Well over a decade ago, I read Michael Gerbers' famous book, 'The E-Myth.' I am the daughter of two entrepreneurs and an entrepreneur myself. I have lived through the 'technician syndrome' that Gerber described in which vast amounts of energy are siphoned from the entrepreneur who must run their business on a daily basis and subsequently becomes a slave to the work rather than the inspiration driving the company.
So, when the idea of making a business 'Idiot Proof' was introduced during a professional real estate seminar, I was eager to embrace the method. The process involved systematizing a business by breaking each action/segment into small, clearly defined steps. The BENEFITS: a precisely written manual which ensured that anyone could replicate the same results every single time with the aim of creating a consistent consumer experience.
To illustrate the point, the presenter used the example of the methods that fast food companies have perfected through their training systems to ensure that your burger is pretty much the same anywhere you get it. If you've ever worked in a fast food joint, you know that every single item that impacts the business is detailed in the manuals.
The system is fully automated with cookware that tells you when the fries are done and guides you through the process of making every menu item. Most workers are hired to do one little segment of the work and not much else. Even the cash registers are coded with pictures to make sure that the right order is processed and the correct change returned. The RESULT: workers who know a few details very well, but may be largely ignorant when it comes to understanding how the operation works.
The problem with this type of system is that it thrives primarily within a stable environment. An environment in which the delivery truck can be expected to arrive at the scheduled time carrying the necessary supplies. The system requires tremendous amounts of coordination and performs with supreme efficiency when that order is present. However if there is inadequate staffing or the supply chain breaks down, the system becomes vulnerable. Ultimately the problem with this type of system is that LIFE IS UNSTABLE.
In the real estate industry, we have created our own versions of Idiot Proof systems. In a sense our Forms and transaction management systems have allowed many of us to facilitate millions of real estate transactions with efficiency and speed. These systems have also made it possible for anyone off the street to enter our profession with a mere 40 hours of training and then sit down with a client to list a Million dollar home. The agent simply needs to know how to fill in the blanks.
However, just like the fast food industry, the real estate system of transaction management may be inherently vulnerable precisely because it requires certain 'anticipated conditions' to operate efficiently. When the stability of those conditions is threatened or upset entirely, as we are currently witnessing in the mortgage crisis, the entire house of cards is in peril, not unlike the perilous times in which we currently live.
Perilous times require creative, innovative individuals who possess the critical thinking skills to make intelligent assessments and respond to unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.
Idiot Proof Mechanisms are guaranteed to fail in perilous times, because the conditions necessary to support them are wobbling or have crumbled entirely. The hidden gift of perilous times is that we are given a fresh opportunity to re-evaluate the true effectiveness of systems we have used without questioning.
So, I'm in the process of dis-assembly. Although we still use and appreciate our board supplied real estate forms, our agents are being challenged to not rely on forms to do the critical thinking. Agents are required to think through solutions and to be ready to explain WHY they think the options they are suggesting merit consideration. The days of using systems without thinking about what you're doing are numbered OVER, because fewer real estate transactions are falling into easily defined categories!
Today's real estate transaction involves, amongst a host of other critical skill sets, having the negotiation skills and patience to see a Short Sale through to the end. Being a competent agent means having the ability to utilize the Internet to create important professional networks and prospect for future business. Today's agent needs to understand what is happening in the financial world and be informed about the developments in ancillary services like the inspection and title industry. In my opinion, the days of 'cookie cutter' real estate are over...if they ever truly existed in the first place.
Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved
Picture of french fries courtesy of wEnDalicious photo-stream on flickr