On mentoring and blogging…

Another frequent contributor here on RCG asked me to write a little ditty about this subject matter as she was interested in how I saw the differences between the two.

My view of mentoring is that it’s done a very personal level and typically occurs between individuals with one person in the relationship acting as the “teacher” and the subordinate being the “student” in most cases. Also, these relationships are chosen between the parties. I’ve never seen a mentor/mentee situation where the two parties hadn’t agreed to it – most folks that have good information to share are usually quite disciplined and discerning about who they want to share that knowledge with and the people I’ve known that want to be mentored are usually pretty targeted in their choices of who that person or persons will be – it usually starts with the mentee taking note of respected colleagues in higher positions whether at the same company or elsewhere within an industry.

Blogging, on the other hand, is very public and generic in nature. When I put my thoughts down in this techno environment I’m releasing all of my thoughts into the universe to be picked up by anyone and everyone that might be interested and open to my ideas. There is no real selection process.

Another question has been put to me like this: “I am curious to know how struggling agents are managed in your office. Is there a framework set up to help new agents or any agent write a business plan? Maybe this is a sign of a wider industry problem, maybe not.”

First, I’ll say that I believe agents not knowing how to write a business plan is an industry wide problem and it’s a BIG problem in the real estate world. When I joined the broker’s office where I’m located I was brand new to the industry (but had bought 3 homes and sold 1) but I walked in the door with a business plan, a marketing plan, and a funded budget in hand. My brokers, who have been around 30+ years, told me later that I was the first agent they’d ever had do such a thing. From what I’ve sorted out in speaking with agents of all levels of experience is the majority of people got into this industry with no inkling of how they should get themselves prepared for doing anything other than selling houses. As independent contractors (the majority of us) we are all small business owners and that means you must have experience or willingness to learn how to run a business. I’ve noticed such a lack of business planning and understanding in this arena that I’m launching a side business this year to teach agents these skills via online classes.

There is much more to being a real estate agent than just knowing how to read and fill out a contract, stage a home, or answer buyer’s questions about financing and closing documents. The main reason upwards of 90% of first year agents fail in the first year of business is usually due to lack of planning and a lack of proper funding. Even in the 2nd year of business between 60-80% of those agents fall out of the business – again, usually from a lack of planning and funding. The majority of agents I’ve spoken to never knew how expensive it was to be an agent with respect to broker fees. And then there is the “herd mentality” of ordering the same marketing stuff that everyone else does because rarely does a new agent know to ask the right questions about a product before deciding to buy large quantities of it. Example – I received more calendars this year from vendors than I could possibly need in my home and office yet I know large numbers of agents that use this as part of their “touch” programs. Differentiation is key. How can you stand out when you are doing what everyone else is doing? Companies like HouseValues (who I write about in a post below and in previous posts) also can be expensive lead referrals services cutting a lot of the potential revenue stream for an agent. Plus, you have to understand the difference between advertising, branding and marketing and what those programs mean to your bottom line.

Anyhow, the question about struggling agents is not too common in our office because our brokers tend to only take on those that have demonstrated ability. But, for those new agents (we’re now bringing them in) and some that are beginning to struggle there are methods in place to help such as training programs that are offered via a proprietary satellite network, we have onsite managers that will provide coaching opportunities, and there are some mentoring programs as well.