March 27, 2009

A Lesson on Debt...and How to Handle It

A great take on living with debt in today's society and how to handle it, from comedian Tim Clue.

March 20, 2009

Get S.M.A.R.T

Five Steps to a Great Business Plan - Part II

In our second post on Business Planning, we're going to focus on utilizing S.M.A.R.T goals, understanding the difference between goals and activities and prioritizing tasks.

The whole issue of "goals" is hard for many people, regardless of their career path. Some people build their entire life around goals while others never will "set a goal" for one reason or another - usually fear of failure or unwillingness to hold themselves accountable to the results.

In real estate, it really is an "independent contractor" mentality so being able to hold yourself accountable to the goals within your business plan will be important. The biggest obstacle is creating clear goals, IN WRITING, that can be followed and measured. These goals should be what I refer to as SMART goals:
  • S is for Specific - Can you clearly tell by reading the goal what is to be accomplished?

  • M is for Measurable - Will you know when you have achieved the goals? Surpassed it? Fallen short?

  • A is for Attainable - Who determines this? You do. Not your manager, coach, spouse or partner. It should be something you truly feel you can accomplish, even if you have to reach to get there

  • R is for Reward - What are you doing this for? What is that "special something" that will get you up in the mornings? That will make you make those extra phone calls or knock on those extra doors?

  • T is for Time Frame - When will this goal be accomplished. Remember a goal with out a time frame is nothing but a dream.

Look at your current goals and ask yourself if they pass the "smart" test. If they don't, what can you do to re-commit to them as SMART goals? Saying you "want to lose weight" isn't specific, isn't measurable, there is no reward tied to it and there is no time frame. So what do you have, 1 out of 5? I believe weight loss is attainable by anyone. Just don't eat for a day and you will have lost a few ounces, right?

Now let's take that same concept (weight loss) but make it SMART - "I will weigh 175 pounds by May 31st, 2009 and when I accomplish this, I will buy a new pair of exercise shoes."

  • It's specific - What am I doing? Losing weight.

  • It's measurable - How will I know if I accomplish it? I can get on a scale and check my numbers.

  • It's attainable - Where am I at now and how far do I have to go to get there? I currently weigh 184 (but truly feel about 195).

  • What's my reward? A new pair of shoes. I personally am still recovering from knee surgery so I have been walking instead of running.

  • What's my time frame? The end of May. That means I have a little over two months.

Quiet on the set...and...Action!

Now I must decide on some basic activities that I can do to get me closer to accomplishing my goal. In the example given, walking each day, eating healthy, drinking more water and general weight training might be great things to do on a weekly basis that should help me stay on track. I should also get on the scale every once in a while to track my results.

The same thing applies to Realtors. Too often we try to "make 10 calls a day" or hold "3 open houses each month" and consider those our goals. Those aren't goals, those are activities. They help us get closer to our goals of a certain # of closings or specific net income. Look at your Business Plan and think of what your "SMART goals" are and then determine what basic activities you should be doing to accomplish them.

"Do What's Due First"

When it comes to prioritization, most Realtors make everything urgent and everything important. Stop and breathe for a second when I tell you that not everything in this business is urgent and not everything in this business is important. As soon as you can learn this lesson, you'll be a step ahead of many people.

Every time you decide to do something, ask yourself this question - "Will this activity get me closer to the attainment of one of my goals?" If "yes" then proceed, if "no" then look for something that is more urgent or more important and either delegate the pending activity or schedule a time to do it later. If you have two tasks or activities that are both important and/or urgent and will help get you closer to accomplishing a goal, determine which one would affect you the most if it wasn't done. Many times the fear of pain is a great motivator than the opportunity for gain.

In our next post, we'll look at a list of basic activities that could go into your daily, weekly and monthly schedules and help you attain more of your goals.

Until relationships...solve problems....and have fun.

March 17, 2009

Time to Fill Out Your Brackets

Greetings Everyone,

Welcome to March Madness. This blog has been selected by the Virginia Association of Realtors to compete in their Blog Brawl – a “NCAA style” match-up of some of the best real estate blogs out in cyberspace. I appreciate those of you who voted for me to make it into the “friendly competition.” There must have been quite a few because the “bracket seedings” were determined by number of votes and I am the #2 seed in Zone #2.

Now that the games have begun, I need your votes to advance to future rounds. Visit the site at and look for the match-up between my blog ( and the #7 seed ( The blog is written by Teresa Boardman, a Realtor from St. Paul, Minnesota.

It looks to be a very entertaining blog with a "hot dog" theme. I'll "relish" the chance to compete against Teresa. I am not worried about falling behind in the voting because I can always "ketchup." Whoever gets the most votes can proudly say "I'm the Wiener!"

You can read about all the rules here but what is really important are these three points:

1. You must vote in every pairing for each zone (I am battling in Zone #2), and you only have to vote in one zone if you want to.

2. You can only vote once per IP address. This is important: Why? Because many business offices share a single IP address, and your fellow agent in the next workspace may have already cast your office’s vote. Tough cookies. We recommend voting from home, your local Internet cafe, random wireless hotspots: Heck, anywhere you can get an Internet signal to cast as many votes as you want.

3. You have until Friday, March 20 at 8:59 a.m. to vote. Round 2 of voting will begin the afternoon of Friday, March 20 and stretch through Tuesday, March 24 at 8:59 a.m.

Thanks in advance for your help. Not sure where this will lead to but it should be fun.


Loving Your Job and Letting Others Know It

Having a great attitude doesn't just affect the way you do you job, it can affect those who use your product or interact with you while "on the job."

The next time you've had a long day of travelling and you're ready to get home to your own bed, hope and pray that you get on this guy's flight.

March 16, 2009

Don't Always Believe Bob Barker

It used to be "location, location, location" in real estate but these days it should be "price, price, price." The game show The Price is Right is a fun show and involves people guessing the actual retail price of a product and if they are the closest, without going over, they are called on stage and get to do another "price guessing" game. The two big winners square off in the "Showcase Showdown" at the end of the show and someone will walk away with some great prizes.

It sort of sounds like our world of real estate, doesn't it? Except that it's not as much of a game to some people. Pricing is one of the hardest aspects of our job and regardless of whether we represent Sellers seeking the "best offer obtainable" from the "best Buyer available" or perhaps the Buyers seeking the "lowest price obtainable" from the best Seller available, someone could feel like they "lost."

I subscribe to a great blog called Live and Play in Chicago and it is written by one of the cities top Realtors, Jennifer Ames. She is with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and she does a fabulous job of breaking down this pricing issue into understandable concepts and terms.

Please check out this recent post called How to Price Your Home in Today's Chicago Market . Don't worry if you don't live in Chicago, the thoughts and concepts are universal.

If you're looking for another blog to add to your daily/weekly "reading list," I'd suggest you add Jennifer's. It always has some useful information and if you ever visit Chicago, you'll already know someone there.

March 15, 2009

Now Departing for (insert future success here)? Get On Board

Where are you going on Spring Break?

Florida? Mexico? Vail?

If you're lucky enough to be getting away from home for a week or two in the next few weeks, I'll bet if I really pressured you that you wouldn't just say "Florida" or "Mexico" or "Vail."

No, you would probably say something like "we're going to be staying at my Aunt's condo in Naples, just one block from the ocean. We're also planning to take the kids up to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World in the middle of the week and we have arranged for the boys to go deep sea fishing at the end of the week."

When we can "see" our plans in vivid detail, it is so much easier to make them happen. That should be the first thing Realtors do when sitting down to create their first draft of a business plan - "Picture their destination."

Realtors usually build their business plan around two paths - "net commission" or "total number of closed transactions." Either path you choose, you should begin with the end in mind.

"Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life's been showing you. Where are you going to? Do you know?"

Theme song from Mahogany

Calculate your average gross commission earned per closing and then do the necessary calculations to figure your net commission earned (after any company splits, desk fees or costs). This will help you figure out how many closed transactions you will need.

Closings don't occur without first making a sale, so you'll need to figure out how many fall-outs occur in your market place - That is a transaction that is "in contract" but for some reason doesn't make it to the closing table. In today's market, it's probably safe to figure that 15% of "in contracts" will have something occur that will not allow the deal to close.

Sales don't occur without first getting a signed contract, so you'll need to figure out how many contracts you'll need to negotiate/write before a sale occurs. Not every offer is accepted and whether you're on the Sellers side or the Buyers side, you may need to calculate about a 75% acceptance rate.

Contracts aren't written or negotiated until you first have a saleable listing or a ready, willing and able buyer. Don't be Pollyanna and think that every Seller you sign and every Buyer you meet will result in a "sale." Look at your MLS and see if you can figure out what percentage of listings expire or withdraw. I'll assume you're better than the average agent so modify your percentage accordingly but also look at your track record with Buyers. They all have the best of intentions when they meet for that initial Buyer Counseling Session but a lot can happen on the way to their new home.

Sellers and Buyers don't magically appear in our data bases so you'll need to first have appointments. While it is true that any customer who agrees to meet with us must have a little bit of motivation (who meets with salespeople for fun?), that doesn't mean they will necessarily sign with us. There are many reasons we might not connect with a customer; commissions, price or expectations of services are just a few. A common rule of thumb would be that it takes 2 appointments to get 1 client.

Appointments don't happen until we TALK TO PEOPLE!!! It all starts with our efforts to prospect, prospect and prospect some more.

So now that you can "picture your destination" it's time to start doing the math. Just like you would schedule time off of work (or school), save money and make reservations, you'll need to do the same thing for a successful year.

The next "key" we will explore is utilizing SMART goals, prioritizing tasks and adding basic activities to your daily, weekly and monthly plan.

"Do you get what you're hoping for?When you look behind you there's no open door. What are you hoping for? Do you know?"

Plan Your Work and Then Work Your Plan

"It is simple. We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing. Otherwise, we would be somewhere else, doing something else."
~ Richard Stine

Does this sort of remind you of...well, you?

It seems that so many people, in real estate, and life in general just ride the wind like a hang glider off the cliffs of La Jolla, California or a tumbleweed in the desert. Or how about this quote from late comedian Mitch Hedberg...

"I'm tired of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later."

A Realtor who has a definitive, written business plan will have a huge advantage over the agent who takes their business as it comes, and we all know in this slowing economy that business certainly isn't coming at the pace it did in the middle of the decade.

5 Keys to a Good Business Plan

  • You can picture your “destination”

  • It utilizes S.M.A.R.T goals, prioritized tasks and basic activities.

  • Share it with a manager/coach

  • Review it often.

  • Remember where you’ve been and where you are going.
Over the next several posts, we'll explore each of these "keys" and you can see how your business plan (if you have one) stacks up.

March 13, 2009

Stay Away From the Water Cooler

Does your office have a water cooler? Is it toxic?

Now, don't go calling Erin Brockovich. I am not talking about the water itself. I am talking about the conversations, gossip and general aura of the area around the water cooler...or coffee pot...our cubicle are...or lunch room in your work spaces.

It seems almost certain that if you're looking for some positive news about real estate, the economy or life in general, that looking to "the news" for "positive news" isn't the right place.

"For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news."
Gloria Borger

The next time you need that cool drink of water maybe hang out the "I'll be right back" sign on the office door and drive (or walk if the weather allows) to the nearest convenience store and purchase a bottle of water. That way, you'll be able to control what you hear...or choose to listen to. Maybe it's your iPod with some oldies, maybe it's Margaritaville Radio or The Grateful Dead channel on Sirius Satellite Radio or perhaps you prefer silence. Either way, you control what you hear.

"If you can't change the people, you must change the people"

Take control of your environment and only choose to listen to the input that will allow you to deliver the levels of service and reach the levels of success your business deserves. As the following parable shows, your mind will believe whatever you choose to tell it.

A native American boy was talking with his grandfather. "What do you think about the world situation?" he asked.

The grandfather replied, "I feel like wolves are fighting in my heart. One is full of anger and hatred; the other is full of love, forgiveness, and peace."

"Which one will win?" asked the boy, to which the grandfather replied, "The one I feed."

How do you control the conversations around your "water cooler"?

March 7, 2009

It's Time to Ask For a Raise

Today's post on "getting what you're worth" comes courtesy of fellow real estate trainer and good friend, Chris Leader. Chris owns his own training company, Leader's Edge Training, and is based in Ontario, Canada.

It's Time To Ask For A Raise
By Chris Leader
Leaders Edge Training

A tough market requires a tough approach. This is when we all must look back to our beginnings to revisit the fundamentals of what made us successful in the first place. When we first broke into the real estate industry, we focused on launching our new careers, paying attention to the details and following up on every opportunity or lead.

Today, without a doubt, the market has changed and most salespeople have less than 10 years experience and have never had to work through a recession. The qualities we adopted and the intense sense of focus we demonstrated in the beginning of our careers are the very characteristics we need to embrace once again.

Most salespeople continue to do business the way they did yesterday and they can't figure out why it is no longer working. For anyone who has never read the book "Who Moved My Cheese" this is a great time to read it. Different conditions require a different approach. The business is still out there, it has just moved.

The real estate industry is one of those businesses that when the market is hot, everyone would have you believe you make too much money and the media is relentless in convincing consumers to negotiate your commissions down and many salespeople cave under the pressure. The silver lining to a recession in our business is that when the average number of days on the market increase, when the supply starts to choke the market, homeowners no longer ask "how low will you go" but they are willing to pay what we need to get their house sold. This is when you should be raising your fees (whatever your fees are).

The cost of doing business continues to rise, our dollar no longer has as much purchasing power as it once did, and on average it costs more to market a home. Smart salespeople realize that history repeats itself and it is time for a raise!

This will be the third recession I've lived through in this business. If I was selling today, I would be asking homeowners for a 7% commission and for the ones who wouldn't pay, I would move to the next opportunity because there are many of them out there. In a hot market, your marketing campaign consisted of a sign and an MLS posting and buyers lined up to see the property and in most cases there were multiple offers and houses sold above asking price. Salespeople actually started to think that was normal!

Today, the market has responded exactly the same way it did in 1990 after the boom in the late 1980's, yet once again we have a whole new generation of salespeople who don't know what to do.

Over the next series of monthly tips, I will be laying out a strategy for how to thrive in this market, based on strategies I developed in the last recession, but improved with today's technology. I recommend if you receive these tips, that you forward them on to every agent you know. It's time for us to turn this industry around and this can only be accomplished if we all work together!

I wish you great success this month.

Chris Leader President, Leader's Edge Training

To call Chris Leader an entrepreneur is an understatement. By the age of 24, Chris was already a successful Realtor® and broker owner. When most folks that age are just getting their first job, Chris was busy turning a previously non-profitable real estate company into the top office in his marketplace. Simultaneously, Chris was a partner in a Mortgage Brokerage and ran it successfully for a number of years.

With this achievement under his belt, Chris took over the management of one of the largest offices in Toronto. His success in that endeavor led him down the path to the realization of his true calling, training. Before the age of 35, Chris turned his successes into a platform for education across the industry and became a top trainer for a major international training company.

Today, Chris is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer and industry consultant. His boundless energy, wit and exemplary business expertise have allowed him to train some of the industry's best professionals. Chris' dream was to launch his own training company, and so Leader's Edge Training was born. Chris now provides state of the art training for real estate professionals, mortgage professionals and managers all over North America.
You can contact Chris by email at

March 5, 2009

Are You a "Yes" Man?

I have heard some research (and believe it based on experience) that it takes approximately 9 "no's" to get to a "yes." In prospecting, he who gives up when he hears "no" will not be a very successful salesperson.

The concept of getting a "yes" in sales is easy when you're the one looking for the "yes" but how about when you're the person who has the power (or position) to give the "yes"? How good are you are making people feel wanted or needed?

Here's a wonderful post from marketing guru Seth Godin's blog that really hits home on people's ability to provide "truly remarkable service" with one simple little word.

Building Your Existence with Consistency

Cal Ripken from the Baltimore Orioles is known as the modern day "Iron Man" for his streak of 2,632 games played in a row. He surpassed the original "Iron Man," Lou Gehrig who had played in 2,130 straight games as a New York Yankee fifty-six years prior.

Restaurants are built on their ability to deliver the same quality food and service on a consistent basis, day in, day out. Imagine going to your local McDonald's one day and having them serve you a Big Mac without the "special sauce."

Today is the first day of of The Realtor Toolbox's second year. I don't think when I started that I planned to be an "iron man" of blogging like Arianna Huffington, Matthew Drudge or Seth Godin but am happy that I have been able to post almost 50 articles, thoughts or ideas. I am the first to admit that I could stand to get a little more "consistent" and will make every effort in my second year to keep adding to "the toolbox."

Thanks for your loyal following. If you haven't already done so, add your email to the box on the right and you'll get each post delivered to your in box as their posted. Some of you may prefer to subscribe to the RSS feed which is great too.

Here's a thought for you today - How consistent is your service? How consistent is your schedule? How consistent is your success?

Until next time...Build Relationships...Solve Problems... and Have Fun!