It’s the first week of January, and we all find ourselves facing the prospect of a new year.
Some people look at a blank canvas with fear and trepidation. Others are thrilled at the prospect of starting fresh and creating something special.
I want to encourage you to look at 2012 as your personal blank canvas, and to act as the artist for whatever kind of business you want (or need) to create. I find it helpful to look at your business this way because doing so allows you to take creative control over your work.
Have you spent time in 2011 (and 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007) blaming “the market”? Be honest here. Most agents have … and in many cases they are right. The market has changed – in many ways, drastically. And everyone’s business has had to evolve as a result. But folks, 2007 was five years ago. If you have spent the last five years blaming your lack of business on the market, that’s a real shame. Some of the clients I’ve been coaching during that period have had their most successful years ever from 2007 to 2011.
And if in that five year period you have focused on the negatives of the market and you haven’t painted yourself a new business reality, well, don’t despair. After all, 2012 is a blank canvas … an opportunity for you to create a new business for yourself!
Although at first blush you may think that real estate and painting have very little in common, there are actually many interesting parallels. Where do we start? Let’s continue that painting analogy!
Canvas. A painter can’t create anything without a canvas, an underlying foundation for their work. For you, the foundational “canvas” will consist of several of things.
- The economic climate. National, regional, and local events will all impact your business. I don’t want you to dwell on this and make excuses why your business is down, but I do want you to be aware of what’s happening so you can work around, over, and under the obstacles.
- The brokerage you are affiliated with. Whether you’re considering the tools your brokerage has for you, the support and training they can provide, the cost of doing business there, or the attitude and energy of the office, where you hang your license can dramatically impact your business.
- Consistent lead generation. Don’t have it? You probably don’t have a sustainable business!
- Concierge class client care. Without strong client care, both during and after the transaction, your business will stall, and you’ll have to spend incrementally more time on lead generation.
Subject matter. What kind of clients do you want to work with? Are you a maven at marketing, and proficient at pricing? Or is it more thrilling for you to help buyers find that perfect home? Buyers, sellers, and renters are your “retail” opportunities. Don’t forget “wholesale” opportunities such as REO managers, lenders, and relocation companies. And in both cases, don’t ignore the opportunities that exist in niche marketing. Time and time again I see agents take a “generalist” approach, when they actually could create a far better impact as a specialist.
Tools. There’s not a painter out there who would begin creating without canvas, brushes, a palette, knives, and paint. Why then, do so few real estate agents have the tools they need to paint their business vision? At a bare minimum, you should have the following items in your toolbox:
- An annual goal for income, time off, and professional growth / education
- A clearly defined action plan that supports goal achievement
- High-quality collateral materials such as buyer packages, seller packages, presentation boards
- A blog or website
- A basic understanding of social media networking, so you can make a decision about whether it’s appropriate for your business
- Knowledge of your personality style
- Accountability – whether that’s in the form of your broker, a colleague, a coach, or a mentor
Technique. Some artists work only within one medium; others work in several – or many. The artist who works on a watercolor in January and an oil painting in March knows that he or she will bring a different set of techniques to the easel when tackling these two different projects. Different clients, different situations, and different markets will all require tweaks to your working “technique”.
Time. Do you think artists expect to stand in front of a canvas, devote an hour to the painting, and walk away with the perfect finished product? It doesn’t happen that way. Artists often pencil in their composition, and then begin layering color in a series of steps. They know that perfection – whatever that means to them personally – takes time. Real estate agents often expect success immediately, or “yesterday”!
Editing. Good artists stand back at a distance and look at their work. They evaluate, and edit as needed. They also seek input from trusted friends and colleagues. Good real estate agents do the same, asking their broker, their colleagues, and their clients if their performance is all it could be. Feedback, and the action taken from that feedback, can profoundly impact the direction your business will take.
Framing. To our eyes, most art typically looks more “finished” when framed. Framing provides a presentation portal for an artist’s work, and often sets the stage for the art itself. Branding does the same thing for real estate agents. Your brand provides a framework for the services you offer clients, and should showcase not only those services but your style. Is your frame simple and modern, a heavily stylized baroque, or classic gilt? Think about how you’re framing your business.
Gallery exhibitions. Even with the increased use of the internet to market and sell art, artists still rely on gallery exhibitions to sell their work. That’s because the vast majority of buyers and collectors still need to see art “live” before making a purchase. In the same way, you can and should market your services online, but you also need to have live connections with potential clients. This can be accomplished in traditional methods such as open houses, or perhaps via networking events. What about teaching classes for buyers and investors? That’s another great way to connect live, and allows you to position yourself as an expert.
Temperament. Every artist has a style of working, a “personality” that affects their art. Real estate agents are no different! An agent who is data-oriented and somewhat introverted is going to bring a different temperament to the table than the bubbly, outgoing “Tigger” type of agent. Both can be successful in this business if they recognize and leverage their inherent temperament and strengths.
I hope you’ve started to think about your business a little different after reading this Zebra Report. It really is possible – in any market – to build the kind of business you deserve, but it does take planning.
If you want to learn more about the foundations of your business, and how you can paint a better 2012, I want to invite you to join me at my next Safari, which we’re holding on January 19th and 20th in Renton, Washington. We’re going to look at your unique potential, and help you identify ways to leverage “you” into a successful business. We’ll help you investigate past performance, set goals, and create a supporting action plans based on result-driven criteria. And we’re going to show you the benefit of repositioning your natural communication style to create positive outcomes in everything from lead generation to follow-up.
If you don’t need clock hours, you can attend our Safari event absolutely FREE. Enrollment is simple – just check out our Safari informational page to be taken to our information and enrollment site.
Join me at Safari, and position yourself for a better 2012!