Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Snow Day in Middle Georgia!

Today’s blog is the result of a rare occasion: A snow day in middle Georgia!

I took advantage of the snow day when writing the blog for today! While preparing for the first sales meeting of the New Year, agents at Golden Key Realty were asked to think about what worked and what didn't work in the success of our individual real estate businesses this year.  Having a couple of weeks to prepare for the meeting, I started with a giant calendar in front of me.  I took notes while looking through the various forms of documentation, some of which were new to my business in 2013.  I reviewed:   Facebook posts on my business pages, blogs, pictures, videos on my YouTube channel, my calendar/planner…I evaluated my closed transactions, current listings and active clients.  By the time I was finished with my review, I realized I had the rough draft of my 2014 Business Plan!  I also realized that this was actually looking like a much more realistic set of resolutions than the traditional, “Lose weight and exercise more”.  These were goals (AKA: Resolutions) I was excited about, and would definitely incorporate into my business for the year.

I came up with over a dozen key factors while preparing my business plan. As I looked over the list, I realized these are things that don't just apply to the real estate business, but to ANY business.  So a couple weeks ago, I started a blog series of posts that related to these business resolutions, and now being a third of the way through, here is a summary of the first five!  If you missed any of the first five detailed blogs, I encourage you to go back and take a look!  


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Monday, January 27, 2014

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work We Go!

Factor Number 5:  Stay fresh and creative.

Toward the end of each year, I start working on my business plan for the upcoming year.  But the last week of December, I fine-tune my goals, and add deadlines.  This year, I created a detailed monthly plan for the entire year.  I established specific goals for each month, but left room to add ideas throughout the year.  Having an on-going list of ideas makes it easier to roll out the new things you want to corporate into your business, especially when you have assigned deadlines to make them happen! Having someone to hold you accountable to achieving these goals is helpful.  I recently hired an assistant, and she makes sure everything on the list gets done, on time----no excuses!

Some of the ideas I use are a year or two in the works before I actually roll them out.  Toward the end of 2012, I decided to add decorative holiday swags to all my “For Sale” signs during the month of December, starting in 2013.  So after plotting the steps and deadlines on my 2013 calendar, in August I was prepared to hire someone to make them for me, and she had them ready by the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Obviously, this was something that required forethought and planning.    Another example is client closing gifts.  For years, I had a plan to complete a tangible gift to give to my clients at closing.  I knew what I wanted to do, I just kept putting off initiating the project.  But after putting it on my January Goal Sheet this year, I am happy to say it is complete, and ready to give to my clients!

My current list energizes and excites me every time I look at it! Along with a monthly focus, it has ideas for all seasons, holidays and a variety of events and activities I want to incorporate and complete throughout the year.  For example, my January plan has a focus on “Resolutions”, which can be expanded into many areas, and was the basis for this series of blog posts.  As I think of something new, I add it to the appropriate month.

Don't get stuck in the ho-hum, day-to-day, mundane tasks of your job.  If you constantly look for and think of ways to make things fresh and fun, your work will take on a totally different energy.  Don't think you have a job that allows for creativity?  Tell that to the young man with Down's Syndrome who was a grocery bagger.  He decided to personalize his service by dropping a cheerful thought  into each bag.  His customers loved it and it transformed the culture of the entire store.

Great ideas create great customer service. Great customer service keeps customers and clients coming back, and referring others to your business!  So what great ideas are you going to incorporate into your business this year?  I promise the more focused you are on thinking “purple” (see my January 22nd  blog post at for more on being “purple”), the more excited you will feel about your career.  Who needs vitamins when you have an awesome business plan to get you motivated every morning!

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Friday, January 24, 2014

"I Got the Power"

Janie Pugh and Claire Green of Golden Key Realty
learning about 2014 GAR contract updates
Factor #4- Attend Continuing Ed Classes----And Not Just Because You HAVE To!

Knowledge is power, and when educational opportunities are maximized, you can turn your power into passion.  What results from this combination of power and passion is a high likelihood of success in your business!  In professions that require a license, there are a certain number of continuing education credits that are required to maintain the license.  Classes are offered at various times of the year, for various prices, on various topics and in various venues.  Classes may be offered in your local area, in-state, out of state, at dinner meetings, annual meetings, conventions and conferences, through satellite broadcasts, classroom settings with a live-instructor, on-line......the list is endless. Bottom line: You can get classes everywhere, so you have no excuse when it comes time to renew your license and you are running short on credit hours.  But what has me shaking my head with confusion is: Why would you go to classes just because it is required to maintain your license?  Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

I love education. I love to learn and I am always looking for a new class to pick up some new ideas, techniques or concepts.  With technology changing at such a rapid pace, I try to attend technology classes as often as possible, taking copious notes and hanging on to every word. Technology is here to stay, and will be a continuous evolution, both professionally and personally. Those that don't stay on top of techno-changes are unfortunately going to be left behind. So now is the time to learn how to use it to your advantage!

You may not be required to have continuing education in your industry.  But it is easier to rise to the top of your profession if you attend industry-related classes, and attend them often, whether they are for educational credit or not.  Take what you learn, and practice what they teach!  Don't waste your time attending classes if you have no intention of taking what you learned and putting it to work.  If the only reason you are attending a class is because you need  the credit to maintain a license, then you are doing it for the wrong reason. Go to the classes to gain power and passion for your work!  Would you go to a doctor that only took classes that were required?  Or would you rather go to the one that stayed on top of the latest medical advances and technology? Would you rather go to someone that just does what they have to do to get by, or would you rather go to someone that is passionate about what they do, and eager to learn how to do it even better so they can be better service providers for their clients?

Being an education fanatic, I attend every class I can fit into my schedule.  And by the way,  I will proudly admit: I am the dork that likes to sit at the front of the room!  But, this is where I can best see, hear and interact with everything the instructor has to offer. I have gotten some real pearls in the classes I have attended over the years.  By incorporating the ideas into my business, it has grown exponentially, is constantly evolving and is a creative outlet that keeps my career fresh and exciting! Keep in mind, it is important not only to attend classes, but to pay close attention, takes notes and start a preliminary "Plan of Action" to fine-tune and finish when you get back to the office.  But above all, implement that "Plan"!  Anyone can sit through hundreds of thousands of hours of instruction, but if you never implement anything you learn, why bother?

Not only are continuing ed classes a learning opportunity, they are a chance to network amongst your peers and to develop relationships with professionals that may become future mentors. One of the most career-changing classes I have ever taken was a technology class (which was the first of many) I took a couple years ago taught by Juanita McDowell, Lead TEACHnology Trainer at InMotion Real Estate Institute.  She literally planted the seeds that changed the climate of my career, and for that, I will be forever grateful to her. She is always available to be a great sounding board for ideas, an expert in technology questions that are well beyond my scope of knowledge, and to be on the sidelines cheering for my success.  If I hadn't attended her class that was "voluntary", I would have never met this amazing mentor and friend!  Find someone in your field that you admire and respect, and whose teaching style you enjoy.  Be sure to find someone that has the spark you need to light your fire to get pumped and passionate about your career!

 Now......get to class!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Being Purple"

Factor Number 3:  Be unique!

Everyone has their own set of fingerprints, and so do you. Put your own handprint on everything you do and make your business practices and style unique! If you take the time to really think about your strengths and how they tie in with the responsibilities of your job, you can take those characteristics and build on them to personalize your business.
One of the things I love about travelling outside the area to conferences, annual meetings, certification courses and continuing education is the info and ideas I get from people outside my area.  These ideas may come from instructors or attendees, or they may come from recommended reading material. It is great to learn and get ideas from others, but don't try to be an exact copy of them. You are unique---find out what it is that makes you stand out and develop it with your own ideas and special touch!

This point is made perfectly clear in Seth Godin’s book, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business be Being Remarkable.”  It is a short read, and one I highly recommend.  The main idea is that there are probably hundreds of thousands of people in your industry, but in order for you to stand out, you have to find a way to be different, but in a useful way.  I put this idea to work for me in my business almost two years ago, and it changed my business at least 360 degrees!  I evaluated, assessed, planned, created and implemented changes that have made me absolutely love what I do for a living!  My attitude changed almost immediately, and my work was something I was excited about, every single day.  (And of course, I still am!)  The wheels are ALWAYS turning in my mind, and I can’t wait to implement and try new ideas.  Keeping things creative and fresh is so much more fun than getting stuck in a day-to-day rut, where everything stays the same.

So what are you going to do to stand out in your industry?  Start by thinking “purple”, and you will be off to a good start!

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Friday, January 17, 2014

"It's What I Like About You!"

Factor Number 2:   Have you ever had someone ask you, “Why should I work with you and not someone else?”

I can't tell you how important it is to have a genuine, solid answer to this question, and to actually instill these unique characteristics into your business. Whether you are in health care, law, sales, management, finance, real estate, fitness, retail....whatever your industry, there are probably hundreds of thousands who do what you do, and consumers have choices.   So why would they choose you?

Give this some serious thought and be prepared to elaborate what makes you different.  If you really, truly stand out, your market presence and reputation should be enough, and they shouldn't even have to ask! But if you meet someone that is unfamiliar with you and/or your services, give them the highlights!  You don't have to share EVERYTHING you do...let them experience the special, less obvious perks of working with you, once they have committed to you.  What special services do you offer? What are the benefits to working with you vs. someone else?
Here is an example that comes to mind:  Years ago, before we moved to Warner Robins, I had bronchitis, and needed to get a prescription filled. A couple days later, I got a phone call from someone who was just calling to see if I was feeling better. Guess who it was? The pharmacist that filled my prescription! Nowadays, with all the healthcare privacy guidelines, they may not be allowed to make those follow up calls.  But my point is, I knew the reputation and basic expectations for the pharmacy and I am sure they had filled dozens of prescriptions that day. But because the pharmacist took the time to follow up with a phone call to check on me made me feel like I was the only customer they had that day, and they secured my business from then on!
Repeat and referred business is so important in any industry. Ask your clients to share their experience working with you by giving you a testimonial and/or sending you referrals!  You can use testimonials and written recommendations in a variety of ways.  Treat each and every client you work with like they are the only client you have.  No one wants to hear apologies and excuses for being late, not returning calls or coming through for them. If you are too busy to take care of them, they will find someone who has the time.  So as I mentioned in my post Wednesday, spend quality time with them and really listen to what they want and need, and follow up appropriately.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“Resolutions” or “Goals”? The Revolution of the Business Plan

In preparing for the first sales meeting of the New Year, agents in my office at Golden Key Realty were asked to think about what worked and what didn't work in the success of their individual real estate businesses this year.  With a giant calendar in front of me for planning purposes, I took notes as I reflected on the year by looking through the various forms of documentation, some of which were new to my business in 2013.  I reviewed:   Facebook posts on my business pages, blogs, pictures, videos on my YouTube channel, my calendar/planner…I evaluated my closed transactions, current listings and active clients.  By the time I was finished with my review, I realized I had the rough draft of my 2014 Business Plan!  I also realized that this was actually looking like a much more realistic set of resolutions than the traditional, “Lose weight and exercise more”.  These were goals (AKA: Resolutions) I was excited about, and would definitely incorporate into my business for the year.
I came up with over a dozen key factors while preparing my business plan. As I looked over the list, I realized these are things that don't just apply to the real estate business, but to ANY business.  So over the next couple weeks (in order to keep the posts brief), I will post these factors as a series of blog posts.  So if you want to join me in changing the way you work in 2014, let’s go!
Factor Number 1:  Stop thinking about your career as a TITLE, and look at it as an opportunity to build relationships with everyone you encounter.  Now, I am not talking about giving a 60 second infomercial on what YOU can do for THEM.  I am talking about getting to know someone and most importantly: “What can we do for each other?” 
Here is an example:  I had a client that was 93 years old when he passed away a year ago, just before Christmas.  I had met him at an Open House I was hosting when I first moved to Warner Robins.  He didn't do any business with me for several years, but I followed up with him after that afternoon and stayed in constant contact with him over the years.  Little did I know, this was someone that would make a tremendous impact on how I would conduct my business!  After meeting him 7 years ago, we had many long conversations, either in my office, over lunch, or while driving him to the hospital when he was ill and didn't have any family close by that could take him.  We didn't just talk about business; we talked about our families, the Depression, World War II, politics, finance, vacations, the economy, poker (!), etc. Although we did eventually close on several transactions together, the most important thing about this gentleman is what we did for each other:  We took the time to visit, and genuinely LISTENED to one another.  He shared wisdom from when he was a young boy, and how the work ethic and determination he developed over the years helped him go from a young orphan to one of the most successful salesmen in the company he worked for:  Nabisco.  This was DECADES ago, but the ethic and determination are still supremely superior business practices required in today's markets. 
So by me “doing” for him (i.e., listening and spending time with him), he did even more for me, without even realizing it:  He motivated me to maintain a firm work ethic and determination, to always do my best, and to not think of myself first---take care of others first and you will always be taken care of.  There are so many memories and lessons learned that I still remember and laugh about when talking with his son, who lives in Texas, and with whom I still do business.  These are life-long clients that I now consider friends, and almost feel like part of their extended family.  Had I not taken the time to develop a relationship with that sweet man, I would have missed out on some wonderful memories and unforgettable wisdom.  I still get a little teary-eyed, knowing that I will never have an opportunity to have lunch with him, and laugh about lessons learned as a young, up and coming professional "back in the day." 
Those you encounter daily may not be in the market for the product or service you provide right now, but by listening and building relationships, you just might need each other someday! 
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Friday, January 10, 2014

Plan B: Let's Get Excited!

I had the privilege of hearing our new Warner Robins Mayor, Randy Toms, speak at the Central Georgia Board of Realtors yesterday.  He is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm that is simply contagious!  I was so pleased to hear that he is on the same page I am, with regards to our community.  Like me and other Realtors across the country, he knows how important real estate sales are to economic growth.  But real estate growth depends on so many other factors-many are out of our control.  But by getting actively involved in our community, we can make a difference!  And it all starts with positive, enthusiastic ideas and attitudes!

As we have all heard for as many years as many of us can remember, there has always been the potential that the base will realign and close, or that jobs will be lost.  We are so dependent on the base for sustaining employment, that we are terrified at the thought of what will happen if it really DOES happen?  Have we put most of our eggs in one basket?  This is a scary thought!

Relocating from a major metropolitan area 7 years ago, this has always been such a foreign concept to me.  When you are in a large city, one company closing may not have a tremendous affect on everyone in town, but in a town the size of Warner Robins, it can be devastating.  So why DO we put so many eggs in one basket?  We have to be planning and preparing a Plan B, should that actually happen, and I am confident that Mayor Toms has that Plan B in the works.  I see that there is so much potential in this town for growth and development, and I really think Mayor Toms is ready to get this town moving!  We need new businesses and corporations to come see what we have to offer.  For example, just take a look at our schools:  We have some of the highest rated schools in the state, right here in Houston County!  I was talking to a customer the other day that is a teacher.  She recently relocated from another GA school district, and she has noticed the difference in teachers was night and day----She said the attitude and drive of the Houston County teachers is that they take PRIDE in the success of their students, and they take it personally when they don't.  This is one of the reasons, after an very short time being here, she has fallen in love with Warner Robins! Her excitement and enthusiasm as she talked about the school where she teaches was refreshing!  This is the attitude we all need to have when we talk about Houston County and all it has to offer!

Let's get excited about this community!  We have folks that live and relocate here that have come from all over the world (hence, the nickname "International City").  Let's embrace, learn and enjoy what these different cultures bring to our area!  Let's get excited about new businesses opening their doors, and support them with our local dollars!  Let's share with people from outside the area what Houston County is all about, and get them to come visit, and maybe they will want to come back on a more permanent basis.

On New Year's Eve, downtown Perry was THE place to be, and there were thousands of folks that will agree.  We had lots of locals, but we had loads of people that came from out of the area to enjoy a fun and festive celebration, attending the first annual Buzzard Drop!  Yes, I said BUZZARD!  The merchants were slammed with customers, food and beverages were sold out at the local restaurants, the New Perry Hotel had NO rooms left at the inn, and everyone had a wonderful time celebrating what is sure to be an amazing year.....One that I personally think is going to be one of the best ever!  And they all came to watch and celebrate with a BUZZARD descending from the sky at midnight.  What was the draw?  Was it the bird?  Heck, no!  It was the excitement and enthusiasm generated by the locals that caught the attention of thousands!  Many of those attending commented they didn't even know about Carroll Street before that night, and fell in love with all the wonderful shoppes, restaurants, hotels and businesses that line the quaint, downtown street.

Now this kind of event doesn't just happen without the hard work, dedication, creativity, and motivation to make a difference.  Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth is doing an amazing job leading the community in an upward direction, moving and shaking everyone into joining him to make Perry one up and coming, super-cool place to be!  Perry is ready for new businesses, they are ready to welcome newcomers to the area and in turn, we are ready to get the real estate industry, not just back on its feet, but up and RUNNING!!!!

It is going to take all of us having the enthusiasm and excitement these leaders have in our communities, and to go out and share the contagious spirit that will certainly spread.  It is going to require SYNERGY from everyone, and I can't WAIT to see the results!!!
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