Friday, December 6, 2013

The Eye Of The Beholder

Nuggets For The Noggin
Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder!
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, December 8, 2013

In the late 80's I was called by a Home Savings and Loan, if you remember those, to list a home for them that had been foreclosed on.  The addressed indicated that it may have been a condominium situated on Lake Pontchatrain in Slidell, Louisiana.  That was both good news and bad news.  The good news was that it was on the water, the bad news was that it was a condominium.  Condominiums at that time were very difficult to sell because the mortgage companies were under such heavy restrictions regarding funding loans on condos. 

As I drove to the property I turned on the road named Rat's Nest Road, how's that for a start?  On one side of the road where homes, townhomes and condos all situated on a deep water canal that lead out to the lake.  On the other side of the road where mostly what can best be described as "camps".  Some on land but most on pilings out over the lake.  Some camps were simply that, camps while others were very nice homes but still on pilings out over the water.

As I pulled up to the address given, I noticed that this was a 4-plex structure and incorrectly assumed it to be a condo.  It was not a condo but rather a townhome so my enthusiasm was given a good positive jolt.  Three stories with a garage on the ground floor and two floors of living area above.  But the closer I got the more I could see that this home was not in the best of conditions.  The key let me into the garage where you could not help but notice that a very large square was cut out of the ceiling sheet rock and that there was trash in the garage everywhere you looked including the stairs leading to the living area above.

Once inside the living area I discovered why the hole had been cut.  The appliances in the home had been stolen and they were lowered down through the hole into a truck apparently parked in the garage where no one could see what the thieves were doing.  The home apparently had been used by teenagers and the homeless as a place to party and/or live unnoticed; it was completely trashed.  Anything of value had been taken or so I thought.

I called the Home Savings and Loan representative to give them a report and asked what he wanted me to do about cleaning up the home.  He said to arrange for a company to clean the home and bill the company and that if there was anything I wanted to keep to do so.  Upon first glance there was nothing left in the home that appeared to have any value to anyone.  Rotten food stuffs, old stained mattresses, broken cups and plates, empty alcohol bottles, beer cans - everywhere you looked.

In one room there was a window screen that seemed to still be in tact so I moved some of the trash to get to it.  When I did I saw an overturned 8x10 picture frame.  When I picked it up it was an autographed black& white photo of Ricky Jackson, All-Pro Linebacker for the New Orleans Saints.  This was not his home, just a photo.  And then I found a real gem - a book.  From when I first saw it I could see that this was no ordinary book.  It was clad in vinyl with a spiral ring along the top and a vinyl clasp along the bottom.  It was designed to sit standing up on your desk where you could easily read one page at a time and then simply turn the page over to the back.  I also noticed that the pages were printed back-to-back but the numbering was completely off.  Then I realized that as you "flipped" the pages over, you simply turned the book around and continued reading - thus the pages remained in order.

The name of the book is "Making the I COMPANY More Profitable" by A. Lou Vickery.  The first page indicated it had been "Written and Edited" by A. Lou Vickery.  Copyright 1979 by MOTO, INC. (no longer in business).  It also indicated it had been printed in the United States of America by Aydale Litho, INC of Decatur, Georgia (no longer in business).  Below all of this was a handwritten note,

To Al (unreadable last name),
With my highest regards and many thanks.
Toni (and what appears to be "Buford")

I have literally spent years looking for A. Lou Vickery, Aydale Litho, Motto, Inc., and anyone who might know of either one, all to no avail.  Why would I do so?  Never thought you would ask.  The book has become one of my most prized possessions.  It contains so much wisdom that it is beyond description.  Quotes, poems, essays, articles, graphics - wisdom!  I wanted to purchase more copies because this book would not last long.  The pages had already become yellowed, some were beginning to tear along the spiral binding and some had become completely dislodged but all the pages were present.  I wanted my children to have a copy; I considered its contents that valuable.  155 pages of the guidance on how to become the best person you could become that I have ever seen in one location.

On the Second Page was the following simple quote:

If I wanted to become a tramp, I would seek information and advice from the most successful tramp I could find.  If I wanted to become a failure, I would seek advice from men who have never succeeded.  If I wanted to succeed in all things, I would look around for those who are succeeding and do as they have done.
...Joseph Marshall Wade.

The book is literally about making the "I Company", that being you the reader, more profitable.  Page after page of really great educational and inspirational wisdom.  I felt its contents were so valuable and given that I could not find one book store, person or reference who could tell me how to contact the author to obtain more copies that I started to reproduce the book on my computer one page at a time.  I knew that it had a copyright; it was never my intention to reproduce it to sell but only to be able to make 4 copies to give a copy to each of my four children.  It was a timely process because most of the pages contained graphics and I wanted to give justice to the original by making it as realistic to the original as possible. 

So why am I telling you the reader all of this.  Because beauty, not to mention value, is truly "in the eye of the beholder."  The contents of this book will be forever available either in the book or elsewhere long after the value and/or benefit of the items stolen from the home have since disappeared.  In fact Hurricane Katina has even taken the home and left only a vacant lot in its place.  The contents of the book however, far more valuable at least to me, was and continues to be far more valuable than any of these other things.

If only the burglars and others that occupied the home as they destroyed it had read what appears on page 21, which follows and I can only assume written by A. Lou Vickery (most of the other material in the book gave credit as to who wrote it but the following did not), I would believe their lives would have turned out drastically different.

Every day we meet life situations which challenge us to decide what is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust and even where we are going in life and why.  Some of these situation are unique; many are a matter of routine; others are of extreme importance.  And behind almost everything we do, every choice we make, every choice of action we take (or not) in these situations, is our system of values.

Values are "preferences based on the feelings were have about what is desirable".  If we choose our own values wisely and discriminantly, we project ourselves into life situations with conviction of right and purpose.  But when our values are chosen, on the basis of what others feel is desirable and good, we experience difficulty in acting in accordance with the best that's within us.

Many of us know what it is to join the crowd and turn to indulgence, to diversions, or to the popular fads of the day, to satisfy the restlessness and hunger for meaning and direction.  While some of us find these way satisfying in varying degrees, most of us find the temporary and the momentary pleasure we experience from them creates a great deal of problems for us in the long run, because they did not spring from our best self.

It is not sufficient to know we have a system of values.  To live vitally we must know what it is we value.  And this is often difficult in a society which makes confusing and conflicting demands upon us.  Too many times we make important choices not on the basis of our own feelings, but rather on the basis of what a group or another believes is right for us.

When we let others decide what we should value in life we give them veto power over our lives.  If our worth as a human being is to be measured by how closely we conform to the wishes of others, then we become worthless to ourselves.  Our greatest strength then becomes our biggest weakness.  We no longer act on our own free will.

Values are personal .  The choice of what gives meaning and direction to our lives is ours and ours alone.  And when we are willing to go within to find out what we truly value, our actions will be consistent with the best that is within us.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Holiday Mode

2013 Holiday Mode
by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, October 23, 2008; revised November 2013

Have you ever watched a 100 Meter Dash where the runners seem to slow down just as they reach the finish line?  You discover that the winner actually set a world record for the race but as you watch the replay, the runner did in fact slow down the last yard or so (meter or so for those so inclined).  What could the runner have accomplish had he or she run THROUGH the finish line rather than coasting to the win?  One could only imagine.

December 31st of each year is not quite a finish line because in sales there are no “finish lines”, it simply continues throughout the year.  Yet so many people in sales set December 31 as the “end” and January 1st as the “beginning.”

In the past the Thanksgiving decorations and products began appearing as early as July followed almost immediately by Christmas decorations and products showing up on the shelves.  Now the Christmas decorations and gifts start showing up weeks before Thanksgiving and this year the stores are opening on Thanksgiving.  The mindset begins to shift immediately from the first 7 or 8 months of the year to the last 4 or 5 months that include Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year, College Bowl Games, the Super Bowl and in our area, Mardi Gras.  Those holidays engage us for as many as 6 months.

Everyone in sales understands the sales pipeline theory.  The imaginary pipeline involves sales agents inserting lead generation activities into one end of the pipe such as telephone calls, personal meetings, mail-outs, brochures, etc.  It is a constant and uninterrupted “feeding of the pipeline” and eventually successful sales start to emerge, or for the more successful agents, continue to flow from the other end of the sales pipeline.  If nothing is fed into the mouth of the pipe, nothing flows from the end of the pipe.

Enter the Holiday Mode of thinking for a great many sales people.  The pending holidays tend to take the edge off lead generating activities and people and families get into the “holiday mode” of thinking.  The focus shifts from conducting mail-outs, telephone calls, face-to-face meetings, etc and more on scheduling family outings, purchase of gifts and, let us not forget the parties.  Is it just me or do people seem to get more tense and distressed during the holiday season than at any other time of the year?  Why is that? 

Let me put my spin on it and this is nothing but spin, no research, no study, just an opinion.  Let’s look at income taxes.  If you are like me, I tend to put it off until I absolutely MUST do something in order to meet a deadline.  In the mean time I either consciously think of what I SHOULD be doing or subconsciously (including dreaming) thinking of what I should have done days, weeks or even months ago.  If your mind is not clear of “need-to-do’s-that-should-have-already-been-done activities”, how can it focus on the things that need to be done at this very moment or tomorrow? There is a guilt feeling as a result of not doing something.  These feelings compound and build on each other.  They are like having a page of half-circles each representing an incomplete job.  The more half-circles, the more depressed we become.  Not only are there things we need to do in the future, there is an entire page of activities left completely or partially unfinished.  How does that make you feel?  Depressed, inadequate, discouraged and even a failure.  But it is the Christmas holidays when everyone is supposed to feel good.

Enter the “monkey wrench!”  What else happens during the holiday season?  We spend more money on “stuff” and “activities” than we normally spend during the rest of the year.  Some of this spending has been planned; most has not.  While spending increases, income for salaried individuals remains stable but for people in sales, no lead generation, no additional sales, decreased sales, decreased income.  In fact, sales typically and routinely decline due to the seasonality of the sales business.  The thought process goes like this, “Everyone is thinking of spending time with their families over the holidays, they are not thinking of buying or selling real estate (or whatever it is you sell) so…..why bother?”  That is exactly what most sales people do; they begin to shut down their sales generating activities about mid-October and do not restart until well into January of the following year.  In the Southeast Louisiana area, this shut down is extended into March and even April while people gear up for Mardi Gras.

It’s called the “holiday mode” in sales; it would better describe the attitude by calling it the “holiday slump”.  Now enter the 80/20 rule.  In this case, 80% of the people do what 80% of everyone else is doing and if that 80% of our market is in the holiday mode, the sales people also get into the holiday mode.  As a result - sales drop, anxiety increases because income decreases while at the same time expenses increase.  Then when the 80% get charged up to start doing those activities they should have been doing throughout the “holiday mode” season, so is everyone else.  As a result, there is no market share shift in YOUR direction because you have being doing what 80% of your competition has also been doing - NOTHING!  Or at least NO LEAD GENERATION ACTIVITIES!  No one seems to realize that whenever you STOP doing something with the idea of STARTING it again in the future, it takes time to restart and to reenergize your business.  Therefore even if you set a restart date of January 15, chances are and history shows, you really don’t get started on January 15 you only get ready to get started.  In the mean time your pipeline of potential sales has completely dried up.  Therefore you must start pumping in the leads and culturing them until the leads begin to produce sales and that does not happen overnight.  And the 20%?  They have been lead generating all during the holidays and their businesses have a more steady result.

The “holiday mode” happens every year as certain as the sun rises every day.  If you want to be part of the 20% of our business who easily does 80% of our business it involves being steady for 12 months; not just 7 or 8!  That is the rule!  Work 12 months of the year.  Work “through” the finish line, not up to the finish line.  If the market IS seasonal in nature and if the market tends to slow during the holiday season, does it slow because it is the holiday season or because 80% of the agents in the business slow thus slowing the market?  Great question don’t you think?  Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  It doesn’t matter!  If you continue to feed your pipeline, 12 months a year, results will be forthcoming 12 months a year.  Even if the market does slow, real estate is being bought and sold.  If that is true, and it is, then why shouldn’t those sales be yours?  If you are in the “holiday mode” the sales could be right in front of you and you would never be aware enough to realize the opportunities.

The sad part of our business is that there are no surprises.  There are models that have been proven to work.  All one really need do is make a study of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, written by Gary Keller, Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan and then implement the model.  The model, however, involves not giving up or taking off during the holiday season.

Let’s go back to the 100 Meter Dash (or 100 Yard Dash for us old timers).  If you as a real estate agent remain focused during the holiday season and continue to perform lead generation activities, it would be like getting a 20 meter head-start at the beginning of the 100 Meter Dash when it begins shortly after the holiday season.  If you want to be an industry leader, learn to be a leader during the holiday season and you will excel the rest of the year not to mention winning the 100 Meter Dash!

Here are more questions to consider:

  1. Do people moving from one area to another often take the holiday period to house hunt so they won’t have to take off extra time from work?  From personal experience, the answer is YES!
  2. Do homeowners have guests in during the holiday season?  Is it possible that these guests may see a home for sale and think it might be just the right place for a friend?
  3. If a home does not look magnificent during Christmas with all the decorations when will it look magnificent?  Christmas may be just the right time to show your home at its absolute best.
  4. If you are working as hard as ever during the holidays, would it not be a point-of-difference in your favor to explain that to buyers and sellers?  Again, I’ll answer that – YES!
  5. How are you going to pay for all the holiday expenses if you go into the holiday mode?  You-know-who may need some help answering that one.