Brokers, pull up a chair. Let me buy you a cup of coffee.

I suspect you find yourself in survival mode. I’ve spoken with many of you and I know it’s rough out there. The receding tide of volume has exposed some pretty nasty stuff. Lopsided splits. Crazy costs. A Frankenstein’s Monster of timeworn technologies. A stable of yearlings still in need of training.

You’ve been here before. Remember ’91? ’81? Sixteen percent mortgage rates and market peaks and valleys. Recession. Conglomeration. You survived it all; it’s how you got this far. Odds are that you’re going to survive this too, but to do so you can’t just wait it out. You are going to have to choose a new path quickly.

Only the fittest

Indeed you are survivalists. But are you of the fittest?

Today, the fittest are defined by those who constantly push innovation. They persistently dare their tacticians. They fixate on differentiating. They are able to hold two opposing viewpoints at the same time. They abandon things that just don’t work anymore and obsess on what does. They believe anything is possible, that owning the marketplace is not an entitlement.

Many of you have let your guards down these past few years. You’re not alone. It happens in all industries. John Deere may not have seen the Mahindra tractor company out of India coming with bigger, better, stronger, cheaper tractors. American cell phone providers might not be watching Mexico’s América Móvil, which now ranks as one of the world’s top information technology companies with more than 100 million Latin American subscribers.

Competition is all around. Great ideas and innovation are not always being built right under our noses. So you’ve got some work to do. Start by resetting your mojo. Realign your corporate compass. The challenges you face today are more surmountable than anything you have ever faced in the past.

The broker’s dilemma: A fork in the road

To your left is the old way: the tried and true, the familiar. It also got you this far, to this vantage point — the intersection — where you can look down the road to the right, the new way, a frightening, ominous unknown. You’re panicked because you need to act fast.

Left, right.
Old, new.

If you veer left, continuing along the path of the old way, be cautious. Going that route means absorbing costs you can no longer afford such as leases on offices filled with cubicles that lie empty most of the day.

Down that road lies the “Cult of Recruiting” at whose altar you have placed the fate of your business.

Down that road are Web sites built with a 1.0 protocol that give you and your customers no way to engage each other.

Down that road are your 23-year-old IT watchdogs, bright in all things technical but short on etiquette, “protecting” you from a perceived plague of vendor sales pitches and new opportunities to plug in quickly to new platforms.

Down that road lie unskilled agents you have recruited who now have no clients, no deals, no prospects and no way of knowing how to get them.

Down that road are non-Web-based buyers and sellers, a shrinking subclass who suck from the teats of your organization like newborn calves.

Or, to your right…

The new way. Let’s consider this path together.

Down this road lies the opportunity to reinvent your company, to retell your story. Re-skin it. Leverage your brand in a bold new way for a new generation of buyers and sellers who quite frankly don’t care about the President’s Circle.

Go down this road and you can slash and burn the expenses killing you right now and tap into alternatives that cost less and save time. They’re out there now.

On this road, the scenery is breathtaking — cheap, powerful apps; online platforms that allow you to retool your entire approach to customer engagement; free Web distribution for your listings; new vendors with amazing solutions that make more sense to license than to build yourself.

Along this road you will meet kindred spirits, like the broker I know who after taking a hard look at his P&L bought his community newspaper outright because it penciled better than simply buying ads in the damn thing every week.

Down this road lies the opportunity to set new standards for your organization. To re-establish a relationship with the home-buying and -selling public. To torch the things that you’ve tolerated for too long.

This road is bumpy. There are pockets of fog. You may end up in the ditch more than once. But trust me on this: this is the road the best of the best travel down. It’s the one with no dead end.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at

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