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Opinion Editorials

Fear and disappointment in real estate – back in the saddle

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Everyone of us go through periods in life where we experience disappointments. It is during those times that we personally grow the most. The problem is, is that during the time we are growing through them we don’t see the growth. We only experience the emotions. It takes getting through them to be able to look back and see the A- Ha moment.

In December I tweaked my Buyer Agents contract. Yes, I said tweaked. Most of it changed very little. The big part was on the commission splits I had with my team members. It changed by 10%.

I changed my contract because as primarily the listing agent I was paying for and doing all the marketing of the homes. If you or your Broker is doing a good job, then there is a ton of expense getting the exposure the home needs, both in time and money.

With the price point in Ann Arbor going down the last few years, when my agents turned in the Commission Reporting Form, I was walking away with a huge deficit in what I was spending to market the home and what they were walking away with for listing the home.

My conversation was, “You can market the home and we can keep the same split, or you can refer it to me, or the split must go down by 10%.”

I wish I could say that ended well.

It did not.

Tearing Down To Build Again

I’ve always applied the principal that when a construction company is building a new bridge over the water, you have to build the new bridge first. Once it is complete, then you tear down the old one.

Oh, I could have said, “hey guys, I’m sorry…we will keep things the same.”

But, I knew in my heart I couldn’t continue to work at a loss.

I knew as a Small Business Owner that it was not financially profitable to do that, so I let the proverbial wall fall down. I have always had a team but over the last couple of years it had grown due to the amount of internet leads we were acquiring, so I added more buyer agents to handle them.

Before each buyer agent was/is hired for the TEAM, I administered the DISC test to see if it would be a good fit. I also gave a 3 month trial period to continue to see if it was a good fit.

Disclosure: I am not a detailed person, I am a visionary. I do not want to and hate to micro-manage. Perhaps that is one reason why my first two team members are still with me.

As Realtors we are Independent Contractors, and self employed. I believe one reason people are attracted to our profession is because we like independence and are for the most part self motivated. Successful agents are find the drive and motivation within themselves.

Fear

The first thing that hit me was fear. What am I going to do with all these leads ? How can the few of us left possibly take care of them in a time frame that potential buyers need to be responded to?

So I went to work, reviewing the production of each buyer agent that left. There were only two, that made any significant money. When I looked at my net for the last few years, I realized that I was netting the same amount of money whether I had a large team or small team. In fact, when it was just me and an Assistant I was netting more.

By looking at the raw data…numbers don’t lie, I realized I could do it. The fear left.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not an absence of fear.”

Disappointment

Yes, I was disappointed in how some of them handled it. I have never understood how in our profession, agents pack up in the middle of night and leave. When I left my first brokerage I refused to participate in this unprofessional (juvenile) way that I had observed my first year in the business.

I sat down had an intelligent conversation first with my manager and then the broker owner.  After they realized my mind was made up, and I was convinced I could make more money and work more independently elsewhere I gave them the keys. Can I say they didn’t speak to me for 5 years, but now we are very friendly?

Back in the Saddle

Shortly after the mass exodus, one of my former team members that went to work in a 9-5 job to provide benefits for her child, called and said she wanted to come back. I welcomed her with open arms.

Just this week, another agent who had left my Brokerage (not team) called to say, he would like to get back into Real Estate. He had been doing mortgages for the last year and realized he didn’t like it.

So after doing the DISC test, I welcomed him to my team.

Lesson Learned

There are many lessons to be learned from this, the most important to me was about change. People don’t like change. I should have anticipated that. What seemed like a little tweaking to me, turned out to be HUGE to them.

I also learned that you must be willing to accept the results of any changes you make.

For me it meant build the bridge before tearing down the old one.

I still question myself if I should have just let the current team members stay at the current split and when I hired new ones changed it for the new ones. However,  I’ve always felt one of the big mistakes Brokers make is when they give different splits to different agents it hurts everyone overall.

Maybe not?

I guess it is OK, to second guess yourself.

We talk a lot in the blogosphere about raising the bar in real estate. How we treat other agents when they decide to move on, or how they move on is one area that definitely needs that bar raised.

If I want to let someone go, I don’t send an email. If someone wants to move on to bigger or better shouldn’t we step up to the plate and have the discussion.

Fear and disappointment are a part of life. It is up to us in how we face it, deal with and move on. It is not fun going through it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and a bridge can be built to the other side.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. Must be the longest post I have ever written.

Flickr Photo Credit

Written by Missy Caulk, Associate Broker at Keller Williams Ann Arbor. Missy is the author of Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk and Blog Ann Arbor, and is also the Director for the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and Member of MLS and Grievance Committee's.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. mikecampagna

    March 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I appreciate your transparency. It is a people business, isn’t it? ~ both out and in. ;D

  2. Gwen Banta

    March 15, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Missy, this is a great post. Your honesty serves as a reminder that we are all vulnerable – even seemingly fearless leaders like you. Your wonderful advice on how to handle those difficult moments we often face is not only appreciated, but truly admired. Your choices were grounded in intelligence, honesty, class, dignity, maturity and professionalism – which is why you will always be a leader in our industry

  3. Vicky

    March 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Thanks Missy! Things change much quicker now so we have to be the type of person & business that can accommodate those changes.

  4. Jeff Brown

    March 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Hey Missy — You’ve touched on a common theme in our business. Of all the commission-only jobs, the buyer-agent working for a team, seems to have the mindset of entitlement more often than ‘regular’ agents, who must generate their own business.

    It appears there was a sign on your forehead saying ‘Not For Profit’ or ‘Buyer Agent ATM’.

    Though I’ve never employed them, the idea of paying them more than 40% is anathema to me. In fact, 35% seems about right.They show up, get fed leads, then get paid four figures even in a $150,000 median market. Wanna make 80-100%? Show the courage to risk failure that Missy has demonstrated. They work on a team cuz they can’t or won’t generate their own leads. They’re literally a dime a dozen, while you, Missy, are a perfectly cut diamond.

  5. Missy Caulk

    March 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Gwen, thank you so much, made me smile. I have been swamped which is why I am just now getting back to the post.

    Jeff, you are so right, and I researched buyer agency contracts from both local team leaders and 3 in other parts of the country. I was definitely paying too much, and when I looked at the numbers it just didn’t make sense from a business perspective. All of the ones I reviewed did do a 35 to 45% split as the leads were handed to them. Thank you for your kind words.

  6. elizabeth cooper-golden

    March 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Missy, Oh girl, you did the right thing and I feel your pain as we speak! I’m so thankful that you wrote this tonight. I’ve been beating my head against a wall lately, overworked, tired and frustrated.

    I too decided that I was overpaying for the leads I was busting my hump to get for my agents, so I started charging a referral fee for each one. When I announced it, most were very upset. I told them they didn’t have to take the leads, get their own, lol. They aren’t my buyers agents.

    I just let 3 agents go Dec. 31st, and I, like you, have been scrambling trying to find the perfect agents to help my handle all of these leads. I am back up to 6, but need 4 more. Ugh. I’m going to start giving the DISC test as well…you are a genius!

    Don’t second guess yourself. You did the right thing and your new team will be stronger than ever 🙂 I have so much respect for you! See you in Nashville?

  7. Missy Caulk

    March 16, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Elizabeth we will have to have a phone call soon. But, as for ReBarNash, I overbooked, speaking in Lansing that day and accepted too long ago to back out.

    Talk soon!

  8. MH for Movoto

    March 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Missy – really great post. All that you say is true. And it is certainly natural to second-guess yourself – but it sounds like you have no reason to do so. Thanks for sharing your story!

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Opinion Editorials

Sci-fi alert: Building cities on quantum networks becoming reality

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Tech Lab has created quantum networks that demonstrate the possibilities for future cities.

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Quantum network connections in theoretical city at night time.

The University of Bristol is home to the largest quantum entanglement-based computer network in the world. Its Quantum Engineering Technology Lab, led by Dr. Siddarth Joshi, has been spearheading the development of a method of encryption called Quantum Key Distribution that may soon revolutionize information security.

First, what is quantum computing, exactly? (Giving a concise answer to that question is sort of like nailing jelly to a wall, but here goes…)

Much like a light switch, a conventional computer circuit can only be in one of two states at a time: On (1) or off (0). That’s basically how binary code works – by representing information as a series of discrete on and off signals, or high and low energy states.

Quantum computing makes use of a third kind of state that exists between those two.

Think about it this way: If classical, binary computing models rely on energy states of “yes” and “no” to communicate data, quantum computing introduces a state of “maybe.” This is because at the quantum level, the photons that make up the information in a quantum computer can exist in multiple places (or energy states, if you prefer) at once – a phenomenon known as “entanglement.”

Entangled photons cannot be observed or measured (i.e., tampered with) without changing their state and destroying the information they contain. That means quantum computer networks are virtually hack proof compared to traditional networks.

This is where Dr. Joshi’s team is changing the game. While previous attempts to build a secure quantum computer network have been limited to just two machines, the QET Lab has been able to establish a quantum encrypted network between eight machines over a distance of nearly eleven miles.

As Dr. Joshi puts it, “until now, building a quantum network has entailed huge cost, time, and resource, as well as often compromising on its security which defeats the whole purpose. […] By contrast, the QET Lab’s vision is scalable, relatively cheap and, most important of all, impregnable.”

If it can be successfully scaled up further, quantum encryption has countless potential civic applications, such as providing security for voting machines, WiFi networks, remote banking services, credit card transactions, and more.

In order for an entire population to be able to utilize a quantum network, fiber optic infrastructure must first be made accessible and affordable for everyone to have in their homes. In that sense, quantum cities are still roughly two decades away, posits Dr. Joshi. The technology behind it is very nearly mature, though. A simpler application of quantum encryption is practically right around the corner – think quantum ATMs in as few as five years.

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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to grow your entrepreneur business without shaming others

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.

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Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly. Maybe your entrepreneur business was set to thrive as behaviors changed (maybe you already offered contactless products and services). Or, you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. This has been tough.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and most likely at different stages than others. We’re at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and marketing outreach online. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that gives an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate. Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing ok. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.” I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different way of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Can we combat grind culture and injustice with a nap?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) A global pandemic and a climate of racial injustice may require fresh thinking and a new approach from what grind culture has taught us.

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Sleeping cat with plant, fighting grind culture.

Information is delivered to us at warp speed with access to television, radio, and the internet (and more specifically, social media). We are inundated with messages. Oftentimes they’re personalized by something that a friend or family shared. Other times we manage them for work, school, or just keeping up with news. Many entrepreneurs already wear many hats and burn the midnight oil.

During this global pandemic, COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in awareness and attention to social injustice and systemic racism. This is not a new concept, as we all know. But it did feel like the attention was advanced exponentially by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Many people and entrepreneurs felt called to action (or at least experienced self-reflection). And yet they were working at all hours to evolve their businesses to survive. All of this happening simultaneously may have felt like a struggle while they tried to figure out exactly they can do.

There are some incredible thought leaders – and with limited time, it can be as simple as checking them out on Instagram. These public figures give ideas around what to be aware of and how to make sure you are leveling up your awareness.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Antiracist Research – he has been studying anti-racism and has several books and interviews that help give language to what has been happening in our country for centuries. His content also delves into why and how white people have believed they are more than people of color. Here is a great interview he did with Brené Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast.

Tamika Mallory – American activist and one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She has been fighting for justice to be brought upon the officers that killed Breonna Taylor on March 13. These are among other efforts around the country to push back on gun control, feminist issues, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brené Brown – research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has been listening and engaging on how racism and our shame intersect. She also speaks about how people can reflect on themselves and where they can take action to better our society. She has some antiracism resources on her website.

With all of this information and the change in our daily routines and work habits (or business adjustments), what is a fresh approach or possibly a new angle that you haven’t been able to consider?

There is one social channel against grind culture that may not be as well-known. At an initial glance, you may even perceive this place as a spoof Twitter and Instagram that is just telling you to take a nap. But hold on, it’s actually much smarter than that. The description says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations. We install Nap Experiences. Founding in 2016.”

It might be a great time for you to check out The Nap Ministry, inspired by Tricia Hersey. White people are called to action, and people of color are expressly told to give time to taking care of themselves. Ultimately, it goes both ways – everyone needs the time to recharge and recuperate. But people of color especially are being told to value their rest more than the grind culture. Yes, you’re being told you need to manage your mental health and include self-care in your schedule.

Through The Nap Ministry, Tricia “examines rest as a form of resistance by curating safe spaces for the community to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, immersive workshops, and performance art installations.”

“In this incredibly rich offering, we speak with Tricia on the myths of grind culture, rest as resistance, and reclaiming our imaginative power through sleep. Capitalism and white supremacy have tricked us into believing that our self-worth is tied to our productivity. Tricia shares with us the revolutionary power of rest.” They have even explored embracing sleep as a political act.

Let this allow you to take a deep breath and sigh – it is a must that you take care of yourself to take care of your business as well as your customers and your community. And yes, keep your drive and desire to “get to work”. But not at your expense for the old grind culture narrative.

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