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Left Behind

Nope, I didn’t go to Inman…I feel like an outsider. Unfortunately I had too many other commitments already and just couldn’t make it. Last week I had project deadlines, three days of teaching and none of it seemed to be in the same part of the state. From there I was home for one day and then off to Chicago to take some training of my own. All the while, I’ve kept up with my family by text messaging, Skype, instant message, twitter and occasionally the phone. I’ve stayed in touch with friends, by Facebook, Twitter and well… much the same as my family. My entire time of traveling, I couldn’t really enjoy it. Too many needs from the office, too many meetings that I had to stage for other people to deliver information I had, and far too little connection with my family.

What has this to do with Real Estate

I am starting to see a trend that is worse than what I say five years ago. Too many people in this business are loosing focus of what’s really important. During my trip, my wife asked on Twitter if anyone knew where I was (I was seeing the Dark Knight – which is really cool BTW – and had my cell phone off) that inquiry, as innocent and practical as it was to my wife, bothered me. I got to thinking and realized that there are many of us in this business, regardless of what your job is in the industry, have to be tracked down. Our connections online shouldn’t know more about us than our family or clients. Our offices have to hunt us, our clients, our brokers… and yes our family seem to be trying to locate us at all times. The tragedy here is that the information and communication overload that many of us are suffering and beginning to make us prioritize information as one single level. Communication is beginning to eliminate priority of things and individuals in our lives.

What’s Important

In watching some of us interact, I’ve seen that we’re taking our friendships online very seriously, and I’m not arguing that its not a good thing. Relationships are important. However, my connection with my family and my primary career responsibilities need to become a bigger priority again. My wife is an amazing woman, fun to be around and patient. She’s very supportive, but I can feel that I have not given her enough consideration and undivided focus. My kids have had to ask one too many times, as of late for me to play with them; and each time I’ve had to decline to work on some project or another to endless hours of the night. Many of you as agents, have expressed how many of your clients have had to track you down and get information, and that even in a slow market; you’re still too busy to balance all the balls in the air. Yes, I can Twitter and Skype while working on that project, but if I just turned it off…just for a bit…I could get the project done faster and perhaps have more time to invest into family.

Shift in Focus

I really want to challenge everyone to take some time and write (yes on paper with a writing utensil) out your priorities, match up the time commitment to each and see where you can fit in your social media addictions. Many of us see this platform for the great value that it really has and a wonderful marketing tool. However, many are putting a lot of time into “marketing” and not enough into other equally or more important tasks. Perhaps it’s just me, but I need to focus on priority and balance again. My wife and family are far more important than the job or farming of virtual friends.

Please excuse the indulgence, but I know that this issue is affecting many in our business, I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks lately and knowing that I’m not alone is important.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Interesting topic. See, I personally hear all ends of the spectrum from “I really need to use my Twitter more” or “I’m addicted to the Interwebs and can’t detach from the computer.” If you’ve made connections online like the ones Ginger recently wrote about, your chances of being online frequently increase.

    Priorities do have to be made though- we recently resolved to have a daily “shut off” time, @ResPres unplugs on Sundays (unless twittering pics of his travels) and others I’ve heard have a set time they spend online daily. I believe your time spent online directly correlates with your goals (for ex: my goals include local real estate, a mommy blog and AG so I am on quite a bit as I don’t have to have face time with clients since I’m new media, not a practitioner).

    Matt, knowing you personally, I can safely say that it sounds like you (and some of our friends) need Social Networking Rehab run by @sass (@andykaufman introduced us to him at SXSWi last spring)- he’s a great guy and he has a bed waiting for you….

  2. teresa boardman

    July 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Matt –

    I don’t have time for all the online social networking with other agents and don’t understand where other people find the time. I love talking to them but I have a business to run and a family too.
    Unfortunately no one every has to hunt me down, I am way too accessible and am learning to disconnect when I have had too much. I am finding that I am reaching the “too much” point much more often than I used to. I may have to disconnect for longer periods of time, like days or weeks.

  3. Matt Thomson

    July 30, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Probably the best post I’ve read on AG. I’ve been singing this same song in our office, as WAY too many agents seem to think real estate is a 24/7 job. To some, maybe it is, but at our company at least it is not meant to be…it is meant to be a business that you control.
    All of our online networking makes me worried what types of relationships my daughter (now 10 months old) will have as she grows up. I want her to play and interact personally, but it seems folks are moving away from that. Something my wife and I intentionally model.
    If you get a chance to attend a Quantum Leap seminar in your area, GO! It’ll be 2 days of reshifting your focus that you won’t forget. Yes, it is a KW sponsored event, but no, it has nothing to do with KW. It’s for any business professional who needs to re-prioritize.
    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Benn Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:49 am

    So okay, I know that anytime I turn off my phone, my professional world stops- therefore, I don’t do it. On occasion I might for a movie, but wouldn’t an addict twitter such an event and say “seeing batman!”

    It sounds to me like you personally just needed to shut down for a minute much like your phone and maybe there’s a deeper issue here we’re not seeing, but I’ll be honest- everything connected SM is funneled through to the phone, so if you wanted to disappear, you would simply turn it off. There are times to escape, and times you probably shouldn’t.

  5. Julie Emery

    July 30, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Great well thought out post. I’ll admit to struggling with this as well as with the overall balance between work and home. When I came into this business I had an agreement with Mike that for three years it would be heads down, work all the time to build a business. At that point I felt like I would have built something that would be sustainable with more normal work hours. And, that was just starting to happen and it felt great! Then the market came to a screeching halt and it felt like the only thing to do was to go back to all work, all the time.

    By the way, it’s not just the SM that sucks me away from real people. There’s the reading and research in order to have something pertinent to say in my blog. And, I’ve got lots of excuses, but you’re right, I need to focus on priorities.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Lani / Benn: The issues of priorities aren’t really new for me. I’ve nearly abandoned my family in pursuit of my career in the past and resolved not to do it again. However, I’ve heard from several agents recently complaining that they are so many places, that they aren’t anywhere. I’ve recently narrowed my activities in the social media world to just a few blogs and tools. Consolidation has been my trick. You’re right… I hadn’t “disappeared” in some time. I’ve been taking necessary steps this week.

    An example is that I am suppose to be preaching at church on Sunday and It’s Wednesday and I haven’t even picked a topic….

    Teresa – I’ve recently found that one day of disconnecting has done wonders for a week or two. I don’t get easily overwhelmed, but at times serving various masters starts impacting me.

    Matt – thanks for reading. I’ve never been big on coaching seminars, motivational etc. However, my wife is a fantastic encourager and motivator. That and my friends on-line help me keep up, but there are times when I feel that we all drift too far one way or another. Whatever anchors us is a great source of focus.

    Julie – I wanted to ramble more in the post about things other than just SM, but the post was lengthy already. I wanted to lump in just what you were saying about the research and other things. Social Media is just one small distraction from the real priorities. Fine tuning, yet one more training or presentation, when it really was OK has got my OCD firing on all cylinders…

  7. Dan Connolly

    July 30, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I have found myself in the same boat, having to work harder in this soft market and having more to do in the way of Social Media, blogging etc. The only way I can deal with the integration of family life and business life is to schedule the family commitments and hold to them as rigorously as I do to my business appointments. Generally when I am out with clients, I don’t answer the phone every 5 minutes, out of respect for their time, and I return the missed calls later. Why would I treat my family any differently than some client who may or may not ever buy something?

    I think part of the trick in keeping the respect of your clients is not acting like every request has to be answered immediately. An agent who used to dominate a high end market here, had a slogan “We aren’t just sitting around down here waiting for your call”. Another agent I know who sold several hundred homes a year told his clients not to bother him, he wasn’t calling them with feedback, he was too busy trying to sell their house.

  8. Kelley Koehler

    July 30, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I have a family? Oh wait – is that the dude in my bed every night? Ah yes. I remember him now. I think I had a conversation with him last week, something about not having any more clean clothes. Uh-oh, did I promise to do laundry? I’ll have to check my schedule, I may have that penciled in somewhere…

    A virtual hug is still a hug, people.

    (I’m only entertaining myself with that, aren’t I?)

    There’s some benefits to having and working with hubby at home, an arrangement that works well for both of us. Time together is always only 32 steps away.

  9. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Eric: Hi Everyone. My name is Eric.

    AG Readers: Hi Eric!

    …grin

    Eric

  10. monika

    July 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I can relate to what your feeling. I try real hard to limit my time and often find it overwhelming when there are so many new posts I want to read. For example this week alone there were several new posts on AG alone…multiple posts every day. I found it overwhelming so I just stayed away. I jump in and out of Twitter all day and follow links and then find myself invloved somewhere else. It’s all too much and I know it.
    I’m lucky as my hubby works with me and is as addicted as I am and we often sit together with laptops open at night…but we need to shut off more often. To that end I started limiting my on line time and prioritizing my real time. So far so good and you know what? I’m not really missing anything at all. Finding a balance is crucial.

  11. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Matthew,

    I equate RE, techtoys and stuff to riding a bike. Too slow, you fall off. Too fast you crash. The space in between is what makes for a nice ride.

    Being somewhat irreverant I have found that Nothing, Absolutely Nothing in real estate is that urgent or more important than your well being. If the buzz of RE messes up your ride just stop, leave all the toys in the basket, go for a walk and refocus on life. If this causes some folks to get cranky, well TFB!

    Real estate comes and goes. You got one life and there is nothing like sunshine, wine, cheese and your main squeeze that will make it more pleasant.

  12. Chuck G

    July 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Larry — Nicely said 🙂

    Matthew,

    I look at this from another perspective. I came from the high-tech industry before I made the jump into RE. This is what I do NOW that I could NOT do before:

    1) Drive my kids to school every day (with very few exceptions)
    2) Go on all of their field trips( ditto)
    3) Have dinner with the family every night (ditto)
    4.) Occasionally go home and have lunch with the “squeeze” as Larry puts it.
    5.) Coach an occasional soccer team
    6.) Dictate my own schedule.

    You get the point. I feel the same pressure to stay on top of the information tidal wave and produce results as the next guy (or gal.) But don’t ever lose site of the fact that you have the power to “re-connect” as much or as little as you want. What you do with that power is entirely a matter of C-H-O-I-C-E.

    I’ve been on the other side, and you have no idea how lucky we all are to have that choice.

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Eric: I took me a full minute to get the reference…LOL

    Monika: Jennifer and I aren’t unique?!?!?! Darn it… Yep, we do the whole laptop side-by-side thing almost every night and skype all day. It’s cool when we’re watching a movie or the in-laws are over, so that we can share without interrupting. Luckily, she’s just as geeky as I am 🙂

    Larry: VERY COOL! That’s a great analogy and perspective.

  14. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    FWIW- Matthew, I totally agree with you… i just had to have a little fun with our generations info-addiction. I also had to admit that I am as hooked as anyone.

    The first step is admitting that you have a problem…(grin)

    Great post.

    Eric

  15. Vance Shutes

    July 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Matthew,

    I believe it was one of the brilliant writers here at AG that once wrote how important it is that we look at ourselves in the mirror sometimes. You’ve captured the essence of the “man in the mirror” with this post.

    >”…write (yes on paper with a writing utensil)”

    This is a great suggestion. And yes, we joke about it, but it’s true. Nobody ever put on their gravestone “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Thoughts like that should make it a bit easier to write out our priorities. No matter the impact on our business income.

  16. Ginger Wilcox

    July 31, 2008 at 8:27 am

    I am a social media addict. I will stand up and admit it! I love my twitter and my countless blogs, and clearly I feel passionately about the relationships that I believe can develop online. With that said, there is definitely something to say about focusing and shutting it off. When I am do stuff with my kids, I need to shut it off and focus my attention on them. When I am with clients, I also need to shut it off. (although I find sitting around waiting at things like inspections are a great time to catch up my tweets!)

    Most of my social networking tends to be early in the morning or late at night because I do have to focus on what I need to do in my business during the day. It is ok to turn your twhirl off during the day, and I think setting personal boundaries is the key step..

    I spend a lot of time networking off the computer through various organizations that I participate in, and again, that is the time to focus.

    Balance is the key. I schedule “appointments” with my children that are uninterrupted- no twitter, no telephone, no crackberry email just as I do with my clients. It is all about boundaries.

    No I have to go tweet about this.

  17. Rich Jacobson

    July 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Your wife was tracking you down on Twitter? Wow! My wife is still just trying to figure out the whole ‘blogging’ thing.

    Matthew: Your point here is painfully accurate. I must confess that I spend entirely way too much time with social networking, in part because of my role with AR, but just in general. Add to that the responsibilities I have with my clients, it leaves very little time for the relationships that should be a higher priority. I’m reaching for my yellow pad as soon as I finish this comment….thanks for the attitude adjustment!

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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).

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bullet journal

It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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Opinion Editorials

The perfect comeback to that earnest MLM guy you meet at every coffee shop

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all been cornered by someone that wants to offer us financial freedom for joining their pyramid scheme, but we typically freeze or just reject them. There’s another way…

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The following editorial was penned by Chris Johnson who offers the perfect comeback to that stranger who approaches you in Starbucks or that person you haven’t talked to since high school that wants to discuss your financial freedom:

Last week, I was at Starbucks, doing some marketing work. This was apparent to all who could view my laptop by the big 72 type “Marketing” headline that I was working on in my browser.

A man sharing a table, with no apparent laptop of his own, was taking interest in what I was doing. He was mid-40s and he was ambiently stalking and sizing everyone around him up. He was swallowing and always “about to talk.”

Finally, after I looked up to collect my thoughts, he broke my reverie.

“Are you in marketing?”

See, our man (Justin was his name) had just stated a business, an e-commerce business. He was vague on his details.

I knew where this was going. We all know.

Anyone that’s ever worked from a Starbucks has met Justin.

Justin mentioned a couple of his relatives, also with businesses. And, without asking what type of clients I serve, told me that they’d be a great fit for me. He’d love to introduce me, if we could just exchange contact info.

I knew exactly what he was doing. As God as my witness, I knew the only place where this interaction would possibly go. I wasn’t, not for a minute, fooled by the promise of referrals that would never happen.

Of course, I give it to him, not because I think there’s any hope that this will work out. But because I want to know. We exchange texts, and I save his contact info.

He excuses himself and gets into his 2002 rusty Kia, and drives off.

The next day, I get a call with the ID: MLM GUY STARBUCKS 2019.

“Chris, we met at Starbucks,” he says, “This is Justin. And I was wondering if you were open to financial opportunities for your family.”

Well, knock me over with a feather. This was such a surprise.

Without a plan in my head, I said “Justin, are you in the Amway organization? Because if so, I have been waiting for your call.”

Justin confirmed that yes, he was in Amway. And he was really glad!

“Justin, I’ve got some great news for YOU, would you like to hear about it?”

“Sure,” he goes.

“OK, well, you have to be open – and committed – to improving your relationship with Amway. Is that something you’re open to right now?”

“Yes,” he said, “Definitely.”

“Great. So let me tell you about what I do with the Amway people I meet. See, I’ve made a really profitable career out of helping them, and it’s turned into the focus of my life.” This is, of course, a lie, but we were even because Justin got my phone number on the pretext of referring me business.

“OK, so the deal is this. One of the problems with Amway is that it turns you into someone that has to monetize all of your family and friends. And when that happens, you become less about the relationship, and more about the money. Has that happened to you?”

“Yes. Yes it has.” Justin admits.

“Yes, great, this is what we’re hearing.”

The words tumbled out of my mouth: “See all over America there are Amway distributors, just like you. They are chained to various Starbuckses. This is the old model, there’s simply no freedom.

They have to fight tooth and nail to get appointments and most of ’em don’t go anywhere. For most of the Amway owners, this isn’t working once they pitch all their friends and all their family.

So I’ve created an organization called Amway Freedom. All you have to do is sign up. By signing up, you agree to automatically pay $5.00 per month to me, to be free of Amway.

But the REALLY good news is that you can sign OTHER people up, and keep half of the money for your family and your freedom. And when they sign up, half goes to support the reps, and the other half goes to support your opportunity!

From what I hear, over 1.5 million Americans signed up for Amway at some point. Tell me, Justin, if you got just 1% of that market – 15,000 people to pay you $5.00 a month without you having to do anything, would that change your life?

Would $75,000 per month change your life?”

Justin said “Um, well, this isn’t really what I was think-”

“Look Justin, this isn’t for everyone. I know that. Most people won’t be able to take advantage of this opportunity. They only think of the problems. They can’t imagine how this could work, a business with no merchandise and freedom.

But, Justin, you’re helping people get free of the endless random meetings… the Starbucks bills… the gas expenses. You’re turning your story of struggle into a story of success. Are you ready, Justin?

This is my business,” I said, “And this is what I want for you, Justin. Are you ready to join your challenge and fight for the freedom of 1.5 million people that have tried Amway?”

“Um…” Justin said. “I just don’t.”

“I see. This might not be working for you, Justin, and that’s 100% OK. Take all the time you need. But, if you sign up today, I’ll offer you the EXCLUSIVE market rights to help free people from Younique, Herbalife, Infinitus and over 30 other household brands. That makes a market – just in America – of 20 million Americans! Doesn’t that sound great, Justin? If you captured just 1% of that, that’s 200,000. And that business would earn 1 million every MONTH.

All without products to store, all while helping people.

Will you be paying with a Visa or Mastercard?”

Justin paused for a moment. “This was a waste of my time,” he finally said.

“You don’t really have a business!” he spat.

Well done, Justin, well done indeed.

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Opinion Editorials

Culture can be defined by what employees don’t say

(OPINION) What your employees say defines your business. What your employees don’t say defines your culture.

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Whether the boss realizes or not, employees – the folks who often manufacture, handle, and sell the products themselves – can see sides of the business that management could easily overlook, including potential risks and improvements. So how do you make sure your employees are speaking up? A new study by Harvard researcher Hemant KakkarSubra Tangirala reveals that when it comes to speaking up, your company culture is probably either encouraging or discouraging it.

Tangirala wanted to compare two theories as to why employees choose to stay quiet when they could share their worries or ideas with company management. The “personality perspective” presumes that shy, reticent employees simply don’t have the gumption to speak up; therefore, the way to get more perspective from your employees is to make a point to hire extroverted people.

Meanwhile, the “situational perspective” posits that the company culture may either be encouraging and even expecting employees to speak up or discouraging it by creating an environment wherein employees “fear suffering significant social costs by challenging their bosses.”

In order to test these two theories against one another, Tangirala surveyed nearly 300 employees and 35 supervisors at a Malaysian manufacturing plant. First, the survey measured each employee’s “approach orientation,” that is whether or not, all things being equal, they had a personality more inclined to speaking up or staying mum. Next, employees were asked whether they thought their input was expected, rewarded, or punished. Lastly, supervisors were asked to rank the employees as to how often they spoke up on the shop floor.

The survey showed that both personality and the work environment significantly influenced whether or not an employee would speak up – however, it also showed that environmental factors could “override” employees’ natural inclinations. In other words, if employees felt that they were expected or would be rewarded for speaking up, they would do so, even if they aren’t naturally garrulous. On the other hand, even the most outspoken employees would bite their tongues if they thought they would be punished for giving their opinion.

The study also identified two major areas wherein employees could be either encouraged or discouraged from sharing their perspective. First, employees can be encouraged to suggest improvements or innovations that will increase workplace safety and efficiency. Secondly, employees should be expected to speak up when they witness dangers or behaviors that could “compromise safety or operations.”

Although the study was limited, it seems to point towards the importance of creating a workplace culture wherein your employees are rewarded for speaking up. Doing so could potentially provide you with invaluable insights into how to improve your business – insights that can only come from the shop floor.

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