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Kelly Mitchell, founder of Agent Caffeine: The Real Estate Startup

Kelly Mitchell, Founder of Agent CaffeineThe following is a chapter from the book REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate. The author of this chapter is Kelly Mitchell, founder of Agent Caffeine. @kellymitchell

I’ve been in Hawaii most of my life. From my extensive tenure here, I have learned of the limited opportunity for a career. You can’t drive to another state and sell people stuff. You can’t even drive to another island. When you’re here, you are here, especially if you’re on a budget, a student, or building a career.Most people get into the real estate industry because they’re looking for more freedom or they had a career change. For me, I had just faced the dot com implosion and survived…barely.

I honestly thought, with my entrepreneurial and tech background, real estate would be a breeze. Needing an income, I had come to a crossroads. Real estate would be perfect. Right?! I’d do it part-time while I was figuring out “the next big thing”. How difficult could it be to show houses? Doesn’t everyone need one? Show a house, write an offer, collect a check. Easy!

I quickly discovered the folly of my reasoning. Next, I learned I was back in the middle of yet another startup. Yep. Becoming an agent is just like starting a new company. WAIT. No one told me I actually had to work it just like any other start up...

I really didn’t think of real estate as a startup. I didn’t understand the long, tough road ahead. I thought for sure my friends and family would buy from me immediately. I also felt that people who met me who loved my engaging personality would overlook inexperience and hire me immediately. Little did I know, many of the people who I crossed paths with already knew anywhere from 10 to 12 other agents. You see, on Oahu alone, there are 6,000 agents. The most isolated land mass in the world has an island with 6,000 real estate agents.

In fact, there were so many agents here that when I would open my mouth and say I was in real estate, it was one of the quickest conversation killers in the circles that I ran in. Everyone had a license.

I buckled down and focused. Systems were important to me, so I thought finding a company that focused on systems and technology would be a huge advantage. If I had those two things, anything was possible.

I joined a local franchise of a national affiliate – they had the tech systems in place I needed and they were the leader in the vertical here in tech. On reflection, that didn’t mean much, but it was a motivator just the same. They had 30 years already in the industry and the data to come with it, a very powerful asset for prospecting.

So there I was at square one. I didn’t start out with the right mind set, but choosing the right company was key. This was the foundation of how I built my success. Beyond that, who you are, how you think, your nature, and ability to be creative are other strong elements. The right company is part of success, but without your own drive and determination, you might end up like the majority of the other people in my training class... out of the business in less than two years.

Learning what works for you and not trying to be somebody you’re not is critically important to success. What I learned was that certain things worked for me in this business (phone calls, face-to-face meetings, open houses, working web leads), but others did not (answering phone calls off of ads that someone else wrote, cold calling, door knocking and being a ‘salesperson’). I’ve never been very good at faking anything. Honest to a fault and an open book unless negotiating. Authenticity is key.

A powerful ingredient once I had success was to make sure I understood how success was generated. Tracking my activities was key to understanding that. I used to get so frustrated at my coach. I’d go into her office and ask, “What’s everyone else doing that’s making them successful?” and she’d reply, “Doing the daily activities that lead to a sale, and knowing the daily activities that work for you.”

I was always hoping for the silver bullet, that one thing that was the magic. The truth is that the one thing is YOU. The magic is you knowing what to do.

I focused on my strengths and what I enjoyed. That approach is what makes winners persevere. The truth is that the gap between being very successful and modestly successful is not that big. The major difference is your level of focus, support, and resilience. Reflect on the things that yield a successful closing and replicate it again and again.

Out of the things I was best at, what I disliked the most was picking up the phone those first 2-3 times of a day. Once I got past the third call, it was always a breeze. When I made it a competition with myself, if became fun, and something I had to win. So if it’s a game you need to create to make it fun, do it. You know yourself best. Create an environment of opportunity and fun. It makes all the difference! 

I want to be candid and share that I made mistakes. The first and biggest mistake I made was I did not own a niche. I became successful in spite of that, but oh how much more successful I would have been if I owned a niche in the market’s mind, in the prospect’s mind, and in my client’s mind.

Another glorious mistake: I once took on a horrible client who I didn’t get along with and we both lacked respect for each other. I made one silly mistake, which was forgetting to invite his mortgage person to the signing (the mortgage paperwork was all done), and he screamed at me in our corporate office at the top of his lungs for about 30 minutes. That was a turning point. This isn’t about the money. Do your deals with the right people. For the right reasons. Do not take deals that compromise your integrity or values or work with people lacking in that area. No money in the world is worth it. That blood sucker temporarily cost self-confidence, sanity, peace of mind, and he humiliated me. Wait! Shame on me. I let him. No commission check in the world is worth working with people who don’t respect you.

I’ve also wasted tens of thousands of dollars on promises of secret ingredients for the most exclusive “deal” for advertising, or getting leads, but don’t fall for it – you won’t be the coolest Realtor in the coupon book.

The magic is you, it’s not an ad, it’s not your pretty picture on a shopping cart, a bus, a billboard. It’s not how big your picture is on Trulia. The basics are always the best way to build and sustain a business. Take advantage of systems. Don’t do paperwork. Good lord, don’t do paperwork. You are the rainmaker. Focus on rainmaker activities. Talk to other agents that are willing to share with you what’s working for them. Build a support system outside of your region with other agents. Build your tribe so you can share ideas, successes, and failures, and help each other when the going gets tough. Do not fear the competition. They can be an asset when the right relationships are cultivated.

Today, I’m at a place where I’ve found balance and have a strong desire to help others not repeat the mistakes I have made over the years. I want to accelerate their growth, help them be happy, and lead them to find passion and joy in what they do.

I started with Agent Caffeine, which helps agents, business people, and entrepreneurs get a leg up on what’s happening in business, strategy, communications, marketing, and digital. I’ve done 200+ interviews to date and continue to produce a minimum of two fresh episodes per week with thought-leaders in and out of real estate. I do this because I believe we need that combination to innovate and break free of old attitudes and ways.

In early 2013, I brought to life another vision for startups and entrepreneurs called BreveTV, a videocast. The series helps people learn so they don’t have to struggle when they enter business or traverse industries. That’s a key driver of mine. Hearing directly from people who have taken action in their business because of something you put your love, heart and soul into… that’s magic for me. True success.

In my real estate career, I’m now very selective at how I pursue deals and clients, and it is the fuel that helps me fund my start-ups, my shows, my lifestyle—the things that drive me. My real estate business is driven 100% from referrals and I became an overnight success in eight years. Now I work with people like me. I want the process to be easier.

I may always keep my fingers in real estate. It gives me a richer perspective of what our pain points are and the pleasures. You can’t understand it unless you’ve lived it (I don’t care what “they” say).

The entrepreneurial aspects of Red Koi (my media company), BreveTV, and Agent Caffeine (my podcast properties) are what keep me going and excited about tomorrow. So it’s time to ask yourself…

  1. Why am I in this business?
  2. What is my niche?
  3. What makes me happy?
  4. Who do I want to work with?
  5. How can I be more efficient?
  6. Where is my passion?
  7. What support do I need to focus on being the rainmaker?
  8. How can I start my day with the right attitude, a strong investment in my well-being, and visualizations I need to get to the next level?

Go forth and change your business to match your values and ideals. Pick your niche so you can work smarter. Use mobile technology to make the quality of your life and your client’s life better. Paperless above all is powerful. What appears to be simple takes an incredible amount of hard work and perseverance to make it so.



About The Book

REAL book coverMost real estate books fall short. REAL goes beyond mere tactics and strategies to focus on the core of what really matters - You. In addition to the authors' lessons learned, this book also includes contributions from some of real estate's most influential thought leaders: Kelly Mitchell, Marc Davison, Spencer Rascoff, Sherry Chris, Krisstina Wise, and many more.

If building a real estate business that lasts is important to you, this is a book you surely won't want to miss!

Buy the book

Dave Crumby

Dave is the Chairman of Firepoint / Realvolve, a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platform built expressly for real estate agents. Dave began his real estate career as an agent in 1996. Dave authored in 2013 the book titled 'REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate’ that has since become a best seller. The book features Dave's experience and the wisdom of other successful real estate leaders, such as the CEOs of Zillow, Trulia, Better Homes and Gardens, and many others.


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