With all the challenges in owning and managing a commercial real estate firm, many managers forget about the office. After all, office management is tedious and administrative, right? Wrong. The best offices are run by managers who look at office operational management as another tool to help them implement their vision. The way your office feels, should reflect what you want your office to do.

Good operational management starts with setting up your own policies. Even the smallest things can have an impact on how your associates behave, and on how your office ends up performing. Are your office’s official hours from eight to five or from nine to six? Can associates rifle through incoming mail themselves or does your staff review the mail, collate it and deliver it to the respective team member’s desk or inboxes? Are Fridays casual for everyone, for no one, or just for associates that hit certain performance benchmarks? The smallest operational issues can have an impact on the psychology of your office.

Managing resources also impacts performance. What do you provide for associates and what do you expect them to provide? Bear in mind that if you give them something, you can control how they use it. For instance, some managers provide free color printing to their associates, but have their staff control the printer. This not only gives the staff a chance to proofread anything before it gets printed, but also makes it easy for them to capture every file that gets color printed – building an archive that could be useful if a copy is lost, or worse — if the associate leaves the company.

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Containing costs is crucial. After all, your gross profit margin is what is left over after paying your associates their splits and fees. Have your staff rebid every contract once a year. This will keep your vendors honest and will save you money. You’d be surprised how much saving ten cents per ream of paper can add up.

These are just a few broad areas, but they should get you thinking differently about operational management. While minimizing cost is a good way to affect your bottom line, using your office as a tool to improve productivity and morale can have a much broader impact on your associate’s (and your) income potential.

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In my next blog I will expand on the final major challenge of owning and operating a commercial real estate brokerage firm — growing the firm and planning for new leadership.

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CRE Brokerage Management Challenge #4: Operations
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