"But, Coach! I can’t dribble. I can’t throw. I can’t even make a basket. Why did I make the team?"
"Because what you bring is something I can’t teach. You are 7 feet tall."
As I was enjoying a leisurely Friday evening with my husband, I was reminded of the old joke and how it applies to real estate. In fact, whatever your business, I’ll lay odds you can make a connection.
It was an event of rarity at Chez Berg, an evening when the lone remaining resident minor was away for the weekend, and we sensed a window of opportunity. Typically, our "happy hour" conversations start to feel like we are delivering the evening news in the middle of an escalating global crisis.
Every two minutes, our 16-year-old producer cuts in, and we have to interrupt our regular programming with a series of special reports. "Dinner will be at 6:30," "Dinner will be chicken," "Dinner in 27 minutes and counting," "No, we haven’t seen your missing shoe," and so on. Tonight would be a mini vacation.
So we did what all blue-blooded couples do on date night. We retired to the patio and proceeded to read our California Real Estate magazines. Since we are both licensed, we each get one. It’s a great country. And as Steve began to read aloud the high points of the feature article, "10 Things You Really Need to Know," I stopped him short.
"What has become of us?" I asked.
Now, thinking a change of venue would change the mood, we relocated to the spa. The only thing that really changed, though, was that we were now wet.
"We are getting pretty busy. We need a few more agents, more depth," I uttered seductively. He nodded in agreement. You see, we consider our little, baby brokerage as more of a cooperative in spirit, with the agents not as pure profit centers but as a support team allowing everyone’s business to grow. Yet with a finite number of hours in each day (including spa time), we are becoming increasingly aware of our own limitations. So at this point, we each started rattling off from the list of possible candidates from our local market.
"She lacks real motivation, and he’s not very smart," Steve offered. Then I chimed in. "His ethics are questionable, and she’s a ‘close talker’ — makes the clients nervous." We continued our mental checklist. Too aggressive, not consumer-centric, too introverted, not disciplined and too lazy — the list was long.
The conversation wandered, and we were soon reliving a recent, nightmarish escrow in which we represented the buyer. It involved a painfully long short-sale process, some tenuous threading of a possession needle, an 11th-hour title surprise, and a seller who two days after closing was still curled up on the sofa watching "American Idol" with nary a moving box in sight and loving their new rent-free life in a home they no longer owned.
"How would (one of our agents) have handled that one?" Steve pondered.
Then we had the epiphany. Our perfect agent isn’t the one who knows the most about lender underwriting guidelines or contract intricacies or just when it might be time to call the sheriff — they can learn the 10 things they must know by reading their real estate magazine or borrowing mine, and most of what they must know can only be learned on the job.
No, our perfect agent is the one who has the capacity to be a great agent, one who is 7 feet tall, and we can’t teach that. …CONTINUED
We eventually dried off, and our logical next move was toward the computer. For reasons known only to the bottlers of a certain moderately priced chardonnay, we suddenly felt the need to sign Steve up for a Twitter account. After a frenzied few moments in which Steve proceeded to follow everyone who is following me and is more than four degrees removed from Charles Manson, he received his first follower and a direct message.
The agent from our local market said, "Still haven’t figured out what in the world to ‘say.’ OK: We took our grandson to Lake Miramar to feed the ducks & he and we loved it!"
Now, that is our perfect agent. In not knowing what to say, she knew exactly what to say. She said she was working on a Friday night, and she said that while she hasn’t quite determined the value of Twitter, she is trying it. The message was personal, it was engaging and it was honest. You can’t teach this stuff.
You can’t teach me to want to spend my Friday night talking real estate — enjoying talking real estate — any more than you can teach a student of anything to have drive, determination, integrity or a general capacity for the sport.
My daughter is a college student and, as such, has a Twitter account. Recently, I commended her on a morning update.
"Pulled an all-nighter with the books and still got myself to the gym. Take that, Monday!" she wrote. "Brilliant," I said. "You just told a world of potential future employers that you are committed to your studies and able to balance priorities, responsibilities and competing demands."
"Huh?" she uttered, utterly confused.
She didn’t get it; she was just being herself. And she was just being herself when, during the interview for the summer internship, the nice man asked her if she had taken a class with a certain professor. "No, but I follow him on Twitter." Nailed it. And she didn’t even know why.
Too many brokerages continue hiring licenses, not people, and then they set about training these licenses to capture leads and fill out the forms properly. All of that is fine, but the real education will be on the job. And what the brokerages are really doing is skipping a step in process — the most important step.
They are forgetting that what matters most are a person’s inherent traits and talents. It doesn’t matter how big your brokerage is — it matters only how big your agents are. All the training in the world can’t teach someone to be taller.
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