Mentorship in real estate

Mentorship comes in different shapes and patterns, but many REALTORS® can benefit from the guidance of others, no matter how that mentoring is delivered.

From one-on-one sessions to group meetings and formalized training programs, mentorship in real estate takes many forms. Various methods and strategies are used by REALTORS® in Ontario to encourage and support learning. The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter spoke with various professionals who talked about the importance of sharing and passing on knowledge.

Anna Vozza, a Windsor REALTOR®, entered the real estate business 15 years ago to work for an independent brokerage. Now a director at the Ontario Real Estate Association, Vozza says she has had the good fortune to be mentored informally by the brokerage owner, Bob Pedler.

“He is my grandfather’s age, and he mentored me and took me under his wing,” Vozza says. “He has been the president of organizations of every level of real estate, and I want to follow in his footsteps. I am a leader now in real estate because he pushed me.”

“Having a mentor who shares his wisdom and experience has been a godsend.”

Each morning of the business week, Vozza has coffee and an informal chat in the office with her mentor.

“It’s one-on-one time where we talk over the coming day, the listings and the issues arising from deals that are on the go,” Vozza says. “He has taught me that nothing is unachievable if I put my mind to it. During my first commercial deal, he stood by in case there were problems, but he kept encouraging me and telling me, ‘You can do it.’ ”

Vozza believes that success in real estate “isn’t something you can learn from a book. We’re in the business of building relationships.” Having a mentor who shares his wisdom and experience has been a godsend, she says. “Depending on what’s going on at the time, he can be a listener, advisor or coach,” she says. “My mentor listens to me vent, is a sounding board in a deal, gets me back on track positively and helps me work through the next deal. He also advises me on how to deal with different personalities.”

Formal Mentorship

When Sue Symons first became a REALTOR® seven-and-a-half years ago, she was assigned to a mentor at the office where she was based. “The broker assessed people to see if there would be a good fit between mentor and protégé,” she says of the brokerage’s mentorship program. “The mentor had to have experience, but the match was based on the broker’s assessment of whether the two personalities would work well together.”

Symons was paired with the same REALTOR® who had sold her home, a woman with several years of experience. “It was the right fit for me,” Symons says. “My mentor was client-focused and she is one of the hardest workers I know. Our mentoring process was fairly informal. We discussed how to write a deal or talked about wells, tanks and technical things. She also brought me in and trained me on things like running an effective open house.”

The benefits of mentorship became very clear from that experience, says Symons.  She is now the owner and broker of record at her own North Bay real estate brokerage, with 28 REALTORS® on site. Symons has established a mentorship program at her own brokerage that combines mentorship with formal training. The mentorship officially lasts a year, but informally, it can continue forever. “The value of teaching people to be true professionals is so important,” she says.

Each REALTOR® who joins Symons’ brokerage is required to attend a week of intensive training, along with scheduled weekly sales training sessions that address topics such as how to build trust and technical subjects such as understanding agency agreements. Although these sessions are mandatory for new salespeople, they are open to everyone.

“Our whole office has a mentorship focus,” Symons says. “We spend a lot of time on training and mentoring, and everyone is encouraged to ask for and provide help to others. I would call it a mentoring environment.”

Mentoring even comes into play when Symons works with a client, something she does not do often in her current role as broker of record, unless the client insists on her services. In that case, she will take the project on as a co-listing with one of her REALTORS® and use it as a teaching opportunity.

“Mentoring people through the entire sales process is a great way to help them when they’re getting started in this business,” Symons says.


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Many Minds Are Better Than One

At the Toronto brokerage where Bill Johnston works as a REALTOR®, mentorship takes the form of collective wisdom through a process the firm calls Mastermind. Every Wednesday morning, many of the REALTORS® gather in a conference room to come up with solutions to problems posed by individual salespeople or brokers.

“For anyone with an issue or concern, that group can brainstorm,” says Johnston, who has been in the business for 33 years. “That session is the most practical and beneficial mentorship I’ve come across during my years in real estate. It is very concrete and specific, and we get a lot of input and insights.”

The session lasts one hour. The facilitator is usually one of the managers at the brokerage who keeps strict track of the time since everyone has a busy day ahead.

“I support the group approach,” says Johnston. “Although it can be helpful to have one person as a sounding board, too much one-on-one mentoring can foster dependency, and the mentor may not always be around. REALTORS® need to learn to be self-sufficient.”

“It’s up to the facilitator to keep the discussion moving so that topics don’t get left behind or beaten to death,” Johnston says. “It’s fair to say that there is at least one answer offered for every problem. Even after 33 years, I still learn new things at these meetings.”

Mentoring Advice for Brokers:

  1. Set up a mentoring program. These programs help new people and enhance the professionalism of the industry across the board
  2. Reach out to other brokers who have programs. Sharing knowledge reduces the need to re-invent the wheel.
  3. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A mentorship program is simply an opportunity for people to learn from others and apply those lessons. It can be as simple as you make it.
  4. Mentoring programs support ongoing learning. Continuous learning is worthwhile even for seasoned professionals. These programs get everyone thinking and involved.
  5. REALTORS® are honoured to be asked to participate. They see it as a responsibility and take it seriously.
  6. Emphasize the value of seeing other REALTORS® as part of the family. Help other agents and learn from them. The more you give back, the more you gain, ten-fold.
  7. Mentorship teaches the importance of being a good self-manager. This business provides a great deal of freedom but there is also lots of room to fail. Mentorship keeps the focus on self-discipline, professionalism, due diligence and good work habits.

Story by Elaine Smith

Sources: Bill Johnston, Sue Symons, Anna Vozza

For more information on mentorship in real estate, the OREA Real Estate College has produced A Mentoring Kit for New Salespeople. The kit contains chapters on resources, planning, sales, skills and professionalism, along with CDs and information on how real estate is structured in Ontario. It can be purchased for $10 plus tax. To purchase the kit through OREA’s e-Store, visit www.orea.com and click on OREA Real Estate College and then on Learning Tools to find A Mentoring Kit for New Salespeople. You can also order the kit by telephone by calling (416) 391-6732 or toll-free 1-866-411 6732 and speaking with one of OREA’s customer service representatives.

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Mentorship in real estate