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Opinion Editorials

Fear and disappointment in real estate – back in the saddle



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.


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.”


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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  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

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.



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.



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!



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.

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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