July 31, 2011

Hey Independent Contractors - Time for a Raise?

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

If there's one thing REALTORS® love to remind people of, it's that they are "independent contractors." They are their own boss, get to set the own hours and serve whomever they wish to work with. Trust me, they like to wear it like a badge.

It is true that most agents operate under this title when it comes to their agreement between themselves and their broker and it is kind of a nice feeling from a entrepreneur/small business stand point. But the term "independent contractor" is really little more than a classification used by the IRS to determine taxation and some other employment protocols and procedures.

Let's Go to the Mall

It is nice to feel like you're part of an office, a brokerage or an industry. Everybody loves to be "part of the team." I tell my agents that they need to think of it this way - Coldwell Banker (or insert your broker name here) is like the mall and the REALTORS®  (a.k.a. independent contractors) are the stores inside that mall. The brokers name, tradition, local success and reputation will get people inside the mall but it will be the agents service, reputation and skill that will not only get people into the individual stores, but keep them there and get them to spend money with you. In a perfect world, this happens more than once and they become loyal clients who repeat and refer business for life.

Don't be too excited about this "independence" that everyone thinks could be so liberating. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is an "independent contractor" as well. He doesn't work for the PGA Tour but he has a caddy, a manager, an agent, endorsement partners, a nutritionist, a trainer and many more people that help him be one of the top golfers in the world.

Don't you rely on people to help you do what you do?

• Do you have a branch manager who might serve as a coach?

• Who helps you with your marketing?

• When you meet with customers and clients, do you speak confidently of your affiliates like a lender, home inspector, title company, appraisers or insurance person who assures that you and your clients deals get to the closing table?

• How does your local or state board of Realtors assist you with forms, education and legislation that allows you to do what you do without much time, effort and input?

When you think about it, you're really not as independent as you think, are you?

Want a Raise?

There is no argument that you are the star. No one needs a reminder that it is you who the client turns to, who they rely on and who they trust. But before you start thinking there might be some greener pastures out there, go seeking a higher commission split or a 'better deal," remember that you don't work for anyone but yourself.

If you want a raise, start asking for it from your customers. Start giving better service, better advice, better results. Let your reputation for successful transactions be the best marketing you could ever do. Spend the last five months of 2011 building better relationships, solving more people's problems and having more fun - personally and professionally.

Remember what Henry Ford once said;

"It is not the employer who pays the wages.
Employers only handle the money.
It is the customer who pays the wages."


July 28, 2011

A "Guest" Post?

I've written almost 300 posts here on The Realtor's Toolbox and I haven't had an opportunity to share a guest post yet.  I saw the poem below and felt this would be a perfect time for my first "Guest" post.

It's by the English born American poet and author, Edgar A. Guest.


by Edgar A. Guest

Can't is the worst word that's written or spoken;

Doing more harm here than slander and lies;

On it is many a strong spirit broken,

And with it many a good purpose dies.

It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning

And robs us of courage we need through the day:

It rings in our ears like a timely sent warning

And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can't is the father of feeble endeavor,

The parent of terror and halfhearted work;

It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,

And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.

It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,

It stifles in infancy many a plan;

It greets honest toiling with open derision

And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can't is a word none should speak without blushing;

To utter it should be a symbol of shame;

Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;

It blights a man's purpose and shortens his aim.

Despise it with all of your hatred of error;

Refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;

Arm against it as a creature of terror,

And all that you dream of you someday shall gain.

Can't is the word that is for to ambition,

An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;

Its prey is forever the man with a mission

And bows but to courage and patience and skill.

Hate it, with hatred that's deep and undying,

For once it is welcomed 'twill break any man;

Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying

and answer this demon by saying: "I can."

July 27, 2011

Dive In

I enjoyed a relaxing evening at our pool last night. I had taught in the morning and then attended a class in the afternoon before driving back to Columbus, so it was a welcome respite from a long day to sit back, enjoy a cold drink and have pizza with the family and then watch the kids play in the pool and jump off the diving boards.

It was on those diving boards where I saw a little girl who inspired this blog post.

I don't know her but she seemed like a pretty cool kid. Her name was Reese and I am guessing she is about 7 or 8 years old, maybe 9. She was standing on the high dive getting ready to dive for her first time from that height.

She stretched out her arms, bent at the waist and then...straightened up and walked back to the end of the board.

She walked back to the edge, repeated the process and then...chickened out. She jumped feet first.

This process repeated itself a few times and each time, more and more people were looking on, including the lifeguard and her older brother who were each encouraging her to "just do it" with calls of "it'll be easy" and "just trust yourself, lean and fall forward."

"I'm scared," yelled Reese as she jumped feet first again. "I'll do it next time," she said at least three times.

And then, she summoned up the guts and did it. She dove off the high dive. A perfect entry with minimal splash. Even the Russian judge would have scored her well (once you factored in the degree of difficulty and her age, it was quite impressive).

Reese emerged from the depths with a smile on her face almost bigger than her cheeks could hold. She proudly swam to the ladder, climbed out of the pool and you know what she did next? She walked right back to the high dive to do it again.

Up the ladder she went. She walked... no she strutted to the end of the board, yelled to her mother at the other end of the pool to "watch me dive, Mom" and did it again. Another perfect dive.

Her fear completely vanished, Reese had determined that she was now ready to move on to a front flip. Seriously, after a few more trips up the ladder and off the board head first, she almost seemed bored with diving from the high dive and, since she realized her fear wasn't as strong as she imagined just fifteen minutes earlier, she figured she could do a front flip just like she does easily off the low board.

And she did.

I am sure by now, you know where I am going with this story, don't you?

What are you afraid of when it comes to your business? Have you done anything today that involves business development activities or are you staying in the shallow end of the pool focused on the easier, safer business support activities? Working with those first time buyers might be in your comfort zone but trying to break in to the high end market of $500K and higher seems a bit "above your level" of confidence, huh? Making that tough call to a Seller who needs a drastic repositioning of his asking price in order to generate some buyer traffic isn't going to be easy so perhaps you should just wait until the listing expires and blame the "tough market" as the reason the house didn't sell.

Take it from Reese. It's just the first one that seemed hard. After that, it starts getting fun.

Rest period is over. Get up there and stretch out your arms, bend at the waist.

No one is going to push you. You've just got to dive in.

July 25, 2011


Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

Back from vacation and it's time to focus so here's a simple thought for you today...

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he will find.”
~ Sir Francis Bacon

Build relationships today. Solve problems today. Have fun today.

Make it happen!

Then get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

July 23, 2011

You Don't Know Jack...But You Should

Everyone has some people in their lives that hold a special place. It could be a distant family member or an old college buddy. Perhaps it's a former co-worker or a it could be a neighbor.

The thing about all of these people is that when you get together with them, regardless of how much time has passed between visits, you can pick up right where you left off. You always seem to be enamored with their stories, you heed their advice and you feel comfortable seeking their counsel.

Jack Gordon is one of those people for me. Jack is the Landscape Architect for Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana and worked closely with my father during his visits and voluntary service in the park. Jack and my father combined efforts with one goal in mind - improve the visitor experience in Glacier National Park for all who pass through it's gates.

After my father passed away in 2000, Jack and his wife Tracey have remained very close with my mother. They help her out while she spends her summers here and their three children - Kirk, Ian and Elyse - have all helped my mom out with errands and babysitting when her grandchildren would visit. They sort of serve as mom's surrogate family out here and I think both parties benefit from the relationship.

I got to spend some time with Jack and Tracy last night over a wonderful birthday dinner for my mother at Caper's in Kalispell. (A special tip of the hat to owner's Vonnie and Doug Day for a wonderful meal and experience). We caught up on the family, the park and life in general. The Gordons are what you call "good people."

Do you have a Jack Gordon in your life? 

My guess is you do. As you read this blog post, did someone come to mind? When was the last time you saw that person? Was it yesterday? Last week? Or has it been a while?

Why don't you take the initiative and reach out to him or her and schedule a time to get together. If they aren't local, perhaps you could arrange a phone call or visit via Skype. You're not looking for business from these people but you never know...it might lead to a referral or something that improves your service moving forward.

It's funny how time seems to pass by so don't let an opportunity to get together with this person slide by. My friend and fellow real estate trainer Chris Leader from Leader's Edge Training always says, "People come into your lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime." I agree with Chris so you should figure out which one of those it might be for your "Jack Gordon" and get re-connected.

I'm glad my father had a chance to meet a guy like Jack Gordon all those years ago. I know my brothers and my mother are as well.

And you know what? I'm pretty sure my father is too.

Until next time, build relationships, solve problems and have fun.

July 21, 2011

Mountain Due?

Do you feel you've been working hard this year? Does it seem that deals today are requiring more attention to detail and even still, you're keeping fingers crossed that they will make it successfully to the closing table?

If you've got a mountain of work in front of you and you're wondering if there might be any hope of the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel," it might be time to plan a vacation.

I've been enjoying the last few days in Northwest Montana visiting my mother to celebrate her 75th birthday. She lives out here in Kalispell, Montana in the summers (mainly to escape the heat and humidity we usually get in Columbus.) We have made several visits to Glacier National Park  (just Northeast of Kalispell) so far and it has been quite awe-inspiring.

When you see the beauty of a place like Glacier National Park or (insert your favorite vacation spot here), it really does help to put into perspective what we do each day in the real estate business. 

Important, yes? Literally moving mountains and taking visitors breath away for 101 years? Not exactly.

Where Are You Going?

So tell me...when is your next vacation and where will you be going? It doesn't matter if you just returned from a vacation, where will you be going next? If you just walked out of a successful listing appointment, wouldn't it be great if you had some idea of when and where your next opportunity is going to come from? A successful closing you might have had yesterday doesn't mean anything to your concerns tomorrow. What have you done for yourself lately?

Yes, I know. It is important to focus on the here and now but if you don't keep your eyes looking ahead, you just might not be heading where you were hoping you'd end up.
I've spoken in previous blogs about the power of creating S.M.A.R.T Goals and it is such an important and basic lesson to follow. 

Of the things you're currently working on, what will be your reward when you achieve your desired results? Where will you go, what will you get, who will you be spending the reward with?

Maybe a visit to one of the many national parks that grace this country would be something worth working towards? Maybe it's a chance to update that wardrobe as you head into the fall and winter? Perhaps you've had your eye on the new model of a car you could picture yourself driving up in at your next listing presentation?

Need some inspiration? Take a look at some of the views I've had this week and ask yourself, where do you want to be a year from now? Next is to start figuring out what you need to do to make it happen. Then, you need to follow the easiest advice you can ever heed when it comes to making things happen...

"Do what's due first."

Start on your next reward today by getting out there and build relationships, solve problems and have fun.

July 19, 2011

Could You Do More or Should You Do Less?

You've probably had this reaction before, right?

You are out at a upscale restaurant and you order something that sounds delicious on the menu. You're enjoying a glass of wine while you wait for your entree to arrive. Perhaps a bowl of soup or a house salad and a nosh on some bread whets your appetite until the meal is delivered to your table. 
Photo courtesy of Rioncm on Flickr

The waitress arrives and puts down the item you ordered and you look at the nicely plated entree and think to yourself, "That's it?"

The serving appears small and the entire plate isn't even filled with meat or fish or pork or chicken and there certainly can't be enough potatoes or vegetables to fill you up. Not when you're used to everything being "Biggie-sized" or "extra large," right?

But as you take your first bite the delicious flavors simply ooze into your mouth. You savor the perfect blend of taste and aroma. The side items compliment the main dish perfectly and your enjoyment of the dinner is ideal. In fact, when the waiter returns at the end of the meal to offer desserts, you have to sadly pass because you're too full.

More Isn't Always Better

It's human nature to think that if it's more expensive, it must be better. If someone will give you twenty of something, that must be better than ten of the same thing, right? Shouldn't a headliner's show be better than the warm up act? Could a underdog really ever beat a favorite? "Do you believe in miracles?"

In our world of real estate, sometimes doing more of something isn't necessarily the answer. Doing less but doing it better might be exactly what is needed. Calling prospects for three hours might not be as beneficial as scheduling three face to face visits with past clients who have referred you business in the past. Sending 1000 postcards to a subdivision once a quarter might not prove as effective as sending 200 cards to a smaller section of the same neighborhood every 18 days.

Repetition is certainly valuable when learning any new skill but there must be some focused intent behind it. Are you repeating something so it can be memorized for a one-time event or so it can become internalized and called upon each and every time you face a certain situation. There is a big difference between repetition and redundancy.

If there is one thing that everyone shares, regardless of their status in life, their role in the work force or the balance in their bank account, it is time. No one gets more than anyone and no one gets less. Taking every task and allotting it the correct amount of time is so critical to your success.

Utilizing the MLS to search for houses is a requirement for most Realtors but spending 3 hours "surfing" the MLS to set up five showings isn't a better use of time. Holding a 90 minute sales meeting for the office because "that's the way we have always done it" might not be as powerful as scheduling 10 minute individual coaching sessions with the 20% of the agents who bring 80% of the business to the office. Sitting around in the office talking about last night's American Idol results might be fun but it's not going to deliver the results that knocking on two For Sale By Owner's doors could bring in the same thirty minutes.

Don't get fooled into thinking that bigger, longer, more expensive or louder is better. If the smaller, shorter, cheaper or quieter way doesn't work, you could always add some back...or perhaps, maybe even take more away?

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Until next time, keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.


July 17, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now?

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

As I just returned from vacation, I'm going to keep today's post simple. I received a wonderful email while I was away from a good friend who also happens to be an excellent Realtor and branch manager, Kate Koplinka. Kate is with Coldwell Banker M and D Good Life in Long Island, New York. We met several years ago at a Coldwell Banker convention in San Antonio and have stayed in touch since then via social media as well as in person at some incredible company events. She's one of those people in our industry who just "gets it" and you want to see her and others like her succeed.

The Power of Words

I use a lot of videos in my presentations if I feel they have a pertinent message or emphasize a point I am trying to convey. I know Kate (along with other managers who read this blog) use some of these videos in branch meetings, either for humor or inspiration, depending on what might be needed.

I always appreciate when people share powerful videos with me as well because you just never know when one will strike you in a powerful way. The video below that Kate sent me last week is a perfect example of one of those videos. It comes from the folks at PurpleFeather, a team of freelance copyright specialists who provide online contents in the UK.

Watch this and tell me it doesn't help you "see" what's ahead of you this week, just a little bit clearer. If you can't see a video below, click here

The good news? As people of integrity, determination and a genuine work ethic, Kate and many of  you, my loyal readers of The Realtor's Toolbox will succeed.

Thanks again for sharing the video. I hope if you see something that would be a good fit for The Realtor'sToolbox, I invite you to share it with me, either here or on any of the social networks where we might be connected.

Until next time, spend your week building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

July 10, 2011

What Realtors Can Learn from the First Day of Vacation

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

 After a long day of travel from Columbus to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, I realized that Realtors have a lot in common with the first day of a family vacation. Whether you're planning to get away for a week or just ready to get back to work and make something happen this week, see if you do these things.

Start with the end in mind - Steven Covey mentioned this one in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Do you know where you want to end up before you even start?

Get an early start - Avoid congestion, traffic and other distractions by getting started before the sun rises. As Zig Ziglar once said, "There are no traffic jams on the extra mile."

Bring everything you may need - A successful agent arrives at his or her listing appointment assuming the Sellers will be ready to say "yes" so make sure you have your paperwork, lock box, digital camera, for sale sign, video camera and anything else to start immediately. It's always more expensive and sometimes time consuming to get some of the basic items once you arrive.

Stay focused - It's easy to take your eyes off the road so do whatever you need to do to keep on the "straight and narrow."

Build breaks into your schedule - It's so important to stay focused and taking regular breaks is one of the best ways to do so. Whether it's a rest area for a quick stretch or a gas & guzzle pit stop for some "fuel," breaking up the long days is always helpful.

Stay nourished - When Realtors get into a rhythm, it might be difficult to step away and grab a bite to eat but in order to keep your body and mind fresh, it's necessary to eat healthy. Perhaps stash some apples or bananas in your office/car and drink plenty of water.

Be prepared to "drive defensively" - In a competitive world like real estate, you might think everyone is looking out for themselves...and you might not be too far off from the truth. Always remind yourself who you're representing and do the right thing. You can't control what happens to you but you can control how you react to what happens to you.

Don't Text & Drive - It's been proven in numerous studies that the brain in incapable of multi-tasking. Instead, work on one thing at a time based on your prioritized "to do list." Remember, the easiest way to prioritize in real estate is to look at two tasks and ask yourself, "which one of these two things gets me closer to a closing?" The answer becomes your priority.

Unpack before you relax - After a long day on the road, most people would like to jump in the pool or hit the hammock with a cold beverage first. Instead, get the "travel" of the day behind you completely by unpacking (literally or figuratively) before you move on. Closing out your professional day before you head home to your personal lives will help you separate the two and create more balance in your life.

Whether you're traveling this summer or just working hard trying to achieve the goals you set earlier this year, if you keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun, there's a better chance you're going to enjoy your journey.

Safe travels.

July 6, 2011

Caution - Distractions Ahead

Welcome to the proverbial "Dog Days of Summer." We surpassed the halfway point of the year over the holiday weekend and I am sure that many of you thoroughly enjoyed your Fourth of July celebrations with friends and family. Heck, some of you might have even pulled a few deals together between the parades and fireworks.

Work Zone Ahead - Long Delays Possible

Now it's time to put up some orange barrels for the serious "work zone" we are approaching. We've entered the time of year when we might be tempted to take our foot off the gas and go into cruise control. It almost seems like we're in slowing traffic and we're all ready to start rubber-necking.

Here are just a few things that might be taking some of your attention away from your business plan:
  • The kids are home from school and they tell you every day how "bored" they are.
  • The kids are home from school and every day you have to transport them someplace - sporting events, play dates, summer camp, the movies, etc.
  • You have a vacation coming up and you've got to get ready for it.
  • You've got family coming to visit and you need to get the house in order.
  • The pile of mulch in your driveway isn't going to spread itself in your flower beds.
  • (insert your own "woe is me" story here)

Trust me, I get it.

On one hand, we say to ourselves, "Where has the first part of the year gone? It seems like it was just January." On the other hand, we try to justify that we'll be okay and can still hit our plans. We just have to get through the busy summer months and then we'll be able to re-focus. Those ready, willing and able clients will just magically appear at our doorstep like Ed McMahon with the oversized check.

Seriously answer this...When was the last time you looked at your business plan? Technically you should be exactly halfway to your goals you set last winter or at least on pace to be close to half way home. Are you?

Have you met with your manager, coach or business partner to determine what needs to happen in the next 30 days? 90 days? 6 months?

Is your "why" still as important today as it was when you first thought of it or are you allowing outside influences to turn it into a "why me?"

There Is Business Out There

I just did a quick check of our local MLS. As of today, there are currently 15,459 homes on the market for sale here in Central Ohio with an average listing price of $204,693. They've been on the market an average of 138 days.

Do you have some active listings that need some attention? Could you schedule a meeting with your Sellers to re-evaluate your current position in regards to competition? It might be the perfect time to ask the Sellers if their motivation is still the same as it was on the day you signed the listing agreement.

As of today, there have been 9,325 properties sold since January 1st. Those sold properties were on the market for an average of 102 days and sold for an average sold price of $153,296. 

Are your Sellers aware of the list to sale price ratio that is realistic in your current market so when an offer does come in, they aren't shocked? Is your low end inventory level rising or falling? If your listing has been on the market longer than the average for the solds, what is the market telling you?

Fifty a Day?

A quick test drive of the ol' calculator tells me that with 9,325 closed properties since January 1st, there have been approximately 50 sales each day. And because there are two sides to every sale, that means there have been 18,650 clients sitting at a closing table at some point this year.

Were they working with you? I might suggest you do the same exercise in your local area right now. You might just come up with some great insights, talking points or inspiration for a detour route around the distractions.

[Managers - this is a great exercise to use at your next sales meeting. Do the research and come up with your local market numbers. Ask the questions in the form of a quiz and reward the agent who is the closest to knowing the current market. You can then discuss the importance of knowing your market and the competence and confidence it will bring.]

The question is are you going to quit rubber-necking, put your foot on the gas pedal and accelerate your business into the fast lane? Start building relationships today. Find ways to solve problems today. It's important that you have fun today.

Once you get past this bottle neck, it's nothing but open highway up ahead. Turn up the radio and enjoy the ride.

(I suggest you type the words 'listings sold' into the search box that appears to the left of this text on the blog page. There are some relevant posts that might give you some more ideas of where you might find some additional business opportunities)

July 3, 2011

Friends, Fireworks and Freedom

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

May your second half of 2011 be filled with spectacular explosions of success. Continue to focus on building relationships, solving problems and having fun and you'll hear people "ooh-ing" and "aaah - ing" at your tremendous service all the time.

Enjoy the day with friends, fireworks and freedom.

Happy Fourth of July to you and your family.

Photo courtesy of Greeblie on Flickr