Last year I was full of optimism. My New Year

Last year I was full of optimism. My New Year’s resolution for 2008 was to relax more and work less, and yet I was sure I would have a good year.

My prediction came true, and I worked smarter, and some deep relationships paid off, and I had my best year in the business ever.

For this year, I’m not pessimistic (which compared to the rest of America makes me an incredible Pollyanna) but I’m not chock-full of confidence, either. My market is just entering the downturn, and although I think it will be more of a stall for us than a plunge off the cliff, I do believe the experts who say that the downturn will last between two and four years. What’s a salesperson to do with that?

So I’d say the watchword of the year is "sustainable." What business can I build, even low-level business, that will repeat? What investments of my time can I make that I’m willing to commit to, month in and month out?

I am something of a cook — time is not plentiful so we eat plenty of pizza in our house — but I cook when I can. Grocery stores in Manhattan are particularly cramped and expensive (it is an island, after all) and so shopping to get ingredients for dinner is a heck of a chore.

You can, however, get fresh herbs here if you want them. If you like rosemary, for $1.99 you can get a shoot or two of rosemary, which is enough to flavor a pasta or to brighten up some potatoes.

So that’s what I did a lot of this year — I bought little packages of rosemary. I would use it once and then try to cook something else that would call for it later in the week. Whatever I didn’t use, I threw out.

Then this fall I was at the Greenmarket and I saw actual rosemary plants. In pots. For $3.99.

One of them has been living happily on our windowsill ever since. It needs more sun than it gets, but it is struggling along mightily, even as its limbs get a little amputated every time we make fettuccine.

So that’s the goal of this year, to find more rosemary plants. What am I doing the wasteful way, that with a little more initial investment, I could do in a more thoughtful way?

A mortgage broker I know said that there really aren’t that many business models in the world. For example, he said that there are brokers who are strip miners: They come in and make all the money that they can from their clientele and then move on. And then there are brokers who are cultivators: They regard their customer base as a field that must be tended to on a regular basis.

I feel like during the boom, the strip miners made a lot more money, but it’s the cultivators who are going to do well during the slowdown.

So think about it: How are you a cultivator? And what’s your rosemary plant?

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

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