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Putting The Brand to the Test

Fast Company said earlier this year in an article titled The Brand is You : … being CEO of Me Inc. requires you to act selfishly — to grow yourself, to promote yourself, to get the market to reward yourself. … This new opportunity gives us the opportunity to help define an agenda based on our company’s standards – – No (single-agent) Dual Agency – this is Part 1 of my as-yet-undefined master plan – If we can get the buyers in our community asking other agents to defend Single Agent Dual Agency, then maybe, just maybe we’ll make progress eradicating this vestige of sub-agency.

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branding

A big move

This week marks a move for me – professionally and profoundly personally.

I’m moving to a new company – joining forces with other like-minded (but not too like-minded) Realtors in my market. Following the lead of the perennially-referred-to Kris Berg and Jay Thompson, yet with a twist, I made the decision to leave Century 21 and be part of a new independent firm.

It’s exciting and daunting. Leaving a comfortable situation where I have enjoyed healthy success for a different, somewhat unknown, adventure is equal parts stupid, bold and intimidating.

The trend away from the “big brands” – at least in the social media/blogging space – has been building steam for the past several years.

With this in mind, I have asked the last four or five buyers I have met if they knew the name of my company. One guessed Coldwell Banker, the other four had no idea. And that’s the point.

Fast Company said earlier this year in an article titled The Brand is You:

… being CEO of Me Inc. requires you to act selfishly — to grow yourself, to promote yourself, to get the market to reward yourself. Of course, the other side of the selfish coin is that any company you work for ought to applaud every single one of the efforts you make to develop yourself. After all, everything you do to grow Me Inc. is gravy for them: the projects you lead, the networks you develop, the customers you delight, the braggables you create generate credit for the firm. As long as you’re learning, growing, building relationships, and delivering great results, it’s good for you and it’s great for the company.

No matter what you’re doing today, there are four things you’ve got to measure yourself against. First, you’ve got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. Second, you’ve got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value. Third, you’ve got to be a broad-gauged visionary — a leader, a teacher, a farsighted “imagineer.” Fourth, you’ve got to be a businessperson — you’ve got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes.

So – it’s time. Onward and upward.

This new opportunity gives us the opportunity to help define an agenda based on our company’s standards –

– No (single-agent) Dual Agency – this is Part 1 of my as-yet-undefined master plan – If we can get the buyers in our community asking other agents to defend Single Agent Dual Agency, then maybe, just maybe we’ll make progress eradicating this vestige of sub-agency.

– No agent with less than three years’ experience

– Must be Brokers within six months of coming onboard

– A focus on technology without losing focus of the fact that people buy houses.

Finally, a tweet from a fellow Charlottesville resident and entrepreneurial business owner –

“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” — Rupert Murdoch

I’m curious though – who else is taking a similar leap right now?

* I almost selected this photo for the heading.

Image Source


Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Ken Brand

    February 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Thoughtful post Jim. You absolutely choose the right image as well as the move your making – IMHO.

    Keen times we work, play, wrestle, love and grow in for sure. My big takeaway from your post is that we can’t rest in comfort or the past. Demands, expectations, competition and opportunity wait for no woman or man.

    I wish you the best of luck – although you don’t need luck, you have a big brain and big heart…that’s all you need to Rock The World.

    Cheers

  2. Jeremy Linder

    February 17, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Congrats on the move, it’s a difficult decision to make at any point in your career. I don’t know that I’ll ever make a move to an independent (mostly because there’s not a strong one in my market with the same ideals) but there is a difference between working with someone who found “you” and working with a client that saw the sign and walked into the office because of the brand. I certainly prefer to work with clients that are referred to me or leads I cultivate through my own marketing versus clients that think we’re all the same agent just with different names. Good Luck!

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    February 17, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I made an opposite move in November. My small independent company closed and moved in with a large local company which had recently signed on as a Better Homes and Gardens franchise. We found a bigger company was better equipped to provide more services which enable us to diversify our business base in this tough market, and we like the BH&G brand & tools. So far, so good 🙂

    I wish you all the best, Jim. It sounds like you made the right move for yourself.

  4. Kris Berg

    February 17, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Good for you, Jim. I am willing to bet you a widget that you won’t look back. It was without a doubt the best business decision we ever made. Jay warned me that the only regret I would have would be not having done it sooner. He was right.

  5. Darren Kittleson

    February 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    You validated what I’ve been saying for years…that the consumer chooses the agent as a much higher percentage than the “brand” they are with.

    It’s been interesting to see the decline in an agents business who has been led to believe they are only successful because of the big brand they are affiliated with…that would beg the question of whether or not the big brand is failing as well?

    Good luck in your new venture!

  6. Brian Block

    February 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Jim,

    Best of luck in your new venture. I’m sure that it will be a success. After all, the venture’s not really new, it just has a different name.

  7. Jay Thompson

    February 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Right on Jim! As was told to me, and I told Kris (and others) I think in a few weeks or months the only real question you’ll be asking yourself is “What took me so long?”

    Best of luck to you, not that you’ll need it.

  8. Monika

    February 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Funny how things change. We went from a small independent firm to a large franchise. Now I’m itching to go back…for all the same reasons you sited. Years ago we couldn’t compete with the big guys. Now I know we can…just making a move again is scary. Change is hard but exciting!
    Good luck on your change.

  9. Vicki Moore

    February 17, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    The company I just moved to is local – it’s not small but it is a local, family-owned brokerage. And it’s different – good different.

  10. Jim Gatos

    February 17, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Your reasons are in large part what prompted me to return to Keller Williams after an almost 3 year absence. Coldwell Banker and Realogy try to constantly say their brands are what people want. I say that’s bull !

    Congratulations and best wishes.

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    February 17, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Um, based on the graphic, are you telling us you’re pregnant? Are you going to have a lil social media baby? 🙂

  12. Carson Coots

    February 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    I can’t think of anything more exciting than breaking the shackles of old and defining your own agenda and more importantly, purpose as a business. Just sounds fun.

  13. Jim Duncan

    February 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for the kind words everybody (except you, Matthew).

    I’m excited … and one of the most interesting things that has come of this is that two other local companies’ brokers companies commented on my blog saying that they, too have policies against single agent dual agency – now if we can just get the “leaders” to recognize this …

    I’m going to miss my company – I’d been there since I was 12 (my mom is still a Realtor there) and they are family. It’s quite a transition that is difficult and fun, but ultimately (this being day 3) I think it will be worthwhile.

    I think that franchises will have their place, but in 3 years they won’t resemble what they are today.

  14. Paula

    February 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Jim – I really can’t decide if you went on your own or joined a local independent – still, I will. Having spent 1/2 of last year looking for a company whose ideas were similar to mine, I decided the “big name” was not the ticket for me.

    I thought about my own place, then ended up with an independent who is just starting out and couldn’t ne happier! I agree, the big name will look a lot different in a few years.

  15. Paula

    February 18, 2009 at 7:48 am

    What we need here is an edit button 🙂

    Jim – I really can’t decide if you went on your own or joined a local independent – still, I will comment. Either way, congratulations! Having spent 1/2 of last year looking for a company whose ideas were similar to mine, I decided the “big name” was not the ticket for me.

    I thought about my own place, then ended up with an independent who is just starting out and couldn’t be happier! I agree, the big name will look a lot different in a few years.

  16. Jim Duncan

    February 18, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Paula –

    I’m on my own as part of a new local independent – right now there are only four of us, with one more coming on in the next couple of days.

    We don’t want to be big – size brings difficulties, among them accountability to each other gets more difficult.

    I’ve thought about my own place for years, but this allowed me/us to join forces and actually have synergy – which I’m really looking forward to.

  17. Matthew Rathbun

    February 18, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Jim, you got kind words in person…. Count yourself lucky I was nice once, none-the-less twice… 🙂

    Still haven’t figured out what tadpoles have to do with social media 😉

  18. John Kalinowski

    February 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Jim- Congratulations on the move! I left RE/MAX in December to start my own firm, and one other agent came with me. So far, it’s been a real eye-opener as to what the consumer cares about in their transaction.

    We had twenty listings when we left, and every single one switched over and came with us. They couldn’t care one bit about the big balloon on the sign, and one actually asked “Now, I don’t have to stay with RE/MAX, I’m with you, right?” That was the moment I really knew we were doing the right thing.

    By the way, what’s the name of your group?

  19. Missy Caulk

    February 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Best of success to Jim. If I ever change again it will be on my own. Right now I am happy being an agent that is left alone unless I need something.

    But, I agree the brand is not what consumers care about.

    That’s why I am a Broker in case I ever need to go, can do it in a heart beat.

  20. Michelle DeRepentigny

    February 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    I have been independent twice and big box brand twice now, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I often times find myself having a crisis of faith when defending my choice of the moment.

    I like having ready made branded tools available, but cringe at some of the big box thoughts. I guess I am still looking for a brand that understands how I do business and that has a clue about how we connect with the consumer, instead of always being a year behind and scared to death of leading.

    BTW- I finally got the graphic – the “brand” is outside the circle trying to get in :p

    It only took me 3 visits back to this post to figure it out.

  21. Michelle DeRepentigny

    February 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    And congrats on your move, I wish you much success.

  22. Mariana

    February 19, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Jim – Congrats!

    We just switched offices, too. We left the “BIG” KW office in town for a much smaller KW office. But this one has the culture, leadership, ownership and support that was a MUCH better fit for for our team.

    We had to switch over all 20-something of our listings and not one of our Sellers cared WHERE we moved… as long as WE still represented them.

  23. Mark Madsen

    February 22, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I started a real estate company in 2004 with a couple of friends. We sold in 2006, but one of my original partners still hangs his license there. I think that they have over 150 agents now, and nobody seems to care about about the fact that it is not a big brand. However, we were able to give that company a large online presence, so maybe that helps.

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Business Marketing

“House has spark” – burning up the MLS with typos and other bloopers

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The year is starting a march toward its natural ending, friends…and it seems a few real estate careers may be also. This week I found some real head-scratchers in local real estate ads and the MLS.  However, I get submissions from all over the U.S., so no one is safe from the eyes of  the Blooper Scooper. Check out these blunders:

Do You Smell Smoke?

“House has spark” (Apparently your real estate career isn’t the only thing going up in smoke.)

“Big pep area in kitchen” (Is that the cookie jar where Mommy Dearest stashes her uppers?) 

“Dull Viking ovens” (Methinks there’s something in the cookie jar that will perk up those dull Vikings.)

“Large greenhose in back” (Large, naked Jolly Green Giant in yard.)

“Mush added to this house” (Was that the overflow from between your ears?)

I Think I See Flames

“Beautifully remolded guest” (Another cosmetically-altered Barbie hits the Hollywood party circuit.)

“Enjoy a drink poolslide” ( Hell, if the pool is sliding, I’ll need a whole pint of Jack.)

“Each bedroom has own bedrooom” (Hello-o-o, Alice, how are things down there in the rabbit hole?)

“Separate pod to build GH” (That should please my pea-sized buyers.)

“Play room for the kiss” (Something tells me this is the back seat of a ’67 Chevy.)

Still Smoldering…

“Ideal for gusts” (That’s great…if you want to live in a wind sock.)

“Impaccably detailed” (Incredibly challenged)

“Stylish pewder room” (Try burning a match.)

“Stone pillars flake driveway” (Flakey agent got stoned in driveway.)

Nothing But Embers (This Week’s Fave):

“From a bygone error” (You have just written your own epitaph.)

 

 

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Business Marketing

“New bd pans inc” – Making a Splash on the MLS

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I have two things to say this week: 1. When you drink, you can’t think. 2. When you drink you can’t- … uh, what was I saying? Oh, yes – the MLS.  It was so full of bloopers this week that I am led to conclude that happy hour started Monday and never stopped. Read these and tell me if it is any wonder I was driven to throw back a few martinis myself:

Booze ‘N’ Fools

“Free membership to gin inc” (It seems someone else beat us to it, Martini Mary.)

“Grab now use imagination” (That’s what Arnold said to his housekeeper.)

“House has new edition” (Agent lacks erudition.)

“Babblying broke runs in back” (Bumbling buffoon runs amuck.)

“Drop by for cocktail ho” (Oh, is the Sunset Strip for sale?)

Puff ‘N’ Stuff

“Near Sacramento airpot” (I believe his name is Jerry Brown.)

“Claw me for selling” (I’m too busy clawing my eyes out over your spelling.)

“Reduction on mid-century ner Holywod” (Another mid-sixties porn star is looking for work.)

“We can sake your home” (Can I get fried rice with my sake?)

Proof or Goof

“Nice streem” (Said Grandma to Grandpa after his diaper  exploded.)

“Nice for dog kids” (Uh, they’re called ‘puppies,” pal.)

“New bd pans included” (Thank you, Nurse Nancy – can you warm those first?)

“Good stable in neighborhood.” (Have you contacted Mary and Joseph?)

“Drawing for plasma” (Is this a blood-bank?)

And This Week’s Winner Is:

“Good school in areola” (Thanks for keeping me abreast of things.)

PROOF OR GOOF, FRIENDS – I’M WATCHING EWE 🙂

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Highlights

My secret office organization tip – Sharpies and tape

If you’re still practicing to be OCD, here is a secret I don’t typically share with anyone, but I’m willing to share with you today…

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Keeping organized

I used to be obsessed with the P-touch machine. I labeled everything. Drawers, shelves, folders, canisters, and anything that I could think of putting a label on.

But the label makers weren’t as pretty as my own handwriting and didn’t come in every color a Sharpie does, so I got the brilliant idea one day to write in light blue sharpie in my beautiful handwriting on clear tape, placed neatly on the shelves in the pantry. Visitors thought I had written on the cabinets, “what if you have to move things?” they asked. “It’s just tape, look!” I said as if I was performing a complicated magic trick.

Not just shelves!

It’s great to use this tip on files and folders so you can reuse them (especially if you have custom files or designer files), on drawers at the bottom of each section where pens and tape goes, and especially in the break room.

No more label maker, no more refill cartridges and no more mess, especially someone else’s mess! Trust me, this is an OCD person’s dream organizing tip!

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