As an agent I was always looking at the early internet for ideas on finding a business advantage. As with most of you who were building websites, I started working with GoDaddy in 2004 with the launch of my first real estate site for Lancaster. Shortly after that, I became aware of GoDaddy's founder Bob Parsons and his American success story. He had published his "16 Rules for Success in Business & Life in General" somewhere on GoDaddy as I recall. I immediately gravitated to them and printed them off and hung them in my office at Long & Foster. Over the years I've come back to them time and again to find a nugget of inspiration, and also used them as a teachable topic of discussion with my sons as they move through their early teens. Bob has a cool new page dedicated to the rules and you can even download a copy of your own.
I get the privilege of working with many of our firm's hundreds of agents to figure out their personal branding and marketing. This time of year, the conversations always turn to planning to "do better" and "grow my business" in the coming twelve months. I've found myself turning yet again to the 16 Rules to help guide the discussion. My working thesis for real estate businesspeople is that they need to focus their activities around three main centers: Branding, Prospecting and Marketing. Let's look at each of Bob's 16 Rules and how they might be applied to planning to do these three things plus "life in general".
Rule 1: Get and stay out of your comfort zone. Bob says "I believe that not much happens of any significance when we're in our comfort zone."
This rule is one that crosses all the centers of activity above as well as life in general. As a real estate business owner you need to actively seek ways to get out of your comfort zone, especially when dealing with prospecting. Talking to people who don't know you about their buying or selling a home is the single most important activity in this industry... so why be afraid of it? We're not just talking "cold calling", either. Make it a rule to give away a box of business cards on a regular basis. Gosh, Jeff, how would I do that? Exactly. Scripting our presentations from start to finish and never "winging it" around customers. We've got to keep pushing ourselves to not stay comfortably in our bubble, even if we are experiencing some success.
Rule 2: Never give up. Bob says "Almost nothing works the first time it's attempted. Just because what you're doing does not seem to be working, doesn't mean it won't work..."
So often as I sit with an agent and bring something up to try, they will shake their head. "Oh, I tried that, it didn't work," or something like that. Trust me, Facebook ads/Zillow premiere/having a blog/doing videos/farming/working a marketing plan/etc etc does work, as thousands of agents have proven elsewhere. Not every business building activity works for every agent, and that's because we all have a set of natural abilities that lend us to one approach over another. Some a methodical and keep to themselve, so they gravitate to email marketing and building website but hate working open houses and going on listing presentations where there's stress. Others love the challenge of talking with people and turning relationships into sales, but constantly forget about marketing to their sphere of influence or following up over time with leads that don't immediately answer the phone. The goal is to prepare a 2017 plan that highlights your strengths while putting you outside of your comfort zone in some other areas. Trust me, if you do something enough you'll figure out how to do it right in short order. Never give up.
Rule 3: When you're ready to quit, you're closer than you think. Bob says "There's an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true. It goes like this: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.""
This just fits perfectly with Rule 2 and Rule 1. When I talk to an agent who's been knocking on doors for weeks without success, my first thought is to just affirm them and tell them to keep at it. Once they get that first appointment and sale from it, they are hooked. Insert any activity you are undertaking to grow your business here...
Rule 4: With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be.
This rule is particularly true with regard to presenting, especially listing presentations. Decide what the worst is that could happen and plan to not let that happen. But if it does, you understand and can learn from it for the next one.
Rule 5: Focus on what you want to have happen.
This rule needs little embellishment. Self-explanatory. BUT, you must plan ahead in order to manage your points of focus. Too much happening at once dilutes your focus and overwhelms you. I say have a by-week, by-half-day repeating schedule set up ahead of time (at the least) so you can't tell yourself you forgot about making those sphere calls, etc
Rule 6: Take things a day at a time. Bob says "No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don't look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time."
Don't worry about everything you have to do next week and let that pull you away from what's on your plan for today. 'Nuff said.
Rule 7: Always be moving forward. Bob says "The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die."
I use this phrase all the time to describe what I do for our agents every day. I call it "moving the ball forward." That's our job in the marketing department at CBRB Central PA. When I meet with an agent the goal is to move their ball forward in one area or another. Marketing. Branding, Prospecting.
Rule 8: Be quick to decide. Bob says "Remember what General George S. Patton said: "A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.""
One of the most common issues I see with real estate businesspeople is their aversion to deciding. It must have something to do with the personality makeup of our industry or something. This hesitancy is magnified tenfold if there is an expense involved. If you are serious about growing your business, decisions have to be made - let's make them and move on with the execution! Budgets help here as well. If an agent and I establish that he/she is willing to budget $1,200 for marketing this year, I immediately ask them to decide how to break that out by month and/or activity (postcards, photo work, etc) so they start "spending the money in their head". Execute, execute.
Rule 9: Measure everything of significance. Bob says "I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves."
Now we're getting into the whole fail-to-plan is plan-to-fail conversation. I can't say how many times, when I ask an agent "how many people are in your book of business?" I get a blank stare in return. How can you grow your business if you don't know who or what it consists of on day one? Do you think dentists or lawyers don't know how many actual and potential clients they are marketing to at any given point in time? Um, no. Planning to mail postcards? How many? when? What will they cost per recipient? I love Facebook ads because of the great metrics they return, and when an agent sees that they spent pennies for clicks to their leadgen website.
Find ways to measure everything. Put it in a spreadsheet or on a whiteboard. Then watch it get bigger.
Rule 10: Anything that is not managed will deteriorate.
This is so true. Headshots go out of date, profiles online get broken and don't show up, listings on Zillow or wherever stop displaying correctly, even your database of people will deteriorate over time unless you keep it fresh. Schedule an hour every couple of months to review things. Try to look at your business through the eyes of the real estate consumer.
Rule 11: Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you're doing.
Real estate agents don't have too much trouble in this area - in fact, I think that may be a weakness. In many cases it's worth spending time learning from what others are doing in your market and elsewhere. But Bob is right, don't overdo it. BTW - Activerain is a great way to do this; click on your friend's accounts and websites and see what they're doing. Their posts can highlight cool ideas they are trying that you might as well.
Rule 12: Never let anybody push you around.
Another one that I don't thing agents have a hard time with, but it's worth remembering when we get into transactions and negotiating. We're all equals under the RE licensing acts in our state, regardless of our number of settled sides.
Rule 13: Never expect life to be fair.
One area within real estate comes to mind as applicable here, and that's that you have to actually market to your sold clients. People do forget you over time, and other agents pop into their lives and distract them from you in the moment. It happens. And it's not fair! I remember the first time I saw a competitor's sign in the yard of a home I'd sold to a great couple a few years prior. I wanted to call the other agent and scream at them... but whose fault was it really?
Rule 14: Solve your own problems. Bob says "You'll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you'll develop a competitive edge."
Some agents (not many) let their complaints about their office/broker/admin etc. get in the way of them fixing their problems themselves. I always say that while it's great that you're with X company, remember that you run your own business and you should be a self-contained as possible, in case you want to change firms or even sell your business to another agent (what a concept). That means taking ownership of your own processes and systems for marketing and business. I firmly beleive this makes you sharper in the end and you avoid the "employee trap" some agents seem mentally stuck in.
Rule 15: Don't take yourself too seriously. Bob says "Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are."
This one is for the anal-retentive agents out there (you know who you are :-)). But seriously... the daily stresses of trancaction issues, personality conflicts and negotiations can make us tense up. I think that we can have fun, for example on social media. Post funny posts and smile. Let's not lose who we are.
Rule 16: There's always a reason to smile. Bob says "Find it. After all, you're really lucky just to be alive. Life is short."
So true. In the end, real estate is a great business to be in! Let's keep finding the positives to focus on. I think we are incedibly lucky to get to work with interesting people every day... let's enjoy it. Ask about their family. Listen more than you talk. Shake hands. Make eye contact. Realize that it's all by God's grace that we go forward.
Well, there you have it. I hope you go to Bob's site and get a copy of the 16 Rules for yourself. Maybe they'll help you find something new in the new year!