February 1, 2011

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Agent Strategies: Your 2011 Business Plan

Our latest Agent Strategy comes from Austin-based residential and commercial real estate agent Scott Hayes, a self-confessed Activerain “addict”. In this post, which first appeared on his Activerain blog, he shares how he came around to the idea of having a concrete business plan.

You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your business, to write a real estate business plan for the coming year, and years to come. Perhaps you already have a plan, and perhaps you already have a clear strategy of what you do, how you do it, and where your business comes from. Well let me come clean. I’ve never written a business plan for the profession I’ve chosen and existed in for the last fifteen years. I use the word existed, because that’s pretty much what you do without a concise action plan. Don’t get me wrong, the existence has worked pretty well for the most part. After all, if you are willing to work your butt off, have an aggressive attitude, and posses an open mind, your about eighty percent ahead of the game.

But when life happens, whether it’s a slower economy, busier family life, or change in the market; things change. You outwork the next guy, think more creatively, and do what it takes to prosper. But you notice that elite group, that also prospers, only they aren’t working quite as hard, or needing to recreate the wheel. The elite just stick to the plan.

Why We Don’t Have Plans

I don’t know what percentage of real estate agents can whip out their business plan, or repeat their system upon request. I’d bet any takers that it hovers somewhere below twenty percent. Let’s face it, real estate professionals are different cats.  Not corporate enough to have a 9 to 5, too corporate to work in a tattoo shop. We don’t necessarily want to work in an office, we want to have an office- an office we can use, but not be shackled to.  Most of us could walk in to a room of one hundred people and detect the ten real estate agents. Professional, but not uptight, more smart than intellectual, part entrepreneur, part gypsy.

That approach to business is all well and good, but the downside when you don’t have a conventional job, more often than not, we don’t have a conventional approach. Or for lack of a better term, we don’t have a plan. As Gordon Gekko would say, the public throws darts at a board. Don’t throw darts.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Organization

I’m convinced one of the reasons real estate professionals don’t have business plans, is because it’s hard to find a good template.  After looking around quite a bit, I found a nice example. It isn’t perfect, and more designed for a brokerage, but it’s the format that is the most important thing. The online company offers the chance to edit for a paid price, but a simple copy and paste will do just fine, and really get you on your way. Edit it yourself to make changes. What is most important, is that it gets you to examine strategy, marketing and expectations.

So I took the plunge, since this week has apparently been about self reflection and laying it on the line. I locked myself in the office, turned down the phone, and refused to do the unthinkable - avoid email for several hours. As I began to write, the analysis came easy. And the strange thing is, I was forced to do things I should have done long ago. I grabbed stats of sales in my market. It’s sad, but to be honest, I’ve always paid little attention to stats. But after about fifteen minutes, I was able to determine significant differences in sales numbers in different areas. It was time to stop throwing darts and really determine how to target. Hard as it may be, as much as it goes against our jack of all trades personalities, narrowing that market area will pay off in the long run.

Furthermore, I realized something that will change the way I do business. I really excel at property management. It was part of my life since I was ten years old, and it’s a part of the business most owners and agents don’t care for. Through business planning, I discovered a way for management to bring me more sales, rather than take me away from it.  If it wasn’t for the planning process, I would not have thought about the delegation or structured marketing I came up with. But there was that ultimate reward, coming up with a way to differentiate my business from the others.

A Trip To The Dentist

One of my favorite real estate books is 21 Things I Wish My Broker Told Me, by Frank Cook. I recall reading it, and coming across an interview with Curtis Hall. Curtis had conducted a ABR certification course I took via satellite years ago. He’s an interesting character, and in the interview he spoke about renting a hotel room his to construct business plan. When probed further, he spoke about going out of town, locking himself in a hotel room, and just thinking about his business for a few days. He analyzed what was going right, and what was going wrong. Wow, this business plan thing most be pretty important, if some dude is going to hole up in a hotel room for a weekend.

I didn’t take a trip to a far off city. But my trip to the office was akin to going to the dentist. I came in, did the hard part, and knew that ultimately, I’d feel much better once I left. Well, I have to say, I not only feel better, but have experienced a great sense of relief knowing that there is a whole new perspective on my business.

You owe it to yourself, to force yourself, if that’s what it takes, to sit down and write a business plan. I did the Activerain Resolution For 2011. Then there was the 2011 Was The Best Year Of My Life Letter. But the big one, the business plan, has been slayed. Executing it? That is the easy part.


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  3. How Will Small Business Tech Change in 2011?
  4. Agent Strategies: A Different Model in NZ
  5. UK Agents Plan to Move Online
  6. Agent Strategies: When Portals are King
  7. Agent Strategies: Property Photos Still an Issue

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