using feng shui principles, applying the ancient Chinese energy-balance blueprint called ba-gua.

If you want your associates, staff, and visitors to experience positive energy in your office (and who wouldn’t?), try these feng shui tips from Miller:

  • Add a welcome doormat. The entrance is where all blessings and abundance enter a business. Try a mat of deep blue, representing water, which increases wealth.
  • Showcase colorful flowers in pots. They lift the energy in the room. Try flowers or pots of red, representing fire, which increases business.
  • Ensconce a healthy green plant. A plant adds the wood element, which can lift energy and morale.
  • Remove clutter. If left to sit, piles of paper and trash will prompt the holographic universe to mirror back to you the same negativity in the form of difficult buyers and sellers or contracts and escrows that fall out.
  • Keep non-business visuals to a minimum. That means go sparingly on family photos and other personal items. Otherwise the environment could create anxiety and stress.
Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.

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