International trips, socials and summer hours are just some of the perks that keep retention rates high at local real estate companies, despite the rocky market of late for landlords, brokers, construction firms, architects, investors and others involved in commercial and residential real estate.
Notably, Irvine-based real estate firms took half of the top 10 spots in the small employers category of the Business Journal’s Best Places to Work list this year, for firms with less than 50 companywide employees.
Irvine’s commercial brokerage Voit Real Estate Services came in first overall and in its category. The company was listed as a small employer due to its staff count of 34, excluding its 132 commissioned brokers.
Fifth in its category stood Danielian Associates Architects + Planners in Irvine,
followed by Irvine-based commercial real estate investor IRA Capital.
Construction firm Morris Inc. in Irvine took ninth place.
Other smaller-sized companies recognized on this year’s list included Huntington Beach-based agency The Keystone Team in 24th place and Costa Mesa-based construction firm Slater Builders Inc. in 34th place.
Real estate firms are also well represented in the midsized and large company lists of Best Places to Work.
Notable names include investors and developers like Irvine’s Greenlaw Partners and Shopoff Realty Investments, as well as construction firms such as R.D. Olson Construction, Sundt Construction, McCarthy Building Cos. and Pinner Construction.
Local real estate companies’ high retention rates are evident in their employees’ lengthy tenures.
Danielian reported its average employee tenure was 10.4 years. That could be partly due to its 25% retirement plan match rate, which exceeded that of the other real estate companies on the list.
Voit also has a large number of employees who have been with the company for more than a decade. About a third of the company’s staff has been there for over 10 years, while over half has been with the company for more than five years.
“We have phenomenal people,” Voit CEO Eric Hinkelman told the Business Journal. “They look out for one another.”
The supportive culture at Voit is partly a result of its yearly bonding events.
The commercial real estate brokerage hosts an annual summer lunch or dinner that includes an overnight stay at a local resort.
“We provide childcare, so families are welcome,” Hinkelman said.
The company last year held its summer event at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in San Diego and plans to host it this year at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point.
Koll’s summer bash is its “Kollympics,” a company tradition that started in the 1980s. Staff members split into teams and compete in sports such as bocce ball and Ping-Pong.
This year’s Kollympics, scheduled for August, will feature a pickleball tournament.
Past Kollympics medalists have earned prizes ranging from $500 gift cards to Apple Watches.
The event is in keeping with the spirit of late company founder Donald Koll, the iconic OC developer, who emphasized a work-hard, play-hard culture.
“Having a little bit of fun and creating a good work-life balance pays in the retention of employees,” Koll Managing Principal Jerry Yahr told the Business Journal.
Other companies offer vacations to domestic and international destinations.
IRA Capital last year took its employees on a trip to Cabo San Lucas.
Danielian hosted a Mammoth ski trip, while Morris organized an all-expenses paid trip to Big Bear Mountain Resort.
On top of seasonal trips, weekly and quarterly socials are also a boon to culture at local real estate firms.
Team members at Morris can blow off steam with weekday trips to an outdoor gun range or quarterly outings at an ax-throwing restaurant.
At IRA Capital, Keystone and Danielian, employees enjoy regular happy hours.
Birthday, Summer Perks
Team outings aren’t the only perks local real estate employees can look forward to.
Koll gives its employees an early start to their summer weekends by letting them leave the office at 12:30 p.m.
To make up for the summer’s half-day Fridays, “we typically work an extra half hour during the rest of the week,” Yahr said.
Team members at Slater Builders also get to leave early (at 3 p.m.) on Summer Fridays.
The company said it is extending that policy to include all Fridays after receiving positive feedback from its employees.
Slater Builders employees also get the day off on their birthday.
“Even if it falls on the weekend, you get to pick another day to have off,” the company said.
Voit is similarly generous with time off. The company closes its offices early before a holiday to give employees more time to travel or be with family and friends.
Local real estate firms also offer prizes to employees who excel in their work.
At Keystone, monthly top performers get a shoutout at meetings and one-on-one time with CEO Cyrus Mohseni.
Voit hosts annual incentive trips at international destinations. Employees at the top of their leaderboard have earned vacations at the Four Seasons in Hawaii and the Montage in Cabo San Lucas.
“We’re a culture of working hard, but also having fun and playing hard,” Hinkelman said.
Other rewards for Voit’s high-performing employees include certificates that allot an hour to a full day off. Team members who redeem their certificates can use them for extended lunches or shorter workdays, the company said.
Another factor driving high retention at OC real estate companies is the two-way feedback loop they’ve established with employees.
At Keystone, leadership deploys anonymous polls following meetings “so we can constantly improve.”
Similarly, team members at Voit are encouraged to give input to leadership on a quarterly basis.
“No topic is off limits,” the company said, adding that its feedback has touched on areas such as parking, training, benefits and types of coffee supplied.