The following is a chapter from the book REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate. The author of this chapter is Kim Colaprete, founder of Team Diva Real Estate Partners. @seattledivas
I decided in 1999 to leave my career in the non-profit activist world and join the glamorous world of real estate. At the time, real estate seemed very glam compared to HIV/AIDS community organizing. I was so disillusioned with the non-profit world and so desperate for a major change in my life that anything would have been better. Plus, I was ready to make some money!
Even before HGTV, I bought into the myth that real estate would be an easy way to make big bucks without having to work so hard. I wanted a “get out of job, get out of debt” free card and I thought real estate was the solution: no boss, no clocking in, no one controlling how much I could or could not earn. To me, real estate was a dream job, but ultimately my preconceived notions were without a clue. Although I chose my new career in real estate for all the wrong reasons, in the end, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
So, shaved-headed lifelong activist me, who had never worked in any type of corporate environment or without a steady paycheck, decided to high dive head first into my new profession.
My first year of real estate was brutal. I did manage to close a few deals quickly, but I spent months feeling like I was just a floundering mess. Even though I was closing deals, the money was pouring out faster than it was coming in. But, by then it was too late to quit; I was in it to win it and there was no place else to go, so this girl just had to make it work! And work I did. I would drive anywhere, meet with anyone, and work through the most difficult and tedious process just to get the deal done and make my clients happy. Far from the glamorous life I envisioned, but I was having a ton of fun, meeting great folks, and laying the foundations of a solid business.
After a few years, I became what many folks would call a “good” agent: your solid bread-and-butter, 15-20 deals a year agent. I was well liked by my clients and was well respected by my colleagues, but I was not yet at “top agent” strata. Bottom line, I had not gotten into this business just to settle for “good,” so I kept working.
Then came 2008. Change. Massive, unplanned, uncontrolled, unrelenting change was upon us. Just months before the first bank went belly up, my assistant decided to go back to school, and my partner, Chavi, decided on a whim to quit her job at Starbucks and come join me in this crazy profession.
The first couple of months of Chavi working with me were nuts. Although I was ecstatic to have her at the office with me, it was like Madonna asking Lady Gaga to come on tour and then expecting her to sing back up. We did not know how to work with each other, which added some unplanned chaos to our lives. To top it off, there was no more steady income from Chavi’s stable corporate job. We were both accustomed to being “the divas” of our own organization. I was used to being large and in charge and so was she; now we had to learn to be large and in charge together. This change rattled my world. I could no longer be Ms. Real Estate Diva because now there was more than one Diva at the helm.
The fall of 2008 was a game changer for us gals and the Diva brand. We started to figure out how to work to each other’s strengths. We had a practical problem as well as a personal problem—make up Chavi’s lost Starbuck’s income while attempting to create a new business together as a real life power couple. Unbeknownst to us at that time, those problems and challenges were the impetus for discovering a novel way of doing business in real estate. Basically, we mixed in the power of my solid base of original Diva clients and fans with my obsession for visually stimulating marketing, and then added Chavi’s creative project management skills for the perfect formula. The result was a whole new way of looking at our community and our business. Recession be damned!
The two of us started to gather a team of creative friends and business folks around us to develop a new and authentic Diva brand. We also started using social media as a way of connecting with our people and created strong messaging, which created a light at the end of the recession that we were going to reach. Maybe we could not control the economy, the market or consumer confidence but we could control our branding, our business practices, our marketing, and our attitude. So we started over. New economy + new world = new business.
Looking back I realize that Chavi’s decision to leave corporate life and join me was our saving grace. Sure, we were broke for months and had to make the hard decision to invest most of our savings and earnings right back into developing what is now a thriving brand. At the time it was extremely scary and there were moments that we both questioned if this was the right path for us. However, every time we joined forces with one of our small business pals to host an event or throw a party, we opened the door to meeting a whole new crop of folks, many who are now part of the client, friend, and fan base that we call our Diva Divotees and Diva Dwellers. It is always in these moments of making these connections that we affirmed we were making the right decision.
This was my big recession lesson: change is not a business killer but a success maker. There is no easy pre-defined path to success. There are no tricks, no gimmicks, and no “if you do this for 99 days you will get 99 referrals.” The reality is you have to be willing to go on instinct and sometimes fail. You have to test the waters and be open to going beyond those imagined boundaries that hinder our imagination and ideas.
For instance, the way Team Diva achieved star Yelp! status was by pure accident. We were at an open house and met a lovely young fella who was curious about green builders. We had a great chat and provided a ton of information. Later that week, he came back to us and told us that he could not find us anywhere on the Web. At that point – we had a website but not much else. He recommended we start a Yelp! profile, so we did and, as it turned out, some of our best clients are also Yelpers, who gladly jump to leave us reviews. Now Yelp! is a huge lead generator for us.
The key lesson I’ve learned these past few years is that there is no set path to success in real estate. There is no Binder to Real Estate, 8 Simple Rules of Success, or My iPad Made Me Millions that is going to make you successful. The way to success is old fashioned hard work, coupled with making mistakes, and the resilience to forge ahead. The tools you use may be the same as others in the business, but the way you build your own Diva Dwelling must be unique to you and your community.
About The Book
Most 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: Kim Colaprete, 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!