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.

22 thoughts on “On mentoring and blogging…

  1. Great Topic, I commend what you are doing in developing those who are new to the business. Many years ago I started sales for a broker and was basically thrown to the wolves, no education, training or mentoring. Now 10 some years later I encounter so many in the business that have no idea that they really are a small business or what it takes to be in business. With that being the starting point leading up to the lack of understanding to the tools to develop your business. Recently I was part of a team in charge of developing a network of brokers and agents to refer our customers to should they need a real estate sales broker or agent. One of the major problems that we encountered was that we found only 2 brokers in our area that had a marketing plan to use with their clients, let alone a business plan. Needless to say these were the two top brokers that we ended up having to refer people to. Currently one of my major areas of communication with real estate sales agents and brokers is how my services can be used to improve their business. While it has been slow going mainly because I have to shape them into the mindset that they are a business, I am starting to make some headway. Good Luck and I hope you are very successful.

  2. Hi Reba,

    I’ve had a couple of very fine mentors in my career. As it turns out, almost all of them were NOT my supervisor. In some cases I learned more from my mentors than my supervisors. A mentor tends to give you honest feedback and there’s more trust because there’s not a relational power imbalance.

    So for example, even though agents are independent contractors, an agent might think twice before going in to see a broker about the results of his or her (failing) business plan.

    The best supervisors (and brokers) are those that can be both a mentor and a boss. Rare in my experience. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen such a huge influx of the coaching business model in real estate. All the gurus are hawking coaching services.

  3. Many times mentors don’t have to come from within your own organization but perhaps one that is ancillary. I’ve had bosses that acted as mentors (more informally), high level managers (Worldwide VP) in a semi-conductor firm that I represented (I was in electronics), and my old real estate agent and his wife (co-owners) along with my mom have mentored me as I’ve been in the RE business. Sometimes they don’t even have to be in a position above you to be a mentor, I’ve also found mentors that are people older than I am and with experience in other areas or who have a particular expertise or skill that I’d like to cultivate.

    I now mentor my assistant and a friend who’s in the escrow business (she’s now managing), as well as a niece, and several others on a more informal basis. I find that I get as much out of it as they do and that is the most common thread for people that provide mentoring – it’s just as beneficial for them as the person that is getting the experience or learning handed down to them. One of the few times I actually like to use the “win-win” description.

  4. I have often found that mentoring relationships can be very brief. I learned a great deal in a short period of time from a recent mentor.

    Many folks are unsure how to go about getting a mentor. After you find a good prospect, all you have to do is ask. Ask the person what you need help with and how much time you need to share with him or her. Most people are very happy to help, like Reba said, especially the folks who are further along in their careers.

  5. So far in my recruiting of new agents, after spending all the time training and coaching, the newbies then decide they don’t really like the job at all. It attracted them because of the potential for high income and freedom, but once they work with clients, they decide it’s not worth it.
    I give them the DISC tests and try to pin point who will like it and who won’t, but so far, I’m stumped.

  6. Eileen,

    For me the key is what they “used to be” before becoming an agent. Those with good people skills from their previous job work out well. Those coming from the lending industry or other housing related industries work out well. Those who were out of work for years…thumbs down 🙂

    I haven’t had one, but people who were meter readers actually make good agents. They know the area better than just about anyone.

  7. Good question Derek! LOL

    One of the best agents I’ve ever met was a teacher who was a part time agent who sold more than most full time agents. He had the summer off and got off early most days. He was a very caring guy and many of his clients were the parents of his students and other teachers and school staff. Politicians…many, yes. I have seen many successful agents who are politicians, but not sure which came first. Were they agents who became local politicians or local politicians who became agents?

    Neither Kim nor I can think of anyone we’ve met who went from professional sports of any kind to being a real estate agent. There must be some out there. Maybe someone else knows someone who made that transition.

  8. That was a great story about the location of lockers… It’s funny how odd stories like that can be so addicting. My personal claim-to-fame is that I played catcher on my high school varsity team… Our star pitcher in those days was a guy who is now playing outfield for the Houston Astros, although I’m sure he’d be the first to say that his last season was far from stellar. 🙂

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