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RE Moments

Must Have a Plan . . .

Zzzzsteak01It started yesterday when I met a friend, and Realtor for a quick cup of coffee. We ended up talking about business. Predictable, we are both in the same business.

She asked me what my income goals are for 2008. I did not have an answer. For the first time in six years I don’t have a business plan. I usually start my plan by setting an income goal and then project an average commission, and figure out how many transactions I need to make my goals. I then build a plan that consist of the activities and tasks that will need to be completed to reach my goal and a budget to go with it.

Her question made me think. I sent out a couple of tweets on twitter about business plans and goal setting. That is when I realized that I am not like many of my peers. For one thing they seem to work because they love it and money is not important. The only reason I work at all is because I need an income. There are so many rewarding ways I could spend my time if I did not have to work. I could do more volunteer work and I think I would spend the entire summer hiking on the shores of lake Superior, fishing, hiking and taking pictures.

Some of the twits said they do not set economic goals, they instead set goals based around what they want to learn. Learning is a major part of my life but I do not need to sell real estate to learn.

Another Twit said that planning around income would change his thinking. Not sure what he meant by that. I don’t think about money much, I just build my plan and keep score. My focus on a day-to-day basis is on the tasks I must complete to reach my goals.

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One twit said she would sell real estate even if she did not need money. I would not. I have so many interests I am sure I could spend my time in meaningful ways without ever selling real estate. A friend of mine is fond of saying that his job is not who he is but what he does. He will not define himself by his occupation. He is not self employed so he is able to limit his participation in the world of work to 40 hours a week. He loves his job and is good at it but it is just one part of his life.

It is possible that real estate is not a higher calling for me. I do truly enjoy what I do but there are other activities that I enjoy even more. I sell real estate to earn an income. Mercenary of me I know. I know Realtors who live real estate 24 X 7. They have no outside interests and can not converse on any topic except real estate. That kind of a life is not for me.

Do you have a business plan for 2008? Is your job who you are or how you earn a living? If you were independently wealthy and did not have to work would you still sell real estate?

Cartoon by  Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void

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Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.



  1. Benn Rosales

    December 28, 2007 at 9:57 am

    I do not believe you are any different than most- I love what I do, make a living doing it, all work and no play is for chumps, I work so I can play. My goals are growth oriented, but that growth also includes financial growth. Anyone who says that is not the goal of almost every American is kidding themselves or unemployed.

  2. Kelley Koehler

    December 28, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I’ve never been one for huge formal plans. I have the luxury of enjoying my work, but would certainly not be working at this were I independently wealthy. My “plan” revolves around questions like, “How can I make the same money or more and have more time to do the things I want to do?”

    I’m adding a west African dance class next year, which with my other activities makes four of seven evenings each week that are not available for real estate. I want to take a month of vacation again next year. I’d like to get an advanced SCUBA certification, and finally build that bench and bookshelf/cabinet that I want in my home.

    My business supports my lifestyle, so once I know what I want my lifestyle to be, then I know how my business needs to change.

  3. Jeff Brown

    December 28, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Teresa — a wise agent who worked for my dad when I entered the business back when dinosaurs walked the earth, told me how he set annual real estate production goals. I’ve used his formula ever since, as I always thought he’d figured it out. It’s worked like magic for me. Sometimes it has illuminated ideas I didn’t know were lurking in the misty regions of my addled brain.

    I think I smell a post.

    Thanks Teresa!

  4. Mariana

    December 28, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Teresa- I am right there with you. I like real estate enough to make it my career… It is the way I make money (that I NEED). And I happen to like real estate better than anything else I could do to make $$. However, should I all-of-a-sudden NOT need to work, I would not “sell real estate” for the heck of it. I would prbly go hiking around the shores of Lake Superior, too.

  5. Teresa Boardman

    December 28, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Happy to hear that there are others in the biz who are in it to make a living. 🙂

  6. Chris Lengquist

    December 28, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I really, really enjoy what I do for a living. Having said that, I’d rather still be a photographer. Guess which pays better?

  7. Teresa Boardman

    December 28, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Chris – aren’t you supposed to do what you love and the money will come? . . kidding, it has never worked that way for me. 🙂

  8. Wade Young

    December 28, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I am unusual in that I took a full year off from work. I moved to Florida to see if I could better enjoy life writing for a living, thinking that perhaps writing would be more satisfying that pushing paper. I wrote a book during that time entitled My Brain Doesn’t Cheat on My Wife. I was a guest on some of the biggest radio shows in the country. The rest of the year I spent planning my exodus out of Florida and the book business. I will probably write another book in the future, but the lifestyle was too dull for me. I’m glad to be pushing paper again. My work provides me with a lot of intellectual stimulation, and I am proud to be part of the mechanism that churns the economy in a healthy manner. I think most of you would be surprised if you could do anything that you wanted to do with your time. I was surprised that I missed an office environment. I like wearing a suit and tie, meeting with people and getting deals done. I’ll take a suit and tie, a cup of tea in one had and a phone in the other over writing in shorts and sandals any day. It was a great experience for me, however, because I will never again bemoan what I do. I love what I do. I love going to work. I never would have known that, however, if I hadn’t have taken that year off.

    As far as setting goals, I’m up in the air on that one. When I used to set financial goals, I never made much money. Then I threw up my hands and just tried to be as productive as possible each minute of the day (both personal and business wise), and the money started flowing. My goals have to do with productivity, getting more done each day as opposed to hitting certain numbers. Some of my goals might seem sort of silly to some people. I was having difficulty staying sharp at work, so I set a goal to solve that problem. I now eat several small meals at work rather than a big lunch. I pack these homemade snacks, and I have found that my old big lunch made me sluggish in the afternoon. I am now sharp all day long. Goal set; goal accomplished; on to the next goal. Whether big or small, all of my goals revolve around productivity, which I have found to be far more helpful than numbers goals.

  9. Jason Mook

    December 28, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    The 2008 plan I’m working on. I really enjoy working as a Realtor, but it does not define me. Having said that, if I didn’t need the money I probably wouldn’t be selling real estate. I’d likely be in a villa or on a beach somewhere.

  10. Heather Barr

    December 28, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    While I could do several other types of jobs, real estate was the most potentially lucrative. Plus, as Kelly mentioned above, it allows way more scheduling flexibility than other careers. But if I was suddenly as wealthy as a movie star I’d be off in a heartbeat to become a rock band groupie and then hole up somewhere in the south of France to write The Great American Novel.

  11. Norm Fisher

    December 28, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    Great post.

    I have often said the same thing, in almost the same way. I do enjoy the business very much, but I almost always enjoy my time off even more. If I didn’t need to work (for money, or any other reason) I probably wouldn’t.

    My “business plan” always covers the things I’d like to improve upon, both personally and professionally but it hasn’t included an income goal for years. I give what I’m willing to give, and money seems to look after itself. That’s not to say that there aren’t years when I’m “willing to give” much more because there are things I want to get done which require some additional cash.

  12. Larry Yatkowsky

    December 28, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    It’s not without hard work, but what other job allows a month of summer sailing on British Columbia’s fabulous coast and another month of sun in Hawaii during our rainy NW winter. Real Estate – Yah gotta luv it!

  13. Jeremy Hart

    December 28, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Teresa – when you asked about the formulation of business plans on Twitter, you weren’t off-base with the income goal. We’re all in it to make money, or at least most of us will admit that we are. But we do it because we’re (a) good at it, (b) addicted to the gas fumes as we continually refill our tanks , (c) desperately need to be ordered about, or (d) all of the above. Whatever the reason, we’re in it to make cash

    If starting with an income goal works for you do it. For me, I found myself paying too much attention to the potential brokerage fee that I lost sight of what I felt were my core competencies. So, I focus on volume. I know if volume is steady, money will come. Someone else mentioned they start with units – I know a Top Producer here that does the same. Whatever the formula, we’re all tracking the bottom line.

    Go for it, and good luck with the goal setting!

  14. Teresa Boardman

    December 28, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Jeremy – money or volume, just two ways of looking at the same thing. When it comes to tracking I track volume, not money.

    Larry – I may take August off this year. So far my vacations have been short.

    It looks like most of you are in the business to earn a living. I think most of us do enjoy it or there isn’t any way we could do it.

  15. Teresa Boardman

    December 28, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Wade – fascinating. Maybe we never really know what we want.

  16. Jonathan Dalton

    December 29, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Mine’s definitely income-based. My mortgage company is less worried about what I’ve learned than if I’ve made my payment.

    If I were independently wealthy, I’d be spending my days as a leather-ass at the local 3-6 hold em game.

  17. John Harper

    December 29, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Too many spend too much of life trying to get a life so they can lead a life.

  18. Wade Young

    December 29, 2007 at 12:54 pm


    One more thought. Consider retirement. When average people retire, they lap it up. I have two uncles who retired from the telephone company in their 50s with significant retirement income. They love the retired lifestyle, 5th wheel, golf and all. However, when exceptionally successful people retire, it goes like this. They travel, play golf, fish, catch up on things they have been meaning to do and then realize that they want back in the game. The most successful people in the world always come out of retirement. I think the key is to have more time off. If we vacationed like the Europeans, we would all likely love our work more. The ideal is not to give up work and follow your dream, scaling and taking pictures of the Rocky mountains, for example. That would get really boring after a short while. The key is to work less and work that fun stuff in. That’s my goal for the future. I know that I love what I’m doing. I just need to find ways to get away for more vacations. I doubt I’ll ever take that permanent vacation called retirement.

  19. Dale Chumbley

    December 30, 2007 at 12:06 am

    To Jonathan,
    If you were independently wealthy would you really be on the 3-6 game? I’m thinking higher stakes would be in order. I’d love to be right there next to you. Maybe Jeff Turner and Dustin Luther as well.
    I feel a game coming on.

  20. Paula

    December 31, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I am still working on my business plan. I hope real estate never defines who I am. I have found whether by time or money, it all comes down to balance. Finding balance is big fr me this year!

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