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Why culture is so critical, especially when it comes to your business

(BROKERAGE) Company culture is thrown around in mission statements and job descriptions, but it’s less about a statement and more about each day’s work.

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Man working on laptop representing business culture.

I like to think that I know a thing or two about vocabulary and its application to everyday life. However, I will admit, there have been times where I’ve thrown around a word or a phrase without being 100% sure of its meaning. This typically happens with broad phrases, and we’re all guilty of it. But, what’s cool about language(s) is that it’s virtually limitless, so there’s always room to learn something new.  I’m sure you’re thinking, “okay, Taylor, that’s great and probably not as profound as you think it is. What does this have to do with business?” Well, one of the phrases I’ve heard people throw around and not actually have it stick is “business culture.” It’s used broadly as a cliche with little meaning behind it, often used incorrectly.

While it’s easy to correctly define such a phrase, it is so general that it is difficult for some to have a true grasp of its meaning. Whenever I’m unclear on something, I go to the smartest person I know for clarity – my father. My dad, Mike Leddin, is the executive director of a law firm in Chicago. Throughout my life, he’s been my go-to person for advice and explanation, and this was no different when I was seeking the root meaning of business culture. Since he has a tendency to be more eloquent than I, let’s have him weigh in…

“The business culture within a company is as critically important as the products/services that are produced,” said Mike Leddin. “Creating the right culture, one that fosters teamwork and encourages contributions, thoughts, and ideas at all levels, will be ultimately reflected in the end product/service.”

He added, “The business culture should clearly reflect the social and ethical responsibility of the company, including management’s commitment to act responsibly in all ways. Properly communicated Mission and Values Statements both internally and externally, will not only define the goal and objections of the organization, but also the manner in which these be will be sought and achieved.”

What stuck with me most was his conclusion:

“Business culture is not simply a statement or goal, it is the result of the manner in which we act each day.”

This idea of business culture is important for every team member to keep in mind as we walk into work each day. Questions such as: “What am I providing people?” and “Why should they trust me?” should factor into your definition of business culture.

A company is only as strong as its morals and values. Make sure yours has one that you believe in, lest you be just another brokerage in a sea of competitors that don’t lack clarity.

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

Real Estate Brokerage

Red flags that signal potential homebuying regrets for your clients

(BROKERAGE) When helping clients buy a home, steer your buyers away from these potential dangers in order to avoid regrets.

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Man seated in trunk of car, head in hands as he feels homebuying regret. Avoid these with your clients.

Satisfied clients aren’t buyers who have just found the perfect home – their customer swho bought the perfect home, and still feels great about it a year later.

Buyer’s remorse is a real risk, especially on a large, expensive purchase like a home.

Not just a number

As a real estate agent, you can certainly pressure your customers to make a quick decision just to close the deal, but that’s not how you create lasting relationships or satisfied clients.

Instead, help buyers make the best decision they can so that they don’t have regrets later.

Tim Lemke at Wisebread has offered a list of the “Biggest Regrets of New Homeowners.” By examining what homeowners are most likely to regret after purchase, you can help your clients avoid find a home that they can be happy with for years to come.

Money regrets

According to Lemke, most post-purchase regrets arise when the buyer fails to budget or properly finance the purchase. This includes buying a home that is too expensive, making a down payment that is too small, setting up the wrong kind of mortgage, or making the purchase with a low credit score or while still in debt.

Help your client create a budget for the home that does not exceed 30% of the household’s gross income – and stick to it!

The budget should also factor in at least 20% of the cost as a down payment. If the down payment is too small, the available loans will be less than ideal, and the buyer will lose money on private mortgage insurance.

False hope regrets

You should also advise clients to avoid other common pitfalls that can leave homeowners dissatisfied. A fixer-upper is great if the client is handy, but if he or she doesn’t know how to do home repairs and renovations, they could easily end up with an unlivable property that will cause stress and require a lot of time and money to repair.

In order to avoid other unforeseen repairs, make sure your clients also get the house inspected so that they don’t end up with surprise problems.

Diligence regrets

Finally, encourage your clients to not only check out the house itself, but to research the surrounding area. Too often, buyers fall in love with a house, but end up regretting their choice of neighborhood.

Help your clients make the best decision they can – no regrets!

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Real Estate Brokerage

How to spot If a client or fellow agent is lying to you, and get the truth out

(BUSINESS NEWS) When a client or even an agent on the other side of the deal is lying, here is how to pull the truth out of them.

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Woman and man in an argument determining if one was lying.

Trust is important when it comes to running your business. So what should you do if you suspect that one of your team members, or even a client might be lying to you?

Shining a blinding light in their eyes and pounding on the table to demand answers may work on TV, but it’s not very effective for real people, says retired Green Beret Sergeant Major Karl Erickson.

Erickson, who perfected the art of identifying fibbers and extracting truths while in the military, and by studying interrogation techniques with John E. Reid & Associates, recently shared his insight.

First step – establish truthful behavior.

He notes that it is harder than people think to tell if someone is lying based on their body language alone. Sure, liars may have shifty eyes and jiggling knees, but so do honest people who are just nervous.

He suggests starting off by asking innocuous questions about things that the person will likely be truthful about. You could even use Facebook to find out more about the person, so that you can ask them innocent questions about their family or their latest vacation.

That way, you can establish an idea of the person’s general behavior.

If they break a sweat and bite their nails while telling the truth, then you’ll know that these habits aren’t necessarily associated with lying.

If you start by asking questions they won’t lie about, then slowly turn up the heat, you’ll be more likely to notice if they start behaving differently when you get to the juicy stuff.

Ask a question in various ways.

Erickson also recommends asking the same question at least three different ways. A liar won’t likely mess up their story, even when asked repeatedly.

However, they may reveal “carefully repeated phrases” and an “overly deliberate choice of words” that suggest that they’ve rehearsed their answers.

Don’t try to intimidate.

Being friendly and compassionate works better than intimidation. Erickson says that he’ll tell someone, “if I was in your shoes, I’d probably have done the same thing.”

Soften them up, and they’ll be more likely to confess.

Tell a version of the story.

Lastly, Erickson suggests telling the version of the story that you imagine could have happened.

The more you elaborate and exaggerate, the more likely the person will interrupt you to correct your assumptions, resulting in at least a partial confession.

Good luck! You deserve to know the truth.

This story was first published here in September of 2016.

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Real Estate Brokerage

5 steps you need to take in order to provide next-level customer service

(BROKERAGE) Some small steps that business owners take in order to show customers appreciation, loyalty, and service that turns into business success.

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Person holding phone representing customer service.

I can’t think of the last time I called a business in need of help – it could have been my cable provider or the electric company – and I was immediately reminded of what they couldn’t do for me rather than what they could. It makes me wonder if customer service is becoming a lost art or maybe it’s a generational thing, that people at a certain age demand too much as customers.

I’m not expecting a mint under my pillow or even a gift card. Although both would be nice. But what I am expecting is to be treated as the asset that I am: a customer. Call me silly, but last time I checked, without customers, the bills don’t get paid and the mouths don’t get fed. If that’s not enough to treat customers like royalty, I don’t know what is.

It’s the little things

It’s easy to be on the outside looking in, but I’ve noticed that some of the most successful small (and even large) business owners got to where they are by keeping an eye- not on the bottom line- but on the little things. You know, those crazy small steps that business owners take in order to show customers appreciation and loyalty and that can go a long way in building and sustaining fruitful relationships (that in turn translates into sustained business).

Every face-to-face is showtime

It’s been said that time is money, so think of time well-spent as an investment. Three minutes spent talking to a customer shapes his or her impression of your company more than the combination of your name, pricing, design, website, and product features. This is your shining moment to be the best you can be, to blow the person away with how cool it was to contact you.

Customer vs. Company (and guess who wins)

This is probably a no-brainer, but if you want great customer service, you need to make a choice up front and decide that your customers’ happiness is your top priority, even above company profitability, and then make sure everyone in your company knows it and acts that way.

Be generous

All great service comes from a feeling of generosity and abundance. All terrible service comes from a mindset of scarcity, from business owners who feel they’ll go out of business if they don’t fiercely guard their bottom line. So share. Be nice. Give refunds. Take a little loss. You can afford it. Of course, it’s also just smart business. Losing 10 cents on extra sauce can mean winning the loyalty of a customer who will spend $1,000 with you over the next 10 years and tell 20 friends you’re awesome.

Take the high road

Whenever a customer is upset, let the person know he or she was right and the company was wrong. The customer wins. You lose. And you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to make the person happy again.

Happily ever after

There are a lot of great lessons to be learned out there and certainly, this is not the be-all-end-all when it comes to customer service. But if you treat your customers right, after awhile the mindset becomes part of your social fabric.

It’s just the right thing to do.

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