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What does loyalty mean to you?

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photo courtesy of Michael Cornelius

loyal
1: unswerving in allegiance: as a: faithful in allegiance to one’s lawful sovereign or government b: faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due c: faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product

Friends and family.

Everyone tries their best to be loyal to their friends and family. The “unswerving allegiance” to those we love and care about goes without saying. When a friend needs help, when a loved is sick; we are there for them. We will do what it takes to make the situation better for them. To take care of them. To fix their problems and help them move on.

What about your business?

Today I had a long talk with my local title company’s business development rep. We were discussing the different actions that are a violation of the law when dealing with lenders and title companies. We were talking about the old days that I’ve heard tales of; where lenders and title companies wined and dined their agents and agents were loyal…to a fault. Agents stopped caring about quality service and instead were caring about where their next free meal, martini, or vacation was coming from. I’ve seen it in the rock ‘n roll industry (it still exists, despite the anti-“pay for play” rules), so I’m familiar with the idea of it. Now, we are much more regulated in how we interact with these other businesses, but I think there are still ways for these businesses to help agents and gain their trust, their business, and their loyalty. When I say loyalty, I guess I am redefining it slightly, as “unswerving in allegiance” is not my mode of operation with these companies, but I do know who I can trust, who will treat my clients well, and leave my clients with a positive experience that leaves them with positive thoughts about me. The people I work with and call upon for advice and opinions are my tools that I can use to make my services better and my client’s experience enjoyable. By using these “tools,” I gain something as well – not gifts or wine or martinis or vacations to tropical islands, but people I can expect to answer my calls, to help with advice on a subject I don’t know enough about, to tell me about new opportunities, technology, and things that I can better my business with.

My local business development rep is just that for me. She is my trusted adviser and friend. We don’t do lunch or go to parties together, but I always talk to her, update her on my business and ask her questions. In return, she “pays” me in kind – showing me things she’s learned over the years from top agents, introducing me to new technology, and always taking my call. Her loyalty? She met me early on in my career and we started talking immediately. I had no business and no need for a title company. By talking to me and helping me understand the world of “title” through my constant questions, she became someone I trust and rely on for help when I have a question I can’t answer. I know when I do bring business her way, she will be on top of it and make sure that the closer takes great care of my clients. She never treated me differently whether I had business for her or not. That’s the definition of loyalty to me.

So the lesson I learned?

That loyalty she has to me, to treat me fairly and the same at all times, is what I show my clients and potential clients. I want all the people I come in contact with to get to where they want to be, whether they are five days away from making their purchase or 2 years away. By treating them all to the same loyalty as people treat me with, I enable them to build a relationship with me. And as we all know, a relationship is what we’re all after. Once you have the relationship, the business follows all by itself. Its a natural progression. Call it “organic growth” if you will. That’s what I’m after. If I can earn the loyalty of my clients and they can expect the same loyalty from me, then what more can I possibly ask for?

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Bob

    December 18, 2008 at 12:27 am

    There are limits to many things, including loyalty, especially in this business. What matters most is fiduciary.

    Some title companies are going to start to pay the price for certain business practices they employed in the past to gain loyalty.

    For example, some lenders will no longer fund a transaction where the title company or escrow company has ABAs, even if there is no ABA involved in the transaction. Just the fact that the title company has them is enough to screw things up.

    In order to close one recent transaction, the escrow had to be moved to a true nuetral 3rd party escrow company. in my neck of the woods, that means all but two title companies can create a problem depending on the lender.

  2. Missy Caulk

    December 19, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Loyalty in strategic partnerships is invaluable. I have one with my title company as well. No gifts or other help that would violate RESPA, just good old fashion service all the time.

  3. Matt Stigliano

    December 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Bob – I do agree there are limits to loyalty (you just stabbed me? not feeling so loyal now.). I view loyalty as a two way street. I’m not loyal to those that aren’t loyal to me. I’m not saying that the other person has to send 100% of their business to me and I have to do the same for them. But knowing that I have someone I can rely on to help me whether I am bringing them business or not and knowing they are there for me – to me that’s loyalty. And I return the same. If the title company business development rep needed 5 minutes of my time to ask a question, she would get it. I guess my definition of loyalty is closer to that of what they speak of when they refer to animals (particularly dogs). I am loyal to those that treat me well, not treat me to material things (although dogs do love a giant bone from time to time – this is NOT part of my loyalty).

    Missy – That’s it exactly. Good old fashioned quality service and the reliability of someone who says “Oh wait, that’s Missy calling, I better get this.”

  4. Matt Stigliano

    December 19, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Bob – I was just reading my comment and realized it looked like I was said that YOU stabbed me (and since I used stabbed there’s all sorts of connotations with that, ie, being stabbed “in the back”). Just to be clear (I hate when things get misread or my writing isn’t clear) the “you” referenced is a general “you,” not you, Bob, specifically.

  5. Vance Shutes

    December 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Matt,

    Above all else in my business, I value integrity and loyalty. You’ve summarized the aspects of loyalty very well in this article.

    Earlier this year, a trusted lender with whom I had done business for over a dozen years “retired.” I still miss him, both for the professionalism he showed my clients, and for his unswerving loyalty to both his clients and his friends. While our friendship continues, that business loyalty has ended. You know what they say – sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

    You’re very fortunate to have developed that loyalty with your title business development rep. Continue to build and strengthen that business relationship.

  6. Linsey Planeta

    January 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I so loved reading this post. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see the new regulations in place. I have a long standing relationship with a wonderful title rep. I have become friends with her over the years and have been utterly astonished at what my colleagues actually ask of her. She’s lost business due to an unwillingness to ‘prostitute’ herself to some of these agents.

    The sad thing is that while they asked her for all kinds of illegal favors, they missed some of the most valuable tools that she offered – simple but amazing business planning and brainstorming with her agents, connecting people, and a real partner in their business. The kind of loyalty I have with her allows for mutual enjoyment in eachothers growth and success.

    I’m thrilled to hear about the new regulations and hope to see a much needed difference on that side of the business.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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