If The Shoe Fits…
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, October 31, 2016
In reading “How To Succeed, or, Stepping Stones to Fame and Fortune” written by Orison Swett Marden in 1896, that is not a typo, 1896, I was struck by the following paragraph, I emboldened portions for emphasis:
“Don't wait for a higher position or a larger salary. Enlarge the position you already occupy; put originality of method into it. Fill it as it never was filled before. Be more prompt, more energetic, more thorough, more polite than your predecessor or fellow-workmen. Study your business, devise new modes of operation, be able to give your employer points. The art lies not in giving satisfaction merely, not in simply filling your place, but in doing better than was expected, in surprising your employer; and the reward will be a better place and a larger salary.”
Note: This book, as are many of Marden’s books, is available as a free Kindle version on www.Amazon.com at
Why did this one paragraph strike me so profoundly? Until 2012, I had been involved in real estate sales since 1980, well over 30 years. During that time I was primarily involved as the Designated Broker for several real estate firms and that required soliciting, interviewing and hiring men and women to become licensed real estate agents. I know of no other profession that required so little initial financial investment or so little investment of massive amounts of personal time to learn the trade and yet reap bountiful financial rewards regardless of gender, race, creed or political persuasion. A licensed real estate agent can, with the emphasis on the word CAN, make a great deal of money selling real estate but most will not.
If there is one thing I had learned from all those years in the real estate business and the hundreds of interviews and hires, it was the misleading message of the preceding sentence where I wrote, “make a great deal of money selling real estate” with the key word being “selling.” I do not know what the actual percentage is but it would be my guess that the huge majority of real estate agents do exactly that, sell. But is that what their actual job is, selling? I have never believed that and that is exactly why so many people who become licensed real estate agents find that they are never really any good at it. Yes they close some sales and yes even some make a lot of money doing it but that is really not their job description.
During my years as a Broker I was also a trainer of real estate agents. I would ask the question. “What do you do for a living?” Most would say I sell real estate. Really? Is that what they do? Do any of these agents actually own the real estate they claim to be selling. Except where they sell their own properties, the answer is no. Since no is the answer, how can they sell something they do not own? They cannot. I also suggested that whenever someone asks you what you do for a living, most people ask that question more as a question typically asked of a stranger as an opening statement than out of a real desire to know what it is you do for a living. To prove my point just review some of the conversations you have had with people you had just met for the first time. Point made. I suggested real estate agents reform their response. “I am in the transportation business, I help people get from where they are, Point A, to where they want to get to, Point B in the purchasing and/or sale of real estate.” You tell me, which answer would tweak the interest of the other party, I sell real estate or I am in the transportation business as stated above? I know the answer because whenever I would say that to someone it would elicit a big smile on their face and usually encourage them to ask for more information.
The real problem for most real estate agents and I would assume for most people in almost any profession is that once they become qualified to engage in their business, whether that is through a licensing program such as in real estate or they graduate from college with a degree in a specific field of interest, it is at that point they stop learning. They do the least that is expected of them and in some cases they become successful more by accident than by design or they become mediocre at best or a failure at worst. If you apply the 80/20 Rule, only 20 percent will become successful, 80 percent will not. Why?
Thought you would never ask. One sentence taken from Marden’s quote above states, “Study your business, devise new modes of operation, be able to give your employer points.” As a licensed real estate agent, you are an independent contractor and as such YOU are the EMPLOYER of yourself. I cannot speak for all businesses but I can for the real estate business. I have seen studies that indicate people in sales rarely read a book on the business of sales; not one! How sad is that? To put this in perspective, would you want a surgeon to operate on your heart who obtained his or her medical degree 30 years ago and who has never opened a book or attended courses since to learn new methods of medicine and more specifically heart surgery? I know you would not; who on Earth would? So why would a buyer or seller of real estate want a real estate agent who obtained his or her license and then ceased to “study your business” and “Fill it as it never was filled before.” Or simply put, BECOME THE BEST YOU CAN POSSIBLY BECOME AND THEN SOME! It will NOT occur by accident, it occurs by studying your business and that happens because of developing a self-education plan that you create and apply to yourself not because someone requires you to take a course to continue as a licensed real estate agent; rather because you want to. You learn when you want to become educated not because someone else requires you to take a course. You learn when you KNOW what you DO NOT KNOW and you want to LEARN MORE or as Marden states, “study your business.” If you are reading this and you are in real estate sales, can you honestly say that you really study the real estate business, sales, relationships, real estate law, etc.? If you can, you are obviously part of the 20%; if not you are part of the 80%. If YOU were to be in a position of buying or selling real estate and YOU desired to hire the services of a licensed real estate agent, would you want to make your selection of an agent from the 80% or the 20%?
If you are currently part of the 20%, do you have a self-education plan in place to insure you remain in the 20% of real estate agents who study the business because if you do not, you will soon become part of the 80% as the NEW 20% agents pass you by. Therein lies what I personally have seen within the business I love, real estate. A lot of agents become successful but they also stop learning. Burnout soon follows, then what? They become stagnant, they get out of the business or worse, they become a legal liability to the broker holding their license.
I realize that this Nugget is more about the real estate business but it applies to every form of business whatever that may be. Is it not possible that you could become a better doctor, teacher, watchmaker, plumber, mechanic, jeweler, etc, by becoming a student of your profession – FOREVER. By “forever” I mean you make it a personal decision to never stop educating yourself and you do that by reading, by attending courses, by going back to school and if you really want to be the best you can be, become a teacher of your profession to others. Teaching others is when you become a master at your trade.
Think about what Marden said in 1896 and it is more applicable today than even in his day:
“The art lies not in giving satisfaction merely, not in simply filling your place,
but in doing better than was expected, in surprising your employer;
and the reward will be a better place and a larger salary.”