April 29, 2010

Inspiration From the Wall?

Relax...this isn't a blog about what Realtors and Pink Floyd have in common. "The Wall" that I am talking about are the walls of my office.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from each day?

Does it come from a specific person - maybe a child or a spouse, a co-worker or maybe your manager? Do you get a fresh start each day when your pet lovingly greets you in the morning? Do you hit the mental reset button after a great workout? Perhaps it's a spiritual passage or an astrological reading? Word of the Day calendar or Facebook News Feed?

I guess we can get our inspiration from lots of different sources but hopefully when you find things that really touch you in your heart, mind or soul, you are finding a way to make sure those messages are visible daily.

Here's just a few of the thoughts, ideas and inspirations hanging on my office walls.

How many of these have you done today?

I'm always striving to be great.
As Les Brown once said,
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars"

One pays the bills...the other doesn't

I'd rather see you prospect for business with a "non-perfect dialogue" than not prospect for business with a perfect dialogue.
I'm pretty sure the former will get you business and the latter never will.

The better choices you make, the better your chances will be to succeed.

Which of these is your strength? Which is your weakness? Remember...it's always best to focus on your areas of strength and manage around your areas of weakness.

When in doubt, see Rule #1

Under promise...over deliver
And finally...

Let me know what's on your wall that inspires you. Until next time...keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

April 25, 2010

Get On Your Bikes and Ride

I took my 8-year-old son Ryan to get a new bike this weekend. He has officially outgrown his 16" bike and was ready for his first 20" bike, but before we shopped, we were informed of his need to have a bike with "gears" and specifically one where you could spin the pedals backwards while riding.

As we shopped for bikes and eventually found the one he wanted, it got me thinking about the similarities between a bicycle and a successful career in real estate. Go for a ride here with me, will ya?

Begin with the End In Mind - Yes, this is the same concept as introduced to the world by Dr. Steven Covey in his tremendous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Ryan knew that he wanted a 20" bike similar to those his neighborhood buddies rode and it had to have the "gears" and he had to be able to pedal backwards while he was still riding.

What do you have planned that you want to accomplish today, this week, this month or this year? Have you reviewed the business plan you created at the end of 2009? What are the specific things that you have to have to make this year a success? Now that you have those things clearly in your mind, are you ready to pedal until you achieve them?

What's Your Comfort Zone? For Ryan to ride comfortably on his new bike we had to lower the seat as far as it could go and even then, he still needs to stretch his legs when he stops. But, we all know he'll grow into the new bike as the summer begins.

How safe do you like to feel when you're facing your daily activities? Do you "lower your seat" as low as it will go because it's not too much of a stretch or do you find yourself always trying to go a bit higher? The more we can push the limits of our comfort zone, the stronger we will get. Confidence doesn't come to those who repeatedly do the easy stuff, it comes to those who master the easy and then reach for the harder stuff, seeking to make that become the easy stuff until they are ready to reach for the next level of hard stuff. Remember - people don't pay top dollar for the easy stuff they could do themselves.

What would you say is "outside of your comfort zone" today? Maybe it's that For Sale By Owner that you just saw this weekend? That upset client who left you a message that you just don't want to call back? Perhaps it is asking for a full fee on your next listing presentation? Success is rarely found inside your comfort zone.

How's Your Balance? - Riding a bigger bike isn't much different from a smaller bike except it's a lot longer to the ground if you fall. The key is to maintain a steady balance whether you're moving slow or fast.

In a career like real estate, the word "balance" can be a bit hard to define. Are you looking for balance between your work life and your personal life? Time spent with clients vs. time spent with family? Focusing on business development activities vs. time spent on business support activities?

There's no generic answer to finding balance because for everyone, it holds a different meaning. Sometimes on a bike, the faster you go the easier it is to stay upright while other times, you must slow down to regain your balance. Two things are true about balance in both bike riding and real estate; #1 - You need to stay focused on what is ahead of you. If you spend too much time look backwards, you're sure to lose balance and go off course. #2 - If you slow down too much, you will have no forward momentum and you're sure to topple over. Keep those wheels moving forward.

Look Both Ways - A good bike rider is always aware of his or her surroundings and watches for the obstacles that could impede his movement forward.

Are you comfortable with your ability to look at your activities and responsibilities from all angles? When you negotiate for your clients, are you smart enough to anticipate what the other party might do next so as to best position your client? When you fail, can you look objectively at your actions to see where improvement is possible? Do you try to put yourself in your clients shoes - gaining the empathy that might be needed in certain situations? Can you sometimes see where your actions might not have been prudent and are you honest enough to admit mistakes?

Changing Gears - Ryan needs to learn that you can't change gears while you're standing still. On a bicycle, in order for the gears to engage properly, the wheels and chain must be in motion when the gears are changed or else chain derailment may occur.

In real estate, the changing of gears in a daily occurrence but it is usually best dealt with by those who are constantly engaged in activity, not those who are waiting for things to happen. Remember back to your junior high school science class when you learned about Sir Issac Newton? Newton's First Law states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force.

Have you ever noticed that the busy agents in your office are almost always busy and those who have no business are usually complaining that the market is too slow for anyone to have business? What inertia will you apply to your business today to start the momentum moving towards your goals?

It's time to get that old bike out of the garage and get ready for a great spring ride. Strap on your helmet, jump on the seat and grab a hold of the handle bars. Pick your destination and take off, pedaling your ass off until you get to where you want to be.

I know Ryan will be doing the same thing every day this summer.

April 22, 2010

Oh Goodie - More Outstanding Service!

I have a sign hanging in my office that says:

“Doing what’s expected only prevents customer dissatisfaction. You must do more than is expected to truly satisfy a customer”

Can I tell you about a situation where someone did more than expected?

I was out of my driveway early to head to Cincinnati for a session of our new Agent Development Program that I was going to teach. I was hungry so before I hit the road I had the urge to hit the consummate spot for breakfast sweets in my hometown of Upper Arlington, Ohio and that would be The Goodie Shop.

“Just a few donuts to eat on the drive down to Cincinnati” was my thought as I detoured to make a quick visit to the place where almost every resident in UA has had a cake, cookie, pastry or roll at some point in their lives.

I rolled into Tremont Center and thought to myself, “there aren’t a lot of cars here so I’ll have some good selection on the donuts this morning.” Little did I know that The Goodie Shop wasn’t open, yet. After parking and making the short stroll to the front door on a crisp April morning, I saw that their “OPEN” sign wasn’t illuminated.

“That’s okay,” I thought, “maybe the sign isn’t working.” I continued walking to the door.

No, it was working just fine. They didn’t open for a few more minutes. I saw some of the staff inside getting ready but I didn’t really have the time to wait until the doors would open. I could always grab a bite to eat on the road (but nothing close to what I would have received at The Goodie Shop), so I headed back to my car…until I heard the click of a door opening.

“Hello…Were you looking for something for breakfast?” said the voice I heard as I walked dejectedly back to my car.

“Are you serious?” I said excitedly and started jogging back to the front door. “I just want a few donuts.”

Carol was the Goodie Shop employee who made the decision to help a customer who wanted service. Carol was the employee who said to herself, “its a few minutes before our scheduled open time – but I’m here and the product is ready – so why not serve the customer who is ready, willing and able to make a purchase?”

I came in, made a quick selection of the always delicious Chocolate Frosted Long Johns. Carol went in the back (the donuts weren’t even on the shelf yet), grabbed my donuts and approached the resister with a smile. I thanked her for going above and beyond to which she said “it’s no problem. I am glad I saw you out there.” Wow! An employee of a service establishment caring about the customer? How unique...and memorable.

$2.50 later, Carol and all her team members at The Goodie Shop in Tremont Center hadn't secured a huge profit but what that had was an even bigger fan and loyal supporter than they had when my alarm clock went off today. Yep, I am pretty sure that Carol had me at “Hello…were you looking for something for breakfast?”

Carol went "above and beyond." Carol did something she didn’t have to do. Carol went out of her way to make a customer feel special and that their money was worth more than the generic exchange of goods.

Let me ask you - What can you do today to emulate the outstanding level of service that Carol provided? What will you do today that your client or customer isn’t expecting? How can you do something today that might be “blogable” tomorrow?

Thanks Carol…I appreciate you making me feel like an appreciated customer. Tell the chef the donuts were delicious.

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

April 15, 2010

Hey - My Real Estate Career is a Teenager!

Q: What's the best and worst part about a career in the real estate business?

A: The best part about the real estate business is the same thing that is the worst part about the real estate business ~ It's different every day.

I can vouch for that fact as today marks the 12th anniversary of the day I started as a real estate agent. April 15th, 1998 I entered the Fast Start class on Frantz Road in Dublin, Ohio excited about my new opportunity to launch a new career. I didn't have all the answers because I knew none of the questions.

It's 12 years later and I still don't have all of the answers but I can certainly feel more comfortable with the questions being asked. For a creature of habit, this is a tough industry because you have to adapt to the business as it comes but for someone who loves a new challenge and the adventure of uncharted waters, it can be a dream lifestyle. I quickly realized in 1998 that the key to success in this business was to keep it simple and that three step process is something that has served me well as a sales associate, a branch manager and now in my role as the Director of Agent Development and a national speaker.

Sean's Simple Philosophy of Success

#1 - Build Relationships - Each day, seek out people and identify things we might have in common, learn new concepts, see things from a different point of view and create rapport.

#2 - Solve Problems - If you have built a relationship with people, they will usually feel comfortable asking you to help them with their problems. It was ideal if their problem was real estate related (needing to sell, wanting to buy, etc.) but I was always okay if it had to do with some other "problem" area. I always said - "If they are calling me, that means they are not calling someone else." Seek to be the "source" of information that they may need to make good decisions.

#3 - Have Fun - This is one that I don't think enough people place a high enough priority on. I really need to enjoy what I do every day. If I do, it will show in my enthusiasm and that will be visible to those around me - clients, co-workers, customers, students and anyone else I come into contact with. When you do something you really enjoy, the rest of life's details seem to have a way of working out for themselves.

Here Come the Teenage Years

As I begin my 13th year in the real estate industry I look back on the many people I have encountered in the first 12 years. I certainly have built some great relationships, had the opportunities to solve a lot of problems and had a lot of fun...probably more than should be allowed (and might even be illegal in some jurisdictions). I also look forward to tomorrow and the next day, the next weeks, months and however many years that I may be lucky enough to be engaged in this unpredictable career.

One thing I know, it's going to be different every day.

April 6, 2010

The Games People Play

What a great week to be a sports fan. The Final Four on Saturday, a Major League Baseball season opening night game between the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the traditional Opening Day for 26 other teams along with the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship, the Masters and the final week of NHL regular season action. Wow! That is a lot of games being played.

If you're a real estate agent who has a competitive side, here's a game-like challenge that you may enjoy. It won't cost you much to get involved, but it could cost you if you don't stay involved. I'll even make you a money back guarantee that if it doesn't work, I'll reimburse your entry fee.

It's called "Prospecting Makes Cents" and it will help you stay focused on those business building activities that you'll need to achieve success.

What you'll need is $1. Yep, just one dollar is all it will cost you to "get in the game." Take that dollar bill to your nearest banking facility and ask them for two rolls of pennies. You'll leave with two rolls of 50 pennies, 100 pennies in total.

To make it simple, divide the 100 pennies into two small Dixie cups - 50 pennies in each cup. Keep one cup on your desk (home office or office - whichever place you spend most of your business hours) and the other will be kept in your spare drink holder of the car.

Now all you have to do is throw away pennies when you don't stay engaged in prospecting activities. That's right - just throw the money in the garbage can or out the window of your car because when you consciously avoid these activities, you're throwing money away. It's actually going to cost you money to not prospect.

Here are the ways you can lose money in Prospecting Makes Cents:

Any week with no face to face appointment
with new customer/client opportunity - 5 cents

Business day with less than two contacts - 2 cents

Any Sunday with no open house - 2 cents

Miss an office sales meeting and/or Broker tour - 2 cents

Any day you do not smile or laugh at least twice - 2 cents

Drive past a FSBO without writing down the
phone number on the sign or knocking on the door - 1 cent

Writing down a FSBO number and then not calling them to obtain an appointment to see the house -1 cent

Miss a scheduled training session in your office - 1 cent

Miss a scheduled coaching session - 5 cents

Any week you do not show/preview 5 houses - 1 cent/house

Business day with no personal note sent
via US Mail - 1 cent

Opportunity Call (non Realtor) where you
do not ask for an appointment - 1 cent

Do you think you could make it through a month without losing all of your money? Do you think those who ended up keeping their pennies the longest would have the most business to show for it?

Now some actions will cost you money and that is okay. You should make it a calculated move like in any other game. You may decide to hold Open Houses on three out of four weekends, knowing it will cost you two pennies but that might be worth it to get a day off with the family or on the golf course.

Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is? Are you willing to see how a penny saved could truly turn into a penny earned? What have you got to lose? Try it for a month or two. I'll even reimburse your $1 if it doesn't get you business.

Until then...Build Relationships...Solve Problems...and Have Fun!

April 5, 2010

Play Ball!

It's Opening Day in Major League Baseball 2010

Teams, players and fans in 30 major league cities begin the day with fresh enthusiasm and hope that this indeed may be the "next year" they've been waiting for. It still remains a simple game they learned as children. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.

What if the real estate community had an Opening Day? What if you looked upon today with a renewed spirit and excitement, ready to don your team's crisp uniform and take the field? What if you knew that today might be the first day in a magical season that was going to change the record books forever?

Spring Training may be done but the lessons learned there remain important. The "basics" never go out of style so tighten up your cleats, slap the palm of your mitt and pull on the ol' ball cap.

What are you waiting for? It's time for the home team to take the field. Batter up.

Let's "Play Ball!"

April 1, 2010

You've Gotta Love Some of the "Legends"

Have you ever received an email that you found interesting, shocking, scary or just too darn difficult to believe? Maybe the one about the man who's hiding under cars at the local mall slashing people's Achilles tendons? Or how about the one where there's the dying kid who hopes to get 10 million birthday cards for his birthday?

These are referred to as "Urban Legends" or "Urban Myths" and there are several websites where you can go to "verify" or debunk many of these emails that you get from friends (Usually with a lame disclaimer that "it's true because a friend of mine is an attorney and he checked it out")

Well, some of them are just too silly to even worry about checking out whether they are true or not and some you just don't care because the proverbial "buck stops here"and it gets deleted instead of forwarded to continue the "myth." And just every once in a while, you don't care whether it's true or not, you like it.

Here's one I recieved this week that has been verified by several de-bunking sites as false. It's supposedly a speech that was given by Microsoft's Bill Gates to a high school class about the 11 Things They Didn't Learn in High School.

Well I don't really care if Bill Gates never actually said these words but after reading them, perhaps you'll agree that these aren't bad words of advice for our next generation of adults to hear.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one

Now if you agree with the things on this list, please forward it to twenty people within the next twenty minutes or else something horrible might happen to you and your computer.

Trust me...a friend of mine is a blogger and he told me it's true.

Now go out and do something "legendary" this weekend!