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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

The *actual* reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. So it is easy to see why they are so popular now

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startups meeting

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When an employee can find themself personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits of the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth, thus allowing them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters; instead, it’s a clue that work environments which facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

People saying “I love you” at work casually – yay or nay?

(EDITORIAL) Is saying “I love you” in the workplace acceptable in the current harassment and lawsuit climate? Let’s take a look at the factors.

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love shared

Anyone who works in “The Office” knows sometimes there is a failure to communicate. Per email conversation, context can get lost in translation.

So, why then, in the age of the Me Too Movement, are coworkers saying: I Love You?

I’m guessing it’s thanks to our digital lifestyle?

No, I’m not a Boomer. Thank you very much. That’s a different editorial. But, I’ve been working since way back in the day. A time when we wore tennis shoes with nylons. Wait, that’s still a thing?

Alas, I digress.

If we consider the culture of work, particularly in the case of some start-ups, it’s not uncommon for there to be beer in the workplace, casual dress – meaning you have clothes on – and possibly a more youthful expectation around communication.

So, f*ck yeah, dude, I love you!

With the use of workflow apps like Slack, where people can text you – while on the toilet, no less. I mean, who hasn’t told a colleague, “OMG! You are a f@cking ?” after dealing with a challenging situation/customer/boss/client and that colleague comes to the rescue.

Just me? Oops.

Maybe it started back with the I Love You Man commercial, which also became the title of a bromance.

If the bros can have their bromance, then why can’t we all say those three words in the workplace?

I’m not gonna spoil the party and say never. I’m just going to suggest some things are better left unsaid.

First, words are powerful.

Because this is the era of Me Too, it’s easy for there to be misinterpretation. What if a woman says it to a male colleague. A boss says to a much junior employee.

Can you say harassment?

One of my former managers didn’t even like me saying her name. I can’t imagine what she’d do if I said: “I love you.”

But, here’s a real reason. People are happy with us one day and not the next.

Keeping it chill and professional is important. For example, I once called my co-worker – and very good friend – a nasty Spanish word and it almost resulted in a knife fight. What I learned is one day you are joking around and your friend isn’t.

Second, a laissez-faire attitude toward communication can become second nature. You can’t be accidentally telling your client, you love them, now can you? I mean, beyond being authentic, those words mean a lot to some people, just tossing them about shows a real lack of judgment and can result in an extremely negative response.

Which leads me to my last point.

“Et, tu Cheryl”

One company I worked at hired Gallup to do a survey of staff. One of the questions was about having a work BFF, which is important in the workplace. Often we have our work husband or wife or sister, even. We all need someone we can lean on.

In the workplace, depending on the culture and environment, it may be a good place to keep it 100 or, if too toxic, a better place to fake it. Even people who seem to be on your side might be just waiting to pounce.

Get too close, say the wrong thing and Cheryl gets your office with the window and the red stapler too.

All I’m saying is keep it real, but maybe not too real.

Oh, and btw, I <3 U.

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Opinion Editorials

Audi paves the way for how to thoughtfully reduce a workforce

(BUSINESS NEWS) Audi has a new electric car plan that will eliminate 9,500 employees…but in a shocking twist, we’re not even mad. WATT’s going on here?

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Audi E-tron

12 billion motivational posters/yoga tops/specialty ziploc bags can’t all be wrong: Positive change always comes with loss.

For German Audi workers, the company shifting gears to focus on manufacturing electric vehicles will see employee losses to the tune of 7.5k people being Audi of a job there. In the next five years, another 2,000 jobs are expected to get the axe as well.

So they should be panicking, right? Audi workers should mask up and be out in the streets?

Well, considering the general state of the world, yes. But if we’re isolating to just this change, no!

See, Audi’s not actually shoving people out of the door to make room for younger, sexier, more fuel-efficient staff. The jobs they’re cutting are going to be cut due to employees leaving on their own for different pastures and retirement. As in, no one’s getting laid off through 2029.

Now there’s an electric slide I can get behind!

Audi’s top brass, in an Ohm-My-God twist (see what I did there), actually sat down with worker reps and talked this move out. This kinder, gentler, distinctly NON-assy arangement will save the company over 6.6 billion dollars over the next decade, and all of that cash is going to boogie-woogie-woogie into their ‘lightning car development’ piggy banks.

Yay for them!

And yay for us.

See, Germany has a (recent) history of not being horrible to their employees. It’s why Walmart’s attempt to claw its way into Deutschland went up in so much smoke. And that history is accompanied by a reputation for stunningly positive change for everyone from white tie to black apron.

With a brand as giant, trusted, and drooled over as Audi is managing to conduct massively profitable business without schwantzing anyone over, everyone here in the US has a shining example to point to and follow when making massive company moves.

Notably, Tesla, America’s favorite electric car company is almost cartoonishly anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-running dress rehearsals on expectation/glass shattering exhibitions. The prevailing thought is that it’s a necessity to be some kind of moustache twirling villain to get ahead because so many businesses insist upon it.

But that chestnut cracks here.

No more ‘Businesses exist to make money’ excuses. No more ‘You have to be ruthless to get ahead’ BS. Those selective-sociopathy inducing phrases never made any sense to begin with, but now, we’ve got a shining example of towering projected #GAINZ for a company doing right by its people without a single head rolling on the factory floors or a single decimal point moved left in the ledgers.

Ya done good, Audi.

Here’s hoping more businesses stateside follow in your tire tracks.

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