For the last of my four-part series regarding brokers who manage full time rather than sell and list properties, I met with John M. Gicking at the Sotheby's International Realty
office in Bridgehampton.
John, what is your geographical area of responsibility?
I share the responsibility with Alice Bell
and Debra Reece for the areas of Southampton to Montauk, as well as Sag Harbor and North Haven. Alice has been a manager for at least ten years, Debra was a corporate attorney, and I was a real estate agent before becoming a manager, which having that experience, helps me guide our agents through difficult situations. Our three different backgrounds allow us to manage from three different perspectives when discussing potential problems or on-going issues.
What did you do before entering into real estate?
I was on Wall Street and then worked as an agent for fifteen years with Sotheby's before becoming a manager over the past six years.
Who selected you to become a manager and what was it in your background that led to your selection?
I was approached by Alice Bell and our corporate president, who felt my combined experiences of Wall Street banking and real estate sales would especially qualify me for management.
What are your duties as a manager?
What I love, and is first and foremost, is the day to day advice I provide to agents. Helping them pull in listings, helping them close a deal, assisting them with multiple bids, are among my most important duties. Of course, my involvement with those aspects are with the less seasoned agents who are working their way up through the organization. My other duties are the financial aspects of running an office. Preparing a budget and working along with corporate management. Marketing is a huge portion of my duties. We have corporate as well as on-site marketing, which I am very much involved in, such as, where and how often to advertise our listings, which Alice, Debra and I work on together.
How many agents does Sotheby's have, and how many administrative employees?
We have approximately 115 agents and 10 administrative employees. I, as a manager, am an employee.
Other than the internet, what other trends have you seen with respect to advertising?
It has become common for agents to want to brand themselves in print ads and on the internet, to have their names associated with particular listings. It's not just about advertising the listing, it's also about advertising the agent, and that has become very popular.
A common trend is for agencies to have teams. Could you discuss this?
Teams can range from agents working together, sharing listings, enter into a mentoring arrangement, or an official team of two or three agents with an assistant. I think it's one of the smartest things an agent can do. Top agents get to the point where they can't handle all of the business they have, so opportunities for new business may be lost. It also provides an opportunity for new agents to learn the business and become more established. When you consider that real estate historically has been a second profession, especially on the East End, I look for new agents who are either very well connected in the community, or willing to team up with our very experienced agents. It's the best way to help the new recruits achieve success.
Since real estate is not a salaried profession, I think it is fair to say that a new agent has to have sufficient assets to carry them until they can start to generate sufficient income. Based on your experience, what should be the expected time frame?
I tell my new agents that they have to be prepared to support themselves for three to five years. Many people who want to come into the business often don't realize how difficult the job is and how much time is involved. It has become a seven day a week job. Often, it requires you to drop everything in order to make an appointment to show a property, and unless you are prepared to put in 110%, you are not going to make it in this business. That's why I want to recruit agents who are in a tier one or tier two position with their firms, so that they can hit the ground running. Even agents who change firms experience an interruption for a while. That's very common.
I'm sure that you will agree, real estate today is not about driving people around and showing them houses.
I absolutely agree. You have to know the history of the market and how comparable properties are selling. You also have to have gained the trust not only of your colleagues, but also the agents with whom you are in competition. You have to represent the Sotheby's profile. I think it is a good idea for those entering the business to interview with several firms to try to anticipate where they are going to be most comfortable.
What do you see as your biggest challenge as a manager?
I find the biggest challenge is to stick to my agenda. I have to spend a lot of time responding to other people's needs. But, that is also what makes the job interesting.
How do you assure that all of the necessary documentation, such as the listing agreements, agency disclosures, lead disclosure forms, and memorandums of sale is in place?
That's the role of my administrative staff and they are very diligent about making sure all of that is in place.
John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate Broker, DOS Certified Instructor, and real estate consultant. He previously taught at NYU, LIU, and The Cook Maran Real Estate School, which he helped found.