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Op/Ed

Three ways to actually raise the bar instead of just talking about it

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Talking about raising the bar is one of the industry’s favorite pastimes, but taking steps to promote change are often on the backburner – here’s how we can change that.

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raise bar

At any given time, there are roughly half a million full time real estate professionals (sales agents and brokers) in the United States. Yet, at the same time, there are over one million members of the National Association of Realtors®. Does anyone else take issue with the big gap here? Can it possibly be that almost 60% of the real estate professionals that I deal with day in and day out are actually dabblers in the field?

Industry changes are coming fast and furious – so quickly in fact that it is often hard for even the busiest of real estate professionals to keep up. While we tend to think that it’s the technology that’s always changing, it’s not just tech. It’s contract law, state and local policies and procedures, and risk management among other things. The truth is that with that production volume comes experience – lots and lots of it. Dabblers, hobbyists, or part-time real estate professionals have a tough time staying in the game.

I realize that I am not going to make any friends here when I say that part-time agents (those closing only one or two transactions per year) often lack the experience and know-how to get the job done. A part-time agent may not know about the latest contract forms release or the latest technological advance. In addition, a part-time agent may be dividing time between two jobs and thus compromise the quality of customer service that he or she can provide to a client. I’ve had buyers call our brokerage and request a showing of one of our office listings; they’d say that they are represented by another agent that is “too busy” to show the property or “at work.” And this hasn’t only happened once. It has happened over and over and over again.

What kind of message do phone calls like these send about what’s going on in the profession?

Three areas where we can forge change

When considering ways to address the challenges faced by working in an industry where 58% of the real estate professionals may not have the demonstrated expertise associated with full-time work, it’s curious to consider where change should begin – at the top or at the bottom. Here are some places to start to raise the bar:

  • At the state level. What would happen if licensing and renewal requirements were strengthened in each state? That is, if it were tougher or more expensive to get a license or if the renewal requirements were a little more challenging than passing a few $69 correspondence courses; this might actually enhance the quality of licensed professionals. Making it more expensive to obtain a license or to renew would also demonstrate that those who do renew are serious about practicing real estate. It’s pay to play, and those that pay (if it costs more) would be serious about the play.
  • At the local level. At the local level, real estate associations could increase their dues, offer more educational opportunities, and have stricter requirements for membership. Again this would force the hand a little bit. Kelley Skar, a Canadian Realtor® states “if the associations start increasing the cost, they might start to see a slight dip in their membership numbers which could be detrimental to their bottom line. I see this as being temporary as the associations and boards would make adjustments within their current business model to allow for decrease in membership.” If associations do see a dip in membership, they’d have to do something about it to keep the doors open, Namely, they’d have to demonstrate their relevance or increase the value that they provide to the current members.
  • At the brokerage level. In a perfect world, raising the bar in the real estate industry would begin at the brokerage level. If brokers were to have minimum guidelines for they type of contractors they would accept and offer trainings and guidance to keep their agents at the forefront of the industry, this could make things better. The reality is that this will never happen. Skar points out that there will always be discount brokerages and brokerages whose model depends not only on producers but non-producers that pay a monthly desk fee. As long as there will be brokerages where non-producers can hang their licenses, the industry is not going to change.

Theory of natural selection

The good news is that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection seems to apply pretty well to the field of real estate. If you are reading this article and actively working within the industry, you are likely one of the half million that is raising the bar in the industry by working full time, staying ahead of real estate trends, and developing personally and professionally.

Whether the change begins at the brokerage level or at the state level, it shouldn’t matter to you. You’ve paved your way to success among your industry peers. You’ll have no problem stepping over the bar even if it raised a little bit, because you are fairly flexible already.

Melissa is an in-demand business success speaker and author, as well as a real estate broker with thousands of short sale transactions under her belt. She leverages her experience as a short sale insider to motivate thousands of business professionals to plan their careers better, execute more effectively on their plan, and earn more because of it.

Op/Ed

How to support [insert group]-owned small businesses this holiday

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) There are a lot of ways to support small businesses this year, and a lot of different groups to support. Use this guide to spread the love!

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Women over laptop to support small business.

In 2019, the SBA reported that small businesses account for 44% of U.S. economic activity. Another report cites small businesses as creating two-thirds of net new jobs. Small, local businesses are big contributors to the economy. Business New Daily quoted Stephan Goetz, Ph.D., professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, “big, non-local firms… can actually depress local economies.” As we move into the holiday season, let’s focus on why and how to support small businesses.

How to find minority-owned businesses

It’s pretty easy to find minority-owned businesses. #BlackLivesMatter brought the need to support black-owned businesses to the forefront, but women-owned businesses need just as much support as do LGBTQIA+-owned businesses.

  • Search your town + [group] -owned small businesses.
  • Yelp highlights black-owned businesses currently and has a feature to search for women-owned businesses.
  • Do512.com has a LGBTQ+ directory for Austin and other larger cities.
  • WeBuyBlack is the “Black Amazon.”
  • Chez Nous is another global guide to minority-owned businesses.
  • Use your Chamber of Commerce website to find local small businesses in your community.
  • Ask other business owners where they shop and who they support.

4 Reasons to support small businesses

  1. Local small businesses keep tax dollars in your community.
  2. Small business owners get involved in the community, not just to create jobs and opportunities for community members. Local businesses give back to schools and non-profits and encourage tourism.
  3. Small businesses create infrastructure within the community, utilizing other small businesses, building an economic foundation.
  4. Small businesses create opportunities for people, especially women and minorities, to be their own boss and to create an income. In many communities, it’s the small businesses that create new jobs for locals.

I might be biased. I live in a rural community where local businesses are the lifeblood of the community. I see it every day. A local law firm set up the 4-H food truck in their parking lot as a fundraiser for a sheriff’s deputy who needed financial help after getting sick. It’s the local business owners that support the community center where I’m on the board. I see our local shops hiring local people who might be otherwise be unemployable. The town where I live has a large population of vulnerable individuals, people with developmental or physical disabilities. The generosity of our small businesses never ceases to amaze me.

Buy local, support local

Seek out small business this holiday season and beyond. It’s these businesses who make up the fabric of our lives. Community Impact Newspaper reports, “Over more than seven months, this once-in-a-hundred-years public health crisis has ravaged Austin’s famed small-business community, and countless local institutions have shuttered…” Local businesses have given to the community for generations. Now it’s time for the community to step up and support those local businesses.

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Op/Ed

Why delegation of work doesn’t always lead to productivity

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Delegation is tricky, and can end up creating more work for yourself if it isn’t done well. Here’s how to fix that.

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Man talking on virtual meeting, using delegation to get more work done.

Delegating work is a logical step in the process of attaining peak efficiency. It’s also a step that, when executed incorrectly, leads to a huge headache and a lot of extra work for whomever is delegating tasks—not to mention frustration on the part of those asked to complete said tasks. Here is how you can assign work with the confidence that it will be done quickly and effectively.

Firstly, realizing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work can be a bit of a blow. It’s certainly easier to assign tasks across the board and wait for them to be completed; however, when you consider how much clean-up work you have to do when those tasks don’t end the way you expect them to, it’s actually simpler to assign tasks according to employees’ strengths and weaknesses, providing appropriate supports along the way.

In education, this process is called “differentiation”, and it’s the same idea: If you assign 30 students the exact same work, you’ll see pretty close to 30 different answers. Assigning that same piece with the accommodations each student needs to succeed—or giving them different parameters according to their strengths—means more consistency overall. You can apply that same concept to your delegation.

Another weak point in many people’s management models revolves around how employees see their superiors. In part, this isn’t your fault; American authority paradigms mandate that employees fear their bosses, bend over backward to impress them, and refrain from communicating concerns. However, it is ultimately your job to make sure that your employees feel both supported and capable.

To wit, assign your employees open-ended questions and thought-provoking problems early on to allow them to foster critical thinking skills. The more you solve their problems for them, the more they will begin to rely on you in a crisis—and the more work you’ll take home despite all of your delegation efforts. Molding employees into problem-solvers can certainly take time, but it’s worth the wait.

Finally, your employees may lack strength in the areas of quality and initiative. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is—basically, employees may not know what you expect, and in the absence of certainty, they will flounder. You can solve this by providing employees with the aforementioned supports; in this case, those look like a list of things to avoid, a bulleted list of priorities for a given project, or even a demo of how to complete their work.

Again, this sounds like a lot of effort upfront for your delegation, but you’ll find your patience rewarded come deadline time.

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Op/Ed

Simplify your feedback loop with this powerful new WordPress tool

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) FeedbackScout is a new data-forward solution for any WordPress enthusiast, consolidating your feedback into meaningful analysis portals.

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FeedbackScout is a new WordPress extension to help your feedback.

Feedback is simultaneously one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of service and one of the most frustrating things to collect—to say nothing of analyzing it. There are innumerable feedback collection tools out there to improve this process, each with their own pros and cons; however, if you use WordPress, a new tool might change the way you implement criticism.

That tool is called FeedbackScout, and its job is simple: To consolidate your feedback in a meaningful, easy-to-analyze format so you can spend less time combing through data and more time implementing it in your next product or build.

The way FeedbackScout works is reminiscent of Trello—something the developers assure you that you won’t need after using their tool. You start by creating a “Feature Request” post on your WordPress site through the FeedbackScout dashboard. Once it’s posted, anyone on your site can comment or use the built-in “Like” button to show their support for the feature.

Once you’ve posted several different feedback requests, you can monitor which ones attain the most input and focus on those—all from within the FeedbackScout dashboard and your WordPress site.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this model is its convenience. Rather than having to leave WordPress to review a spreadsheet, all of the feedback you need is built right into the form you post—and, if you’re using WordPress with the frequency with which one can justify implementing FeedbackScout, chances are high that your product’s users are comfortable enough with your site to leave their input expeditiously.

FeedbackScout also includes a feature called “Roadmap” that consolidates all of your feedback into a board of to-do resources. This feature can be shared with your user base to keep them invested in your progress; after all, if they know you’re working on features they requested, they’ll be more likely to come back frequently—and that’s good for you.

Collecting feedback and helping users feel heard is an exceptionally important process. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of feedback tools available for free these days, and most users are relatively comfortable with at least a handful of them (looking at you, Google Forms). If you use WordPress, though, FeedbackScout is a new and improved way of collecting, analyzing, and reporting progress on the requests you receive—regardless of your industry.

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