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2011-01-10 14:25:49

How To Finally Turn It Around


A few years ago, there was a TV commercial by Staples with a demonstrated effort to gain attention as a purveyor of school supplies.

Shown, was a happy and carefree mom and dad, swinging through the store and filling their cart with pencils, notebooks, backpacks and other necessities of school life. All set to the festive Christmas song, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Bear in mind, this was run in August.

Straggling behind those loopy parents, were a junior high school aged brother and sister, scowling and miserable at the prospect of the oncoming school year. The contrast was hilarious; the commercial became an instant classic.

So, what's the point here?

Each year, right around the holidays, I will talk up agent business plans for the coming year. After all, a real estate agent is an independent contractor and basically owns and operates his own business. Certainly the brokerage is tied in to it, but the success or lack thereof is mostly up to the agent. Lots of successful agents make a successful brokerage. So you can see my interest in the program as a Broker.

Here's the drill...I  open the weekly sales meeting with the customary banter. Who had a baby, how's the New year coming along, what about that awful economy--usual stuff. Suddenly there is a pause in the punch--a moment of solace.

I look around the room to see dozens of faces. Some are munching on blueberry muffins; others sip coffee, while a few are probably thinking about their part time job, which ran out after the Christmas holiday. 

Most of the group knows what's coming next.

Yes, it's the annual business plan presentation. Whether it is through paper handouts, dry-erase board or Power Point, it has begun. 

Immediately, I sense the subdued groans--one reliable agent always picks this moment to emit a loud yawn. "Wow, excuse me," she will say.

I know that the top producers have already been working on their plans and budget. Others may want to, but haven't yet gotten around to it. The newbies are wide eyed and ready to absorb any and all info that will help them jump start business. And there are a very few, including the yawner who will instantly become one of the Staples children.

Is it because she does not believe in the concept? Does she already have enough business, that she doesn't need a plan? Is someone else doing it for her?  No on all counts.

Is she afraid of the process? The commitment? 


Volumes could be written, but for the sake of this article, I will be brief. A business plan can be as simple or complicated as your comfort level. It does not have to be a doctoral thesis quality report. I have seen highly successful business people write their entire plan in bullet format on a chalkboard, which they will hang at an easy to view area in their office. I've seen it as a computer background, handwritten on a legal pad, and yes, there are certainly those who will create a formal plan.

Point being, it doesn't really matter. What’s important is to do something, anything.

Call it a map if you will.

A favorite example is the driver, traveling on a strange country road at night. He’s not sure where he’s going, only that he wants to end up somewhere really wonderful. He has no map and no clue where the road leads. His only visibility is through the headlights, which allow him to see a few hundred feet ahead. Hopefully, he will end up where he wants to be. 

Is that you?

The purpose of a business plan is to identify and lay out your own map for success. Simply answer a series of questions and then design actions to address the answers, schedule it all on a specific time frame and hold yourself accountable. Or get your broker to hold you accountable. Or another agent, your husband, wife, somebody, please!

Oh yeah, like a road map, it only works if you open it up and use it.

The big picture questions are:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?
  4. When will I get there?
  5. How do I stay on track? 

Now, we drop down to more specific inquiries:

  • What are your immediate 12 month past numbers for:
  • Listings taken?
  • Listings closed?
  • Listings expired?
  • Escrow sides opened?
  • Escrow sides closed?
  • Commission income?
  • How much money do you want to make in the next 12 months? 
  • To do that, how many sides must you close?
  • How many closed sides will be listings?
  • How many closed sides will be buyers? 
  • What percent of your listings will result in a closed sale?
  • What percent of your buyer clients will close?
  • How many hours per week will you work?
  • How does that translate to $$ per hour?
  • Where did your clients come from this past year?
  • Do you have an Sphere of Influence referral program?
  • Which activities do you still do that no longer work?
  • What do other agents in your office (and beyond) do, which seems to work for them?
  • Do you have a marketing budget? How about a general business budget?
  • What are you really good at?
  • What are you weak at?
  • How can you make your strengths work better for your business?
  • How will you manage around your weak areas?
  • Do you have a work schedule that you adhere to?
  • What is your self education plan?
  • What are the key threats to your business?
  • What do you do different than the competition?
  • Do you have a plan to live a full and productive personal life?
  • Do you have an effective system for:
  • Contact management?
  • Listing process?
  • Escrow process?
  • Time management and blocking?
  • Tracking your marketing?
  • Tracking your income?
  • Do you know what a system is?

The most important question is, “Are you cut out for this business?” 

Just answer these questions on a piece of paper and you will have a snapshot at where you currently stand. Promise it will make you ponder.

After that initial soul searching and head scratching, (which incidentally must be done away from the office in total relaxed privacy), you develop individual goals, which will determine your specific action plans for the next 12 months. In essence, you plan the route.

So, when do you perform all of these action plans? 

Take the time to intelligently lay out the time frames, and then schedule it. Don’t make the schedule too tight, as there are many detours and roadblocks, which you are sure to encounter along the way. I suggest you consult with your broker or mentor to assist with this part.

Lastly, but most importantly is the accountability process. You need to become the employee of your own business and there needs to be consequences. Just as a salaried worker would receive a periodic review by her boss, so should you—either do it yourself or utilize an accountability partner (broker, mentor, friend). Fire yourself, if necessary. Make that worker earn her pay! If you want to get hired back, you’d better recommit to the plan.

Is it that simple? 

Yes and no. Though it is not so tough to develop a success map, it is sometimes a Herculean feat to stick to the route. If you are weak at self-discipline and developing new habits, perhaps those are the areas to work on first. But that’s another article.

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