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Scott’s Thoughts

Keep Heart

November 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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“To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out the hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it… who can say this is not greatness?”

William Makepeace Thackeray, (1811-1863); novelist

Our greatness resides in the moment we are certain we cannot possibly go on, yet we press forward despite our doubt. Thackeray was a novelist and essayist, and knew a great deal about what it took to make a sustained effort. In describing his efforts to earn a living as a writer to support his wife and three daughters, he often referred to his work as “writing for his life.”

Keep heart through the darkness. Those of you who have been in real estate for the past few years may feel as though you’ve been “selling for your life” through a particularly trying time in the market. Certainly there have been months when you have entertained abandoning your business for a new start, but you are still here, checking in with us each week, learning a tip or two, and hopefully finding the way to “keep heart” where others quit.

Some of you may be thinking today that there’s no way you can keep heart for much longer. While I can’t speak to the particulars of your market or your finances, I can offer a little hope for those of you who don’t want to throw in the towel today, but are feeling particularly low: Just get through today.

It’s not always necessary that you take the long view when it comes to your spirit or ability to endure. Sometimes getting though the very next task is all that is required. Ask yourself: What is the next good thing I can accomplish. Do that. When you’re done with it, ask yourself again. If you pile enough of these up, you’ll find that you can make it through the afternoon, the day, the week, and before you know it… the year.

When the long walk is too dark, focus on your little circle of light. Surely you can find your way to greatness.

Here’s to your continued success,

Scott Levitt
Scott Levitt
President, Oakley Signs & Graphics

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Scott’s Thoughts: Good Habits Come from Bad Times

August 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We learn to sharpen our skills when the market is down.

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
–Ancient Proverb

A boat on rough seas. In a booming seller’s market, it takes almost no effort at all to make your way in real estate. Indeed, in the last (and some would say: reckless) “gold rush” market, it seemed that anyone with a real estate license tacked to the wall could make a good living without the slightest bit of sales and marketing skill.

Of course, when the market tanked, who were the first to see their ships sink?

A common saying in sales is “bad habits come from good times.” When the money is easy, little effort is made to invest in education, training, prospecting, or technology upgrades. People cultivate poor client relationship management habits and frequently fall out of touch.

In a tough market, the converse is true: We develop our best habits when times are hard.

What you learn and practice during these times will serve you well when the market turns. Now is the time to double down on your client relationship skills, improving personal productivity, and learning new technology. This way, when the gold rush mentality returns, you’ll have the good habits and hard-won knowledge to outperform the masses.

Take today’s rough seas as the best lesson you could possibly have in sailing through to prosperous times. On days when it seems that nothing works and times are lean, remember that today’s adversity is teaching you what a boom market can never teach. Invest in yourself and form good habits now.

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Scott’s Thoughts

Scott’s Thoughts: On Acceptance

August 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Cultivate the power to accept what you cannot change.

“Of course there is not formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”
–Arthur Rubinstein, pianist (1887 — 1982)

Road beneath blue skies. There are limits to how much you can control in your life. We run into some of our greatest stress, however, when we fail to recognize what we can control and what is simply beyond our grasp.

It’s a grim future for the person who believes through sheer force of will they can change all situations. At times, acceptance is our only course of action. Acceptance is, in fact, a skill worth developing. It is not defeat or weakness to understand when a situation is out of our control. It is wisdom.

When you have the ability to accurately perceive what you can and cannot influence, you have options. You may conserve your energy, change your focus, and work to extinguish feelings of fear, helplessness, or despair.

The practice of acceptance is useful not only when it comes to the external world, but it can also be a valuable tool for finding contentment in your own life. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits touches on this concept in his article “You’re Already Perfect.” If you’ve been dealing with negative talk and an unhealthy sense of dissatisfaction, spend a few minutes to read his article here:

Finally, don’t confuse these thoughts on acceptance with the notion that one should give up hope or resign themselves to a bleak outlook. The art of knowing what we can and cannot change is a powerful tool for helping us dedicate our energies to those things we can impact. With that knowledge comes empowerment and a sense that things can (and will) get better.

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Escape From “Shouldistan”

July 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Don’t should on yourself.”
–Albert Ellis, psychologist

Have you heard of the most dangerous state in the world? It’s called “Shouldistan” (pronounced: SHOULD-IH-STAN). It’s a legendary war zone, and more than a few ambitious professionals have seen their goals and dreams die there.

Bordered by “Could-istan” and “Would-istan,” you may recognize those who have spent too much time within its borders– they’re bitter, exhausted, and reek of standing around the coffee maker and complaining. All day they say things like:

  • “They SHOULD have listened to me when I told them their house was overpriced.”
  • “The banks SHOULD realize that my short sale package is perfect.”
  • “I SHOULD get my listing presentation in shape.”
  • “I SHOULD have done something this week to stay in better touch with my clients.”

If you find yourself on the mean mental streets of Shouldistan, you must escape at all costs.

Here’s a practical field guide to getting out alive:

First and foremost, accept that if there are conditions you cannot change, you must learn to change yourself in order to rise to the challenge. You can’t help that your market is flooded with inventory, but you can make it your business to know your local inventory inside and out. Get wise to what’s in your hands and what’s not.

Second, recognize that a step in the direction of your goals today, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction. If thinking about “how it should be” kills your motivation and causes you to procrastinate, it’s imperative you take action. Action will give you a greater sense of control. Even if you choose small actions to start, they will add up over the days and weeks. Before you know it, you might just find out that it doesn’t matter “how it should be” because you’re on a new, more productive path.

Finally, don’t dwell on setbacks. There’s a German proverb that says, “He who spends time counting every thorn on every bush never gets out of the woods.” When you face resistance or “failure,” take a good look at what you can learn from it and move on. Remember: There is no failure… only feedback.

Everyone gets dragged into a tour of Shouldistan now and again… just don’t become a casualty!

[You know you SHOULD keep in touch with clients. Learn how My Real Helper can ensure you do!]

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Do You Have a “To-Don’t” List?

April 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What you don’t do may be as important as what you do.

A TO-DON'T LIST Some ideas are so good we wish we could take the credit for them. Unfortunately, we can’t call this one original, so our hats go off to Tom Peters for first introducing this concept this way and Daniel Pink for introducing us to Tom.

A “to don’t” list is “an inventory of behaviors that sap energy, divert attention, and ought to be avoided. You know, those things which keep you from executing your best ideas. The little things (or even big things) that block your from following up on your best intentions. Daniel Pink reports he keeps a list of these activities tacked above his desk.

What keeps you from focusing on your best ideas? Is it too much time on Facebook? Tracking a fantasy sports team online? Reading trashy magazines? Sometimes pursuing “too many good ideas” is something that deserves to be on a to-don’t list. Pick the best and stick to them… don’t chase every shiny new idea you come up with.

Make a to-don’t list. Write them down. Keep them handy. They’ll help you focus on the to-dos in your life.

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ROI vs. The Rule of Reciprocity

April 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What do we risk losing by obsessively tracking return on investment?

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
–Jimmy Johnson

Be golden, get golden. We live in an age where increasing importance is placed on tracking the return on investment (ROI) in almost everything we do. It’s a side effect of living in a digital world. Google, for example, has built an empire by tracking and monetizing every question you ask them and link you click. Software tracks web traffic and the number of leads we receive online. Marketers use special call capture systems and variable 1-800 numbers to know which ads make the phone ring. The phrase “data driven decision making” is more common than ever.

While “metrics” can often help us save time and money, we have to guard against becoming too obsessed with tracking direct return on investment. If we do not, we risk losing our humanity, the very thing which builds strong communities in which there is an implicit belief that doing good in the world ultimately results in getting good in return.

Call it karma, the Golden Rule, or the Truth of Reciprocity, but to be extraordinary, you must make the leap of faith that while you cannot measure the hundred of small, thoughtful efforts that take up a little of your time and energy, they will come back to you– either directly, or indirectly, in the form of making the world a little more civilized, and someone’s day a little brighter.

We’ve written in the past on the concept of greatness through “winning by inches,” and it remains true today. Real estate is fundamentally a client service and relationship marketing business, and if you wish to succeed, you must be comfortable “letting go, and letting good” happen in your day-to-day life.

Lead with a little faith in people. The best systems for staying in touch with clients come down to making a concerted effort to practice random acts of kindness. Referrals hinge on the “extra” that elevates you from ordinary to extraordinary, and you can’t spend all your time keeping track of who’s scratched your back today. Give it away, and you’ll get it in return, guaranteed.

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Improving Client Loyalty

April 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott’s Thoughts: Client Loyalty
Can you improve client loyalty?

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” –Samuel Goldwyn, film producer

Are your clients loyal to you?

With Oakley Signs & Graphics, I find that a large percentage of our customers are highly loyal, and I prize that loyalty greatly.

But it’s harder to say in real estate transactions. After all, how do you measure loyalty when the average repeat transaction may be once every 5 to 7 years (or longer)?

Well, what about referrals? Aren’t they a sign of loyalty? It seems natural to assume so. But one of the tricky things about referrals in real estate is this: You never know how many referrals you didn’t receive.

Think about it: If someone doesn’t send you referrals, you might assume that they simply haven’t had the opportunity. But what if you’re wrong? What if, the last time they were asked, they said, “Well, I used an agent last year, but I don’t know if I’d recommend him.”

Your mind immediately begins to race: Why? What went wrong? I thought things went smoothly? I assumed the client was happy.

That assumption is the costly one. Sometimes you may overlook or trivialize an aspect of your relationship with the client that was actually a deciding factor in that client’s willingness to work with you again or refer others.

There is some good news here, though: TARP, a research firm that specializes in customer satisfaction, found that in some cases a customer who had a complaint resolved successfully was more loyal than a customer that never had a problem.

Consider: How many times have you recommended a company to someone because when something went wrong, “they took care of me”? We expect things to go right, but we really value it when we know the company has a reputation for taking care of people.

Here’s the take-away: There’s a good chance that if you discover and discuss any problems a client may have had with you during a transaction that they have a higher likelihood of referring business your way.

The key is to have the right conversation. In order to make sure there’s no “quiet disappointment” lurking, you might need to probe a little to get an honest response.

Try contacting your client within a week or two of the transaction and communicate the following:

  • As far as you could tell, the transaction went well, but in the in the interest of self-improvement and client satisfaction you want to ask them some questions
  • Ask them to reflect on any aspect, no matter how small, that could have improved the experience as far as your service/professionalism was concerned.
  • Stress that their honesty is important to you; if there’s any reason they wouldn’t recommend you to someone, you’d rather know now than wonder later.
  • Listen.
  • Regardless of how you view their comments, do not judge their perceptions or go on the defensive; if you made mistakes, simply admit them. In any case, thank them for their honesty.

Yes, it may be hard for clients to be honest with you. No, you may not be able to resolve every issue that clients will air over time. But you will have made an extraordinary effort. Just imagine: If it generates even one more referral or deal per year, isn’t an effort to cultivate client loyalty worth your time?

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On Endurability in Real Estate

April 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without.”

–Ted Solotartoff, (American writer, editor & literary critic, 1928 – 2008)

Make it to the finish line. The other day someone asked me what single quality separated successful entrepreneurs from those who had called it quits. “Aside from a big trust fund,” I said, “it has to be attitude.”

But as I reflected on my answer later in the day, it occurred to me I should have been more specific. It’s not just a positive attitude that separates the successful from the frustrated– it’s the magic quality of endurability.

Endurability is peculiar. It’s not composed of simple-minded “sunshine all the time” positive attitude. It’s a curious blend of optimism, thick skin, stubborn dedication, and even, at time, willful self-deception. The hero of many a success story in business is a person who refused to listen to people tell them they were crazy. It’s not quite playing the violin on the deck of the Titanic, but it does have that ability to maintain professionalism in the face of pending doom.

Most of all, though, endurability is the ability to persevere in the face of personal doubt. For one to truly endure a challenge, it must be possible to hold in mind the possibility of failure while working with every available resource in order to succeed. You must maintain faith in your abilities even though you often work without reward.

Endurability is essential in real estate. How many new agents do you know who were told they were crazy for pursuing a real estate career in the midst of a meltdown? How many agents have you seen give up their real estate dreams too soon? How many times have you had to put on a brave face after a tough client meeting?

I have seen people succeed through sheer force of will. Endurability, given time, is almost always a core component of success. Everything can change for the positive at any moment. Endurability ensures you are there when your luck finds its way to you.

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Learning from “No”

March 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

How to go about learning from missed shots.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
–Bill Gates

It’s hard for us to hear what we don’t want to hear. Sometimes our selective hearing is a defense mechanism that keeps us positive and keeps us moving forward. Busted listing presentation? Failed open house? Deal falls apart? Keep your head up and don’t look back, right? Sure.

And that works well… until it doesn’t. As uncomfortable as it can be to drop our defense mechanisms and really probe our failures, it is by far one of the most effective methods of self-improvement. It’s too easy to shake your head and say, “Well, they don’t know what they’re missing out on,” when someone chooses not to list with you. If you want to turn that “no” into a valuable learning experience (and after all, what do you have to lose?), consider this:

The next time something goes wrong with a prospect or a client, follow-up and find out why. A short email or letter is a great way to find out what “went wrong.” What you want to make sure you do in the letter is the following:

1. Acknowledge that you respect their decision not to choose you.
2. Thank them for the opportunity to serve them.
3. “In the spirit of self-improvement and honest feedback” ask them the main reason they opted not to use your services.
4. Impress on them the need not to “sugar coat it” and that you value their frankness
5. Regardless of how you feel about their feedback, thank them for taking the time to tell you
6. Most importantly: RESIST ALL URGES TO ARGUE

Not only does this present you as a true professional, but you’ll get straight-between-the-eyes feedback you would have missed out on otherwise.

When you take this path, those “failures” aren’t failures at all. They were steps along the way to greater success.

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Take it Offline

August 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott’s Thoughts: Time for Face Time
Remember to take it offline sometimes!

“There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.” –Thomas Friedman (

A while back, I wrote on the subject of “Managing Connections.” At the end of the day, it’s not how many people we’re linked to, but how well we form lasting relationships with those we encounter.

With the rise of social media marketing and internet-based lead generation in real estate, it’s important not to lose sight of the value of face-to-face interaction. No matter how many emails we exchange, direct messages we send, or comments we leave on blog posts, very little can rival the nuance and personal connection we deepen when we meet in person.

Many social networks online provide opportunities for meetings “IRL” (in real life). On Twitter they’re called “Tweet Ups” (a take-off on “Meet Ups”). Regardless of how you do it, or what you call it, make a point to form face-to-face relationships with some of the people in your virtual network.

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