After pivoting her brokerage to cope with the fallout of the initial coronavirus lockdown, one top broker is preparing for the likelihood of a second wave by practicing caution, supporting her team, and focusing on client service.
Joanna Lang, managing partner at Outline Financial in Toronto, says that she shifted her whole practice to work from home two weeks before the state of emergency was declared in Ontario. She’s taken a flexible approach to her team, supporting them as they balance work, life, and family as all those elements have been compressed into a single space. The team, too, has stepped up pushing Outline back into a strong position despite the chaos of March and April. Now, as the likelihood of a second wave looms, Lang is fine-tuning her processes, deepening relationships with clients, and preparing for any market fallout that may come with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We are in a relationship business, and we come from a place of serving and care,” Lang says, “Now we are preparing for the next wave by changing our mindset on how are we interacting with our referral sources, how we are going to conduct business and how are we going to be in touch with our clients. Your conversation is going to be a bit different with when you know you're never going to meet the people, not anytime soon anyway. So you need to picture them in their circumstances and be compassionate.”
Lang says that compassionate approach stretches through clients and employees. Since transitioning to work from home, Lang has acknowledged the stressors on employee’s lives, she accepts that some on her team have kids and home and might not be able to work in the afternoon while they focus on childcare. She’s giving them space to perform those duties, trusting they will turn back to their work when they can.
Lang has also taken efforts to improve camaraderie, with bi-weekly office calls giving her team an opportunity to connect with one another. She says there’s no expectation of make-up or formalwear on her calls, rather they serve as a reminder that the whole team is human, not just a collection of emails and instant messages.
That approach has already paid dividends for Lang. Her team is still collaborating without the shared office space, leveraging tech tools to pass work off to one another. They’re offering online presentations breaking down data subsets of the Toronto housing market, which has generated new leads they weren’t finding in a pre-COVID world. By positioning Outline as a referral source, a place for insight and wisdom, Lang says that while she’s not up hugely year-over-year, she is up in volume.
Now with a second wave looming, Lang isn’t planning to reopen her office anytime soon. She’s waiting for a vaccine or successful viral treatments to make that call. Rather she’s fine tuning the approach she used over the past three months. Outline is transitioning to a new CRM platform allowing more end-to-end functionality. Lang herself is doing more video presentations and engaging with digital media more fully. They’re also making use of the data insights Lang’s husband brings to the team, including 10-year running averages pulled from TREB data, as well as subset breakdowns showing buyers the data points that can reinforce confidence for buyers.
Lang is seeing a lot of confidence in Toronto, too. While she thinks the hits to Airbnb and other short term rentals might impact the lower end of the Condo market, but she’s seeing Toronto starter homes in the $1.2-$1.7 million range going with multiple offers already. She’s taking that subsector approach to her plans for a second wave. She expects if markets dip, the highest end of the market will be taking a hit. Additional stimulus, too, will shift the tax burden down the road and possibly hurt buyer’s outlook. At the same time, she’s working on providing clients with the financing tools they need to safeguard their investments.
Core to Lang’s second-wave strategy is proactive communication. She and her team are in regular contact with their database of clients, asking how they’re feeling and where they’re at financially. Her team, then, can work on the solutions each client needs. Lang says any brokers looking to ready themselves for a second wave need to be communicating constantly.
“I feel that now, even more than ever, the conversation is important,” Lang says. “Reach out to every single person in your database and check in with them because this is your business…check in with people, ask where they're at and what they need. If they don't need anything just being there and being available, I think, is a very, very powerful tool.”