I was tidily tucked into my seat for the flight home from the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in New York City last week, boldly laughing in the face of the one-carry-on limit and buckling under the weight of my various travel "essentials" (random items that had somehow expanded in the subhuman weather and could no longer find a home in the more traditional, checked baggage environment), when I found myself sitting next to a very important man. I know he was very important, because he appeared to be doing very important work.
When the pilot gave the "all clear," this man couldn’t boot his laptop fast enough. Out of his important-looking briefcase he soon produced folders and papers and leather-bound books, and before we had reached our cruising altitude he was a working machine tackling the mysteries of a spreadsheet involving many big numbers with decimal points. Meanwhile, I was reading my fifth article from my third magazine on the budding romance between two "Dancing with the Stars" celebrities. I began to feel a little intimidated.
You see, I wasn’t prepared to think too hard. Coming off of the information overload that is Connect, my brain had fled my body some time mid-week. Sure, I too had important work to do, catching up on the work I left behind and tackling the new concepts and applications I had picked up during the sessions, exhibits and hallway conversations, but at this moment I was feeling as if I had left my frontal lobe in the hotel room. I had reached the paralysis state that comes with full saturation and utter exhaustion. Yet I was not about to be outdone.
Determined to look like the "business traveler" that I was (despite signals to the contrary being sent by my travel attire, which consisted of whatever didn’t fit back into the suitcase, color wheel be damned), I fired up my own laptop and set about doing the only work of which I was capable at this moment. I made to-do lists. And when I was done, I had two impressive and sobering prescriptions for success that left me breathless. I was breathless because I was hyperventilating.
When I arrived home, I was bemoaning to my husband the fact that I had "too much to do." "Prioritize," Steve said, and because I know that look — the one that he wears with the arrival of each gas and electric bill — I knew he meant that I should focus on the tangible money-making activities first and save the good ideas for another time. But here is the problem. A linear approach to our business, the path I typically take when the dance card is full, just results in a cash-flow graph which looks like a sine wave — peaks and valleys, a rollercoaster of: service the active transactions, find new clients, rinse and repeat.
The reality is that we have to do it all — always. It is so tempting to relegate the back-office tasks to the back burner while doing only the sexier, front office stuff when we have a quorum of loyal clients. "This is what we work for," Steve likes to say, and that much is true. But you can’t have "this" without "that." Ignoring one at the expense of the other can only result in a bumpy ride. No one likes turbulence.
As for my two laundry lists — lists compiled when I was flying high with a head full of steam and fresh ideas — one dealt with the front-office work involving clients and transactions, showings and listings, and the other with the back-office needs. I realize this was a mistake, and I am merging the two.
What I really have is one mini business plan, and I am intent on carving out time for activities in all categories, religiously and consistently. Redesigning the front page of my Web site to attract more consumer eyes may not give me instant gratification; blogging and engaging in social networking more consistently and with more purpose may not feel like money work; and finally committing to slaying the video monster will cost me money rather than make it in the short-term — but these types of tasks are no less important if I view my business from an aerial perspective.
I’m done with turbulence, and it’s time to become a real business traveler, not one who is just along for the ride.
Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.
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