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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

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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