Learn how a small real estate team in the DC metro area is making a big impact in their community and around the world- and how their business has grown as a result.
Middleton Elite Coaching’s Thought Leader Series with guest, Sheena Saydam of Saydam Properties Group.
Sheena Saydam is the epitome of a giving heart and inspiring team leader. She and her husband run Saydam Properties Group, the highest-producing real estate team in their DC metro-area brokerage.
Their team works entirely by referral. They’ve never bought a lead and have never made a cold call. Instead, Sheena leads her team to build their database by giving back to their community and beyond.
Saydam Properties Group helped build Maryland’s first shower truck for the homeless. Sheena’s team has helped drill wells to bring clean water to over 20,000 people in an African village, they have given over half a million dollars away through charitable giving for every transaction they have closed, and they have helped raise millions of dollars for philanthropic organizations. They are currently building a school for girls in rural Kenya.
Sheena and her team inspire others by sharing their mission with as many people as possible.
“If you are not telling people what you’re doing, you are not allowing others to live their fullest potential, their lives of purpose, because you have this power. All of us have networks. And my advice to you is to leverage your network for good.”
Maryland’s first shower truck for the homeless. Photo courtesy of Saydam Properties Group
Sheena’s advice for anyone wanting to increase the philanthropic outreach of their business is to spend time thinking about their reason for doing so. She recommends being consistent if you are looking to make an impact in your community through charitable giving.
The team at Saydam Properties Group is inspired to leave a legacy of giving in the areas they serve. They work to identify issues that are meaningful to them and the organizations that currently exist for those causes. Sheena helps established organizations raise money and awareness for their missions. She believes that helping these organizations is as impactful as having a nonprofit of your own.
“There are a plethora of issues. Just find one or two that matter to you. And my suggestion, if we’re going to start small, is you don’t need to start a nonprofit. Go out into your community and see who’s already doing the work. Take some time to study them, meet the people there, and come with an open mindset and curiosity to understand what they’re doing and how you could leverage your current network to help them.”
Sheena says there are many meaningful ways to help. Nonprofits always need money; however, in-kind donations of things that can physically be donated are a great way to contribute to an important cause. There are also volunteer opportunities that can be identified by asking a nonprofit how you can help.
Sheena recounts a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when impoverished areas lacked access to public water and could not practice proper handwashing. She says word of mouth was a fantastic way to utilize her network to bring change in one village.
A villager drinking clean water that SPG’s efforts provided. Photo courtesy of Saydam Properties Group
Saydam Properties Group shared a post on Facebook with a plea for donations to bring trucks full of clean water into a slum so that residents could wash their hands, drink, and bathe. From just one Facebook post telling the story of what was going on in this village, Sheena and her team raised $22,000. She adds that she was able to get others involved by showing the impact of what these donations had done.
A Small Team With A Big Value Proposition
One way that Sheena has built her value proposition is by getting to know the charities in her local area and communicating this to her clients. Sheena suggests beginning by determining the commitment you can make to the cause and how much of an impact you want to make and then making a public announcement to your network about your commitment to the cause.
Of her small but mighty team, Sheena says:
“My neighborhood has forty licensed agents. There are six agents who live within three blocks of me and sell two hundred homes or more a year, but people reach out to us because we have this unique value proposition.”
Making A Global Impact
Sheena recently returned from Saydam Properties Group’s philanthropic mission in Kenya, which she regarded as “life-changing”.
During her time in Kenya, Sheena visited the village in Kibera, where she previously had helped bring clean, potable water.
She witnessed grateful hearts in Kisii, Kenya, using the well SPG built to honor a team member who passed away. Sheena met some villagers who utilized the water, including the elderly, who would otherwise have had to walk several miles to find water.
Sheena also visited the Renda School, which brings educational opportunities to 80 young girls and electricity and sewer utilities to a village that has never had it before.
And for the amazing good that has been done, Sheena is grateful to the many people in the SPG network who made it all possible. She made sure to share it publicly on her social media channels.
“I’m actually sitting here in Kenya with water that you helped fund.”
And what came next was unbelievable to Sheena. She shared that the entire time she was in Kenya, agent referral partners and past clients sent her money she wasn’t asking for.
“I didn’t ask anybody for anything, but they said, ‘I have to support this. I have to make this a part of my business, and I want you to help these people, and I want to come with you next year.’ So it was pretty powerful.”
Sheena says people’s gratitude for what Saydam Properties Group had done changed her. She admits that she didn’t grasp the full impact of what her team had done over these last six years until the people she helped told her how much it had changed them.
“What that trip did was connect me to my purpose. I was just funding these projects. I felt good about it, but not until I went there did I feel something that energized me for the rest of the year.”
Making an impact started with building SPG’s team.
Sheena shares that she designed her ‘small but mighty’ team to fit the life she wanted, which she believed other people would also want. She began attracting people she thought would fit well into this culture.
As for how Sheena built her team, she began as a solo agent, then made her first hire, a part-time virtual TC who would later become her executive assistant. She recalls this as a turning point in her business.
“From there, things really got started because I could be more intentional about getting business while she was handling all the things that I really wasn’t good at and didn’t like to do.”
Sheena went on to hire another admin, a listing manager, and then SPG’s first agent, who happened to be her husband. She gradually started hiring more staff and agents who were all virtual team members, military spouses, and stationed throughout the country. Her completely virtual team is now comprised of 10 agents, two of which are in training, and seven staff. The all-virtual team structure was one that Sheena feels was especially beneficial during COVID as she could continue operating normally while others were feeling the pains of a new, virtual environment. She saw this as an opportunity to share the lessons she learned through building an all-virtual team with others. Through an emphasis on the importance of leading people through serious change, Sheena helped other team leaders navigate an unprecedented challenge.
“I had other team leads tell me their staff was not as productive. And I had a lot of conversations with high-producing agents who were ready to let team members go out of frustration. I had to ask, ‘Well, are you leading? We have to lead. People are going through serious change. Kids are at home. People are trying to teach their kids, feed their kids while they’re working, etc.’ And I felt really grateful to have the opportunity to share our lessons learned.”
A Lead-Gen Secret?
How does a team that doesn’t buy leads or pay for advertising, utilizes only the organic social media sphere, and relies on past client referrals find themselves so successful? Sheena’s answer – relational connection as opposed to transactional.
SPG has found success by leaning into nurturing the database. Team members are encouraged to contact past clients and prospects through various methods to get more business in their market, which Sheena says is currently down 40%.
“Last year and the year before, leads were just falling on us, and we were trying to get them quickly to get as many offers out as possible. The team didn’t worry too much about their pipeline. This year, we had to sit our agents down to review their goals for the year and get them to commit to their prospecting. To be intentional, we had to take the dust off and refocus.”
This change included spotlighting what the leadership team was doing to bring in more business.
Accountability Ownership for the Team
Sheena began by making some changes to the language used around the team. For instance, the word leverage was removed from her vocabulary, and accountability became ownership.
“I try not to say leverage anymore. I try to talk about human beings. I try not to say accountability because that’s almost as triggering as when someone uses red ink to correct something.”
Sheena has intentionally practiced using more inviting and disarming language when speaking with her team. She consciously asks her team to take ownership over who and what they would like to be responsible for instead of asking how many contacts she can keep them accountable to. This has helped her to invest more in developing her team members.
Sheena has fostered growth and incentivized building the business through various team contests, competitions for prizes, intentional practices, and fun exercises. She wants her team to learn to generate leads in addition to being provided with leads. Her primary objective is to keep it fun while making the team responsible for the action items they’ve committed to.
“If they aren’t doing the things they have committed to, they’re not getting leads.”
Despite knowing that her team will likely close fewer homes than they did last year, Sheena says she is actively thinking abundantly.
“I’m still looking for business every single day, investing in my team every single day. And I realized the market is down 40%. I have to be realistic that this was a crazy market. That hasn’t slowed me down, but I’m just accepting that we’re probably not going to finish the same as in past years, and yet I don’t want people to get down. I don’t want anything to feel like scarcity.”
Scarcity vs. Abundance
When asked how Scarcity vs. Abundance shows up in her life and her business, Sheena says she firmly believes in reflecting on things, being in constant movement, and often reflecting on herself, even if it means spending a little time journaling every day.
Sheena used to read books on how to build her business and says she continued that for what she felt was longer than she should have.
“I think what got us from a place of maybe selling under 100 homes to getting to 200, 300 homes is that I started reading more books on behavior, on psychology, trying to figure myself out and trying to understand people better and become a better listener. And that changed everything.”
A believer that everyone defines success differently, Sheena took the time to implement what she had learned about leading people and their motivations to help her team members live their best lives. She says that is her definition of abundance.
Digesting The Right Material For Thinking Abundantly
Sheena is an avid reader. If you follow Sheena on Goodreads, you will understand. We were fortunate to have received a list of 7 books that Sheena believes every leader should read next, which you can find here >>> 7 Books To Read Next
Because Sheena has read many more books since first sharing this list with us, she provided a list of books that have shaped, molded, and guided her to become a more impactful leader. You can find that here, at 38:12 of this video.
Leaving a Lasting Legacy
Her philanthropic work and charitable giving have allowed Sheena to inspire many others. When asked how she would like to be remembered, she gave us a profoundly simple answer.
“I want to be remembered as someone who cared about other people. I think it’s that simple.”
Sheena hopes to teach others to give more, especially their money. She doesn’t believe that having money makes someone more successful. Her worldly travels and mission work have taught her that being successful is to build things and to be generous and kind. To Sheena, success means thinking differently about how money can be utilized and leaving a legacy that demonstrates just that.
Helping Sheena Do More
Sheena is grateful to receive your DC, Maryland, and Virginia referrals. Her team would be honored to provide great care to your referral. SPG will donate to the client’s favorite charity after closing.
For those who would like to get involved either in person or via charitable contributions, Sheena can be reached by emailing email@example.com. You can find her on Facebook @sheenaburtonsaydam, and Instagram @selling_dc.
Sheena adds that whenever she begins to feel negative energy about her team’s performance and what she thinks is or isn’t happening to build her business, she will reflect on what she can do to help lead them through the challenge.
“My first emotional response is to think, ‘What’s going on? Let me see their numbers’. And my second response is ‘Okay, what can I do?’ Do I need to envision another event? Do I need to put another event on? Who do I need to have coffee with on our team and see what’s happening in their lives? What do they need to hear to move things forward?”
Sheena says she is always working on this as it is critical to becoming more relational with her team. Debbie and I thank Sheena for giving her time and wisdom during this interview and for all she and SPG continue to do to make the world brighter.
Bill, Debbie, and the MEC Team