Friday, October 24, 2008

On Being a Better Bozo

After 23 years as a real estate sales manager, I am proud to announce that I have moved from being an Unconscious Incompetent to the great status of Conscious Incompetent. Now I know what I don't know and certainly what I have not known for the last two decades.

In all honesty, I wasn't far off but not quite there. I remain a work in progress, but the key word is "progress".

About two years ago, the management group in our company began intensive training on teaching scripts, business oriented coaching and interviewing tracks for experienced and inexperienced agents. This has changed my whole outlook on the job.

Along the way, we were taught to plan out and work a formal schedule and post it outside our office doors so that our agents always knew what we were doing, where we were and if we were available. As elementary as this sounds, it has done me a world of good. Unless you lay things out before you, everything seems overwhelming and especially if they keep adding to your work load. You feel that you just keep getting farther and farther behind. I teach scheduling to my agents and yet, never held myself as accountable as I expected them to be.

I like holding myself accountable to each day and what has to be accomplished. I rarely get off track and the new skills that I have obtained have made the parts of my job that I lacked confidence in, so much easier.

Historically, agents deciding to "slow down" opted for management. ( I don't know whose job they were watching.) The term " Bozo" came from Steve Friedman with whom I have trained several times through the years. "Most managers are bozos" was always Steve's mantra and he was right. In today's environment, agents need active, intelligent and hard working managers who expect as much out of themselves as they do their agents. If we teach structure, we need it ourselves. If we teach scripts, we need to know them and to use them ourselves. If we teach prospecting, we need to be prospecting for recruits ourselves.

This is the hardest and yet, most satisfying career I could ever think of having. I am grateful for the opportunity to do it and most of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn to "Be a Better Bozo". With apologies to Steve.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lie of Mentoring

Frequently in the process of interviewing new or prospective agents, they mention that they have talked to Broker X who, while running a small brokerage, will make them a fabulous deal on their split and throw in their personal services as a mentor. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Answer: it is.

Understand, they have no formal training program. This is a cop out. But what a great thing to be personally mentored by the BROKER him or herself! Not.

This is the most famous scam in the real estate world. Let me tell you why.

In the first place, they run a small brokerage. They still have to list and sell. If a choice is to be made between training you and going out and getting a listing or showing a property, whom do you think will win? Not you.

My second favorite thing about "mentoring" is that you get to be their personal gofer. You know, "go-for-this", "go-for-that" ? It will be wonderful experience for you to learn to pick up somebody's dry cleaning so that they can look good on their next appointment. If you are practicing to be someone's personal assistant, this will stand you in good stead. However, if actually being trained as a real estate agent is your goal, this isn't going to help.

I also prefer that you not learn all their bad habits. Not that you won't develop some on your own but at least start out in a situation that is teaching tried and true methods. Start with a clean slate, in other words. I am constantly amazed at what "experienced" agents/brokers in this market do not know and I can only imagine what they pass on in this selfless act of "mentoring".

So, you might not get the "fabulous" split at a full service,structured, education conscious brokerage, but what you might get will be far more valuable. Remember, a transaction may make you a living but a skill will make you a fortune.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The At Risk Agent

Amid all the doom and gloom that has been swirling around for the last year and intensifying in the last few weeks, regarding the stock market and of course, the national housing market, is it any wonder that some are questioning the survival of that strange animal called the Real Estate Agent? Are we headed for extinction? Or just a severe culling of the herd?

My opinion is that, yes, there will be a culling of the herd and we know from numbers from the last two years that this process has already started. In our local market, we believe the real fall out will be visible at the first of the year ( when local board dues come a calling). If we were to project the groups that might be most likely affected, whom do we think they might be?

Conventional wisdom usually starts off with the "older" group, the agents having been in the business for more than twenty years. You know, those agents who existed before computers, fax machines, cell phones, text messaging, blogging, etc. These are the agents who have been dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century and yes, still miss their weekly MLS books.

My thought here is this is probably not the most at risk group for a variety of reasons. First, they have seen very bad markets before. Think the late 70's into the early 80's. I find it constantly surprising the media today never reflect on how really bad that market time was. Interest rates were at an almost inconceivable (now) high. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one percent were the going rates. Talk about cutting the Affordabiltiy Index into smithereens......there it was. And yet, a stalwart group survived. Combined with some innovative products from lenders and other ways around the barn, some business managed to be done. But just for comparisons, in 2007 our local board of Realtors closed just under 27,000 properties . Back in 1981, the same board closed less than 6,000. Whining anyone? GOI.

And we learned how to use loan assumptions, wrap loans, blanket mortgages, and the adjustable rate loan was born. So those agents still doing business at that time learned things the hard way.

The next most likely pick would be the new or newer agent in this market, the ones who have come in within the last two to three years. While they may not have the interest rate concern to deal with ( yet), they have been bombarded with all the media telling them what a horrible market they are entering and why on earth would they want to be getting into this career? And yet, many have chosed to do so and quite frankly, the ones who went with companies who actually train and school their agents consistently are doing just fine, thank you very much. There is a caveat in there.

No, the truly AT RISK agent is that agent who entered the industry during the time period from about five to fifteen years ago. Times were "good" or so we are told. Business was booming. Money was easy to get (or so they say ) right up to the time where we saw lenders making loans to people who had no money, no credit and sometimes, no income. How easy was that? Many agents have never had to learn to do that nasty thing called prospecting and unfortunately, most existing brokerages have allowed this ignorance and laziness to exist because hey, it was easy for all the players. The brokerages also did not invest in technology tools and most are now too far behind. They relied on the agent to pay the tab and most didn't. Now that it is time to "go to the mattresses", they don't know where to start.

I have some suggestions. First, get yourself to a company that will actually spend time and resources training you. And I mean every day, not just sporadically or once a month. I mean everyday either in the form of a class, a workshop, script practices or personal coaching. If you are interviewing, ask to see a schedule. If they are organized and really doing it, they will have one. Second, learn self-discipline. Make yourself do the prospecting activities that will put you in front of the necessary number of people to get the necessary number of appointments that you will need to obtain the necessary amount of income. Third, have someone hold you accountable for your activities whether it is your manager, your coach or your significant other. Put that person in place. Fourth, treat this like a "real" job. You know, show up for work everyday.

Real estate is hard work. It is stressful and emotionally and physically draining. No, this has not changed in the thirty-four years that I have been doing this. People just kidded themselves for a long time that this was big, easy money. The joke is over.