There’s no longer any question that many housing and mortgage markets throughout the country have entered a prolonged slump. And a slump is admittedly a difficult market in which to achieve success. Yet even the worst markets have survivors, some of whom prosper year after year regardless of real estate’s ups and downs.

What makes the difference between those who prosper and those who are forced against their own inclination to exit the business? Here are some questions that may help you figure out how to manage your business for long-term success:

Analysis. How well do you know your market? Are you up-to-date on new housing developments? Do you know which segments of the market are strong and which are stagnant? Do you know which types of houses are in demand? Are you aware of price trends and do you truly know how much homes in your market are worth? Have you identified market opportunities and threats? Do you know your competitors and have you honestly assessed how their strengths and weaknesses compare to yours?

Prospects. Have you identified good prospects for new business among the pool of potential buyers and sellers in your market? Do you know the characteristics of those prospects and understand their needs and wants? Have you targeted your marketing toward those needs and wants? Do you have a prospecting database and have you kept in touch with current and future prospects? Is your contact information prominently displayed on all your marketing materials? Are you the first among your competitors to respond to inquires from good prospects?

Differentiation. Can you explain in a few words why your prospects should hire you? Do you know what makes you different from your competitors? What are your skills and how have you highlighted those skills in your marketing efforts? What are your weaknesses and shortcomings and how do you compensate for them? Do your skills match your prospects’ needs? Is your marketing campaign fresh and exciting?

Attitude. Do you have a positive outlook on the future? Can you point to bright spots in the local market and your personal situation? Do you spend your time with upbeat people? Do you cooperate well with your colleagues? Are you willing to adapt to new market conditions? Do you hunt enthusiastically for the proverbial “new cheese”? Do you enjoy your work and feel enthusiastic about your business? Can you communicate that enjoyment and enthusiasm to other people?

Innovation. Are you open to new ideas? Do you welcome and embrace change? Have you tried anything new today? Are you willing to reconsider ideas you once rejected but now might find compelling? Do you constantly introduce new innovations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your business? Do your innovations meet specific needs that you’ve identified in the marketplace? Are you effectively using technology as a means to achieve your objectives?

Overhead. Do you have a budget? Have you taken drastic measures to reduce your fixed monthly expenses and variable costs and have you sought price breaks or volume discounts from your suppliers? Have you implemented money-saving tax strategies? Do you need to update your health, disability or life insurance, or refinance your own mortgage? Do you have an emergency fund that you can tap to survive a downturn in your business?

Preparation. Do you have business and marketing plans for the next six months? Do you have the resources to implement those plans? Have you completed the training you need? If you’re a rookie, do you have an experienced and trusted mentor who can give you advice and guidance? Have you joined professional and networking organizations so you can meet people who can help you achieve your goals? Are you ready to act as soon as your market shows signs of new life?

Courage. Are you willing to walk away from business that doesn’t meet your objectives? Can you act on difficult decisions you know you need to make? Have you accepted your personal situation and taken responsibility for whatever problems you may have? Are you ready for success?

Exit Strategy. If your market is significantly oversupplied with people who perform the same type of work as you do and offer the identical services that you offer and if you don’t have a solid plan and the necessary resources to differentiate yourself from those competitors, it may be time for you to make a graceful exit from the real estate business. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re in a strong position to prosper or would be better off in another line of work.

Marcie Geffner is a real estate reporter in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2007 Marcie Geffner. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.

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