For many years Doug Melcher ran a real estate company out of a central office in the Back Bay, a popular, upscale area of Boston. But when he disbanded that company and started a new agency earlier this year, he didn’t sign a new lease. Instead, he opted to run the Melcher Real Estate Group remotely. Everyone on the growing team has a home office. They also belong to a co-working venture with three locations around the city. On any given day, agents work where it makes the most sense for them. Recently the team talked about the change and how it’s working out.
Doug Melcher, principal broker; Kathleen Dailey, senior agent; Dona Fraenkel, senior agent; Joe Quigley, senior agent
Why did you opt for a remote team with a co-working space?
Doug: It was largely about the money. We were paying $5,000 a month for fixed office space plus $70,000 a year to have a receptionist on site. But the agents are often on the road or working from home. We were basically paying to have an address and some storage space.
Aside from the savings, it’s better than a fixed office because we have access to offices at three locations. This gives us more flexibility. At the same time, it’s better than just having home offices because we have a place to meet clients and get together. The space is set up well, and it’s clean – that’s was another expense I used to have. Plus, we have a fixed address.
What are the advantages of having a co-working set up?
Kathleen: I don’t like to work at home because I find there are too many distractions. I want to have a place where I can go and be focused. The co-working space is perfect for that. The space is set up well with different types of areas and they have bonuses like speakers and networking lunches.
Joe: I really like the chance to network and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise. When you’re in a central company office, you’re only seeing your co-workers and it’s harder to make those outside connections.
Dona: It’s great to have multiple locations because you can meet clients where it’s most convenient for them.
What are the challenges?
Doug: Really, the only thing is storage. We keep the signs and our others supplies in my garage and I transport what everyone needs. But, it’s a lot cheaper than renting an office just to have a place to put things.
Kathleen: Our trunks are really full. They’re essentially moving closets.
What are the advantages of being a remote team?
Joe: Our business isn’t 9 to 5 anyway. We need to be available when our clients need us, so we have to be set up at home regardless of where we work during the day. This way, we can balance things out better. We have the flexibility to take off time in the afternoon and then work later.
Dona: It’s really been a great opportunity to work in a way that makes sense for our industry. When I first started in this business in 2009, I had a desktop computer at home and one at work. I couldn’t get emails at home, so I would have to go into the office. Now, I have one laptop that I carry with me. I can get done what I need to wherever I am.
How do you stay in touch with each other?
Kathleen: We’re on the phone with each other all the time. We send emails and text also. That’s not really a lot different than what we’ve always done since we’re so often on the go. It can be hard if you don’t have reception or you can’t find a place to talk, but you just work around that.
Joe: We also have weekly team meetings. Not everyone comes every time, but it is does help us connect and stay up to date.
How did you decide which co-working space you wanted to join?
Doug: We looked at several options. It came down to location and price primarily. But, we also considered the amenities and the staff on site. We need a place that works for clients as well as the agents.
What’s your advice for remote workers?
Doug: Think it out in advance. Where will people work? If you’re going to the co-working route, what will the cost be compare to the savings? Will everyone like it? How will you handle things like storage and communication with your team? The transition will go more smoothly if you have a plan in place.
Joe: Plan your day. Schedule what you want to get done so you will be more focused and get it done. You need to know what you want to accomplish.
Dona: Plan your day but be loose. Things are going to come up and you need to be flexible.
Kathleen: Figure out how you’re going to stay connected with people. Make plans to get together. Set up lunches or whatever you need. You will get busy, but it’s important to keep up with those connections.