I love knowing when people around me, people I like, are being successful. I love a good rags to riches success story. I love the triumph of a person who sets their sights on success and reaches (and often surpasses) their goals.
ActiveRain success stories are always great and I've written them myself. Recently though, I've found myself struggling with the thought of the success stories being posted on the main page. Each story is accompanied by a smiling agent holding the check they received after their success story wrapped up. There's everything from referral stories to blog success stories to members touting how ActiveRain expanded their business.
It's not the success that I struggle with. It's the check. In one photograph, an entire successful transaction is boiled down to a simple string of numbers with a dollar sign attached to it. The entire client relationship and work put into the transaction put into dollars and sense. ROI. Quantified and filed away into a database. Stamped with a "PAID" marker and cashed, deposited, invested, or spent. I am not a number.
Now before you argue that we don't work for free...hear me out.
ActiveRain is a business. Their job is to get people to sign up and generate income for their company by selling the product and service that is ActiveRain. In doing so, they need to show value. A check in an agent's hand definitely holds a certain value to them as a company. It's proof positive that there is value to spending time on ActiveRain. Fair enough.
Here's where my thinking deviates. ActiveRain - is it for our industry or for the consumer? We all know there's value on both sides - or if we don't, we've at least heard the argument for one or the other or both. So let's break it down into two sides...
...for our industry.
There's an obvious advantage to the network of real estate industry professionals here at ActiveRain. As one of them, I look at the success stories and it compels me to continue writing, creating relationships, and building a referral base which I know I can always rely on to help my clients and perhaps send me business. The check is the value. It says "if you join ActiveRain, you can get business." I like business. I like it a lot.
...for the consumer.
To view ActiveRain from a consumer's viewpoint isn't always easy. I'm too close to it. I'm involved. One of my driving forces is to look at everything in our industry from the consumer's view. I'm not always perfect at it, but I do work hard to keep it at the forefront of everything I think and do. So I'm a consumer looking for local information - I google away and find some great blog posts on a site (ActiveRain) I've never heard of. What's the first thing I do? Go to the main page. What greets me and catches my attention first? A photo of a smiling agent who is flashing the cash. I'm no dummy, I know that agents get paid and don't work for free...but the first impression I have is an agent waving their check that they just earned. Do I read the success story and see why they're holding the check? Maybe, maybe not.
Perception as truth.
In an industry that it constantly battling with consumer opinion and public perception, the check represents everything wrong with our industry if you're already on the edge of deciding whether to place us above or below lawyers in your list of people you like least (sorry to my lawyer friends, but you have the same problems).
I know my clients are always thrilled when we close a transaction and (something I never thought would matter to them) they often ask, "hey, did you get your check yet" when we speak after closing. They actually want to be sure I got paid. They do want me to make money. The difference? They are clients. We've built a friendship, a relationship, a trust...we are connected.
If I were a stranger, looking for an agent (and this is my personal thought) and I saw a photo of you smiling like a lottery winner, I would pass right by you. In fact, I'd probably perceive you to be what I don't like about real estate agents. I know from personal conversations (as an agent) that some of the agents I've seen in the success story column are good people who care for their clients. As a consumer though? I wouldn't give you a second thought. The truth is they are good people and excellent agents. The perception doesn't necessarily align with those thoughts.
But perception is truth...until it is given time to conform to the real truth. That times time, trust, and connection. Something you don't get with a picture of an agent holding a check.
photo curtest of Daquella manera
Please note: I'm all for celebrating our successes and don't deny that without those checks, we wouldn't be agents. I lived in the world of rock and roll where I was expected to do everything for free (post-Napster) and although I had a passion for what I did, the truth was it had to put dinner on the table and gas in the car or it wasn't possible. Money may not be everything or bring happiness or whatever cliched phrase you want to use, but let's face it - we need that money to continue to do what we do, passionate or not.