A bell tolls each morning at 8:30 at Century 21 Beggins Enterprises.
The ringing signals the main event. A radio blares, "Let's get ready to rumble!"
This isn't a boxing match. It's a gathering of Realtors.
It's time. Clapping. Foot stomping.
Then, 30 agents stand. Others scurry through the door. They raise their hands. They sway. They jiggle to loud music for one minute. When the radio stops, the agents sit.
It's not the way most organizations start meetings. But this pep talk and cheerleading session has thrived for 17 years. The agents admit it's quirky, but they say it's necessary.
Thousands of agents have lost jobs with the collapse of the housing market. Sales have plummeted since 2006. Agents struggle to find prospective buyers in a market decimated by a weak economy.
Owner Craig Beggins knows that.
He holds the 75-minute meeting to discuss the latest trends and, more important, hear the problems they're seeing in the trenches.
The 42-year-old runs the largest Century 21 real estate agency in north-central Florida. The company, located in southeast Hillsborough County, experienced a turbulent few years of shrinking employment, sales and prospects.
Still, it ranked third in March in the St. Petersburg Times' midsized category for one of the Top Workplaces in the bay area. The company has sold nearly 2,300 homes worth $360 million in 2009 and 2010.
With more than 200 agents, all independent contractors earning commissions, Beggins can never predict how many will gather each morning. Typically, 30 to 50 agents attend. There is no way to measure how the meetings impact sales.
But Beggins noted that they have been well attended for years and provide camaraderie in the ranks.
"For us, it's a trick," he said before Wednesday's meeting. "They don't have to show up here. I'm hoping it motivates them to work."
After agents took their seats, sales manager Peter Cafik took over.
"Good morning, everybody," he said. "What's going on?
Realtor Jaci Stone raised her hand and rattled off details about closing six deals. An executive assistant, wearing red antlers on her head and jingle bells around her neck, tugged a bell near the door. The agents applauded.
"It's like merry Christmas," Stone replied.
"Who else?" Cafik asked. "What's going on?"
Beggins reminded them to check their e-mail for information about 21 deals the company closed a day earlier. Beggins and Cafik, like college professors preaching to students, urged the group to learn about their clients' needs and to share the information.
"We have to talk to each other," Cafik told them. "We have to take the pulse every day. None of us can have the collective experience of everyone in this room."
Agents told tales about new listings, builders and buyer incentives at developments in Sun City. They chatted about lesser-known financing options and down payment assistance.
Realtor Dick Wilson raised his hand.
"For five years, I've been coming to these meetings," he said, laughing. "I learn something new every day."
Does the bell-ringing, music-playing and discussion motivate agents?
They praise the ritual.
Jeanette Martinez refuses to miss it. She drives 8 miles from the company's Sun City office.
"It gives me more confidence," she said after the meeting. "In this hard economy, they have motivated us. I love it."
Bob Pasquarello stressed that agents pick up pointers and use them hours later with clients. It beats reading about them in e-mails or on bulletin boards, he said.
"This is the best application of my time," he said. "It gets the blood flowing. It makes me want to work toward my goals."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459.