March 29, 2010

To Be a Pro, You've Got To Be Con...sistent

How consistent are you?

Have you ever visited a restaurant where you really enjoyed the experience (meal, service, ambiance, etc.) so much so that you told people about it and got excited thinking about the next time you'd return?

Have you ever pulled into the parking lot of that same restaurant, eager to see how they would blow you away again only to be disappointed that your expectations were too high and the food, service or ambiance wasn't as good as the last time?

For the customer it's usually not that big a deal because you'll eat out again soon and you can just pick some place new. The restaurant will suffer losing one customer but they can surely be replaced with another without even noticing the missing patron from the week before.

My guess is you're probably not in the restaurant business if you're reading this. You're in the real estate business so you know that in real estate, we don't get a chance to impress a customer or client again every week. It's more like every 3-7 years.

It's a simple question - how consistent are you?

Do you prospect for new business daily?

Do you follow up with every visitor to your Open Houses, leads from your Internet or social media presence, and caller on your voice mail?

Do you send thank you notes to people who refer you business?

Do you go out of your way to deliver "truly remarkable service" to everyone you meet?

How consistent are you?

Do you show up for work every day with a smile on your face and a spring in your step?

Do you attend training sessions, read educational blogs or share ideas with your peers who are better than you that can share wisdom and ideas?

Do you participate in community events and local charities because you know that in real estate - "you do well by doing good"?

How consistent are you?

I read a cool story over the weekend in the USA Today Sports section. It was buried on the last page, way down in the corner. It was about a gentleman named Terry Wallace, the track announcer at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Wallace, who is 65, recently called his 20,000th consecutive horse race at Oaklawn. He's called every race at the track since 1965.

I don't know much about horse racing or what there is to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas but I will bet you good money that people go to Oaklawn, not just for the horses or the gambling, but to hear Terry Wallace call a race. And I'll bet he called the 20,000th race with the same enthusiasm and vigor he did on his first back in '65.

Terry Wallace is consistent.
How consistent are you?

March 26, 2010

How Now, Island Cow?

“Vacation used to be a luxury, however, in today's world, it has become a necessity.”

Have you ever felt that way some days? Now I love my job and the impact I get to have on other people, but there are just some days where the vacation you have coming up can't arrive soon enough. Am I right?

Then, when it finally arrives, it seems to go by quicker than you realized. One day you're traipsing through the airport looking at the sad souls waiting in line to pass through security to leave thinking "Suckers! Have fun back at the office!" and the next moment, you're being looked at by someone who just arrived looking at you thinking the same darn thing.

I just spent the last week in South Florida (Key West and Sanibel Island) and it was a blast. We relaxed, enjoyed the beach, the pool and many of the two cities finest restaurants. Today's post is about our last meal on Sanibel Island.

As many of you who travel with family know, choosing the right places to eat is sometimes a struggle. It seems like you'll have plenty of time to hit everyone's favorite spot when you arrive but as the days start to dwindle, the number of restaurants to want to eat at outnumber the meals you actually have left to eat. It is a lot of pressure to make sure you have an enjoyable meal that last night away. Luckily for me, we made the right choice.

The Island Cow was the site of our last family dinner before heading back to the hotel for the "final night's pack." This fun family restaurant is located on Sanibel's main drag through town - Periwinkle Drive and is a very popular place for the locals as well as the tourists. It has a huge menu, a colorful decor, comfortable seating arrangement and the two things that will bring people back - GREAT FOOD and GREAT SERVICE!

The "GREAT FOOD" part really shouldn't be too hard when you're a vacation destination food establishment. People are tired, hungry and thirsty from a day in the sun. Make me something that tastes better than the stale Cheeze-Its and potato chips I scarfed down at the beach and I will gladly pay for it.

Although I didn't meet the owner Brian, I am comfortable in saying that Brian and his team at The Island Cow aren't just aiming for "acceptable food," they want to make it memorable for everyone who decides to give The Island Cow a visit.

The menu is one of the largest on the island and features everything from shrimp & grits to red beans & rice with smoked sausage and all of the fresh seafood you would expect in Florida. After enjoying a appetizer of Frickles (a heap'n helping of fried pickles) with my cold draft "beer of the day" (a most enjoyable Sam Adams Noble Pils in a large frosted mug) it was time to tackle a wonderful piece of blackened swordfish. Not only was my fish a generously large portion, it was expertly prepared. For those of you who enjoy blackened fish, you know that's not always the case.

I was so impressed by the flavor and quality of my meal, I asked our server Kyle (more about him in a minute) to take me back to the kitchen when I was done. I had to let the "kitchen crew" know that they satisfied their restaurant's website tag line - "Come in as our guest, leave as our friends!" Let me tell you...if you guys make food taste like that every time, we're definitely friends. I also know the guys in the back don't hear enough of the good comments that they may deserve for a job well done so I was glad that Kyle allowed me to stick my head back there to give them their "props" in person.

Now as many of my readers of The Realtor's Toolbox know, I am a huge supporter of places where I get "truly remarkable service." I can confidently add The Island Cow and their wonderful server Kyle to my list of places that have earned that honor. In fact, I want to give Kyle my first official CARP Award

C is for putting the customer's needs first

A is for having a great attitude about what you do

R is for respect

P is for the pride in your job, your company and your product.

Kyle, who once lived in Cincinnati, Ohio but has spent much of the last twenty years in South Florida shared with us why he enjoys his job at The Island Cow so much. "I get to be myself" was the first thing Kyle said and he went on to say he "always tries to make sure people are having a good time and enjoying themselves."

When you're on vacation or even a local resident out for a relaxing meal, that's what it's all about.

So to my new friends Kyle, the hard working crew in the kitchen, Brian the owner and all the staff and servers at The Island Cow, thanks for the "udderly great food and service."

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

don't forget the sunblock!

March 17, 2010

What Does Your "Out of Office" Message Say About You?

Isn't it great to get away from the office every now and then? I'm not talking about leaving on Friday afternoon only to return on Monday morning. I'm talking about getting away for enough time that you need to consider changing your voice mail and your email auto-reply.

Are you the kind of person who doesn't ever want people to think you leave the office so you never change your message?

Maybe you are so habitually focused on keeping your contacts up-to-date with you happenings that you update your voice mail every morning.

Or are you like me? When I get away for a few days of rest and relaxation I want my "out-of-office" email to reflect my light-hearted, vacation attitude. Much like my catchphrase slogan uttered at the end of my voice mail messages ("...and remember...Nobody Knows Homes Like a Carpenter!") usually gets my caller chuckling as they leave a message, I want my out of office email to leave a smile on someones face.

Below is my current message you'll receive if you email me.

Greetings! I will be out of the office beginning March 16th and returning on the 26th. I may have access to email but I will also have access to an ocean view, a beach chair and a cooler of adult beverages so please don't expect a quick reply.

If your email is of an urgent nature, please contact my assistant - Jaimie Shaffer

Until I return, please remember what Jimmy Buffett once said - "It's those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same. With all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane"

So what does your email "out of office" reply say about you? Are you all business all the time or can the people who interact with you see a little of your personality when they're not even with you?

March 14, 2010

Mileage May Vary

It's kind of strange that this is the second post in less than three weeks to focus on my car's odometer but it's not very often that you see your birth date on your dashboard, is it?

Are you paying attention to those signs that might be popping up right before your eyes? Do you "see the signs" as they appear in front of you?

Who knows where your next opportunity might come from but my guess is something big could be right in front of you this week.

Get ready to grab it!

March 12, 2010

Where Does Passion Come From?

I've been on a big kick lately about people bringing passion to their jobs. I don't care if they are an artist, a banker, a teacher, a waiter or whatever. We need to realize that everyone benefits when people are excited about what they do and how they deliver it to their customers, clients, neighbors and even strangers.

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. once gave a speech at a junior high school in Philadelphia in October, 1967 (the month I was born) where he said the following:

"...When you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are."

I've been thinking what the ingredients are to create passion. See if you agree with these.

P is for Pride
. You should have pride in your product, company, team, city, neighborhood, service and most importantly in yourself.

A is for Attitude. You can't fake passion so you better start with a great attitude.

S is for Skills. Are you knowledgeable, competent and confident it whatever it is that you do? Do you constantly seek to be better, taking classes, reading book or blog and talking to those in your field who are better than you?

S is for Sincerity. Can people see that you mean what you say, believe in what you do and who you surround yourself with and most importantly care about people? If they do, you're passion will be visible.

I is for Internally Motivated. I've always felt that inspiration comes from the outside but motivation must come from within. Do you have a fire burning inside you that makes you want to be the best you can be. If you fail, are you worried about those you may have let down or are you more concerned with letting yourself down? What does that "man in the mirror" say to you each day? Does it make you want to go back to bed or could you run to work on energy and enthusiasm?

O is for "Oh My God!" That is what I want people to leave my classes saying. "Oh my God, that was sooooo fun," or "Oh my God, he gave me so many ideas to build my business." How many times have you experienced "Oh my God!" service? Isn't it fun? Isn't it memorable? You can't wait to share your experience with a friend or family member.

N is for "Next." - Passionate people are always looking ahead to their next opportunity, their next challenge, their next chance to have fun. If you are good at what you do and enjoy it, why would you want to wait to do it again?

How do you spell passion? Do you agree with me? Would you change any of my definitions? What was the last experience you had that involved passionate service?

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

Postin' About Poston

Today is s a bittersweet day for me. My long time Training Coordinator and assistant, Sarah Poston, has been promoted and has moved downstairs to her new desk and new role.

The "bitter" part comes because she did such a great job of keeping me on track, focused on my responsibilities and always had me excited to tackle my challenges each day. (Those of you who know me knows how fast my mind can run at times). It's "sweet" because I couldn't be more proud of Sarah and her accomplishments.

Sarah has been with the company for 9+ years, starting as a receptionist in our Bexley branch, then joining our Dublin-Muirfield branch in the same role. Her duties were expanded to tackle more responsibilities and then a little over three years ago, I was lucky enough to have Sarah join the Training Department.

She is one of the most mature people I know and is incredibly talented at making other people feel comfortable around her, certainly a useful skill when working with new real estate agents in a demanding career. As someone who appreciates quality customer service, I didn't have to look farther than outside my office door to see it being delivered every day by Sarah - in person, on the phone or even via email.

Sarah has been elevated to a new position here in the company. I think the position was created by our leadership team because they saw the talents we had sitting right in front of our eyes and we needed to harness the skill she has to offer. She's going to be the Director of e-Marketing, a role that will allow her to really display her technology talents in tandem with her truly remarkable service.

She's just moving downstairs so I know I can still pop in and visit her for a quick laugh or positive exchange but I'll miss having her within shouting distance. I also know that her replacement, Jaimie Shaffer will be a tremendous asset to the department and I look forward to her achieving some outstanding levels of success.

An old adage I heard once was this ~ "Would you rather train someone and have them leave or not train them and have them stay?"

Sarah - I am really proud of you and will expect great things from you in your new role for many years to come. I'm certainly sad to lose ya but I am thrilled that you'll be able to share your talents with more people. Remember where you learned all the stuff you get compliments on! Good luck and kick ass!

March 10, 2010

Being "The Source" of the Source

Your clients, friends and family trust you, know you and love you. They look to you for advice about their homes, their communities and anything else that might be on their minds and that is a good thing. Remember, if they are calling you, that means they're not calling who? Right - the competition.

People are always asking me what types of things they could be "the source" of. I respond to them - "anything." Here's a perfect example.

I was reading the March issue of Money Magazine over the weekend. I am not a huge fan of Money because they haven't been card carrying members of the Realtor Fan Club over recent years but they might just be guilty of today's rule of thumb when it comes to selling magazines- "if it bleeds, it leads."

Anyway, the cover story of this issue is "The 20 Best Money Websites...and Ones You Should Avoid." It covers sites in areas of interest such as your portfolio, wallet, home, health, job and purchases as well as listing some great iPhone apps and also shares many tips and links to additional cool sites.

This is exactly the type of thing to send to your data base. You could make a hard copy of the article from the magazine and mail it your your list with a cover letter including a seasonal greeting and quick update on the market...or you could add it to you blog (like this)... or you could go online to and find the article there and share the link to your sphere via email...or even post it on Facebook or Twitter or any other social networking site. By doing that, you just became "the Source of the source."

You could do this with recipes, television or movie reviews, restaurant recommendations, sports updates or anything else that people might find interesting.

But What If They Hit "Delete"?

So what? That's okay, because they will have seen your name and known that you reached out to them. They may not read it all all, they may save it and read it later or they might read it right away, find value in it and who knows...might hit the "reply" button! How cool is that?

Or they might think it so neat that they share it themselves with people they know and add in their email the following blurb:

"Hey, check out the cool ___________ that my Realtor sent me!"

So what are you waiting on? Start "out sourcing" to your data base, friends and family. Remember, they don't need to be thinking about you every second of every day. You just want them to think about you when they have a need for a great Realtor.

March 7, 2010

Could Your Business Use a Little "Umph"?

Over the weekend I had my first opportunity to see the band Umphrey's McGee. According to their website, Umphrey's McGee was "founded in 1997 in the shadows of the Golden Dome of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Umphrey's McGee soon made Chicago home base and set their sights on becoming one of the premier live acts in today's touring circuit. Over the course of the last ten years, the band has performed at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and continues to sell out shows in the nation's premier venues coast to coast."

I attended their sold out show at The Madison Theatre in Covington, Kentucky with a fraternity brother from The University of Florida and his wife. It was his 11th show, her 5th. I'm pretty sure that many in the overflow audience have made "attend Umphrey's McGee concert" a high priority on their "To Do" lists based on their familiarity with each song and the all important dance grooves.

As I enjoyed the show and the festival-like atmosphere, I started to think of all the great lessons that Realtors can learn from Umphrey's McGee.

Build a Following

The band has created a legion of supporters that loyally follow the band on their mini tour swings (the Covington show was the fourth stop of the week with other shows in Syracuse, Buffalo and Columbus) in much the same way that The Grateful Dead had their Deadheads.

Imagine if you had a loyal following of fans that supported your every move as a Realtor? They subscribed to your newsletters and blogs, they attended you Open Houses, they referred other people to you like my friend referred me to the band. It's gotta be cool when other people are singing your tune.

Screw the Status Quo

It seems that most stage shows these days come equipped with large viewing screens and a full blown choreography plan to amuse the paying customers. Not Umphrey's McGee. Just a very crowded stage complete with keyboards, two percussion sets and room for three guitarists. Sure they had awesome light displays and the necessary sound board equipment but there was no extra "stuff" in play just because that's what someone once said a concert should have.

How do you run your business? The way those around you run theirs? The way you've always done it because it's safe or simple? With over a million members of the National Association of Realtors, isn't now the time to open a big ol' can of creativity and be different?

Create a Community

Seth Godin talks about it in his incredible book Tribes and Umphrey's McGee has done just that. They've gathered people from all walks of life in various ages and built a loyal group of people who support the band and each other.

What are you doing in your local office, your company, your board and your larger community? Are you a visible member of the community where you work and live? Do you participate in charity events, school activities and church functions? Do you "lead by example" when it comes to doing the right thing?

Find Your Groove

Allow your groove to be just that...your groove. You shouldn't decide to dance based on whether you know the words or not. You should dance because you want to dance. Don't worry about what other people think of your dancing either. You'll be surprised at how many people want to dance as well if they can just get over "what others will think." Watch this video below to see what I mean by finding your groove. (Pay close attention to what happens after the third guy starts dancing)

Improvise When Needed

Umphrey's McGee has been labeled, fairly or unfairly, as a "Jam Band." This just means that sometimes they sing a song as it appears on one of their studio releases but usually they are using the original song as more of a guideline and then creating a blend of music, rhythm, melody and feeling. Some of their songs last minutes while others can go on for a while, oftentimes blending songs from one to the next.

If you're in real estate and you're not good at improvising, you might want to start updating that resume. It's not very often that a deal comes together without any snags, hold-ups or changes so you've got to be able to roll with those changes as they occur.

Leave Them Wanting More

As the band played their last note of the second set, no one left the packed floor because the whole room (band included) knew that there was still an encore to come. With anticipation and excitement the crowd buzzed in anticipation of what the band would play.

How can your service leave people wanting more? It should be your goal to accomplish all that your clients were expecting from the onset of your relationship but if you follow the four word rule of "under promise, over deliver" you're sure to leave your clients happy and satisfied that they received "truly remarkable service" and witnessed the best performance you were able to deliver.

If you're lucky, they do just what my friend did with me. They'll tell a friend about your performance and encourage you to "experience it for yourself."

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