Think like a hacker and break stuff

Find something to break to stay competitive

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We’ve never met a fellow hacker who thinks the status quo is good enough. By nature, hackers rail against the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” replacing it with our own: “Break everything and make it better.” There’s no room for inefficient processes or broken methodologies simply because that’s how things were done in the past.

These radical ideas used to be limited to the tech world. However, with the influx of new technologies in use across nearly every industry, those outside the tech world must adopt this mentality to remain competitive.

So how can real estate agents improve their business by thinking like hackers? Start by finding something to break. What isn’t working? Which activities frustrate you and slow you down?

Make a list and brainstorm faster ways to complete those processes. That might mean taking two steps back to take one step forward, but in the end you’ll have streamlined the way you operate. Trust us — your clients will notice the improvement.

Brandon Arbini, the CEO and engineer at Hello Agent, believes that hackers (and real estate agents) often kill their own progress with indecision. To adopt a hacker mindset, agents should “make decisions quickly,” Arbini says. “Failure will happen, but the faster decisions are made, the faster learning occurs. Each decision brings more information, which allows us to understand the real problem and work toward the best-possible solution.

“For example, the first few iterations of our product didn’t work the way agents wanted,” he adds. “We had to change. It’s all about continual improvement so that your customers’ — or clients’ — needs are met.”

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Perhaps the easiest way to break convention as a real estate agent involves simplifying the way you work. According to Hello Agent resident Realtor Gabe Filkey, faxes, stacks of paper and large office buildings are industry norms for agents. But he claims they don’t have to be. “Modern real estate should reject old systems,” Filkey says. “Do buyers want to carry stacks of paper? No. They want to use their smartphone or tablet. Are buyers impressed by big mahogany desks? Not at all. Successful real estate agents break complex systems and make things simpler.”

I agree with Filkey. You’ve got to satisfy the client. Period. The problem is that their expectations are changing rapidly. Agents need to question everything they do and challenge convention. When people wanted to get more involved in their home search, Zillow was born. Agents are still reacting to that change. The key is to lead change, not react to it. If all you do is react, you become irrelevant. Don’t be irrelevant — break stuff instead.

How can you think like a hacker to break and rebuild the way you work? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

This post is the second in Hello Agent’s “Think like a hacker” series. Check out our first post: “Why realtors should think like hackers.”

Jay Sherer is a co-founder of and the vice president of marketing at Hello Agent, a tech startup that analyzes real estate agents’ contacts to identify those most likely to buy or sell a home.