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Any top producer will tell you that to build a solid foundation for your business, you must have a plan (and one that’s actually written down tends to stick and come to fruition).
Performance coach and counselor Dr. Darlene Treese’s five paradigm-shifting steps make a solid framework for developing a business plan, and she would know, having worked on leadership, performance and mental health with students, families and even the Department of Defense.
We’ve paired some of Dr. Treese’s best advice with that of industry professionals on how agents should approach business planning for 2022.
Shift your mindset
Many agents view themselves as service providers and see their work as transactional in nature. One of the most important things you can do to develop your business plan is to begin thinking of yourself as a business rather than as a salesperson.
According to Mark Choey, HighNote founder and CEO, many agents fall into the trap of being super-busy but having very few long-term results that come from all of that busy-ness.
“As an agent, you are not only the CEO, but the CMO, CFO, CTO, Chief Economist, bookkeeper, handyman, janitor, and, of course, the VP of sales!” Choey said. Understanding all of the moving parts of a business can make a huge difference in how effective you are in building your business.
“Don’t let others define your success. Know yourself.” – Dr. Treese
Begin by determining what type of business entity would work well for you, whether LLC, C-Corp, or S-Corp. Talk to your accountant or financial adviser and your attorney to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of each and to put a plan together.
Once you start thinking of yourself as a business owner rather than an individual agent, you’ll begin to develop a perspective that helps you think big picture and long term, rather than focusing on immediate results.
One of the biggest obstacles agents face is, ironically, the one of too much success. This often causes them to get bogged down in the day-to-day of client services, putting out fires and doing little to plan for the future. It keeps them from taking advantage of the potential their business offers.
According to DOORA Properties broker-owner Troy Palmquist, planning for the year in advance, setting goals, and letting those goals dictate your actions is essential for keeping yourself focused and bringing more consistency to your business.
“So many agents fall on their face when they get busy and then stop doing the things that got them busy in the first place,” Palmquist said. One of the things that he finds particularly effective — sphere of influence marketing — is the first thing to go by the wayside when agents get a few clients in place.
Palmquist stresses the importance of setting a goal and creating a path, then sticking to the path as you have laid it out. Manage the growth as it comes rather than ramping back on your communication and marketing — the things that are working and creating the growth.
“View failure as a learning opportunity. View obstacles as challenges.” – Dr. Treese
According to York Baur, CEO of MoxiWorks, “One of the key resources that agents often overlook is their sphere of influence — their ‘database’ — which is where the majority of their business comes from.”
Take advantage of the potential of your CRM and transaction management platform to simplify and streamline your operation. Making sure that you have the information you need in a system where you can use it to market is the key to success, Baur said.
Investing in yourself and your business often means taking a leap of faith and setting yourself up for success. Part of that process is remembering what activities bring in money — your networking, your outreach, your expertise — and focusing your efforts on those activities.
Many agents continue to think of themselves as a one-person show with total responsibility for every aspect of their business. According to Choey, the first thing every agent needs to do is hire an assistant if they don’t have one already.
“If you feel like you can’t afford one, split him or her with another agent … or two! You absolutely need an assistant to handle all the details, admin, payments, scheduling, so you can do the things only you are licensed to do, sell real estate!”
“Invest in yourself. Act like you’ve already won.” – Dr. Treese
Next, Choey recommends hiring a business coach who will hold you accountable to “the numbers you need to hit each and every week and each and every month.”
Those are not necessarily sales numbers, but numbers going out:
- money spent on leads
- the number of calls to your sphere
- social media engagement
- time spent at networking events
- email newsletters
- the number of appointments taken
- the number of properties shown or previewed
- the number of clients you are working with
According to Baur, there are no expenses, only investments. “Every dollar, minute, or favor from someone else is an investment that needs to have a return in mind.” This means that everything you do should lead to a potential result or accomplishment.
Maintaining consistent outward focus will result in consistent dividends. Freeing up your time and giving yourself the opportunity to perform pays for the people who help to make it possible.
For many of us, building a business means overcoming a lifetime of messaging about who we are or what we are capable of. Some of us suffer from imposter syndrome — the sense that we are only pretending to be as competent or capable as we appear to be — while others are fighting a childhood context of poverty, educational struggles or other challenges to our self-image.
If there are people in your life who are constantly telling you what you can’t do or making you feel bad about your efforts and accomplishments, it’s time to avoid them, Dr. Treese says. “Surround yourself with positive people and with those who share your vision and can help it grow. Be with those you want to be like.”
“Avoid toxic people. Surround yourself with positive people.” – Dr. Treese
Many agents ignore a valuable resource that is constantly available to them at little or no cost — brokerage meetings and masterminds, local associations with training and networking events, and state or national conferences and associational events. Connecting with the best and brightest at these events can be a powerful motivator and a way to learn from the experiences of successful colleagues.
In addition, if the pandemic has taught us anything, there are a plethora of online resources — from blogs to YouTube channels to webinars and online courses. You can learn anything from social media marketing to graphic design to bookkeeping to the ins and outs of specific real estate niches.
When you come from a place of possibility and potential and surround yourself with like-minded individuals, fellow entrepreneurs, and positive thinkers, you set yourself up for success.
Finally, from real estate investor and radio host Abhi Golhar, is the fitting advice to “Stop planning. Start doing.” According to Golhar, too many people set out to spend time convincing themselves that they’ll be successful if only they develop a perfect plan at the outset. “It’s like a rocking chair,” Golhar said. “It gives you something to do but ultimately gets you nowhere.”
According to Golhar, many agents spend too much time working on step-by-step plans rather than putting their ideas into operation. He offers the example of creating a marketing campaign: You can speculate about which strategy will be most effective, but you’ll get further if you design the graphics, write the copy, and get your ad live. That way, you can compare different iterations and hone in on the one that works best.
“Do what you are most passionate about.” – Dr. Treese
Often, planning is just another word for procrastination, and it’s never going to be foolproof. Make sure the planning process you do for 2022 is meaningful without being an excuse or a means of delaying necessary forward momentum.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.