November 1-15 is time to Brainstorm!

[photopress:images_1_2.jpg,thumb,alignright]By Thanksgiving, I try to have my next year’s business plan in place.

I find that using the first two weeks of November to brainstorm, and pretty much carve in stone a plan and strategy for implementation, I can begin “setting up” the new year.  Setting up includes adding new technology as needed, beginning the activities that will create business in the first quarter of the year, and getting rid of anything (or anybody) that didn’t work well in the current year. 

I learned that any agent who didn’t have the first quarter set up in the previous last quarter, was losing the first quarter along with the opportunity to grow adequately for the rest of the year.  Taking time from March to September to meet with vendors costs way too much money, as that is what we call “A” time to be spent with clients.  November and December is “C” time, meet with vendors, and “B” time, doing those things that will create the most “A” time come 1/1 through 9/30.  For me, “C” time pretty much shuts down on 1/2/07 and “B” time has to be set on an automated time release basis to keep feeding the “A” time through the season. 

My personal challenges this year include:

1) Finding the means to connect with the internet from anywhere and anytime.  Connecting means connecting to the forms available to write contracts, not just a blackberry thingie.  So I need my laptop to have it’s own, anywhere, internet connection.

2) I need to be able to print contracts AND make copies with signatures from anywhere.  So I guess that is some kind of portable printer that connects to the laptop.  Do I need a “notebook” vs. a laptop?  Do I need one of those huge cases with wheels to carry my technology around with me?  How do I print a contract and make copies of the signatures (scan and print?) from a vacant house, for example.  Is there a laptop that also prints all by itself without a separate printer AND makes hard copies of signed contracts?

3) I have enough to handle my photography needs.  I don’t want to advance beyond my current capabilities in that regard.  I’d rather hire a photographer when needed for advanced efforts.  So simply finding a photographer that meets my needs before 1/1 is my only chore here.

4) I found the perfect GPS device, but the person who has it, built it himself.  It was a GPS that connected in his car via an ipod and played music until it was time to do something.  The GPS interrupted the music and said “You will be making a left turn ahead at x street” and then the music resumed.  Best bet is to get that person to build one for me.

5) This is the first year that blogging will be part of my business plan.  I just had to wing it last year and see where it fit naturally, since I started the day before 1/2/06.  This year I have to place the blogging activities into the business plan, with both a sense of purpose and a timeframe. Since no one else seems to be getting as much business from blogging as I am, I think I’ll consult with myself on that one.

6) I’ve decided not to participate in lead generators.  Never have.  See no reason to start now.  So HouseValues can stop calling me for the $750.00 a month plan.  I have a different idea to target market, in areas I want to cultivate more business.  Paying for leads would cut into my ability to negotiate fees, so $750 x 12 or $9,000 gets added to my client kickback fund.

7) I can’t keep winging my fee negotiation strategy, so I’m going to implement a more transparent commission model for both buyers and sellers.  I am studying the fees I charged and didn’t charge this year to formulate the model.  I’ve run enough experiments with both buyers and sellers, including the unheard of negotiating the other agent’s fee :0 to make up my own innovative schedule.

8) I want to implement podcasts with my own voice (as opposed to the robotic Sellsius type podcast) beginning Jan 1.  I want to record and post tutorials to buyers, sellers and agents.  This way my blog readers can either read or listen or both and I can forward the podcast posts to clients and agents as needed throughout the selling season without the need to repeat myself for every new transaction or every newly hired agent.

9) Since I am a multiple site blogger, my needs are somewhat different from the needs of the average real estate agent blogger.  Setting a plan in place for consistency for all of my blogs is imperative.  Having them dovetail into one another is the goal.  But putting ALL of my eggs into the “blogbasket” is not good either, so I am setting up some hard and fast rules for blogging in 2007. This year I dropped other activities out of my schedule, like reading the King County Jornal every day, in order to fit blogging in.  But I don’t want to continue that through next year.  Doing my own stats consistently will be ultra important, as no one knows where this year is headed, and I don’t trust anyone’s opinion out there better than my own.  So I need to stay on top of the market, on a weekly basis, by doing my own stats and personally visiting the properties that are and are not selling.  By blogging on the topics I need to follow, I can kill two or more birds with one stone.  Multi-tasking is the key to blogging.  Blogging needs to be part of what I do, and not something i do in addition.  So far this year, that strategy has worked well.  In 2007, I need to time manage the blogging, so it stays focused.

10) Hiring and firing, less of the former and more of the latter 🙂  In 2007 the original plan, which was to have 12 agents who contribute $10,000 per to the company, is key.  I may up that to a $12,000 cap.  Agents need to be innovative in their client commission schedules.  Agents need to make more, while at the same time charging the consumer less.  The key is for all agents to have the ultimate authority to negotiate fees with their clients, and to pay their brokers less.  It’s the only way for consumers to win.  More of the commission needs to end up in the consumer’s pocket.  Less of the commission needs to end up in the broker’s pocket and none of the commission should be funneled into a lead generator’s pocket.  If we are heading into the market we all predict we are, or at least that I predict we are, lower commissions will be key to the success of both buyers and sellers in 2007.  If appreciation goes down by 1% or 2%, the consumer has to make that up somewhere to stay moving in an equal upward trend.  Businesses that plan for that change are the ones who will succeed for both themselves and for their clients.

I have two weeks to revise my list of ten as needed and then start ticking them off the list before 1/2/07.  If anyone has any info to help me with items #1 and #2 up there, I would much appreciate it.  The rest I pretty much have down already.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: cell: 206-910-1000

42 thoughts on “November 1-15 is time to Brainstorm!

  1. Regarding #1 – I think Sprint EVDO is currently king of the hill. Verizon’s EVDO has a 5GB/month limit and prohibits usage outside of basic web browsing & e-mail. Cingular is slow, and T-mobile is even slower.

  2. Absolutely on the mark about the annual planning season. When things are going smoothly my first inclination is ‘if it ain’t broke…’
    But experience has taught me ‘fix it before it breaks.’ If transactions indeed slump 25% as they are predicting here (Chicago), then I need to plan out the remedy now rather than the usual second week in January!

  3. The electronic signature comment reminded me of “a first” of mine. No matter how long you are in this business…there’s always a first time for something. I have my first 100 year old client, in fact he turned 100 while being my client. Not sure he’s up to the electronic signature thingie 🙂

  4. Regarding #1, I would tend to trust Robbie’s tech savvy before I listened to me, but I love my Verizon Broadband. My laptop goes everywhere with me (from open houses to, unfortunately, vacations), and I have yet to have signal issues. It is speedy quick, and the unlimited access plan is a bargain.

  5. Hi Ardell,

    For number 8, podcasting, I recommend the Logitech USB desktop microphone for $29.,CRID=103,CONTENTID=6776
    You don’t want a headset because you’ll probably be interviewing other people, too.

    For the software, I recommend Cakwalk Pyro 5, also for only $29.

    I’m not a Mac use but I understand iTunes comes with podcasting software.

  6. Thanks for the ideas! Keep them coming! The more the better. What about those copying and printing at vacant house needs? Don’t tell me five part carbonized forms win out over technology?!

    We used to have plenty of copies with signatures when we used the five or six part tear off carbonized forms…should we go back to those?? Technology must have a way without the clients needing to come to the office near the copy machine…that is NOT an advancement. I guess I need one of these printer copiers in my “truck” like the home inspectors have these days.

  7. I’m curious if the clients you get from blogging are different than what you got previously. Are they better informed (since they are savvy enough to find the blog) or is it a case of them thinking they already know everything (again since they’re computer-literate)? Or the same as before – a mixed bag?

  8. Ahh, you are spoiling the surprise, Adrianna. That’s my New Year’s week post. A wrap up of the year past comparing blog clients to traditionally acquired clients.

    The #1 issue for me has been whether or not clients are adept at email. A lot of work via email is still a whole lot easier than a lot of work via face to face or phone communication, and “blog-clients” are generally very good at communicating via email. Much more so than the clients acquired via traditional means, for the most part.

    Sending 200 emails, is a whole lot easier than meeting someone face to face or talking to them on the phone, that many times…for sure!

  9. Thanks Jillayne,

    Podcasting is my December project. Figure I can have one big party for all the techie clients I’ve had this year (can you put Google people at the same party with Microsoft people?) and pick all of their brains at the same time, while I’m feeding them and liquoring them up 🙂

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  11. last time I checked electronic signatures are not recognized as valid on legal docs in the State of WA.

    Michael P. Lindekugel MBA
    Financial Analyst
    RE/MAX Commercial
    Team Reba – RE/MAX Metro Realty, Inc

  12. HouseValues called me a long time ago. the salesperson told me how great it was at generating leads. She mentioned the previous subscriber had several hot zip codes on the Eastside, but he suddenly drop the service. She didn’t know why because he made $100,k in commissions. I probed with questions. The agent was new. He spent $50,k on HouseValues subscriptions. He probably split is commissions 50/50 with his broker. She also mentioned he used 10 credit card numbers. I told the salesperson I would stop using this story as a “success” story. Gee, you think the new agent might be bankrupt?

    I have met a few other agents that had little success. Seems to me HouseValues makes money by churning new agents.

    Michael P. Lindekugel MBA
    Financial Analyst
    RE/MAX Commercial
    Team Reba – RE/MAX Metro Realty, Inc

  13. Regarding #1, I too love Verizon broadband, it’s worked well for me everywhere. For #3, I like Magellan 800. I bought a Magellan for my assistant last year. This from site.

    (Its) “Digital Music Player
    Magellan Music Manager Tools software enables you to easily transfer your .MP3 and .WMA files from your computer to the over 4.5GB of available internal memory.”

    And, of course, #6 — been there, done that with HouseValues when they first started in my area years ago. Though they have this well documented in their file, they still call me all the time touting the wonderful service. If it’s so great why is my territory always available?

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  16. Ok, I have one for you – the photographer. I started using Scott Chytil Photography this summer and I’ve had really good results. Check out my current condo listing and a few other sold and pending sales that look fantastic with professional photos: 26188279, 26185301, 26160976, 26150495, and 26146169.

    Check him out at and you’ll be happy you did. He’s a great guy too. Tell him I sent you.

    Reba Haas
    Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Realty Inc.

  17. Thanks Reba! I’ll take a look at those listings.

    So far so good. I did end up getting the Verizon card for my laptop, but haven’t traveled around with it yet.

    I have the GPS I mentioned earlier, that my client gave me as a present.

    I added bunches of sites I like to visit to my blogroll yesterday, plus a few I’d like to follow in 2007 as they grow.

    No firing…just hiring…oh well, I’m not “the” broker. You know we have never, once, recruited. I won’t announce our new hire…I’ll let him do it when he gets back from vacation 🙂 We’re going to do some “old fashioned” farming when he gets back. It’ll be fun…I’ll feel 16 year’s younger 😉

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