From Assistant to Operations Manager: How to Promote Your Secret Weapon

You hit the jackpot when you hired your Real Estate Assistant and your business has had the growth to prove it. Before you knew it, it was time to expand again! But this time, your assistant is along for the ride and chances are they’re due for a promotion. After all, they’ve been a huge factor in your success, and you want to keep them by your side.

How do you know whether you should promote your Assistant to a managerial position? And what should you expect in doing so? Below, we’ve outlined some of the main differences between an Assistant and Operations Manager, as well as what you can expect in making the transition.  



The difference between a Real Estate Assistant and Operations Manager

Sometimes these titles are used interchangeably in real estate, as many of the duties can overlap. But as the title suggests, an Operations Manager takes on greater responsibility as well as ownership of the business’ big-picture goals.

Unlike an assistant, who is largely reactive to the Lead Agent’s immediate needs, an Operations Manager is proactive, anticipating the needs of the business and everyone in it. The Operations Manager is the go-to person for your Marketing Manager, Transaction Coordinator, new Assistant, and anyone else on the team. (Which frees you up even further to get out there and sell!)

The Operations Manager can be the Office Manager of your team with other jobs reporting to this person as their supervisor; or it can be an additional member of the team. In either case, the Operations Manager role is not designed to do double-duty as your listing coordinator, marketing manager, transaction coordinator, or showing/buyer specialist. In determining if this is a role you want in your business, consider the additional payroll investment to adding this position to your organization. Having an Operations Manager dedicated to the productivity, efficiency, and profitability of your business could have a very rewarding return on investment!


The responsibilities of an Operations Manager

While an Assistant is regularly concerned with the Lead Agent’s schedule, emails, and phone calls, an Operations Manager is less involved with the Agent’s moment-to-moment needs and more involved with keeping the business and team on track. That usually entails writing and updating policies and procedures, managing finances and team production, hiring and training junior staff members, resolving customer complaints, and tracking business goals. After some time in the role, your new Operations Manager will know more about many of the aspects of your business than you do!

Though some of their responsibilities as an Assistant might carry over, it’s crucial that the more time-consuming and entry-level tasks are taken off your new Operations Manager’s plate. You and your Assistant should work together to determine which of their current responsibilities will be handed over to a new Assistant or Virtual Assistant.

How to know if your assistant will make a strong Operations Manager

An Assistant who is not afraid to take charge and is skilled at managing both projects and their boss is likely to thrive in an Operations Manager position. Even if they’ve never held a management position before, your Assistant should exhibit the leadership qualities required of a manager if you’re going to promote them. After all, the idea is that they’ll be managing and even hiring employees who report to them. Take a look at their DISC profile—is their behavioral style well-suited for this type of role?

Some good indicators that your Assistant would do well in transitioning to the next-level role is that they’re excited to take on additional responsibilities, frequently come up with ideas for better ways to do things, and don’t wait for your permission to move forward with the small stuff.

These are also good signs that they’ll actually want the job. While everyone likes a raise and recognition, not all great Assistants want the added responsibility an Operations Manager role requires. Ask yourself: Does my assistant seem hungry or complacent? If you’re uncertain whether your Assistant wants to grow within your team, it would be wise to set aside the time to talk about their goals—and let them do the talking. If you haven’t talked about the Operations Manager role before, then this is new information.  You are now offering a career path where before there was none. You will need to educate, evaluate and invite your Assistant to consider this new opportunity, if you think they may be well-suited for the job.

You will want to introduce this new role to the rest of your team. Explain the benefits the team and the business will experience by having this person taking care of these responsibilities.  Change is often easier for Agents than it is for the Administrative Support Team. Nobody likes surprises when it comes to their job! You want to inspire cooperation not suspicion. The Operations Manager is not an auditor, spy or mole looking for who’s not doing things in the office. Having an extra set of eyes reviewing how the business functions will need to be understood and accepted by the rest of the team. Once everybody is on board, you can have great teamwork!

Dedicate time to training

Just as you shouldn’t keep your Assistant-turned-Operations Manager bogged down with the administrative tasks that will distract them from the big picture, you also shouldn’t assume that they’ll naturally adapt to the new role.

When you first hired your Assistant, you likely dedicated a fair amount of time to training so they could learn the ropes. There will be yet another learning curve with this transition, and you should be prepared to set aside time dedicated to addressing those needs. For example, it’s likely that they’ve never managed a budget before. If so, have them meet with your accountant to have them review your profit and loss statements and financial goals. Give your new Operations Manager every chance to succeed by offering management training or coaching, and identify future opportunities for growth and learning. Remember, their success is your success!

Grant them autonomy

You’re probably used to being able to ask your Assistant to take care of things for you when and as they pop up. In an Operations Manager role, however, their priorities will shift to work that requires deeper focus and more time, and it’s important you respect that in order to let them do their job effectively.

Give your new Operations Manager permission at the outset to be autonomous in their role and manage their own priorities and time based on your shared goals. And get used to taking a number! Unless your request is an urgent matter, don’t expect them to drop whatever they’re working on for you. Trust that they’ve got your back and respect their new role, and they’ll always do what’s in the best interest of your business.


Is it time to promote your Real Estate Assistant to Operations Manager?

Consider hiring a coach and consultant to help you navigate this change. For training and coaching support for your new OM, we recommend Kathleen Metcalf with Inspired for Results. Contact her here.