Small Business

Time to Pass the Torch


By Scott Kucirek As a company grows, many changes are needed so that the organization can evolve into a more professional entity. Some are easy -- moving to a better location that presents a more businesslike appearance, for example. Others actually involve people giving up something they love when the time comes to let junior people take over their former duties.

In the past, I have written about some of these changes, how they affected my fellow team members at zipRealty.com, and how difficult these types of transitions have been for those involved. But writing about something and experiencing it are two different things, as I recently discovered when it became my turn to pass the torch. Believe me, it wasn't easy.

ON THE SPOT. For the last year, ever since I took over the recruiting-and-training groups, I have interviewed 98% of the people (mostly real estate agents) we have hired. We have a three-part interview process that involves our recruiting team doing the initial screening of candidates, our local real estate managers handling the in-depth, in-person appraisal, and then I finish the process with a final and unbiased quality-control interview.

In my meetings with job candidates, I build on the notes and comments from the previous two interviews and address any key concerns with the applicant that people further down the chain may have had. In addition, I always spring a surprise role-playing session on the prospective hires, having them simulate a typical sales presentation to a homebuyer or seller. Since the applicants never suspect this will be part of the interview process, it's a good opportunity to examine applicants' sales skills and rate their varying abilities to think on their feet. Applicants who make the transition from job candidates to employees always talk about the infamous role-playing session, which is notorious at zipRealty as the final hurdle in a tough interviewing process.

During the last seven months, we have hired over 180 agents, so you can imagine that a large part of my day has been spent conducting these interviews, which run anywhere between half an hour and 45 minutes. Interviewing has, in fact, been the main focus of my days, keeping me from participating in other executive discussion and planning meetings. About four months ago, Eric -- our CEO -- mentioned that the day was coming when I would have to get out of the interviewing business. It was keeping me from higher priority, higher level duties, he observed. At the time, though, we had a bunch of new real estate managers and a quality-control issue with the agents coming through the door. That said, the seeds of change had been planted.

NEW VISTAS. With the New Year came some needed improvements. ZipRealty added another two recruiters. In addition, we conducted a couple of key training sessions with our regional real estate managers, so that they were much more aware of our recruiting priorities. In the meantime, since I was doing as many as five interviews every other day, there was precious little time to address the other planning and strategy tasks that needed attention.

Thus, with a little thought and counsel, I talked with Eric again and decided that the time to stop doing final interviews had arrived. Now, the recruiting manager has taken over these duties and is doing a great job. It was funny how difficult it was to make the decision, because I miss that interaction with our applicants. In honesty, I probably should have made this move at the beginning of the year, but not being able to be objective on this matter, I fell into the same traps everyone else has as a company grows -- holding on to something that is comfortable and working,rather than confronting new challenges. See you in two weeks. Scott Kucirek is president and co-founder of zipRealty.com, an online real estate brokerage. The company's Internet site and online real estate agents let people complete the entire purchase or sale of a house via the Web. The company's Web site is www.zipRealty.com, and you can E-mail Scott at Scott@zipRealty.com.


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