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A bit of bragging rights - but I think it's pretty warranted. Our client's marketing WON 1st place for print marketing materials and agent website, clevelandhomessearch.com, which we only built some 6 months ago.
We are happy, and well - we'll let him tell you, if you've missed the original blog.
"Surround yourself with those better than you and watch what happens"
Early on in my former career, shortly after obtaining a degree in Computer Science (a shout out to my alma mater George Mason University), I was a software engineer and I worked in the Washington, D.C. area with some very exciting, innovative, start-up companies serving the Internet and telecom space. While I was very good at what I did, I was sometimes surrounded by other software engineers who either knew more than I did, were brighter than me, etc.
A former software engineering manager came into my cube one day and offered advice about advancing my career, he said:
"When you are considering your next assignment or project, try and figure out who has the best talent, and try to get on that team, even if it means a pay cut, or a longer commute." He went on to say this will do more for your career than being the top dog on a project, where you are doing 90% of the mentoring and heavy lifting. Sure, there will be times when you need to mentor, to guide, to knowledge transfer. But, if you want to be really, really, really good, then surrounding yourself with the best talent you can find will make you sharper, raise your own internal expectations, increase the quality of your work, your productivity, and at the end of the project, you will be much further ahead. Do this repeatedly and you will soon find yourself as one of the top "go to" people, someone people recognize as being one of the best, and the funny thing is, you will be so caught up in the day to day aspect of writing code, solving problems, finding elegant solutions, you won't even realize the transformation, it'll just happen.
Okay, enough of the diatribe eh? Alright, I admit, surrounding yourself with people better than you is not an original concept, it's age-old, but it was a concept I learned in my mid-20s and it has never left me.
So, what's the point of this post you ask? Glad you asked.
When I started my own real estate brokerage in 2007 as the market was tanking, appraisals were going bust, transactions were harder to close, negative equity insidiously crept in, and the market was flooded with REALTORS. In fact, it seemed like everyone's dog even knew a REALTOR, and the handwriting was on the wall for me that while I thought I brought a different, unique and transparent concept with my new brokerage to the real estate market and I was very excited about introducting it to our local Cleveland real estate market, I had to find the best allied service providers (real estate and otherwise) I could find, and then surround myself with these other people and companies who are simply the best at what they do, no matter if the cost seemed steeper than my current budget allowed, also remembering that old adage: Measure Twice...Cut Once... While I can't say I didn't make mistakes along the way, I did, every business owner does, keeping an open mind and adapting quickly when opportunity presents itself I feel are two attributes which allowed me to prosper.
Starting a brokerage in the midst of a real estate decline, when I see my two kids looking up at me to take care of their needs, creates both excitement and fear. I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, no matter what the obstacles may be.
But, I knew that if I wanted to thrive as a cutting-edge, boutique brokerage, I needed to ensure that my solid reputation and professional competencies I worked so hard to obtain as an individual agent would also be the defining aspect of my new brokerage, and also embody the qualities of transparency, innovation and tech-savvy which are ingrained in everything Olsen Ziegler Realty does and represents.
So...in 2007, when I started my brokerage, I wanted to hire the best and most passionate greater Cleveland Ohio graphic artist I could find, and that landed me to Jim Mollica who owns a two-person shop named Trait Studio located in an old building on the outskirts of downtown Cleveland, with huge ceilings, 90 year old floors, exposed duct work, and a true grit of an environment that defines old-world Cleveland. After interviewing over a dozen graphic artists with significant branding, graphic design, mark design, and other aspects, we hired Trait Studiio to design our mark (logo), colors, stationary, envelopes, and business cards, along with press-ready PDFs for yard signage. Jim's talents are immense and he captured and expressed who we are way beyond our initial expectations.
Enter ActiveRain -- I knew that my self-designed postcards for just listed, just sold, for sale flyers, etc., that I produced in Microsoft Publisher weren't making the grade, not even close, but all these big box allied real estate service providers who seemed to produce mostly generic stuff like recipes for salsa, and other bland stuff, just didn't seem like a good fit, and there were really no customization options either, you either plugged your little logo in the spot they want and you get a few lines for your contact info, and bam, that's it. I knew that approach wouldn't work for me (not sayng it won't work for others), but I knew I didn't want that.
I was lucky enough to run across a post on ActiveRain where Tanya Nouwens showcased a postcard design done by Jon and Inna Hardison of HA Media Group -- you can still see my comment #45 on this post, it all started with a Just Sold design, and went on to encompass major stuff: complete redesign of my brokerage website, new search website, most print designs for various things, specialty advertising, etc.
To make a rather long story short:
Olsen Ziegler Realty just competed in the 2011 Promotion and Advertising contest in the Ohio Association of REALTORS contest (judged by an independent panel of Advertising and Marketing professionals) (in the < 100 agent brokerage category) and we cleaned up and won first place in everything single thing I submitted except for one second place finish, with only one item out of eight not winning first or second. Feel free to browse the websites at ClevelandHomesSearch.com and OlsenZiegler.com.
In other words, while the awards went to Olsen Ziegler Realty, the reality is that HA Media Group won, I just had a lick of sense from the moment I first laid eyes on their work to recognize their immense talent and turn them loose.
I don't say this to brag, as that is meaningless. What is not meaningless, is how the the branding, advertising, marketing, websites, various printed marketing pieces all convey an image that I think is rarely seen in our industry, and as a result, my clients have taken notice, so have potential clients, I have gained new clients from having a stellar presentation on the web and in print, and I've had some potential client inquiries e-mail me and say: I've read about you on your website, and I want to hire you, all before i've even spoken with them. This is something that never would have happened on my own.
So, to say I have a positive ROI from partnering with the best allied real estate service providers is only part of the equation. When you find someone who can truly help you get your message out which is authentic and in such an engaging way, where there is near instant trust already established from the first phone call with a potential client, not only is it good for my business, it warms my heart that I have both made a friend with an ActiveRain service provider, but I can also quickly get to work actually doing what I do best: helping clients achieve success. Clients are also very good at sniffing out pretenders, so no matter how good the advertising and graphic design, if there isn't something solid at the foundation, it's pointless. But, if you are very good at what you do, not conveying this exceptionally well is also doing a disservice to your business as well as potential clients who may identify with your approach and your expertise but not see that with their initial impression.
I apply this same intense desire to only recommend the best loan officers and lenders, title companies, escrow companies, home/pest/radon/structural inspectors, tradespeople, etc. When you do that, magic happens, or at the very least, a client experiences an exceptionally solid and satisfying home purchase or sale.
While everyone has their own trusted sphere, I'm just giving a shout out to Jon and Inna Hardison here in the Rain for helping me transform my business and being great friends in the process, as well as Tanya who started the whole chain of events with her post!
I would love to hear your stories of how others have helped you and your business.
Remember what your momma told you when you were little: Pick your friends wisely!
Chris Olsen, Broker, Owner, REALTOR Olsen Ziegler Realty Cell: 216.702.0537 Serving the Greater Cleveland, Ohio Residential Real Estate Marketplace
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.