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AgentCentric? ConsumerCentric? The truth – it’s mostly egocentric

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A history of raising the bar

At 16 and the janitor for Dad’s real estate company, I was often able to listen into discussions he had with the few brokerage owners who were his friends. They talked about various skill sets, how agents used different methods to list/sell homes, and how they all wished there was a magic spell which would produce great general managers and office managers. My job was to finish cleanin’ up, sit down, then be seen and not heard. Since most of ’em were genuinely scary old farts, that seldom proved problematic.

Know what they never talked about? Raisin’ the bar.

That was 1967.

A couple of years later I was a licensee myself. Here’s how high the bar was — and still is. Took the test about 10-15 days after my 18th birthday. Passed it the first time out. Was notified of same, with the beginning date on my first license being 10/15/69. The ‘bar’ was my ability to read and write, comprehend how to take the test via ‘license school’, be 18, not be a felon, and pass the incredibly silly test. After 42 years I’ve STILL not used 80% of what I was forced by the state to regurgitate on that first test. Somehow, the mating habits of the termites indigenous to California hasn’t come up yet. Go figure.

Raise your own damn bar.

I’ve been hearin’ this mantra since Nixon was in office. If the rank and file wanted it raised, it’d be raised. Does anyone having more than a couple brain cells bumpin’ into each other dispute that? Stop worrying about other agents and other brokerages. Start takin’ your own game up. Surely you have room for improvement somewhere, right? The more of us who become the best we can possibly be, the faster the GumpStumps out there will go back to, well, whatever it is they can figure out to do. Almost surely it will involve close supervision, and very little decision making responsibility.

Ouch.

The truth about being “ConsumerCentric”

Being ‘ConsumerCentric’ is a huge and purposeful misdirection.

“We keep you updated on ‘the process’ every 8½ minutes.” 

“We hold open houses ’til we drop.” (They hardly ever work, but they look good to you and the neighbors, so we keep doin’ ’em.)

“We’re so ‘transparent’, picture windows are envious.” 

“Blah, blah, blahdy blah.”

Want the consumer to seek you out? Want ’em to sing your praises? Wanna be known as the most ConsumerCentricest agent in the free world?

You’re embarrassing the rest of us

Try producing the results for which you were freakin’ hired. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Otherwise, please, shut your piehole. You’re embarrassing the rest of us who are. Become the higher bar. Be the example others see. Inspire these agents one at a time. Make it viral. But do it with your actions and results, not your constant wailing.

Oh, you are producing big time results and you’re still whinin’ about the bar being too low? I’ve run into you guys since my teenage years, and you haven’t changed a whit. You already have a pretty large slice of the market pie, at least relative to your ‘inferior’ competition out there, who aren’t up to your impressive professional standards. Yet you want them out sooner, rather than later. They’ll either get better and earn more by producing more results, or they’ll be gone. Mind your own bee’s wax.

What consumers want – results

Consumers love honesty, integrity, and all the rest. But what they respect most of all is results they were promised.

Let the market weed out those agents not measuring up to your lofty standards in its own time. In fact, one can make the case, and I often do, that they make super cool, professional agents like you look even better than you already are. Consumers get ripped off at every turn. They buy products that don’t work as advertised, then don’t get justice. It happens at the $10 price range up to the five figure level.

But in real estate they don’t pay you ’til you produce the result for which you were hired. Over the years I’ve spoken to hundreds of homeowners and real estate investors about this. They think you’re ‘ConsumerCentric’ when you’ve treated them honestly and with integrity, while demonstrating massive expertise and knowledge — AND PRODUCING THEIR DESIRED RESULT.

The rest of what they see put out by our industry’s practitioners?

Lipstick on a pig.

Raise your own bar. Become better every day in every way. Stop worrying about the other guy. The rest takes care of itself.

I know. Been watchin’ it happen over four decades. Agents ‘n brokers come and go. But the ones leaving their mark are those who work hard, with integrity, while producing consistently superior results.

Nothing’s changed.

Produce results honestly, with integrity, through hard work, and your clients will praise you as being incredibly — here’s that concept again — ConsumerCentric. Their opinion of those agents constantly harping on how the industry hasn’t raised the bar up to the level the agent thinks best? Most consumers have told me, since I had hair, that they think those agents are merely egocentric.

ConsumerCentic is marketing. Consumers want results.

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Ken Brand

    November 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Nice one Jeff. It's so true. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jeff Brown

    November 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Much appreciated, Ken.

  3. Benn Rosales

    November 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Raise the bar is a recruiting tool, if your bar was actually raised you'd be to busy to give a rats rear end ‘where’ the other guys bar is… give me a break. Raising the bar is merely a vendors tool to market product adopted by Realtors to invent a new way to call themselves experts.

  4. mayareguru

    November 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Jeff,
    Great and valid points. I don't disagree, but I think then if we are talking about things like agent rating sites, it is important to have some standards. Consumers are asking, consumers want it, I want to participate. Why? Because I work hard to get my clients results, and sometimes those results are helping them decide it is not the right time to buy or sell. Irregardless, I would rather see a ratings system, or something of that type, at least set up by someone within the industry, who has been licensed. Not a site that wants to attract consumers to search there, or ask questions. I think things are far too jumbled up already. I think there is value in specialization.

    I am so absolutely tired of people pandering to our industry, and those that tell agents how to sell houses who never have before. I say "Ask for the credentials", if someone says "I sell a bizillion houses because of my blog" then I want to SEE those numbers, show me the site stats and your unique visitors too.

    The problem is that the online spaces allow people to create a perception that many will believe is reality. I think it's time for people to shut-up or put up. This isn't unique to real estate, but to many industries where people claim to be qualified experts but no one asks for the proof.

    I was originally involved in the RTB Blog Talk Radio show with Mike McClure and Todd Waller, I believed in many of the concepts, and also disagreed with a few but that was ok, everyone is allowed to have an opinon.

    I am glad you shared, and I think the professionalism issue is constantly raised in the industry, but I would be worried if it was not. I raise my own bar every day, and ask my clients to hold me to it. I am proud of what my team offers in customer service and that we are always improving.

    Thanks Jeff! You do rock!
    Maya

  5. Cindy Jones

    November 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    We can debate all we want and point fingers at the other guy but in truth is we can only control ourselves and how we behave. I agree with Maya that social media has created "experts" who are on stage at conferences touting their success. Yet as far as I can tell no one has vetted their sales numbers (if they are a Realtor®) to see if what they say is even close to accurate.

  6. Jeff Brown

    November 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Pretty much, Benn, pretty much.

  7. Jeff Brown

    November 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Hey Maya — We disagree on the proposed rating sites. It's for the same reason I've refused to ever belong to the BBB. You're either perfect or you lose, relatively speaking. It's a slippery slope, especially in our industry. One disgruntled client, an agent with an agenda, and a solid, professional agent is trashed.

    Sorry, but I'll let my results and references do the talking for me. This whole 'lose or tie' game the ratings sites wanna play is a lose/lose from the start.

  8. Jeff Brown

    November 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Hey Cindy — We've all listened to those 'experts' haven't we? They're basically three chapters ahead of most of their audience.

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Opinion Editorials

Idea: Color-coded face masks as the new social contract to combat COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Americans must come together on a new social contract if we have any hope of permanently reopening the economy and saving lives.

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social contract: color coded wristbands covid-19

A church in Texas used a stoplight color-coded wristlet system to help churchgoers navigate the new social awkwardness of closeness. Those with green bands are comfortable with contact including high fives, yellow bands indicate someone who wants to talk but not touch, and red is for someone interested in keeping their distance altogether.

In pre-pandemic America, basic social cues were sufficient to communicate these feelings, and most violations of them were annoying but not harmful. We now live in a world where daily banalities like grocery shopping and shaking hands with a new acquaintance are now potentially dangerous – for you and those you care about.

So what is the way forward?

Humans are social beings, and much of our survival is reliant on our relationships to, and interactions with, other humans. A way forward is critical. But our brains are trained to find and read faces in an instant to assess emotion and whether that emotion indicates a presence of a threat.

Not only has this pandemic challenged our innate notions of community and safety, the scientifically healthy way forward is to cover most of our faces, which is staggeringly counter to our understanding of a threat. It is now impossible to tell whether a sunglassed-masked stranger walking into a restaurant is a robber or just a person who was walking in the sun.

But because we are humans with large brains, we are able to adapt. We are inherently compassionate and able to emotionally understand fear in others and ourselves. We are able to understand both science and social grace. In this case, the science is straightforward but the social grace is not.

Governor Abbott of Texas announced the second closure of bars and reduction of capacity in restaurants last Friday in response to the dramatic increase in coronavirus cases statewide. During the press conference he said: “Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can.”

It is this shared responsibility that we must first embrace before any meaningful reopening can proceed.

We must accept that for the indefinite future, we have a new normal. We have to adapt to these new social codes in order to protect ourselves and our neighbors. Color-coded bracelets, masks, hats, choose your accessory – this could be a way forward.

First, we must agree these measures are necessary. And we shouldn’t take them because a politician told us to or told us not to – many people feel that our government has failed to provide us with coherent guidance and leadership considering a broad social contract.

We should adapt them because if you are not free, I am not free. We can do this together.

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Opinion Editorials

What to do when you can’t find your passion and you’re feeling lost

(EDITORIAL) Global Pandemic or not, people struggle to search for job opportunities, their career, and find their purpose. Knowing yourself is the most important part.

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career choices

Feeling lost? Can you relate to this Reddit post in the Career Guidance forum?

Careers that aren’t boring?

I’m really lost right now. I just graduated high school and I really don’t know what I want to do with my life.

At the moment my only idea is to join the military (United States) and see how it goes. I really want to go to college on the side but I don’t know what I want to get into. I tried coding in high school and it didn’t make sense, making me feel like i won’t be successful in the technology field. Medical field costs too much+ time in school. Only other career field that’s on my mind is engineering but I don’t know if I’ll be successful?

Is it okay to feel like I’ll fail? Will college actually teach you unlike in high school? I feel like high school didn’t really prep me and I’ll be behind”

And then you have to love this response:

Is the grass really not greener on the other side?

I’ve been a trucker since I left school 10 years ago. Every post I come across are full of people dreading the office culture, politics, environment etc. and saying how they’d love to be outdoors.

I work outdoors and it’s shit, -5°C in winter and 40+°C in summer. Slogging 12-15 hour days behind the wheel, micro-sleeping and hallucinating just to make delivery times. Getting filthy and soaking wet when working outside.

The idea of being in a nice cooled office, not having to put my life on the line and actually working on a project with a team sounds so stimulating to me instead of being a monkey behind a wheel. But then I see so many people call themselves monkeys in other professions and hate the office.”

It’s alluring how the ego is meant to ensure our security and survival, and unless we learn how to work with it and the messages we tell ourselves, we can often feel alone, isolated and the only one with these feelings. It is when you start exploring others’ stories that you may feel an a-ha moment, or things may seem like they click.

One would venture to argue that many people are sometimes lost in a fog, and not sure what to do. Above was an example of a high schooler who is feeling like the military might be his only option, but if you read through the thread, it does appear that he has other ideas but just doesn’t know enough about them or doesn’t trust himself enough to look further in to them. And if the military is the right option for him, that is okay too.

“The ego is the human consciousness part of you. It was designed to ensure your security and survival. Unfortunately for many of us it has never relinquished its initial purpose. Instead, for many the ego became the master script writer and because of it, everything becomes a drama based on past happenings.” Beverly Blanchard

If you’re feeling in a fog, people may ask you:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What do you love doing that you can make money from?
  3. What company do you want to work for?
  4. Where do you want to live?
  5. Are you living for your resume, or for your obituary?

If there’s a screaming feeling inside that literally feels like you are going to BURST with all caps of “I DON’T KNOW”, then let’s take a breath and see what we can do to work with that. Here are some ideas that may be great activities for you to help move forward.

Kindly note, the first thing is to allow yourself TIME. You need some time to figure it out, do some research, look in to options, have conversations, possibly work experiences, maybe some inner soul searching and spiritual work. If you think you have to have this figured out right away, you may have already put a limit on yourself (sorry to be a buzzkill but you might need YEARS to figure out your purpose). You ideally need to figure out how to get from A to B, not A to Z right now.

  • Do some research on Design Thinking.
    Spend some time with a journal getting out some of your thoughts so you can move them from the emotional part of your brain to a more logical and rational place (usually once you’ve put something on paper or even said it out loud). You may like this Design Your Life workbook based on a Career Exploration class at Stanford where you explore your interests, and how they can align with work and your purpose. The workbook is great because it gives you writing prompts that help guide you (they also give ideas on how long to spend on an activity so it could be 10 minutes or 30 and you can decide if that is something you can do at that point in time). They also just released a book, Designing Your Work Life. How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work.
  • Make a simple list.
    Spend 5-10 minutes just writing out things you really like or love (no explanation, just the name of the item). There is no judgement to this list and nothing is too silly (Iced coffee, video games, tennis, music, dogs, photography, favorite subject(s) in school, friends, family, reading…) Walk away. Come back to it. Do any of these things give you clues on what type(s) of professions fascinate you? Then make a list of what you need to do from here (more school, internship, volunteering, pro-bono projects, part-time or full-time job). Stop and ask yourself how you can get more of these things in your day to day.
  • Consider yourself an Investigative Reporter, and talk to people about how they chose their areas of study and/or careers.
    The hope is that you are pleasantly surprised to hear many people have had this feeling and they moved forward anyway. They made decisions with the information they had, and their career and projects grew from there. This could help you recognize what is that next step you need to take.
    I would tell that high schooler to go meet with military recruiting offices and see what they have to say. I’d also suggest they reach out to mechanical engineers and learn about what they work on and what they had to do to get there. If they are unsure of how to find any, check out LinkedIn to start. Many people look at those that they consider to be successful and see where they ended up – often we miss the part of the story about what they had to do to get there. This is what we should be looking to uncover, and that may give us insights on what our next steps can be.
    In job searching, a great tool is conducting Informational Interviews and speaking with people that are in jobs that you think may interest you and they can tell you more real details. Whatever you find to be really intriguing and makes you want to know more about, that could be a good sign of a career/job you’re interested in. Ask them about education and skills requirements and take notes.
  • Consider your life like a flight of stairs.
    Each step is leading to the next one. You don’t have to know or see the entire staircase, and you may not even know what’s on the second floor.
  • Write your Eulogy.
    This sounds really morbid and maybe slightly is, but a plane doesn’t just take off on a flight plan without knowing where it’s going and landing. If you write out your eulogy, you may discover what you want to be remembered for, and start living a life that includes those types of efforts, endeavors, and projects. This also may take a little bit of pressure off of you that everything in your life will not be solely based on your job or career. Then, maybe hide it so your family doesn’t think you’ve lost your mind.

Whatever you do, please know you are not alone and the more you think everyone else has it all figured out, the better acting you are witnessing. Yes, there are people that have known what they wanted to do since they were little but even their job/career has had it’s twists and turns.

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Opinion Editorials

I was laid off, but then my position was filled, what can I do?

(EDITORIAL) Is it good form for your position to be replaced in the middle of a pandemic? No. Is it legal? Well, usually, but what can you do about it?

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If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being laid off, you might have found yourself revisiting your work place’s job posting to see what kind of ship they’re running in your absence–only to find that, instead of downsizing, your employer has filled your old position.

You would be well within your rights to question whether or not your employer screwed with you, and you might even consider contacting legal representation. Before you do, though, keep in mind that being laid off from a position due to budget cuts, and having that position cut entirely are two different things–and you might just be looking for a problem where there isn’t one.

After all, according to Evil HR Lady, this kind of process isn’t just legal–it’s actually pretty normal.

Yes, it’s normal to assume something sinister when you find yourself without a job that someone younger (and let’s not forget cheaper) than you is now doing.

But Evil HR Lady (a personality who, despite the title, seems absolutely benign) points out that seniority often plays a role in who stays and who pays: “[Imagine] there are five team leads, and the company decides to lay off one of the team leaders. This person has seniority over the people below him, so he takes the top remaining position and bumps that person out of their job…The position eliminated is Team Leader, but the person who loses his job is junior trainee.”

The above process is legitimate on paper, but the true take-away here should be that such a “replacement” might not be a replacement at all; downsizing is still downsizing, even if your position isn’t the one that is actually cut.

It is worth noting that the sheer volume of layoffs due to COVID-19 does leave some potential for system abuse. Under the cover of a global pandemic, it wouldn’t be unfeasible for a company to sneakily replace older employees with younger talent under the guise of downsizing, and even though the former employees would have a case for age-based discrimination, they might not think to make that case given the obvious context.

If nothing else, this phenomenon is a functional reminder to keep an eye on your workplace after you leave for a trial period–if for no other reason than to ensure that your employer isn’t trying to pull a fast one.

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