The population of California real estate licensees goes up and goes down, as does the market. Right now, we are well below the highs in 2007 when the total was more than 525,000, but we are also above the lows in 1999 when the number hovered just below 300,000. Currently, in 2017, the trend is upward. In January (the most recent month for which figures are available), the licensee population was approximately 412,000. Two years ago it was 402,000.
One would like to think -- and I do -- that most of those coming into the business do so with the intention of conducting business in an upright and professional manner. They want to be productive agents, to be sure; but they want to remain good people too.
What advice might we give to such persons?
Robert Solomon, one of the premier Business Ethics philosophers in the country, writes:
"Whether we do well, whether we like ourselves, whether we lead happy productive lives, depends to a large extent on the companies we choose. As the Greeks used to say, ‘to live the good life one must live in a great city.' To my business students today, who are all too prone to choose a job on the basis of salary and start-up bonus alone, I always say, ‘to live a decent life, choose the right company.'"
Do you want to live a decent life, to like yourself as a real estate agent, to be as ethical in your business life as you would be in your personal life? Find a good company.
So, how might an agent go about finding a good company, one that is good not only in the production sense but that is also good in the sense of ethics and values? Actually, in very much the same way as one might find a company that will help an agent to become productive.
If you are starting in sales, you want to join a company that has a productive sales staff. You'll learn from being around them. Additionally, you want to look for a company that provides training and professional education.
The same considerations apply with respect to ethics and professionalism. You want to join a firm that has good, ethically good, people. You'll be a better person for being in their company. Similarly, you want to find a company that teaches and reinforces values. This isn't so easy.
Just about every real estate company on the planet will tell you that they have and believe in values and high ethical standards. So, you may need to dig a little deeper. Ask how they implement those values. Ask what they do to reinforce them. Ask them if they have a plan or a program to instill and support these values.
Regrettably, many company interviewers wouldn't have the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. That wouldn't mean that they are bad people. It just suggests that the company's commitment to values may not be terribly strong.
A broker to whom values are important needs to have a program -- a plan that is just as carefully conceived as any marketing program -- that reinforces the values of the company. Our priorities are revealed in our actions. Ask a simple question: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to training in the skills and methods required for productivity? Then ask: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to reinforcing its values and the importance of ethical behavior?
If a company is not setting aside time for discussion and instruction on ethical issues, if it is not taking advantage of the materials that are available through the various Realtor® organizations, it is possible that its professed commitment to values and professionalism may not be as strong as suggested. It might not be what the new agent ought to be looking for.