At Agent Reboot in New York City last month, Marc Davison opened up the session with a keynote featuring the tale of two bread companies and what you can do as an agent "to rise" in your business.

Although I haven’t eaten Wonder Bread or a Hostess Sno Ball, Twinkie or CupCake in years, I was saddened to see the demise of Hostess. Marc Davison talked about what happened at Hostess and compared it to a new company that’s had incredible success in the Pacific Northwest called Dave’s Killer Bread.

The primary challenge with Hostess is that it failed to keep pace with the change in American eating habits. Fifty years ago, fortified white bread was all the rage, and whole wheat bread had only a tiny section on a single shelf. Today, whole grains have replaced boring white bread and yogurt has become the No. 1 breakfast food. Hostess stayed with its tried and true formula and, by failing to innovate, went bankrupt.

Compare the Hostess story to Dave’s Killer Bread

The creator of Dave’s Killer Bread has a rap sheet a mile long, including numerous burglaries, assaults and drug violations. Dave’s family had been in the baking business since the 1940s. While he spent the first 15 years of his life with his family and learned to bake, he was clinically depressed and turned to drugs. After serving 15 years in and out of jail, he was treated for his depression and returned to work in the family bakery.

He came up with the idea of "Dave’s Killer Bread" that was totally organic and the most expensive loaf ever manufactured for retail consumption. The brand’s stellar success resulted from combining his family’s tradition of making high-quality baked products coupled with a consumer want and "killer" branding.

Davison identified the five key areas that were critical to the success of Dave’s Killer Bread that can help you rise to the top as well:

1. Curiosity
Davison drew an important distinction between understanding and explanation. Explanation is making something clear, understandable or intelligible. Contrast this to the definition of understanding: "To perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of; to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of" (

At the heart of understanding is being curious. Davison called it "immersing yourself into the thing and getting deep into the idea." It’s going beyond "explanation" to delve deeper into the fundamental nature of what makes something unique from everything else.

The listing and purchase contracts that agents work with every day are great examples. You may be able to explain to a buyer that getting a preapproval letter is a good idea, but do you really understand all the reasons of what makes this so critical to closing more transactions? If you don’t, Davison says you can develop the curiosity habit by constantly asking questions and seeking to understand the core parts of your business in as much depth as possible. This is the foundation for not only innovation but creativity as well.

2. Openness
Many people become upset when things don’t go as planned. Davison described this experience as being similar to billiard balls careening off the bumpers and ending up somewhere other than where you intended. Davison believes that this is one of the greatest things that could happen. Often it’s the mistake or the unplanned opportunity that allows you to create something great.

"Inspirational experiences can come from anywhere," Davison said. "Innovators go with the currents … Be willing to invite serendipity and embrace the mistake."

3. Empathy
To rise to the top, put yourself in your client’s shoes. Is your website easy to use? Are you easy to work with and supportive? To rise in real estate, shift from focusing on your production to becoming a trusted friend your clients can depend upon to support them and to tell them the truth. To begin making this change in your business, shift from calling people who visit your website "leads" or "website visitors." Instead, they are your "guests." As Davison put it, "Shift from lead generation to guest generation."

4. Slow down
Video games, texting, the constant onslaught of social media notifications, and thousands of other distractions keep us hopping from one behavior to another. The result is that almost no one is the master of anything. Davison’s recommendation is to become the expert on a specific part of the market, a particular lifestyle niche in your area, or on a specific market segment such as REOs or relocation. People who rise to the top are usually extremely focused on one or two key areas where they become the known expert in that area.

5. Flexibility
Instead of looking at obstacles as something you must overcome, a better approach is to consider what water does when it encounters a rock in its way.

Davison said, "Water doesn’t seek to conquer its opponent. It simply flows around it." In other words, when you encounter a problem in a transaction or with a client, rather than trying to bulldoze through it to get your way, look for ways to work around the issue. A great way to do this is to be curious about possible solutions and to identify as many as possible. At that point, you can then use your understanding and knowledge to choose the solution with the least amount of pain and the best probable results.

If you’re ready to rise to the top in your real estate career, take these five lessons from the Dave’s Killer Bread story and apply them in your business.

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