Raise Your Own Darn Bar!

I just listened to my friends Marc Davison and Teresa Boardman talk with Maya Paveza, Michael McClure & Todd Waller on their #RTB Radio Show at Blogtalkradio. They are smart, articulate, people and the chat room was filled with other really smart people  so it was a fun way to spend an hour.

If you’re not in real estate or active on Twitter you might not know that #RTB stands for “Raise The Bar”, a movement of sorts (or at least a discussion) about how the real estate industry needs to achieve a higher level of professionalism.

The conversation is sometimes interesting, and the participants engage in the conversation with great passion, but parts of it seem to me to be more “Durm und Strang ” (storm and stress) than actual suggestions to improve the industry.

We have people trotting out business truisms without really knowing if they make sense. Today one of them was ” real estate businesses don’t make money, the money is made in the affiliate relationships” (I believe I am paraphrasing, but pretty accurately). That’s just not smart business. If you are a large enough real estate  concern to have title , escrow, insurance or mortgage companies as part of your operation, each one needs to be profitable, or you would be better served by operating an affiliate and letting someone else lose money on the real estate company. Of course, if you are a smaller real estate firm, you may not be able to operate affiliate firms, so that logic would leave you with the option of just operating your real estate company without making a profit – a lousy option at best.  The  person who made the statement is a friend of mine and a smart professional person- which doesn’t mean that they cannot fall in to the trap of relying on “common knowledge”.

Though I believe that the open exchange of ideas between professionals can lead us to some very interesting places –  we need to get there because we know what we’re talking about, or at least admit when we’re postulating or theorizing. In the #RTB conversation, many people talk about stuff they have no experience with, and therefore have limited understanding of – and that’s a problem.

An agent really can’t speak about running a real estate brokerage until they have opened one, run it, and know what makes it tick. To me its like coaches who talk about how to sell real estate even though they’ve never done it. And Brokers fall into similar traps when they talk about agents. To be accurate they need to put aside their business models and prejudices, not be self-serving, and remember what it was like to do that job.  In other words, if we’re going to have this conversation, let’s put aside “what we think” in favor of “what we know” and  develop opinions based on fact rather than pre-judgement?

The concept of  raising the bar in the real estate industry isn’t remotely new. The National Association of REALTORS was created for just that reason in 1908 and our code of ethics , adopted in 1913 pre-dates  all of the real estate licensing laws in the U.S. Now that’s an example of raising the bar in an industry.  But that was a long term commitment based upon a desire to improve with a willingness to be held accountable through this new organization. This conversation doesn’t rise to that level at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very smart, passionate, well intentioned  people talking about this, but in a very fragmented and disordered manner. As I read some tweets today about “thinning the herd” it struck me that the conversation was much more about “look what a poor job the other guy is doing” rather than  “how can I do my job better?”.

Look, I’m all in favor of raising the bar – but I think we have to start by raising our own bars, not talking about how others need to raise theirs.  Too often it seems we’re just talking about the agent or company that made us mad, or the broker that didn’t appreciate us or pay us enough. None of that is productive – whining never is. So if you’re a real estate agent,  recognize that your broker is not there just to facilitate increases in your income, they are running a business and entitled to try to be profitable. If you don’t like the way your broker runs the company, go and try to have a frank talk with them first, and if that fails go open your own company. If you’re a broker and you don’t think your agents appreciate your efforts or waste the resources you provide them with , or don’t  work hard enough, you have a few options. Change your company culture, hire new agents, or manage the agents you have in a more productive manner. But always remember that the relationship between broker and agent should be symbiotic not parasitic and that we each need to value our team mates and work had to be a valued member of their teams.

So if you want to raise the bar for the industry, its easy. NAR and your state and local associations are working on that every day. Contact them and volunteer. You might be surprised to find out how many other people have been working on that bar while you were talking. But I have to admit, there is part of me that really enjoys the #RTB discussion, and perhaps you think the bar should be raised some other way. So tell me,  how you think the bar should be raised in the real estate industry?

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