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Why clearly expressing your business culture is so critical

(PROFESSIONALISM) Many of us claim to be cultured individuals, but are we business cultured? Let’s discuss.

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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 percent 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 responsible 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

Housing trends continue to surprise everyone during pandemic

(BROKERAGE) Despite whispers, then shouts, to the contrary, the 2020 pandemic did not drive droves of people seeking housing out to the suburbs.

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Apartments and other urban housing doing surprisingly well during the pandemic.

Some things are counterintuitive. People think something’s going to happen a specific way, then they start making predictions, in-person and all over social media. The next thing you know, people start accepting it as truth.

One problem with this rumor mill, though, is that unproven narratives often turn out to be false, as is the case with the COVID-19 housing market narrative suggesting that the suburban housing market is booming, because people are desperate to escape the more densely populated, virus-laden areas.

Zillow’s recent housing report shows the 2020 housing trends through June of this year. The data shows that housing sales are proportionally similar to recent years in both urban and suburban areas. Both areas are strong seller’s markets at the moment, in fact.

The Zillow report also highlighted some comparative analysis between the two markets, noting among other things,

“…suburban markets and urban markets have seen similar changes in activity in recent months: About the same share of homes selling above their list price, similar changes in the typical time homes spend on the market before an offer is accepted, and recent improvements in newly pending sales have been about the same across each region type.”

Austin Realtor, Jordan Wade, with Luisa Mauro Real Estate, confirmed that this report rings true in the central Texas market.

“Our urban sales for 2020 are proportionately similar to years past. When the initial lockdowns went into effect earlier this year, I thought it would negatively impact the overall market with reduced sales, but that’s just not the case. We have clients regularly contacting us looking to purchase in central Austin as well as the suburbs. Both urban and suburban markets are going strong.”

The Zillow report delves deeper into the housing market specifics. While overall, the market demands in urban and suburban areas stayed consistent with last year’s percentages, some smaller trends in 2020 appear to be a continuation of 2019 buying trends. Among those continuing trends, for-sale homes in suburban areas receive about three times as much traffic as downtown listings, yet interest in single-family homes has stayed about the same as last year, too.

Markets in the major metro areas, such as New York and San Francisco, are the exceptions. Each of these historically desirable market areas have seen drops in home values (4.2% and 4.9%, respectively), with houses staying on the market up to two months longer than previously, and more new listings for sale in urban areas.

However, this is not true of other major cities: Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. It’s worth keeping an eye on these trends in upcoming months.

As Wade concludes, “We’re keeping our eye to the future as we learn about long-term effects of the pandemic, with more people working from home. That may eventually mean people will be looking for more square footage than a downtown condo can provide. However, we’re not seeing that yet.”

If we’re counting the lessons that 2020 is teaching us, perhaps we can include that things can change quickly, and things are not always what they seem. It makes sense to slow down, study the data, and reassess our assumptions. Things still may change, of course. They always do, after all, though not always how we predict they will.

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Real Estate Brokerage

The impact of the pandemic on your homebuyer clients

(BROKERAGE) While the pandemic has impacted many changes, you can reassure your clients that the homebuyer housing market is doing surprisingly well.

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For sale house reflects homebuyer growth.

This year, a great many things have been impacted by the pandemic: Company closures, setbacks, etc. The one thing that may actually be surviving well is the housing market. A news release put out by Down Payment Resource stated that 81% of homeownership programs have funds available for the eligible homebuyer. This organization assesses the market around the country and reports on the conditions it finds.

While they have noticed a small drop in those available programs, most of those dips turned out to be temporary and focused at the city and county levels. However, at the state level, these programs have remained open and have not needed to pause business during the pandemic. This has been contributed to a great deal of uncertainty about the world’s condition. This uncertainty does not seem to have affected the homebuyer market, though. Housing finance agencies have reported that they are doing as much or more business than they were at this time last year. The report recorded that, starting this past August, less than 2% of the DPAs had temporarily paused their programs due to the pandemic.

When analyzing the forbearance trends this year, DPA is reporting that the small increase at the beginning was just caution from consumers. Since then, they have slowed down and reports from the summer are showing an increase for the 8th week straight. The only dissenting comments are coming from CoreLogic, who states that delinquency rates are starting to rise.

The HPI reports an increase in the share of down payment and closing cost assistance programs. Upon analysis, all the numbers appear in the majority. The down payment or closing cost assistants’ programs come in at 78%. The only decrease they have recorded is in the first-time mortgages and the programs for Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs).

Overall, things are looking up for the market, at least by the numbers. However, you’ll still probably be facing some concerns from your clients around the volatile nature of the pandemic. This changing world is a scary place, but optimism remains.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Don’t settle for mediocrity: How to be a better leader

(BROKERAGE NEWS) There tends to be two camps of leaders, those who lead from strength and those from weakness. But who says you can’t do both?

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Leader in a meeting

A lot of leadership literature has become “strength’s focused” – using inventories like StrengthsFinder (developed by Gallup). The logic in many ways, is sound. Capitalizing on your strengths as a leader and those of your team is significantly more effective than attempts to cover perceived flaws or weaknesses.

The business world has been cited for being too focused on weaknesses (and now parents are too). This a natural inclination for people. For leaders however, we should be bringing our strengths (and the strengths of our teams) to work and making “it” happen.

However, an over focus on strengths isn’t without its own challenges. Tony Schwartz writes for Harvard Business Review, a “well-rounded leader” has a greater opportunity to be more effective. As we seek to leverage our “strengths” let us not forget the complexity of our skill set and how those negatives we see about ourselves can become assets – resources – that we use to manage ourselves and our teams.

Metaphors are common in leadership articles, so I won’t break tradition.

Much like in physical exercise, poor form often causes the overuse of a muscle versus a group of muscles. Poor leadership form, while doing the lifting, leads to an overuse or over-reliance on what is good and comfortable for us.

A pragmatic leader may find themselves unable to make dynamic change move forward. Today’s leaders have to deal with a more complex environment in terms of technology, skills, and demographics. One style of leading will simply not be enough.

The big lesson here is to workout things you don’t think are your best strengths. What are ways you can take those weaknesses and utilize them? How do your rebranded weaknesses make you a good leader for a project or a team? Create opportunities to use your “positive opposites” – those weaknesses that you have rebranded.

PRO TIP: Find a mentor, find a coach, or keep reading about leadership.

You may never be able to develop those skills as strong as your primary, but you will have more leadership muscle to work with. You’ll be delivering a better leader to serve, build, and develop yourself or the organization.

Schwartz discusses the role of choices. We make a lot of choices as leaders – resources, people, what risks, what resources, what costs. When we make those choices working with clients or employees we are always using our mental tool kits.

It doesn’t hurt us to have more tools, most of the time, to allow us to handle situations.

SIDEBAR: It is important to recognize that we only have a limited amount of time. You’re still going to benefit more from developing your strengths – but don’t forget to work out those rebranded weaknesses (the triceps of leadership!). I love an 80/20 perspective – spend 80% of your learning time focused on building up those strengths, spend the other 20% on flexing those rebranded weakness.

A well-balanced leader is not a one-trick pony – they are leaders who can take an organization through many life cycles. If you seek to be some kind of leader, take some time to appreciate your own mix of strengths and weaknesses, and the unique qualities that you bring to a complex world of complex organizations.

Leadership is a whole person endeavor, and don’t skip those weaknesses (just like leg day!).

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