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Girlfriday: Every Successful Person Needs an Assistant

Recently, I interviewed a good friend of mine, Takisha Bromell. Bromell always had a knack for organization. In 2017, she started helping real estate agents with their sales and listing contracts, having a background in real estate herself. Despite the encouragement of others, she still thought the biggest challenge lay in herself and the initial seed money, or rather the lack of it.  A friend once told her “Every successful person needs an assistant.” Not being exposed to the concept of an assistant for hire, she sought counsel from business professionals as well as family members who understood what made her tick. Now, she considers her work a labor of love.

 

Bromell says the best things she can provide other businesses is balance and purpose. She has several clients who operate from a shared workspace or otherwise away from the corporate office. These regional managers or high-level sales reps don’t have an onsite staff anyway, so it makes sense to use virtual assistants.

“How I help the business owner is to create balance in their lives so they can go home and rest assured things are going to get done. By helping them, I create that support system, that foundation so that they can go out and be great. They can do what it is God has called them to do.”

Read the entire Murfreesboro Pulse article here. https://boropulse.com/2019/07/girlfriday-every-successful-person-needs-an-assistant/

 

 

Favoritism in the Workplace

A common concern for well-meaning leaders is to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Let’s take a closer look at this. What exactly is favoritism? In its purest form, it is a preference of one person to the exclusion of all the others. In short, it’s a teacher’s pet. Only the leader need not be a teacher, it can be a boss or even a parent. As a foster parent, I have witnessed this latter relationship all too many times. Perhaps this is most apparent between just two siblings. Favoritism does nothing but spur feelings of resentment and a lack of will for much of the life of the disenfranchised.

Most of us would agree anyone who would show more love to one child over another is simply a bad parent. In fact, it’s not about love at all as true love is without strings attached. So why might a parent create such a dichotomy in the first place? In most situations I have observed, it appears to be due to the favorite sibling making life seemingly easier for the parent. Essentially it goes to the self-interest on part of the adult. As stated, it makes for bad parenting, but favoritism also goes for making a bad manager. A team may not be supervision’s children, though they do seek consideration, appreciation, and support just like children. Furthermore, employees deserve consideration, appreciation, and support.

In a large group, those of us who have experienced it first-hand will observe favoritism is generally more than one single person who has the approval of the leadership. In an organization, it’s a partiality toward those who are simply liked by the boss, while everyone else must suffer a bias to work harder, longer and without appreciation. In short, you are either in the club or you are out of the club. Merit, that is to say, appropriate recognition for a job well done doesn’t exist if you have been deemed unworthy for whatever political reason. Just like the slighted child, they will suffer feelings of resentment and a lack of will. This leads to low morale and a loss of production. A leader sets the overall tone of morale within a team and if that morale is low due to a lack of fairness, the boss has only him to blame.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

 

Millennials; Nature vs. Nurture

When I mention the Millennial Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers alike conjure thoughts of “Village of the Damned” or worse, twenty-something’s living in their parents bonus rooms. It’s a strong stereotype; the need for instant gratification, hover parents and texting across a table. I for one, would have been mortified had my parents contested a grade I made to my college professor or be given an award for no more effort than than standing (or sitting) in the right place. Those and $5 coffees are exactly the true stories we hear about the younger generation.

But is it a stereotype that is completely founded? In order to better understand them, we have to take a closer look at the other generations and how our culture has shifted over the past century. Or, is it even important for the rest of us to understand them at all?  Considering Millennials are moving up the food chain, more and more of them each year will be the ones who interview us for our next job if not the boss himself. They will be the leaders, politicians, administrators and those who make decisions for the rest of us once we are out of power. In short, we have to learn to play nice.

First, let’s address the glaring cliché of what a millennial is; someone late to work, rude, expectant, lazy and self-absorbed. However, we can apply that image to ANY generation when it is in its youth. Many times, young people just haven’t found what motivates them and so we hear stories of kids leeching off their parents. This could be due to the lack of experience, a good role-model or belief in themselves. We can all think back to our college days or when we started working and had high school friends still living with mom and dad, not having a direction for their lives. Eventually, many of these people got it together and finally took responsibility for their lives. Sadly, some did not, but that shouldn’t label an entire class of people. We must separate the age from the generation if we are to better understand them.

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So how did they get to where they are now? We first have to look at perhaps the best model of a “tough” society, the World War II Generation. Some call them the “silent generation”, Tom Brokaw called them the greatest generation and I tend to agree with him. These are people raised in the Depression and sent off to another continent to defeat the evils of Fascism and Imperialism. It fell to largely farm kids to fight the elite and defend Democracy. No doubt, their youth was vastly different from the experience of the average college student or young person today. When they returned home, they were grateful for a job and steady paycheck. So appreciative in fact, many worked forty years with the same company. Leaving one job for anther without just cause was viewed as a sort of betrayal. Being on the bottom rung of the company ladder, however, meant they could take pride in doing a good day’s work and putting food on the table for their families.

The Baby Boomers, however, wanted more than what their parents had. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression. The bottom rung wouldn’t do for Boomers. At this time there was an explosion of college enrollment. Future employees wanted to be better equipped for their careers and ready for new, higher positions within the organization. As organization would typically promote from within, most of this generation would stay with a company for several decades.

Fast forward about twenty years, and Generation X came on the scene. They learned from the previous generation that loyalty to a company will not always be reciprocated. The good news was there were several other corporate ladders to climb within the same industry. If the young, upwardly mobile professionals wanted to get ahead, it meant they would have to make the leap every few years. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression. This perhaps meant moving to another region of the country which led to a more integrated America.

That brings us to the young people of today we see in the workplace or who are perhaps still in college. The rungs of a Millennial corporate ladder look more like the slats of a of a roller coaster than anything upwardly mobile. They may work one place only for a few months and leave for a competitor that offers an industry certification with hands-on experience. A couple years later, intellectual tools in hand, move to an organization in a completely different field only to find everyone there is a “clone” of the company president. So, they join the Peace Corps or similar organization for a year in order to “give back to mankind”.  Then, still in their mid-twenties, they start work at their fourth corporation which is nothing at all like any of the previous jobs. They like it here and over time are promoted into management. Then a move is made to the original company because new leadership has changed the corporate culture there and it’s thought to be more rewarding work, even though it’s a pay cut. For most of us, it would be a wild ride! Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression.

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Through the ages, Beatniks, Hippies and Yuppies got strange looks when it came to their clothes, hairstyle and mannerisms as typecasts for their era. Now, it’s the Hipsters turn! They seem to always be on their Smartphone to keep informed about current affairs, friends they have never met and the latest gadgets. Millennials are not any smarter than the other generations, though. Nor are any of us any smarter than mankind several millennia ago. What makes them stand out, is the technology at their disposal. That technology is everywhere, though most of us never have use for the majority of it. When I was in my twenties, I would approach my boss with a new idea only to have him tell me, “We tried that before and it doesn’t work”. NOW, a low-level employee may have an idea and created an app that will MAKE it work! For this point alone, we need not be dismissive of young people’s enthusiasm and ideas. Just because we couldn’t figure it out, doesn’t mean they can’t.

So, how do we keep Millennials in the organization? Well, just like any other generation, they seek satisfaction in their careers, though the focus of that satisfaction may be different. It will be NATURAL for them to set their sights on other opportunities elsewhere. For that, companies may need to NURTURE these growing corporate members in order to keep them around. Understand, I did not say coddle them. However, they do need to grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean UP. Millennials seek new tools such as accreditation and certifications or membership to an industry association. They also want to fully understand WHERE the company is going and how they fit into the overall plan. For this, leadership (that means the C- Suite, not middle management) will have to do a better job of telling their subordinates what the plans are for the immediate and long-range future. They also want to know the organization of which they are a part has a sense of community. If a charity event is corporately sponsored, Millennials will more than often volunteer their own time to help. So give them opportunities to really make a difference. For them, being part of a diverse crew where they regularly interact with others from different backgrounds is paramount.

Oddly, this sounds a lot like… teamwork. They want to be involved, so let them be. Add them to project management teams, ask their opinion of prototype products and new services. Let them know the specifics of their contribution to the business and you will keep them around longer and get more effort out of them. They will feel good (which is what they want) about coming to work. I still don’t know what an “emotional safe space” is, though.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

Jeff Mullins, the real thing

Recently, I had the good fortune to sit down with prominent business owner and one of my best friends, Jeff Mullins. Jeff is the proprietor of J. Mullins Jewelry and Gifts at 352 W. Northfield Blvd. here, in Murfreesboro. The reason for the interview was a long-time curiosity of what it takes to create a successful business. In this and subsequent Business Momentum articles for the Murfreesboro Pulse, I will look at how to start and maintain a business, as well as advice to take and pitfalls to avoid. The segments will feature new or re-branded businesses in the area.

 

(As usual, Jeff has me laughing)

If starting a business or wishing to purchase a new accessory, Mullins is a good source.  He has a long-standing history of success. Labs can create fake diamonds in a matter of years rather than centuries, but they are not the real thing. Department store counters and online websites will come and go, but Jeff Mullins has stood the test of time. He’s the real thing! To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

The “OPEN” Open House

People in sales are taught early on to build a big list of possible leads. After all, there is no customer or client who was not at first a prospect. So, we want to identify those people as soon as possible. Not everyone we encounter will be realistic, creditworthy, or even seriously looking for what we have to offer. Why waste their time, why waste ours? We collect names, numbers, email addresses, zodiacal signs, whatever it takes to pour all those prospects into the “funnel” so one true customer will shake out of the bottom.

For those of us in real estate, the open house is the ideal place to begin that sifting process. If there is a house for sale, what better way to get potential buyers interested in the property than to simply invite them inside. We greet them at the front porch before they even knock on the door, put the biggest smile on our faces possible, and bring them in so we can all get to know each other a little better. We shake hands to introduce ourselves, and never let go of their hand until they give us their name. Then, we attempt to find out where they currently live, and ask if they need to move in a hurry. We study their attire, and glance at their car to assess financial ability. Once we finally leave the foyer, we are sure to give them the “grand tour”, so when we point to a toilet, they will know they are in the bathroom. All along, we probe for even more information on them, their family, and lifestyle. If this model fits your approach to an open house; congratulations, you’re a stalker!

Stalkers love to gather information, and keep current records. However, a good stalker will reveal just enough information themselves to keep their new victim under their thumb. The really adept ones will take control of the situation, so no one can get away without being on the hook for something. Perhaps the name of a friend or family member they could stalk as well. Oh, our timeshare counterparts love this one! But, is this an effective approach, or are we just wasting our energy on someone who we teach to resent us?

My decade-and-a-half experience in real estate, and hundreds of open houses within that time, have led me to some pointers to help create a more efficient open house experience which is a lot less energy draining than most. In the process, the sales professional will come across a lot less… creepy.

DO leave the front door open in the Spring and Summer months. After all it is an “open” house. This is more inviting, and suggests prospective buyers eventually get to leave.

DON’T be ready to ponce on them in a moments notice. In fact, let them find YOU. A sheepish “hello?” from you down the hall signals they are not going to be placed on the defensive.

DO introduce yourself as an industry professional. Hand them your business card, and let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have. If you are not the listing agent for that property, EXPLAIN to them you would work for the buyer, and could even show them several other properties.

DON’T lead them through the house. They know a bedroom when they encounter one. Once introductions are made, tell them you are available to them, and WALK AWAY. They will be perplexed, confused and befuddled that you don’t want to know their blood type. They will then seek you out for details.

DO ask broad, open-ended questions “What are YOU looking for in a home”, versus “What do you like about THIS home”? This will let them know you are on their side, and help create a dialogue.

DON’T hand them the open house flyer until they leave. You want them to ask you the questions about square footage, acreage, schools, etc. The intent here really is not to “control” the situation, simply to show the lookers you don’t bite, and are happy to help them however you can. This also sparks conversation, which could lead to a professional relationship once trust is established. At this point, give them ALL of the public information the MLS will allow.

Some additional ideas to solicit contact information;

– Ask them to fill out a very brief survey about the house. Include a heading for all their pertinent info.

– Offer a prize drawing to be conducted at your office once a month, or for the week if you pool with other Realtors. The information they give here tends to be more accurate since they want to be notified should they win.

– Actually schedule an appointment in your office, where you will take time to better understand their buying needs.

By allowing the prospect to take the lead, you assure them that you are NOT a stalker. They will also feel positive and empowered by the process. Along the way, they should feel better about you if not our industry as a whole. No, not every prospect will convert to a client, but you will have saved yourself a lot disappointment not wondering if you could have been more in control of the situation.

Having said all this, you do need a few tricks up your sleeve for safely sake. Your Broker should know where you are, and there should be a red flag code word, should you feel compelled to call a friend, or into the office. Unfortunately, Realtor safety concerns are paramount in today’s world, but that is another discussion. In the meantime, consult your Broker’s office policies concerning open house safety.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

A Realtors Stock in Trade

Every other year, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) publishes its statistical findings from the year prior. One of those reports is the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. The publication reports buying and selling trends in real estate as well as other influencers affecting the market. One stat I find especially interesting every two years is how buyers actually found the home they bought.

In the latest edition, print media was dead last. That’s no surprise to anyone. The overall effectiveness of signs has wavered somewhat as well. But at the top of the list is the internet with half the total. Just below that, with 28% was the real estate agent. What the report does not take into account is how many of those online views are from a public version of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or an agent’s website.

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I remember over a dozen years ago, those top two numbers were flipped! Back then, several real estate experts were concerned that the internet was going to be the end of their profession. Without a Realtor to help buyers locate a suitable home, the industry would just shrivel up. “After all, if they don’t need us to find a home, what do they NEED US for?”

Decades ago, the general public assumed the most important thing an agent did was help locate a home. Why the experts gave in to that way of thinking is beyond me. Unless you are in a very rural area, it’s not about helping clients FIND a home but rather to GET a home. Realtors do so much behind the scenes to make a family’s dream a reality. And there is the problem… it’s too much behind the scenes. We need to better inform our people of the actions we take to work for them.  Otherwise, they assume we did nothing, especially when they locate the house. No one considers a material defect or liability issue until they have one.

And now the industry is ringing its hands again anxious that an online retailer is going to get in the act. How will this change the industry dynamics? Even Zillow is worried about it! Relax… it’s not day trading, it’s real estate. Abraham Lincoln once stated; “A lawyer’s time and advice is his stock and trade.” The same is correct for real estate agents. A seasoned expert has been around the block a few times and knows how to guide her clients. Great attention to detail must be given for a house to close. The type of attention given by a local individual, not a website and customer service pods half way around the world.

I recall about fifteen years ago, there was a large retail chain looking to get into the realty business. The idea was to have kiosks set up in their stores where customers could browse listings of properties in the area. They would sit down with a store clerk and simply “put in the order.” There were even a few pilot programs to test the waters. In the end, the mega retailer dropped the project. It was just too much of a hassle.

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

The need to feel unique starts in grade school or even earlier if we have siblings. With so many people in the world, we want to stand out and be noticed for our talents and ideas. That is not something that goes away when we graduate from high school, however.  It carries on to adulthood and in to business, where even if we do not work for praise. it is still nice to be recognized for the effort we put in.

A good manager will have the emotional intelligence to realize a paycheck doesn’t get people to go the extra mile. Even if our leaders miss the mark, any member of the team can increase morale by letting others know they are appreciated. This is where honest, positive reinforcement comes in to play. And many in the American workforce are starving for professional validation.

All human beings need to feel appreciated by others we respect. Simple, sincere words can be inspiring to those who may have no inspiration otherwise;

“I AM PROUD OF YOU!”

This phrase, when sincere, can touch someone at the core of who they are. However, in some work environments, it may be too familiar. A more professional comment may be;

“YOU DID A GREAT JOB!”

Of course, both mean pretty much the same thing. The idea is to recognize those teammates around us who may not get the much needed recognition they deserve or even crave.

The Leader of the Band

Every team has a leader, either officially or otherwise. We typically think of a leader as one who is out front like an officer leading his unit into war, a businessperson at the end of a meeting table or a conductor with an orchestra. Though not every influential person is out front, this is likely what we imagine and for good reason.  A team will take comfort seeing the one with control over our livelihoods at the head of the pack. Or else, we start to wonder where that person is and get paranoid with all sorts of frightful thoughts.

In college, I was required to take a music appreciation class. I reluctantly attended, after all, what were you going to teach me about AC/DC or Billy Idol I didn’t already know? To my surprise, I actually got a lot out of the class. Though I rarely listen to Classic Music these days, I did learn a rConductor.jpgespect for other genres. Perhaps the most was gained for an orchestra and all the tireless work that group goes through to make a concert seem effortless. One nagging question I had for years before the class was; what instrument does the conductor play? If the musicians know what they’re doing, why do they need that guy? AC/DC didn’t need a conductor.

I asked the professor to shed some light on the issue. He stated a conductor is also a composer and will many times put his own spin on a classic piece. Although he cannot play all the instruments, he knows HOW each should sound. If there is a problem, the conductor can devote time working with the musician to figuring out what is wrong. There are many such things that go on behind the scenes, but when it is “go time”, the orchestra and the audience expect to see him there.

In a lot of ways, that is how it is in business. The CEO may not have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room, but she is expected to lead nonetheless. Like a conductor who cannot play the tuba, a leader may not be someone who has come up through the ranks of the technicians (accountants, maintenance and IT people)  they lead. However, it is very important the leader demonstrate her abilities. Members of a team are always giong to ask; “How is my job easier or more difficult with her around?” It’s a fair question and one that all bosses must answer. Otherwise the team will suffer from trust issues.

If the president of an engineer firm has a civil engineering degree and spent the past couple of decades working on high profile projects, that president will easily gain the confidence of rest of the firm. Otherwise, management must go another route to win the trust of everyone. Years ago, medical centers were run by the smartest doctor on staff. Now, many hospital administrators in the 21st century do not come from medical backgrounds. So, they are expected to show expertise in being up to date with procedures, keeping the facility out of lawsuits, confirming people are properly trained, making the important decisions and sharing the overall vision of the hospital with its people. NOT performing open heart surgery.

I do know one hospital administrator who has her RN, but she also seems to display her managerial prowess as well. She’s very approachable and even takes lunch with patients. And that is the point. A leader MUST SHOW the team they are worthy of the leadership position. Where there is no trust in the leader, there is paranoia among the team. Position power is short lived and “because I told you so” just doesn’t cut it in today’s world.

Analysis Paralysis

I have taught Realtors and sales forces for almost a decade now. From brand-new rookies to career agents, I know one thing that will never change… change itself! Change will constantly come at us, and no matter how much we think we know, we don’t. There is always the need for additional knowledge and training. Information and experience are vital to the decisions we make on a daily basis. With the knowledge we have, and the benefit of past lessons learned, we can better assess the risk involved with any endeavor that may require an investment of our time, money, or emotions. That being said, we will seldom have an unqualified answer to the question: “Should I stay, or should I go”?

Several years ago, I was training a new twenty-something agent on my sales force when I was with a local RE/Max franchise. One of the first skills I taught this group of “newbies” was how to find prospective clients. This particular agent was attentive, thoughtful, and took copious notes in my Tuesday morning sales meetings. Jeff was what most sales trainers dream of; a clean slate devoid of bad sales habits, someone who was “coachable”. Indeed, he asked a lot of questions every Tuesday morning, and most every other day as well. He asked a lot of good questions, but mostly just A LOT of questions. Initially I didn’t mind. After all, that was part of my job. Although, after a month or more of this, and no clients to show for it, it finally dawned on me where his head was. His lack of confidence in being able to overcome every possible objection, stopped him in his tracks.

One Tuesday morning, after the rest of the team of new agents cleared out of the training room, I said to him; “Jeff, you do realize you will never have all the answers to every challenge that may arise beforehand, don’t you? In other words, you cannot possibly absorb everything from a textbook, or class in an attempt to eliminate a problem before it reveals itself to you”. Jeff looked to the side, back at me, then widened his eyes. This was his moment of Zen. Though I do not consider myself his “guru”, a light had clicked on for him. A switch that for many of us never gets flipped. It’s the realization that in order to pursue success, we must first be willing to fail.

So many people want to keep a perfect track record. As though THAT was more important than actually doing the job itself. I have stated several times; “perfection is overrated“. More on that in a later post. But, this concept of never being willing to make a mistake is sadly permeating our society. It’s not just with the young people, either. Those changing career fields, also seem to have a certain aversion to failure. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a job well. That’s admirable, though it shouldn’t stifle our ability to perform at all. In the words of Marcus Lemonis, “Have no fear and be willing to fail.” Most challenges have more than one solution, but none of them will be completely perfect anyway.

Fortunately, it is NOT the job of a Realtor to know everything. It is the job of the Realtor, or sales professional to understand our client’s goals, then find the information that will be pertinent to our clients making an informed decision. Yes, we are compensated for helping others to avoid (or at least properly assess) the risks involved. That’s why we exist! We are the professionals. But, we didn’t become that by never making mistakes or by just asking a bunch of questions. So stop worrying about not knowing everything, and get to work. Your clients need you!

www.MomentumSeminars.com 

Developing the Team

Much like a corporation is considered its own entity, teams will take on a life of their own. This is a good thing when you have the right bunch of people and can lead to better productivity. Micromanaging is counterproductive in the long run and not a growing trend for leadership in the 21st century. The conundrum is how to let go of control and signal to the staff it’s alright to pick up the slack. In an organization where all plans and decisions are centralized, that transformation will not take place overnight. This is where the boss must be willing to let go of a certain amount of control and begin to encourage employees to take more initiative. But, the proper relationship between team and team leader needs to be in place.

Workers need to have a certain amount of trust before they are willing to take on greater responsibilities. A common fear is someone might make a mistake (and they will) and be blamed for a bad decision. People need to know it is alright to occasionally go out on a limb because management will offer the safety net below. This begins with a sense of belonging.

When team members know they are legitimately valued as a part of the organization, they tend to take ownership. Ownership of the department, ownership of decisions, and themselves ownership of their own mistakes. Empower people and give them access to more resources and decisions. Allow them to speak freely about concerns they may have about a specific task. This will not only lead to better morale but less stress for management.

Several articles and business text books have been written of the extreme measures the five-star hotel chain Ritz-Carlton will undergo to satisfy their guests. In fact, each employee has a budget of up to $2000, per incident, to ensure guests will come back again. If a valet or maid can fix an issue, they do so, even without managerial approval. This level of trust in turn, spurs greater loyalty from company employees. With the average patron paying a quarter-million dollars over a lifetime, it’s a wise investment.

http://MomentumSeminars.com