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Nostradamus, Don Quixote and the Here & Now

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Do you have a Plan?

It’s December and we’re looking directly at 2009, have you written your 2009 business plan? How about your goals? How about a budget? As I travel around lecturing on various topics, I routinely ask agents to refer back to their business plan….than I wait for the blank stares. Even the agents that appear the most “together” have no idea of what they are doing or will be doing. The reality is that these agents are just living one transaction to another and you simply can’t run a business that way.

There are three main areas that I think agents should focus on while devising their master plan of market domination and stellar client-centric service.

Element 1 – Nostradamus

Nostradamus was a seer or prophet who lived in the 1500’s and arguably has been one of the few from that era to this that could speak of the future. Whereas I don’t believe that anyone can tell us the future of Real Estate in the modern era, we can look at trends to predict the possible forthcoming issues. Its a pretty sure bet, that we’ll still have economically tough times ahead. Interestingly enough not all agents are being significantly phased by the housing market.

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I highly recommend Swanepoel’s Trends Report (2009’s edition should be out in January) as a great resource for the prediction of future market trends. Knowledge is the best investment that one can make in their real estate career. Finding sources that help you define how your business will develop is critically important. Using information such as these reports and, that which is gained from reading industry news like Inman or informative blogs will create a good sense of where we are headed.

Business and strategic plans should look at next year, five years, 10 years and 20 years. Typically each year you’ll only adjust the 1 and 5 year plans. Without these plans and adjustments how will you ever know where you stand in your life / business plans?

Element 2 – Don Quixote

Don Quixote was a character in satirical novel about a misguided “knight” that spent time fighting windmills, as if they were dragons. Of course, I am not recommending that anyone go and fight imaginary dragons; but do you know when there is a real dragon to slay and when it is simply a windmill? I am still sorting though the ability to distinguish between these two things in Real Estate. You need to understand that to the average practitioner, remodeling the industry is not an issue at all. Most agents feel that status quo is just fine and why try to fight issues like higher education and dual agency? To those agents, anyone who is blogging, has association involvement and strives for knowledge, are all fighting enemies that are really just windmills. Of course I disagree.

What does your business plan establish as a windmill and a fight-worth-fighting? Does your business plan allocate time to work on industry improvement as well? I am not saying that it has to – far from it. I personally don’t think everyone is a visionary or leader and more so than any other group, those are the folks who I want working on the big picture. But if you are a person who wishes to do more than just list and sell, have you planned for the time, money and effort needed? Does it fit your personal strategic and business plan?

Aside from activities, what goals you have set that may be a dragon to you and a windmill to others? Have you taken a look at your goals or plans (assuming you’ve expressed them in a measurable form at some point) to see if it’s really that important? What about that new car you wanted in 2008? Was it necessary? Was it more important than a solid savings account, seeing as there are no guarantees for the same level of real estate production as the past few years… What defines a real tangible need for your business plan?

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Element 3 – The Here and Now

A lot of times, we get so very focused on tomorrow, that we forget that we still have to care for “today.” A lot of agents preparing for 2009 have failed to see the things that really need to be adjusted in their current way of doing things. The agents I am referring to, typically get everything done at the eleventh hour, have no focus and short tempers. Why? Well some just suck, but others really are great people who have no system in place. The end result of a systemless agent can be devastating and result in frustration and maybe guilt.

I love written objectives as a way to measure my “success”, after all – how do I know I am successful, if I haven’t created a tangible way to measure?

“Mark McCormack reported in his Success Secrets newsletter that 83% of Harvard School graduates had no goals 10 years after graduation; 14% had goals, but not in writing. The remaining three percent had written goals — and were earning 10 times as much as the group with no goals. Even the 14% whose goals were not in writing were earning three times as much as those graduates who had no goals at all.”

To write the goals of tomorrow, I need to know where I am today. I need to define my current industry’s position, so that I know if I’m happy with my plan and where to tweak it. Again – living paycheck to paycheck in this industry can be devastating. The agents I see making the most mistakes and treating their clients poorly are the folks who “MUST” get to closing with this deal; it “MUST” close or they won’t make their mortgage. I’ve heard that a lot, over the past few years, but strangely enough I heard it when you had to be a knuckle-head not to have a closing. Yes, even five years ago, when you could trip and fall into a closing, there were those agents without plans or backups that freaked out if a closing was delayed, because they had already spent the money.

You need a plan. You need a self assessment. You need a future initiative and you need accountability.

Other Resources

Here are a few other resources that you should have to help your planning (I do not benefit at all from giving these resource recommendations):

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2008 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers

Gary Keller’s book: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent

Dan Gooder-Richards Real Estate Rainmaker Books

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber (Highly Recommend)

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Matt Stigliano

    December 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Matthew – Once again I am reminded of why I really need to commit my goals to paper. Its a key weakness of mine and I know it. I think (like many people) my goals are hard to write only because I hate to admit what I want and hate if I don’t achieve it 100%. I’ve struggled with this since day one as I can be pretty hard on myself when I “fail” (I’m learning that its not always “failure” to not reach a goal…its probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned in life).

  2. Ken Brand

    December 12, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Preach it brother – 2009 Business Plans are like the contracts we write, if it’s not in writing it just a “good idea”.

    Thanks for the reminder, nudge, shove, kick in the pants.


  3. Missy Caulk

    December 12, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Matt, I always write down my personal goals and together as a TEAM we write down ours.
    It is a good time to look back, reflect, delete, add to and subtract from.

    I still have the original goals on a yellow legal pad of paper back in 1995, fun to look at it as all of it has happened or grown into more than I could imagine.

    Goals are not goals if they can’t be measured.

  4. Marbella Property

    December 18, 2008 at 7:34 am

    I egree ->> To write the goals of tomorrow, you need to know where you are today! But I dont think so that if someone is not writting down their goals are not making plans. Ofcaurse they are. I´m not sure which way is better but I know that every one has thair own head,their own way of thinking and planning!
    Cheers from Spain!

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