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Focus on Connection

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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.

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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

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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Opinion Editorials

Do these 3 things if you TRULY want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) We understand diversity helps and strengthens our companies, and individual teams. But how can you be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce?

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Two women at meeting table discussing working in tech.

More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps, and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

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