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Opinion Editorials

I Hate Business Expenses, But …



I love cost of sale.

Our business is run as lean as possible (to yield the most possible profits…) and one way that we do this is by making MOST of our “business expenses” actually “costs of sale” … meaning that if for some crazy reason a deal doesn’t close, we only pay out a wee bit o’cash.

Often, we get asked how our team “works” … so here is a breakdown of how WE (currently) use “Cost of Sale” in our “Rock Star” real estate team:

Our Team

Buyer Agents: They only get a check if they make the deal happen. Motivation to work hard to make things Rock and Roll.

Listing Manager: Small “fixed” expense for each listing that gets initiated, and a percentage of the commission when the listing sells. Motivation to aggressively price and promote our listings.

Short Sale Advocate: Small monthly salary and “dain bramage fansaction trees” for each deal closed. Motivation to schmooze the banks and get these puppies CLOSED.

Lead Coordinator: Paid purely at time of successful close. Motivation to keep Buyer Agents accountable throughout the entire process.

Transaction Coordinator: Paid purely at time of successful close. Motivation to NOT let a contract fall apart.

We believe that we have some of the BEST talent in the local industry  – super motivated, productive, successful (and held accountable). … and one of the reasons that they ARE so awesome is because they are nicely rewarded … but they EARN it, just like we do … at time of close.

I love cost of sale.

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

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  1. Craig Ernst

    November 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm


    This is a great example of the smart way to run any business. In terms of total expenses, minimize your fixed expenses and maximize your variable expenses (those tied to actual increases in revenue and production).

    So many businesses (and agents!) go broke because their fixed expenses are too high or even out of control. And too many agents don’t even understand the difference between the two types of expenses.


  2. Jim Gatos

    November 22, 2008 at 4:58 am

    I hope your transaction coordinator is a licensed agent.. So many aren’t and they should be on straight salary, otherwise it’s illegal…

  3. Mariana the Wagner

    November 22, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Craig – Thank you. We spent plenty of years doing thing the other way.

    Jim – Yes she is, but another way around that is if the TC is an Independent contractor and doing TC work for more than one team/agent.

  4. Missy Caulk

    November 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I’d love to know how you use the listing coordinator in greater detail. That will be my next step.
    Sounds like they are doing the CMA’s and meeting with the clients.

    I’d like to know how you do that and they don’t want to meet with you and Derek?

    I know it is all in explanation but what do you actually say?

  5. Mariana the Wagner

    November 22, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Missy – She is our Listing “Manager” and is in charge of all the online and offline marketing and seller contact AFTER we take the listing, all the way up to the home going under contract. She also draws up our listing contracts and disclosures and maintains the showing feedback.

    Derek and I are the ones who do the CMAs, goes to the listing appointments and negotiates all offers. At this time, we are still a very involved part of our business.

    I hope that helps clarify things…

  6. Missy Caulk

    November 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Ok thanks that is pretty much what I do; although I still take the photos, I’m too picky.

  7. Paula Henry

    November 23, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Mariana –

    Sounds like you have a great team, part of which is knowing your expenses! I too share a TC and it works great for both teams.

  8. Steve Beam

    November 23, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Great insight. It sure helps get over the brick wall of starting a team.

    My biggest hurdle has always been worrying about payroll or over head.

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Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?




Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well;, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.



abusive boss

Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.




A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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