When a company reaches a crossroads, you can either "stick your head in the sand, or embrace change," said Lee Kiser, co-founder, principal and managing director of Kiser Group, a Chicago-based mid-market multifamily brokerage firm.
Kiser was referring to the moment when several brokers at Kiser Group left to start their own firm in the same sector. That year seven people left the company and with a small company trying to grow—that makes you stop and reevaluate things, said Kiser.
"We had a traditional structure, we were similar to our competitors and everyone else out there," Kiser said.
So Kiser took a step back and, along with Noah Birk and Michael D'Agostino, tried to figure out what they could do to make the company a better place to work. Some of the changes they've made include implementing a better pay structure and bonus system, rewarding senior brokers for mentoring and training new agents and reworking internal and external communications. By making these changes, it allowed for a more supportive atmosphere.
"We made sure that everyone knows everyone—the good, the bad, the ugly. It's important to become comfortable with each other so we learn how to work through certain situations together," said Kiser.
Company outings and happy hours are an important part of the new office culture. The team, now with 25 brokers and staff, have attended monthly outings such as axe throwing, Whirly Ball, Cubs games, and escape room games. The sense of community is important to Kiser Group because if your team doesn't feel that, it can create negativity and bitterness.
"One of the worst things I've seen is when brokers become too proprietary about certain clients or relationships. It's a little bit of human nature to feel like this but we can work to build a better culture," Kiser said.
Throughout Kiser's career in real estate and his company's transformation, he still follows the same advice his little league coach gave him.
"You can't worry about hitting the ball, just go for it. Life and business are going to throw you things you can't anticipate or read, you can either worry or analyze, or you can be active and hit the ball.”