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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

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

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

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, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three 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 ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?

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culture remotely

New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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