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Opinion Editorials

Analysis of three types of Realtors: producers, improvers, blamers

There are many paths to success in the real estate industry, but over dinner as a young agent, my father gave me a reality check that ensured I never took the path of failure. There are many types of agents, and only one type is a failure.

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Success vs. failure in the real estate practice

When talking about success and failure in the real estate practice, I’ll begin by using myself as an example, as I don’t wish anyone to take offense. The facts of life, and the reality they construct, are often painful to acknowledge. Being brutal about myself is easy — now. Anywho, I hope we can all be honest with ourselves as a culture, and face facts as they are, good, bad, or ugly as the case may be. If reality is the building in which we hope to live, facts are the bricks giving it strength and durability.

I miss Grandma. Her wisdom was a never-ending source of learning and correction, not always a pleasurable process. The wisest, most kindhearted person I’ve ever known, she had the ability to cut through ignorant claptrap like mower blades through grass on a warm Saturday morning. Lookin’ back, it’s a wonder my picture didn’t end up next to the definition of the phrase, ignorant claptrap, in the dictionary. Facts were  often my sworn enemy. That’s the natural consequence when your ignorance is analogous to the bottomless pit of the black abyss.

Reality may be the first casualty of ignorance

Am I being too harsh on myself as a youngster? Not even close. Replacing ignorance with knowledge is the normal progression for most of us. For some it’s more painful than others. Human nature often dictates we wanna believe what we wanna believe.

Even though Grandma taught me tough lessons, she did so with a gentle heart. Knowing facts and the reality they deliver can be difficult pills to swallow, she sought to avoid adding to the discomfort. The learning/growing up process becomes harder as we age. Expectations increase. We’re expected to deal with things as they are. ‘Course if we all did that, denial wouldn’t have developed a cottage industry based upon treating it. But I digress.

Denial of reality makes us appear the fools we truly are

Licensed earlier than most, I was thrown into the deep end of the pool on Day 1. How green was I? I didn’t know enough to be nervous, much less scared. As a full time college student, my part time real estate hours were faux productive. I did what I was told, and listed properties. If memory serves, three of ’em sold outa the first 15 or so. Even that had to be due to a merciful God.

It was marvelous training though, as I learned rejection is rarely fatal. I also got to see, firsthand, what world class denial looks like. Though I learned to list property well, it turns out listing doesn’t necessarily mean selling. I learned this at the dinner table listening to an entirely different version of Grandma — that is, sans any fear of injuring my delicate feelings. Dad understood reality and the communication thereof. He cared not for subjectivity, excuses, or anything but results. There was no dishonor in failure, only in not facing the reasons for said failure, and refusing to adjust.

Fastest route to success: failure, and not in the cliché way

He taught me failure is nothing if not the quickest way to both learning and success. My bristling at his critiques of my performance didn’t phase him in the least. He was not a respecter of excuses. Those agents in his employ who complained about other agents being ‘lucky’ were fired on the spot. (Different days back then, as employers weren’t required by law to suffer fools. PC was still only a fantasy.) The idea was to produce results.

There were three kinds of agents: Those who produced results; those who were learning how to produce results; and those who blamed everyone but themselves for their inability to produce results.

The last had predictably short professional lifespans in Dad’s company. Even back then, late ’69 through the early 70s, he told me how the agent population ‘pie’ was divided. About 5-10% made the vast majority of the money. The rest of ’em fought over the scraps. I say fought, which is a misnomer. He never stopped pointing out how 80-90% of full time agents were barely worth the energy it took to fire them.

When I asked him at dinner one night why he was so cynical. so brutally critical, he responded with a very different tone of voice. It was soft, and yet it eerily intense. I’ve subsequently surmised that it was evidence of how intent he was on me grasping what he wanted me to understand. I’ll do my best to paraphrase.

Dad’s dinner speech:

“Facts are the bricks that build reality. Sometimes they make us feel badly about ourselves or our efforts. Sometimes we give them too much power. We can’t compare our first year in real estate brokerage with 10 year vets. But if those same 10 year vets aren’t doing far better than their rookie year, they need to find something else to do. The fact is, some refuse to work hard. Others work hard, but don’t have the capacity to work smart. Then there are those capable of working hard and smart, but chose not to. Their failures, according to them, were never the consequence of their own choices.

Wanna know why they don’t disappear sooner? It’s because their wives have full time jobs. (In those days, there were far fewer women licensees.) In fact, it’s been my observation that working wives are the backbone of the real estate industry. (The sarcasm was nearly tangible.)

Others succeeded, working at the desk just four feet away due to pure luck. They got the best ad calls. They knew more people, yadda yadda, blah blah. See, to admit the other guy produced superior results simply due to his hard work, and effective learning curve, leaves the failed agent with no defense. Therefore, luck must be the answer.

So when I tell you not to make excuses when failing to list or sell something, I’m not saying you’re a failure. I’m saying to consciously learn from the experience. Become better from it, then move on. Failure isn’t personal, it’s merely a fact. The only real losers in life are those who won’t face reality, forcing those in their orbit to conform to their personal fantasy. Don’t be that person. Keep failing right up to the point of success.

It’s the way reality works. The facts of failure are the bricks building your success. Embrace reality. Don’t be like the average agent who thinks talking about reality is negative. The vast majority of real estate agents fail almost before they begin. I know you think I’m unnecessarily caustic or rude because I constantly remind you of the failure surrounding you. But the alternative to boldly recognizing the facts, and therefore reality for what it is, makes you just another excuse generator.

The refusal to acknowledge facts and the reality they create is the mentality of a loser. Losers don’t like anyone openly recognizing the fact that 8-9 of every 10 agents fail themselves completely out of the business almost before people learn their names. They were there Friday, then were never heard from again. It’s called reality, Son. Nothin’ more, and nothin’ less.

Be brutally honest with yourself when you fail, and your learning curve will be relatively short. Refuse what the facts clearly convey and you’ll not only fail, you’ll be thought of as a fool.”

The loud echo of a wakeup call

The few minutes it took for me to hear those words at dinner that night, had a profound affect on my thinking from that point on. Did I mention that my wife of just a few months was sitting next to me? To make it worse, that conversation took place the day after I was told this by a tax preparer.

“Mr. Brown, it would’ve been better if you hadn’t worked at all.”

My wife was sitting next to me then, too. Talk about reality. Little did I know she was gonna be called ‘the backbone of real estate’ just a day later by my own dad.

Grandma used to say experiences like that, were wakeup calls. The master of understatement. It woke me up, and I was never the same. Results became the reason I got up in the morning. Excuses became the scourge of my existence. Failure needs no excuse. It just is. Recognize it for the blessing it is, and learn from it.

Facts aren’t offensive, and saying them aloud isn’t out of line. Attacking those openly  declare facts says volumes about the speaker.

Don’t make excuses — make good.

To those refusing to admit the reality of the real estate brokerage business, I refer you to both Ron White and Bill Engval, quoting each.

The former famously said, “Ya can’t fix stupid.”

But I prefer the latter — “Here’s your sign.”

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Dan Corkill

    April 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Some pretty awesome words of wisdom. Facing the truth always makes you stronger.

  2. Matt Thomson

    April 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Something that I think most agents miss (I know I did my first 3+ yrs in the business and still have to re-learn from time to time) is that this business is hard. It’s just hard. There are times that making money seems so easy, failure seems a thing of the past, that you just put it on cruise control.
    Then reality hits, you look for someone/something to blame ’cause it was easy just a few months ago so there’s no way you can be the problem. Then you remember it’s hard, pick yourself up, and go again.
    I think too many forget that last step.

    • Jeff Brown

      April 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Can always tell an experienced, scarred, vet. 🙂 Most of the so-called ‘easy’ stuff is really part of the crop we planted who knows when. It comes from the belief sayin’, “Seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

  3. Hank Miller

    April 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Good article – the key points your Dad made remains the same; there are far too many folks in this business that don’t earn a living from it. Having that spouse is like having a reserve chute…when there’s no back up you tend to focus and go all in.

    Agents also need to have the ability to not once accept rejection, sometimes they need to initiate it. I’ve cut ties with many clients over the years the second that I realized they were non committal or were simply wasting my time. All we have is our time and it needs to be maximized if we’re to be successful.

    As my Uncle used to say; “a washing machine works hard, you need to work smart too”

  4. Augusta Real Estate.

    April 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Good read and quite accurate. Some agents can’t get past the rejection on a phone call and tend to never make them. If they would just make the call and find out for themselves……….

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

The one easy job interview question that often trips up applicants

(EDITORIAL) The easiest interview questions can be the hardest to answer, don’t let this one trip you up – come prepared!

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Women sitting nervously representing waiting for a remote job interview.

A job interview is tough, and preparing for them can seem impossible. There are some questions you can expect: what is your experience in this position? How would you handle this situation? And so on.

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But what about this question: what makes you happy? Though it may seem straightforward, getting to the right answer is not such an easy path.

Work engagement

According to research, less and less employees feel like they are truly engaged at work. Some blame the work environment but truth be told, it is not a company’s responsibility to make you happy.

Without a passion for what you are doing, you will never enjoy the job.

It is the best case for everyone. More engaged workers are more productive in addition to feeling like they serve a purpose.

Do your due diligence

So before finding yourself in an interview where you have to take an awkward pause before answering this question, the best thing is to do some research. It all starts with the job search.

When looking for a job it is easy to get caught up in high profile company names and perks.

For instance, although “Social Media Coordinator” may not be your thing, the position is open at the cool advertising agency downtown. Or perhaps the company offers flexible hours and free lunch Fridays. The problem is that these perks aren’t worth it in the long run. Working for a cool company can be exciting at first, but it is not sustainable without passion for the position.

It’s important to pay attention to is the position you are applying for.

Is this work that you are passionate about? Take a look at the job responsibilities and functions. Besides figuring out if those are things that you can do, ask yourself if they are things that you want to do. Is this an opportunity that will match your strengths and give you purpose?

Let your passion protrude

With all things considered, when asked “what makes you happy” at the next interview, you will be able to answer honestly. Your passion will be apparent without having to put on an act.

Even if they don’t ask that question, there is no downside to knowing what makes you happy.

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