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Op/Ed

Focusing on listing data is looking into the wrong end of the telescope

The real estate press has been obsessed with listing data while ignoring the bigger picture – it’s a crafted narrative designed to chip away at your earnings.

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wrong end of telescope

For the last several years, there has been a narrative being told through real estate news outlets, with a primary focus being on real estate listing data, with headlines praising or chastising whichever of the big three (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com) is popular to love or hate that day, and it’s threatening agents’ ability to earn.

Why? First, let’s look at the current focus on Zillow, and then the truth about backroom deals that have nothing to do with listing data that you’re being distracted from so there is less of the pie left for you.

Enron was aggressive and innovative once

This year, Zillow has been the real estate search company darling in the headlines – their aggressive tactics have led to their being called innovative, and their flair is enjoyed by the real estate practitioner masses (never mind their anti-agent roots). Right now, they’ve pulled ahead of Move (Realtor.com) and Trulia, with their stocks performing 10 times better than the S&P 500 average for the week. They’ve poached talent and walked into private meetings with brokers and boards with exceeding levels of cockiness.

There was another company once upon a time that had brilliant minds filling the halls, accolades out the wazoo, and amazing profit margins, and the streets of Houston were abuzz with talent from the mega-company, Enron. But we know how that ended. I’m not saying Zillow is shady at all – the only parallel you must take away from this is that aggressive winners aren’t always destined to remain in the winner’s seat. If Move can get it together and reorganize and come out swinging, they could easily pull ahead, and if Trulia’s insistence on being the underdog pays off, they too could pull ahead.

Could Trulia be the long term winner?

Just today, The Motley Fool predicts Trulia is the best stock investment in the long run. “So far, Zillow has proven to be the superior investment; however, looking ahead, Trulia’s performance now means it presents the better value. Furthermore, at 9 times sales with 70% plus growth, Trulia trades at a level that is very attractive in the arena of momentum stocks.”

Further, they noted, “Move doesn’t have the same aggressive growth, nor is it a high-profile business, but double-digit growth and a profitable company for less than 2 times sales appears to be a fairly good value. Nonetheless, much of Move’s upside rests in the growth prospects of its rather small software segment. Due to this uncertainty, Trulia looks like he [sic] best investment, as it has proven quarter after quarter that its growth is sustainable and shows no signs of slowing.”

I’m not convinced at this moment that Trulia could be the long term winner, but it’s quite possible since they’re keeping their nose to the grind. I’m not sure the court of public opinion (real estate practitioners) will determine them as the winner, but again, these opinions change with the wind.

The truth that you’re missing out on

Focusing on listing data is like looking into the wrong end of the telescope. It’s a myopic view of the industry, and an intentional framing of a narrative designed to have boots on the ground focus on one moving cog in the machine while thousands of other pieces of the machine keep running. It’s a way to get clicks on a website, and it’s intellectually lazy – it’s like saying you think the government sucks, but can’t detail why, just that they suck.

There are backroom deals you don’t know about and you’ll never know about. Have you ever devoted endless time to a committee only to find out that a decision was made before you ever got involved, but the motions had to be gone through, or a last minute change in circumstances discarded the entire committee’s decision on a technicality?

Further, there are policies being considered and drafted and voted upon that you won’t hear about elsewhere, and there are so many bigger moving parts that impact your practice and ability to earn, that it is offensive how much attention is paid to this one moving part.

It’s all a distraction. Can you say wag the dog? Love or hate Z/T/R, it’s a ruse that is keyword packed and filled with buzzwords from organizations that take your money yet have a history of disrespecting the real estate practitioner, associations, and anyone that doesn’t have a widget to sell at their conferences or on their sidebars.

You’ve experienced this before

The truth is that you’ve probably experienced this type of ruse before and had a better understanding of it – have you lived in an area where faster internet speeds were coming? What happens as the better internet is on its way? Suddenly your once-fast internet is choking and slowing. Just as internet providers supposedly don’t do this, the Z/T camp is supposedly not doing this as they tighten the pipeline on your ability to earn.

You may not love them, but Move (Realtor.com) is a company that has a percentage interest in your earning power, through their operating agreement with the National Association of Realtors, so they can’t about face and serve another master when it benefits their bottom line – but others can, and one company has had an anti-agent rhetoric since day one. But today of course, they’re still in damage control mode to get you back on board to spend money – what happens when they have your money if they do beat out Realtor.com? Just like your internet, the pipeline is going to choke up and you’ll have to spend more/earn less.

Our commitment to the big picture

The narrative built around supporting the listing data companies looking to throttle your earning power is insulting. While we will continue to stay on top of the Z/T/R happenings, we are committed to treating it as only one piece of the puzzle, not as the entire puzzle, because we know how to look through the telescope – and what we see is both inspiring and terrifying.

There are stories we are fleshing out that are so much bigger than who added a green button to a blue site – there are competitors to Z/T/R in the works that don’t even exist in alpha yet, there are lawsuits being filed that threaten how you operate, associations running around like chickens with their heads cut off to rally members to take action on even the simplest things that would keep their earning power in tact, broker models being conceived of that could actually rock the boat, executives taking cash to block innovation, patent lawsuits being filed that want to penalize you individually, and so forth. We’re thinking bigger and looking through the proper end of the telescope.

The commitment you must make

You have a responsibility to blow the whistle. If things are going on in your backyard that are being ignored by the real estate press because it doesn’t serve their narrative of the day, we want to tell that story, your story, so speak up, even if it’s anonymous (we fervently protect our sources). The only way to improve the industry and insure that practitioners can continue to earn an honest living is to be a part of that change. Right here.

Your ability to earn could be sharply impacted over the next few years as the market tightens, and you can’t let that happen as news is bought and shaped by those that believe your commission is too high. We can disagree all day long about who will win the Z/T/R battle, but where we all must agree is that it is only one tiny cog in a giant machine.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

5 secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions

    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions

    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.
  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items

    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.“There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.
  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation

    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.
  5. Optimize Your Workspace

    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

Burn out might be a signal calling for your attention

(EDITORIAL) Many people face a burn out in their career, but what are the signs? Are you able to pivot into a new career? And if so, is that a good idea?

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woman experiencing burn out

It’s not something they tell you when growing up that you may experience burn out and to be honest, it almost feels like our society raises us to march in a straight line and be careful not to ask too many questions (i.e. Go in to business or engineering to get a job but there are PLENTY of people with Liberal Arts degrees working too). As a former marketer on big name brands like McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, NAVTEQ, for example, my path was pretty fascinating and not anything I can pretend like I manifested into existence while sitting in my dorm room, sorority house or apartment senior year of college.

I chose a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from a Big 10 University, I moved to the big city after graduation (Chicago) and worked my way through agencies and corporate environments. My parents were teachers – amazing and award-winning – and I felt they didn’t get paid enough for how hard they worked which is why I ignored my 8-year old self who REALLY wanted to be a teacher.

I found a thrill in it all – the constant stream of “problems” from our clients or internal departments and I felt lucky to be on teams who were always up for the challenge of finding “solutions”. I am not super sure what I was chasing other than it seemed to be totally normal to climb the corporate ladder and want more responsibilities and higher pay. I did decide to pursue an MBA in 2008 as a personal goal to achieve a graduate degree (I also had an Education grant from doing an AmeriCorps program that I wanted to use) and yes, I utilized that degree to request higher pay. By the way, at every job, I really loved my coworkers. Some of the most fascinating, amazing and talented people I have ever met (they tell you it’s about the people you work with and I’m not sure really believe it until you’ve experienced it.)

Check out this list of intelligent reasonings behind a burn out from Frank Chimero. Do any of them strike true for you?

His #2 and #4 really resonated with me:

2. Achievement culture: believing that identity and safety are only available through high achievement
4. Visibility leading to hyperactive comparison: passivity and visibility locking together to invite comparison and create a debilitating scarcity mindset. Comparisons leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or fear of failure. Constant self-reproach and self-aggression.

I was completely caught up in the above – constantly trying to improve, be better, move into the next company or position. I also tripled my salary in ten years and finally was like “is this enough?” I’m not sure my mentality could keep up with going from not much money after taxes to plenty.

I’ve started to question a lot of the things I thought I knew to be true. The research articles that say the magic salary number of $75,000 annually is what will make you happy. There is no more happiness beyond that point and hell, you must be crazy if you’re happy making less than that. That’s what marketing and advertising tell you. Don Draper establishes himself as an Advertising genius when he states in Mad Men, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.”

Look, please don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my 12+ years working from Assistant Account Executive to Senior Manager, Digital. I am grateful for my 10-month AmeriCorps Service Leader position with City Year Chicago right out of college. I am grateful that when I reached burn out in 2012, when I realized that I didn’t give a schhhh if anyone bought more of my client’s product (sorry), I was part of a lay-off of 5% of the staff and forced to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do. What I did learn is you cannot imagine the amount of research, passion and intelligence that goes into marketing when you are 19 years old or if you’ve never worked in it. There are so many incredible things that come from marketers and I do believe they help make the world go around.

I will say thanks to my burn out, I made a career transition and now I’m a big believer in that. I became a Creative & Marketing recruiter and I loved it. I also became an Adjunct Instructor and I loved that. Those two combined is what lead me to my ultimate career switch where I work in Career Services in Higher Education (which I could not have the job I have without a Master’s degree).

That burn out from what I refer to as “Marketing & Advertising world” lead to a beautiful new career where I feel fulfilled and excited and engaged. But for transparency sake, I took a pretty significant pay cut to switch in to Higher Ed, and this has angered me a bit about the values in our country as it relates to education. I know they say money doesn’t buy happiness, but I will say that I think it’s ok when it allows you to buy experiences and do things that make you happy and share that with your friends, family and community.

As a Career Coach and talking to hundreds of people about what they want to do professionally…honestly, we have a lot more in common than you would think. We want to do work that we feel passionate about, interested in, constantly learn and contributing to a bigger picture – while be compensated fairly for what we do and able to afford lifestyles that matter to us.

In these new times, where many have lost their jobs or been forced to work remotely and/or work while also taking care of family members, I’m just going to say it. Are we finally going to realize the value of skilled and/or tenured employees, our teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store clerks/stockers/managers and restaurant/hospitality folks, local artist and makers (to name a few)? Because they may be wondering about the $75K/year thing. And as for small business owners and entrepreneurs, they give us their passion and craft and many that I have met don’t go touting around their financials.

Whatever the case may be for you, I hope your journey is bringing you to what really makes you happy and that you don’t feel that happiness has been unjustly sold to you. If you’re experiencing a burn out, I’d like to think it could it be a signal calling out for your attention.

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