I recently caught up with J. Michael Manley, CEO, Founder and Owner of the J. Michael Manley Team, to hear about the systems and models that fuel his team’s success and empower his agents to live their lives by design. Watch the full interview below, or scroll down to grab the highlights.
When Manley started his team, he hired one admin and two buyers’ agents right off the bat. That was his first big mistake.
The buyer’s agents operated on a default system that had not yet been proven to work. As Manley attempted to get more purposeful with the systems and models his team was using, the buyers’ agents weren’t on board.
“It gave them [the buyers’ agents] so much dictation on my model that it ended up costing me in profitability because they were not doing enough, and we were putting too much on the admins and vice versa for things that needed to get done,” says Manley. “It always created a conflict, which prevented us from seeing how quickly we could operate.”
Manley acknowledged that you may initially be operating in survival mode with just one admin, but once you hire your second admin, things will begin to take off.
When you hire the second admin, it creates bandwidth for the first one to start writing systems. It’s my job as the agent to break those systems and let the admin fix them. Then I test the systems again until they’re working for me at a tremendous level.
By following this hiring and implementation progression, when you hire a new agent who may not like your systems, you can confidently let them know the systems are proven and work.
“When I bring a buyers’ or listing agent on, and they say, ‘I don’t like that system. I don’t want to do it that way.’ I can tell them I have the experience and wisdom that the system works because I tested and broke it,” says Manley. “I can say, ‘Look, that’s the way our team operates. This is how we know that you can live. It’s proven.’”
Manley’s second big mistake was not creating duplicable models.
“I blew through some listing agents early on because I was really good at being me, but I wasn’t hiring people who were also really good at being me,” says Manley. “I could sit at the kitchen table and get the listing by just talking, but my listing presentation was not duplicable. Once I shifted to a duplicable listing presentation, we were able to help listing agents succeed from the outset, regardless of their skill sets. They can follow that model and be successful.”
The first week of January 2020, Manley sat down with every agent and helped them write and gain clarity on what their goals meant to them. He helped them go to a deeper level where they realized this was a mission for their life to be happy.
“It was a slow process… we’d move it forward, and track it, and let people know why we’re tracking it,” says Manley. “That wasn’t just us holding people accountable to a number, it was us reminding them what their goals were. It was basically us re-igniting that fire to help them achieve that goal.”
Different agents had different goals based on conversion rates.
“I had one agent whose goal was to make 125 contacts every week. And I had some agents who only had to hit 80 contacts a week. Yet the way we set it up was that we don’t judge ourselves by what other people are doing,” says Manley. “We were able to help them focus on their goal and not worry about the other minutia going around. This is life by design.”
There were weeks in which that agent didn’t hit her goal. “But I will tell you, she got much further than if she was shooting for that smaller number. In the month of April, during COVID-19, she put seven properties under contract because she got emotionally connected to her goal, and then all we had to do was just remind her about her goal every week and track her progress.”
When COVID-19 hit, Manley’s team shifted their daily routines to ensure they stayed up and running.
“Within three days, we had shifted all of our daily huddle calls to Zoom,” says Manley. “We added a 12 p.m. coaching call every day. We were bringing value to them every single day. We helped them create their calendars. On Facebook Workplace we created a channel where they could post their daily calendars, and I said, ‘If you’re homeschooling your kids, it needs to be on there. If mommy needs a break, and you need to go out and sit on your porch for an hour — it needs to be on your calendar.'”
We just stuck to that calendar. Whatever was on it, we stuck to it as long as it had lead generation.
The team even implemented an hour a day where everyone would jump online and lead generate on Zoom together.
“You could see everybody making phone calls, helping hold each other accountable. Everybody realized they were not alone.”
While Manley’s team leverages several tech platforms to get deals done, getting their database squared away was priority No. 1.
“For us, the technology piece for this year has been a huge database play in getting it cleaned up and getting it tagged correctly at a high level. I’m one to admit, I’m still a paper guy personally … I have lead sheets, and I send them to my admin and ask to have them entered into the database. Then I carry around my lead sheet, and I know when I’m supposed to call them back. And just give them to my admin and say, ‘Can you enter that for me?’ Just having a database is so powerful.”
Two of his virtual assistants spent three weeks in January cleaning up their database to enable more targeted communications. They tagged lead sources, ensured names were spelled correctly and more.
These efforts allow his team to send targeted text messages to prospects.
“We sent a text message recently that said, ‘You registered on our website via a Google ad,'” says Manley. “It was no longer a blind email or text that said ‘Hey, you registered on our website.’ It actually said you registered from a Google ad.’ It was very detailed.”
Another go-to tool is Workplace by Facebook, which helps with communication and collaboration among team members.
“Facebook Workplace, for us, has been a great place,” says Manley. “We have a spot there where all of our team meetings through Facebook Lives are connected so we can go back and watch them.
Google Drive also plays a pivotal role. “Every morning, our virtual assistant transcribes our daily huddle calls and puts them into a Google spreadsheet to document what we covered on each call,” says Manley. “So we have two years of daily huddle scripting calls that people can go back and listen to.”
Another big technology piece for his team this year is Adaptive View.
“Adaptive View is a Learning Management System … an LMS. We needed to be able to train people from the cloud. When you’re the one training, and people have questions, they have to come back to you. So why not train them on a platform where they can go back in and search for answers.”
“Our transaction has been one of the smoothest pieces through all of this,” says Manley, as he reflects on operating during a pandemic.
As soon as the dotloop for Teams platform rolled out, it was a game changer.
“At that point, I had three admins logging in and logging out [of individual dotloop agent accounts] on average 30 minutes per day. I was paying admins $15/hour … multiply that times three and we found that it was costing us $45 per day [not being on the teams-specific platform]. So when dotloop for Teams rolled around, we jumped on it.”
“Now, I get a notification every time one of my agents writes a contract. I can reach out on Facebook Workplace and say, ‘Congratulations! I see you just wrote a contract.’ They like seeing that I’m noticing what they’re doing.”
Additionally, admins get notified every time something happens.
“So if an agent needs something, the admin gets a notification and can jump on it to help out. That part of the business is 100% on point.”
Dotloop for Teams is also helping Manley’s team secure new listing agreements in minutes.
“Most of the MLSs have changed, where you can’t sign a listing agreement within 48 hours of the sign going into a yard,” says Manley. “So we had to implement a new process. I don’t want to go back to the house over and over again to get paperwork signed, that’s the whole point of electronic signatures. If we get the listing, we sign a Letter of Intent, so they know they’re working with us. And if it’s expired and an agent calls them and they say they’ve signed with another agent, the agent’s going to ask them ‘Well, did you sign anything?’ They can say, ‘Yeah, I did sign something.’ Even though it’s not a contract, it’s a Letter of Intent. They’ve signed something, and as most of us know in real estate, a Letter of Intent is not really worth anything … and yet it is something they’ve signed. So when it’s within 48 hours of listing the property, my admin just sends it to them through dotloop to sign. All the terms and everything’s documented in that letter of intent, and it works so seamlessly.”
“We’ve created a hybrid model where I only go into the office two days a week now,” Manley shared. “On April 1st, my family was going stir-crazy. So I packed up my kids and wife and we moved into my lake house an hour from my office. I only go into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays.”
Manley’s systems allow for everyone to have flexible schedules.
“My admin gets dumped on, on Monday morning, with all of the contracts and repair requests that came in over the weekend,” says Manley. “She’s been getting all of those notifications from dotloop. What do agents do on Mondays when they come into the office? They want to talk about what they did over the weekend. So my admin works from home on Mondays to get all of that work done. She comes in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday because we put all of our listings active on Friday.”
“My sales manager is only in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So every day of the week we have one of our leadership staff in the office.”
“Life by design” is a common mantra recited by Manley and his team members.
“The No. 1 thing I’d say is, ‘Know what your life by design looks like,’ says Manley. “And then don’t force other people to not live their life by design so that you can live yours. Ask them what their life by design looks like, then help them achieve it. And they will honor that, and you will honor them by doing that.”
This interview was edited and condensed for space and clarity.
Orlando Ramírez is a Senior Director with the Industry Relations team at dotloop. With over 10 years in the real estate industry, he began his career helping launch more than 175 Keller Williams brokerages across the U.S. and Canada and has since helped leading technology companies including dotloop deliver value and revenue.