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A Business Predicated On A Lie Will Crumble When Exposed…

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wolf-in-tech-clothing.jpgImagine… I developed a concept, got a few coders together and soon a new software is born. From Beta, I take the product around the country to VCs showing off the new software, but explain to the VCs that they aren’t investing in the software, it’s more of an idea- software as the bait. We use the software as bait to potential real estate consumers, offer a guide online that agents can add to and develop for us, and make friends with Realtors all across the country by offering very inexpensive advertising. We let the Realtors, agents and hell, we’ll even let the customers build the software’s database for us by adding their home or listing for free!

It’s pure Genius. Why? Because Mr. VC, once the software’s back.end is complete or close enough, we now have built the country’s first all inclusive national listing service. We’ll make BILLIONS! We’ll even advertise our software’s statistics as fact so that we could possibly control the perception of markets! It really is UBERGENIUS! Except for one tiny flaw– When and if that ever happened, the entire real estate world would rise up against me. They would cry foul and dismiss any credibility my company had. The country as a whole would never trust a single thing I said, and you, Mr. VC could lose millions- but… I still think you should invest in me because we’ll simply change the name, the branding and, bam!- we now have the largest private consumer driven listing service… add in the option to buy and sell homes online without an agent and those pesky Realtors will never know what hit’em. Imagine…

Old hack don’t make it unimaginable:

Sellsius said…

Is the result that Zillow is moving toward a National MLS? – With owners cajoled into entering the listing data and doing the work for zillow? Brilliant plan?

Real Estate 2.x said…

Considering their are 6.5B people on earth… every man woman and child on earth must visit Zillow 2.0 times EACH per year in order for Zillow to generate the profits, via an advertising model, that will create the profits to support the market value that will pay back the investors.

My take… Advertising is not really their model.

An online client built by a tech, and developed by agents and consumers… Seems harmless, right?

***Thanks David (w/Zillow) for Engaging the conversation…

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. David G from Zillow.com

    May 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Hi, it’s David from Zillow.

    Advertising is our model.

    To get where this is all headed, think through the analogy of how your blog relates to google. Yes, by blogging and adding content to the web you give google more search results to show their users and they do get stronger … but that’s obviously not a good reason to stop blogging. Quite the opposite … google adds value to your blog by sending people to it. Likewise, participating in Zillow is a win-win game that will deliver clients to your real estate business. It’s that simple.

  2. B. R.

    May 23, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    But is your model in the end a national consumer driven listing service? We could put all this hocus pocus mumbo jumbo to bed if you can say no.

  3. jf.sellsius

    May 23, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Consider also Zillow’s initial mantra– to become the “Kelley Blue Book” for homes. This mantra reveals their notion that homes can be commoditized and valued like cars. Forget that cars are depreciating assets and homes are generally appreciating assets. If the perception becomes the reality, brokers become dispensible—just tuck your “public endorsed” Zillow Blue Book under your arm and go home shopping.

    Zillow has since backed off this mantra, realizing, I think, that real estate agents won’t advertise on a site that has this philosophy. But the fact that they use zestimates to create housing trends reports and graph zestimates tells me they still believe the mantra.

  4. David G from Zillow.com

    May 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

    BR –

    The answer is no, other than “national”, that is not an accurate description of Zillow at all.

    Zillow is a media company, so the best analogy to a legacy player would be to compare Zillow to the real estate section of a national newspaper … or to a real estate focused TV channel. That’s actually an analogy we use internally and so my boss, Spencer, will often refer to Zestimate values as our first “hit show”.

    Let me try to better explain what we’re doing …

    First, and since you asked about it, Zillow is obviously national. We do have international ambitions and I look forward to the day that we have the development resources available to work on that expansion. For now though, there’s still lots to be done in the US.

    Zillow gives listing agents and sellers the ability to post a home for sale on the site — it is free. This feature is analogous to newspaper classifieds where many agents and sellers advertise their listings today – except on Zillow, it’s free. In that sense, craigslist might be a better comp.

    Zillow is a consumer-centric real estate website. We are convinced that by putting the real estate consumer first, we will best serve our industry clients who advertise on Zillow. This was a bold bet but it seems it was the right decision at the right time.

    Zillow is “driven” however by the members who participate in the site. According to our user surveys, that group includes about 600K real estate professionals who visit the site monthly (out of more than 4M users). On Zillow, you will notice that those professionals are in the driving seat of most of the deals being discussed. Zillow reflects what is happening in the real estate industry — most houses are sold by Realtors and most buyers have representation. The conversations on Zillow reflect this reality.

    Further, while free postings are a major feature, you’re missing a big part of the Zillow picture if you are only thinking about listings. Zillow is a living database of all homes. All homes, not just those for sale. Some have Make Me Move prices, others are actually for sale. Most homes have Zestimate values and some owners have even published their own estimates. Many owners have uploaded gorgeous pictures of their house – even though many of those homes are not for sale.

    I hope that gives you a better idea of what we’re about. If not, try the site out to get a better feel for it … if you do, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you ever need my feedback in future, feel free to email me (at the email address I provided with my comment).

  5. B. R.

    May 24, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    David, I certainly appreciate your reply to the question. I hear your call to look at the bigger picture, but I think a lot of people are. The bigger picture as it relates to positioning ourselves in this new and inventive age. Realtors as you know are not always large Brokerage houses, they are every day average hard working folks trying to compete with 8 Million dollar budgets (Trulia).

    The bigger picture question has been, today it is friendly commerce, but is tomorrow something totally different? We have to be able to trust innovators that they are not innovating to exclude, but to include. When bloggers do research your site, which many of us have, we see things such as disclaimers hidden under links. The so-called breach of privacy allows strangers to Zestimate your home or allows agents to add a listing unknowingly to expose a lower Zestimate than the agent should sell the home for. A tool to the buyer yes, but harmful to the seller as I am sure Rich found out when he exposed a lower value on his own home. So here are the bottom line questions we’ve all had:

    1. Why not make it absolutely clear when creating a zestimate that it cannot be removed?
    2. Why not allow an owner to have his Zestimate removed if he so disagrees with it?
    3. Why not make the novelty of a Zestimate known (in no uncertain terms) upfront?

    Transparency is key as you techies always say- so help me clear the air once in for all on these three questions with three concise answers…

    BR

  6. jf.sellsius

    May 24, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Number 2 recognizes that home owners should be free to market THEIR ASSET as they see fit. If, as Zillow admits, the zestimate is only a “first step” why would they leave a first step sitting right next to the last step—the pricing of the home for sale. We have lobbied for this opt-out right (we even ran a poll on it—unscientific of course) & I think if owners were heard they would want this right.

  7. David G from Zillow.com

    May 24, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    BR –

    It’s a pleasure. I strongly recommend you use the google/blogging analogy above as a framework to better understand your opportunities online and to reevaluate who your competition is. You are probably passing on some business opportunities based on your current understanding of the real estate web sites.

    To answer your follow-up questions:
    1) Users don’t create Zestimates, our software does. The only estimate a user can “create” on Zillow is an “owners’ estimate”. Owners’ estimates can be removed or made private whenever the owner chooses.
    2) Owners can not remove Zestimates because the Zestimate is not published for the owner’s exclusive benefit. Remember that we decided to be the consumer-centric player in real estate. That strategy, for better or worse, implies treating all visitors to our site equally. So naturally all visitors have equal access to all Zestimate values. Transparency is something we don’t just give lip-service to.
    3) Because that’s not true. As you know, the system that produces Zestimate values is an AVM. AVM’s are very clearly not “novelties”. The reality is that AVM’s play many important roles in the real estate industry and that they are now also useful to consumers while researching their next transaction. Zestimate values do not however compete with or replace the need for a Realtor’s CMA or an appraisal and that fact IS very clearly communicated on our website.

    A Zestimate value can not hurt a seller’s deal. A seller or listing agent may hear a low Zestimate value quoted in negotiations but that’s all those conversations are; they’re negotiations. As you know, negotiations are nothing new to this industry. If it’s not a Zestimate value, buyers will use an odd comp or tax assessors value to argue for a low-ball offer. A competent Realtor will never loose a negotiation to a buyer who is quoting a Zestimate.

    Please spend some time on our website and form your opinions of Zillow based on first-hand experience of what we do. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  8. jf.sellsius

    May 24, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Re 2)
    That’s the problem. The zestimate is not published to benefit the seller (it’s for the buyers’ benefit). Finally some truth about Zillow’s unconcern for homeowners/sellers. (That’s progress)

    Zillow is not consumer centric. it is buyer centric—remember how Z came to be–B&F were BUYERS. If zillow considered sellers, it would give them the opt out right to remove CLEARLY WAY OFF zestimates (look up Steve Olshan in the Zillow blog archives). And it’s the owner/seller whose home is used as bait to attract visitors and ad dollars to Zillow. If you’re using my home to attract your ad $, you should give me, the owner some rights, don’t cha think?

  9. David G from Zillow.com

    May 25, 2007 at 9:26 am

    JF. Come on. I said it’s not for the sellers _”exclusive”_ benefit. There’s a significant difference. If you’re going to quote me, get it right.

    It’s interesting you think Zillow is buyer-centric when many industry commentators say the opposite. The truth, as is well illustrated by that disagreement, is that Zillow strikes a great balance as a neutral destination where buyers, sellers and their agents are on an equal footing.

  10. jf.sellsius

    May 25, 2007 at 10:54 am

    David,

    Forget industry commentators. Ask owners and sellers and listing agents if they would want the right to exclude a “grossly inaccurate zestimate”? Afraid they might say YES?

    Run a poll if you really want to know how owners, sellers and listing agents feel about this & whether they think zillow’s refusal to allow it is to their benefit? We did.
    https://tinyurl.com/22a73a

    You say you’re for transparency. Zillow should put its money where its zestimate is?

    I’ll wager the results will show it is not to a home seller’s benefit to have an inaccurate zestimate anywhere near their home. Do you really think this is a benefit?

  11. jf.sellsius

    May 25, 2007 at 11:16 am

    PS to David

    I was not quoting you (see, no quote marks). I was making the point that sellers do not get ANY benefit from a grossly inaccurate zestimate. Period. When you say zillow will not allow owners to remove any zestimate– that is NOT a benefit to the seller, in any way shape or form, if the zestimate they want to remove is totally bogus.

    If I was quoting you I would have said you said,
    “A zestimate value can not hurt a seller’s deal” and ask, “does an inaccurate zestimate help the seller?” or “has zillow never received a complaint that the inaccurate zestimate DID hurt a seller?

  12. Sock Puppet

    May 26, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Isn’t it just too hot in Texas to own a balaclava for anything other than bank robberies?

    -Athol

  13. B. R.

    May 26, 2007 at 6:27 am

    HA yeah, you would pretty much pass out right after “stick-em-up” from heat stroke.

  14. louis cammarosano

    May 26, 2007 at 7:51 am

    As I see it Zillow is consumer centric so that it can create a consumer to consumer real estate portal and eventually collect a transaction fee for matching consumers to consumers who sell houses to each other.

    The make me move feature is nothing more than FSBO under another name-FSBILLO or FSBOLLOW if you like.

    Does Zillow spend millions developing features for consumers all just to sell banner ads to its limited 3-4 million visitor a month person audience?

    Since there is no money in advertising to consumers Zillow takes realtor ad money – they have to show their VC’s some revenue.

    Since they need listings for consumer interest they take realtor listings.

    The Kelly’s blue book shine is off Zillow as Yahoo’s recent selection of a relatively unknown company whose core business is not even real estate (Reply) and a start up (eppraisal)to provide side by side instant homevaluations with Zillow highlights that what Zillow is doing is nothing special.

    That Reply, yes, the automotive lead generation company, can also run public data through an algorithm and spit out a valution highlights that what Zillow is doing is nothing special and not worthy of the hype they have created simply by taking last millenium’s technology and wrapping it in a big “Z”. “Zestimates” E-“Z” ads etc.

    Now the next big hype from Zillow is the (non) creation of a national listing Zite -all for the benefit of the consumer just so they can sell banner ads? How many decades would it take selling banner ads to recoup just the first $53 million they raised from investors?

    I don’t believe that Zillow would raise $53 million just to do that. I believe they want to change the real estate industry, take a cut of the action (just like they did with Expedia) and make Zillions.

    Does Zillow seriously want us to believe they can provide cool consumer features and make money selling banner ads? Sounds like every other “Web 2.0” company with a money losing “business model”.

    Zillow is much Zmarter than that, perhaps they are just not Zaying Zo.

  15. Jeff Brown

    May 26, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Anyone who doesn’t see through the ineffectual mask of Z-holdup going on, isn’t paying attention.

    Zillow is the guy in high school telling the Realtors, the girl next door, “No, really honey, I do love you. Let’s go back to my house, nobody’s home.”

    It’s amazing there’s even a debate about this. But, like the girl next door, Realtors REALLY want to believe. 🙂

  16. David G from Zillow.com

    May 29, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    All –
    Zillow is a media business and we have no plans to change that model. Media companies have always played an important role in real estate; consider that most newspapers have an entire section devoted to homes. Many of the media products used by today’s real estate consumer are online. If you’re still advertising in your local paper or sending out flyers – but your listing or your ad is not on Zillow – you should reevaluate your marketing plan.

    Louis –
    “there is no money in advertising to consumers”
    You could not be more wrong. Advertising to consumers is a 200 billion dollar industry in the US alone. Someone is making a lot of money (GOOG, YHOO, NYT etc.)

    Jeff –
    Honestly, I’m surprised. Do you believe the work you do for your clients can be replicated by a website? I don’t buy that.

  17. Louis Cammarosano

    May 29, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Jeff

    Thanks for your comments. I think that in order to gain significant advertising dollars from banner ads the audience must be of significant size.

    Currently, Zillow’s traffic ranks behind Realtor.com, HomeGain.com, MSN Real Estate, Remax and other real estate sites.

    The problem with the real estate consumer is they generally buy homes infrequently so the audience at any given time never reaches the tens of millions.

    Google and Yahoo make money selling ads because they reach hundreds of millions of consumers.

    The Zillow approach of getting consumers interested in visiting Zillow, not just when they are selling or buying a home, should increase visits and page views so you can sell ads.

    Certainly an online company can make money with advertising. It seems to me that the scale required is not attainable by one real estate web site.

    Given that instant Home Valuations are a commodity-a point highlighted by Yahoo’s inclusion of Reply (whose core business is not even real estate)and start up, eppraisals.com to provide instant home valuations side by side with Zillow-Zillow’s hopes for cornering the consumer market for Homevaluations is diminished and the limited audience of consumers interested in homevaluations becomes splintered.

    abc realestate and cyberhomes also provide instant homevalutions.

    HomeGain also has a instant homevalation tool-brought back from the last century’s tour of duty 1999-2001.

    Good luck making money selling ads around instant home valuations.

    Louis

  18. Jeff Brown

    May 29, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    David – Honestly, I’m surprised. Do you believe the work you do for your clients can be replicated by a website? I don’t buy that.

    Not my meaning at all. I was only commenting on what I think Zillow’s zup to. 🙂

    I think your ultimate goal is not anything short of putting buyers and sellers together for a fee.

    A website can’t begin to do what I do.

  19. jf.sellsius

    May 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    David,

    What if my buyers are reading the classified section of my newspaper (you know, that “entire section” you said is “devoted to homes”)—shouldn’t I continue to advertise there?

    PS When can we expect that zillow poll on the right to exclude inaccurate zestimates from homesellers’ homes?

  20. Agent Scoreboard

    June 8, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    WOW!!!

    Lots of venom at Zillow. Really I don’t see what the problems is? Who cares if zillow has a Zestimate on 123 Zikes Street. How does that affect your business? If they create a national MLS so what? Good! Its good for competition and if NAR wasn’t so busy protecting the status quo they should have created that years ago. The aggregation of listing data and traffic creates economies of scale that lowers the cost of property marketing for all involved.

    I remember when Rich was back being secret about Zillow, I actually was in a group of people that had a conversation with him at Inman. He said, how would the real estate industry be impacted by price transparency? Consumers and real estate professionals could see the gaps in the market between selling prices and asking pricings in a closer to real time manner, allowing people to quickly identify trends and make better investments in property and housing. I almost hugged him!

    I’m not sure why people care about Zillow’s valuations, as a broker https://www2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp?License_id=01379165 whose actually closed more than a few deals, in a few states. My biggest valuation problem was, “That house down the street just sold for $600,000, My house is worth that too, right?” Well that “house down the street” is 5 years newer and 350 sqft larger, and didn’t sell for 600k, but that what is was listed for.” There is a data vacuum that the realtors have held the keys to for far too long. I say give consumers all the data they want… let them pick the model that works best for them, and we can work with them.

    I don’t believe Zillow can successfully make a transition to “brokerage” maybe a cool FSBO site that includes some risk mitigation tools like transaction management and legal review. So… great! Do you think its going to take the place of agents? I doubt it. The appearance of McDonald’s didn’t kill the restaurant business, it just a filled a need of a time strapped society. Zillow is one company’s response to a societal need. Its not the first and wont be the last.

    You should thank Rich and Dave… I do, they have kept the dialog going and its great…consumers are talking and so are we, that’s how we’ll make things better..

  21. jf.sellsius

    June 9, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Good points Scoreboard. As an agent, inaccurate zestimates just create the same problem as the neighbor down the block. SO agreed. But I am looking at them from a different perspective—the refusal to recognize ANY rights of a homeowner/seller/listing agent to market their asset with outside interference. If I stood in front of your open house, nicely dressed, with a sign that said this house is only worth (pick a number that would annoy you). That to me is intereference, especially if that number is dead wrong. There is a BIG difference between publishing public data, solds (good) and creating an inaccurate value that is then attached to my home without my consent. As a homeowner it just rubs me wrong.

    Oh yeah, did you hear the latest zillow plan —display how much money is in the owner’s bank account so buyers know if they need to sell & can negotiate a better price. (joking folks)

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Opinion Editorials

Your business model doesn’t have to be a unicorn or a camel to succeed

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unusual for people to suggest a new business model analogy, but this latest “camel” suggestion isn’t new or helpful.

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Camels walking in desert, not the best business model.

This year in 2020 I’ve seen a great deal of unique takes on how our system works. From 45 all the way down to children instructing adults on how to wear masks properly. However, after reading this new article published by the Harvard Business Review, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so out of touch with the rest of the business world. Here’s a brief synopsis on this article on business model.

The author has decided that now of all times it’s drastically important for startups and entrepreneurs to switch their business tactics. Changing from a heavy front-end investment or “startups worth over a billion dollars” colloquially called “Unicorns” to a more financially reserved business model. One he has tried to coin as the “Camel”, using references to the animal’s ability to survive “long periods of time without sustenance, withstand the scorching desert heat, and adapt to extreme variations in climate.”

The author then goes on to outline best practices for this new business plan: “Balance instead of burn”, “Camels are built for the long haul”, “Breadth and depth for resilience”.

Now I will admit that he’s not wrong on his take. It’s a well thought-out adjustment to a very short-term solution. You want to know why I’m sure of that? Because people figured this out decades ago.

The only place that a “Unicorn” system worked was in something like the Silicon Valley software companies. Where people can start with their billions of dollars and expect “blitzscaling” (a rapid building-up tactic) to actually succeed. The rest of the world knows that a slow and resilient pace is better suited for long term investments and growth. This ‘new’ business realization is almost as outdated as the 2000 Olympics.

The other reason I’m not thrilled with this analogy is that they’ve chosen an animal that doesn’t really work well. Camels are temperamental creatures that actually need a great deal of sustenance to survive those conditions they’ve mentioned. It’s water that they don’t need for long periods, once they stock up. They have to have many other resources up front to survive those harsh conditions the article writer mentioned. So by this analogy, it’s not that different than Silicon Valley’s strongly backed “startups.”

If he wanted to actually use the correct animal for this analogy, then he should call it a tortoise business plan. Actually, any type of reptile or shark would work. It would probably be a better comparison in temperament as well, if we’re talking ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Whatever you do, consider your angle, and settle in for the long haul.

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Opinion Editorials

10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and crush your professional goals.

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work productivity

Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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Opinion Editorials

Why soft skills are even more essential in online era

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Since many of us aren’t seeing our co-workers in person these days, our soft skills are even more important in the online working space.

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Skype video chat with person writing in notebook. Soft skills are critical online.

When did we start thinking of “soft” as bad? I mean, we’ve got soft serve (excellent), softball (good exercise), fabric soft-ener (another industry I’m enjoying killing as a millennial). And we’ve got soft skills.

Or at least… I hope we do.

The shift to non-optional remote working has been difficult for a lot of us, especially for everyone who forgets to press mute before making sure the kids behave. But it’ll take more than being hot-mic savvy to make it through the foreseeable future. Brush up on these soft skills while we’re waiting on a vaccine, and it’ll make the coming months (years?) much easier.

1. Tone mastery

Do you know the difference between “Hey, Brenda, can we have a 1:1 at 12:30pm to go over the laser-equipped yoga pants presentation details?” and “Brenda, we need to talk…”?

If not, you might not have a great grasp on how to say with your typey-words what you can no longer say with your facial expressions. You don’t need to throw an emoji or exclamation point into every sentence to get your points across, but you do have the power to keep your coworkers’ heart rates in a safe range by explaining what exactly you need from them in your initial messages.

Use that power wisely.

2. Checking in

There’s no water cooler talk if there’s no water cooler, right?

Making and maintaining connections is more important now than ever, natural introversion be damned. You wanna be a star, don’tcha? Keep up relationships with public shoutouts, inquiries, and reaction images, and you’ll keep up morale while maintaining and boosting your potential for growth in the company.

Even if you’re not a small-talk kind of person, just a drop in for updates, meeting minutes, or sharing a relevant article via appropriate chatrooms and DMs can help hone your soft skills.

“Karen, this MLM article reminded me of your anti-Scentsy tangent you forgot we could all hear, maybe send this to your pushy ex-friend.”

“Hey, Ravindra, how’s the new laptop working out? All good? No ‘Kill all Humans’ protocols like the last one?”

Simple blips like this can add up like couch change. If you’re an admin, make a general chats section, and work in enough time in meetings to allow everyone to have a bit of a chat before getting down to business.

3. Make yourself available

This was important before the pandemic, honestly, but it bears repeating now, especially for everyone in a leadership position. If you’re not making time for check-ins, constantly cancelling meetings, or just generally enjoying being gone when people need you…figure out a way to not. Delegate what you can, bring on a VA, shorten that vacation, whatever you have to do. Everyone’s struggling, and being captain means your crew is looking to you. Don’t let the general air of desperation lull you into thinking a metaphorical keelhauling is out of the question—that extra power still comes with extra responsibility.

Keep yourself from double-bookings, cancellations, and absences as much as possible, and things will continue to improve internally… Even if they don’t in the outside world.

Aesop had a fable about an oak tree and a little river reed. When a storm came, the hardened oak tree fell and died, while the flexible reed bent with the wind and lived. We’re in the storm now, and everyone’s doing their best not to break. Keep yourself rooted friends, but the moral here is to soften up.

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