Rich Fettke on Supercharging Remote Teams

Real estate is a high-touch business that must now adapt to working remotely. If you want a more effective team or professional network, real estate investor Rich Fettke has actionable insight for you. Rich is co-CEO of Real Wealth Network and took his company completely virtual almost ten years ago. As a guest on the Joe Fairless Best Ever Show podcast, Rich offers tips on building a happy and motivated remote team.

About Rich Fettke and Real Wealth Network

Rich Fettke is co-CEO of Real Wealth Network, an educational and referral service for the passive investor in single and multifamily properties and other opportunities. He brings a strong track record in business and personal coaching helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

A turning point came when Rich was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He and his wife, Kathy, scrambled to plan their children’s futures should the worst happen. After much research, Kathy determined that real estate investing was the path to financial security.

The diagnosis was overly dire, and Rich survived cancer. Inspired by Kathy’s research on income generation, the couple founded Real Wealth Network to help friends learn to invest in multifamily and other real estate. The company has grown to include brokerage and syndications operations that offer opportunities for passive investing.

Rich develops teams and systems for his 25 employees, all currently working remotely. Here are his must-haves for a dynamic remote team.

Define Your Culture

Some business areas need pruning during tough times, but your company culture is not one of them. If Rich Fettke has one key takeaway for you, it’s this: “Be sure to determine your core values and use them as hiring criteria.”

Know Your Core Values

Almost every company lists impressive-sounding values and claims to honor them. But when pandemic constraints or other hardships test a business, the truth reveals itself. You must commit to executing on your values every day and holding yourself and the rest of your team accountable.

Here are some of Real Wealth Network’s values that translate directly into actionable tips for remote work.

  • Integrity
  • Transparency
  • Connection
  • Accountability

Get your team’s input and buy-in on the company core values. Employees are more dedicated and self-directed when they feel some cultural ownership.

Hire to Your Core Values

An employee or partner is either adding or subtracting value. No matter how alluring a candidate’s profile, he or she will compromise your team if core principles are misaligned. Even a passive investor can impact your network’s wellbeing.

Rich suggests including core values in your interview questions. Tell candidates one of your values and ask them to walk you through a scenario when they had to act upon that value under pressure. What was at stake, and how did they handle it?

To help vet leaders, Rich also asks prospective employees how they would manage others in light of those values. If your team member fails to deliver, how do you address that? If your ordinarily effective peer is dropping the ball, how do you intervene? These spontaneous answers can reveal a lot about a candidate’s values, strengths, and fit for your unique team.

Lead with Values

After you document your core values and refine your hiring process, the hard work begins. Each day, your remote team has to show up and live those values virtually. Unlike when working onsite, the in-person feedback and social cues that help keep us on our toes are lacking. Subtle employee behaviors or oversights are also easier to miss. Your remote team must understand behavioral expectations and the exact consequences of falling short.

Expect Integrity

You’ve probably known quality employees who were let go with seemingly no warning, or perhaps experienced this yourself. Rich explains how Real Wealth implements the three-strikes rule transparently so that everyone is clear on accountability. This approach avoids the murkiness that often surrounds many companies’ evaluation process, especially in remote environments.

As a manager, you hold a one-on-one with the employee having the issue, advise this is strike one, and explain why. You make sure the employee understands and can repeat it back. You reiterate the three-strikes rule and that a third strike means termination. If employees gain a third strike and are terminated, they almost always admit responsibility and a lack of enthusiasm for the job.

In contrast to giving three chances, don’t be afraid to jettison employees who consistently violate integrity standards. Everyone has an occasional off day, but people who don’t meet your company’s ethical standards need to move on.

Show Transparency

You want to set up transparent systems and processes and encourage open, honest communication. It’s essential to let your team know the metrics evaluating their behavior. Rich shares that at Real Wealth, flagrant integrity violations merit instant dismissal. Breaking the core value of connection by being rude, on the other hand, might call for three strikes.

Gossip and complaining might be a little tougher on a remote team but still occur. Rich and Kathy decided that transparency meant no behind-the-back talk, however seemingly innocent. When you don’t interact in person, it’s easy to blindside employees with poor feedback after it’s too late for them to correct deficits.

In a rush to execute under pressure, businesses sometimes skip transparency basics such as creating an organization chart and job roles. Even a real estate investor with a small team will benefit from organizational clarity. It’s especially important to document in a remote environment, as the days of yelling a question over the cube wall are over.

The documentation should be concise, visual, and stored in an accessible central location. Your team members need to know:

  • What’s expected of them
  • The performance metrics
  • How to get help
  • How much problem-solving ownership they have
  • Who the managers and experts are

In a unique spin on visioning, Rich suggests creating an org chart for your business as it will be in five years. As your company grows and you fill positions, you’ll be encouraged to replace your photo with those of hires who can do their roles better than you can.

Build Connection

Effective systems encourage people to connect in productive and enjoyable ways. You want to avoid typical group time wasters, such as unnecessary meetings.

Rich and Kathy hold quarterly all-hands meetings to communicate important news. This “state of the company” address covers accomplishments, financial performance, profit sharing, and upcoming changes.

When conditions permit, Rich believes in the old-fashioned company retreat for much-needed team bonding. At the yearly three-day event, team members focus on what went well and not so well, what they learned, and the roadmap ahead. They also celebrate each other’s accomplishments. This in-person time builds relationships that help power the group through the rest of the remote year.

Accountability: Rock Your Team Mindset

If you work remotely, it’s easy to fall prey to distractions or a sense of disconnection from the company mission. Real Wealth met this head-on by implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System®, or EOS, a holistic operations toolkit for smaller businesses. This method sets specific expectations for employees, helps them focus on the bottom line, and gives them ownership of results.

If you’re wondering which system Rich uses to track employee progress, his answer is rocks. Each team member has three to five “rocks” that represent quarterly targets. Rather than micromanaging employees, managers tell them, “Here’s your rock.” The employees own delivering results.

To make quarterly targets more tangible, people can place actual rocks in jars on their desks. That visual reminder of what’s essential helps them prioritize work and minimize distractions.

Another strategy is to partition teams under leads who can work closely with the smaller group. This model promotes individual accountability and open communication.

Run Lean on Tech

The right platforms for your business enable remote collaboration without intruding. How do you balance tech need and overhead?

For starters, Real Wealth doesn’t always meet over video. Skipping the virtual face time cuts down on complexity and that angst of having to look good on camera. The company holds a monthly all-hands meeting, and teams hold weekly meetings. Most video calls involve screen sharing but no distracting faces, allowing attendees to focus on the well-structured agenda. The monthly meeting is an opportunity for people to see each other and connect visually.

After grappling early on with tech overkill, Real Wealth now leverages a few platforms with high returns. For project and portfolio management, Rich and his team use the tried-and-true Basecamp. To help manage meetings and follow-up items, they use Ninety, which implements EOS principles. GoToMeeting and Zoom are favorites for video calls.

Your Turn

Remote teams are the new social business climate. Even if passive investing, you want to mind your business relationships actively. Use Rich Fettke’s experience to help you hone your professional core values and processes. You will enrich your team or network on all levels.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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