From Assistant to Operations Manager: How to Promote Your Real Estate Business’ 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 know it, it’s time to expand again! But this time, your assistant is along for the ride, too, 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 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 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 manager

An assistant who’s unafraid to take charge and is skilled at managing up 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 calls for. 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.

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 and learning the ropes. There will be yet another learning curve with this transition, and you should be prepared to set aside time dedicated to addressing that. For example, it’s likely that they’ve never managed a budget before. If so, sit them down with your accountant and 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 your business’ best interests.