The word culture is used in some interesting contexts today, particularly in relation to the business world. Last year, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “culture” was the most popular word of the year, a dubious distinction.

However, that word is increasingly applied to a variety of heretofore “non-cultural” contexts, used in ways that would drive English teachers of past generations to the brink of madness — or at least, distraction.

We speak of the culture of success, a culture of cooperation, a culture of innovation. We also know about the drug culture, a culture of defeat and a culture of doubt. Culture, it seems, in the business environment as well as in life, can be positive or negative.

In terms of real estate success, how can office culture affect sales? Is it something that develops over time, or can a broker or office manager take steps to build a winning office culture?

The Cultural Phenomenon

If we look back at business development, we find that “people-oriented” companies with a well-defined value system fare well on the culture scale. If employees are happy, according to that measuring stick, positive results follow in terms of sales, customer satisfaction, low turnover rates and corporate health. Today, culture-driven companies subscribe to that theory, according to an article by Josh Bersin, published in Forbes Magazine in March of 2015.

Interestingly, companies that are the highest on the culture scale, do not necessarily pay the highest salaries. So, the benefits are not necessarily measurable in terms of dollars. In general, however, companies that encourage fun, those that reward new ideas and innovation, and those that implement employee ideas that are worthwhile, earn high marks.

Components of Business Culture

The culture of success also is measured, at least in part, by the environment. Pleasant, safe working conditions, an attractive physical plant, access to to the outside world, and supportive systems and policies are all cited as positive cultural values. Education, training, health care, child care — those all can be attractive and culturally significant as well, in terms of business success.

Beyond that, however, business culture is defined by:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Innovation
  • Perks
  • Transparency
  • Values
  • Rituals

In the simplest terms, a company’s culture can be defined as “total experience.”

Elements of Success

In the context of a successful real estate office, a positive culture depends less on external market conditions than on the dynamics of the agents in the office. If there is a “team spirit,” that allows agents to exchange information easily, to share success strategies, to assist newer or inexperienced agents and to individual and group achievement, the culture is viewed as supportive.

On the other hand, if the most experienced and successful agents are rarely in the office, if sales meetings and training seminars are sporadic or non-existent, and if individual agents are left to their own devices in terms of finding leads, scheduling appointments and tracking data, the basic philosophy and procedures could use some updating. Building trust and inspiring action require constant, conscious effort.

If a single individual is negative or contentious, the total office atmosphere may be gloomy. There is truth in the statement about “one bad apple.”

Building a Positive Culture

If you believe that culture is less important in the real estate office than in other professional situations because, in effect, each agent is responsible for his or her own success, think again. In many ways, building a positive and interactive culture is even more vital in the real estate world, and is instrumental in promoting everyone’s success.

In kindergarten, we all learned to share and “to play nice together.” As inspirational author Robert Fulghum stated so simply and dramatically years ago, the basic rules of behavior we learned then are entirely applicable to adult life and business.

Thrive vs. Survive

It’s not the parties and the recognition, the attractive decor or the glossy brochures, not even the catered lunches and the modern technology that motivate real estate agents to work hard, follow leads and expand their client base. It is, instead, a desire to be a part of a winning team, to embrace the attitude of success, and to experience the satisfaction of achievement.

“Intentional Culture,” according to Kirk Weisler, is the framework that spurs success. He talks about building your Life’s Work in a way that is rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling. Build a “rich culture,” he says, and individuals will grow and thrive rather than just survive.

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