If I’ve learned anything over the past 25 years in business, it’s that you’re never finished learning. There’s definitely a risk that the longer you work the more you can close off your mind to new ways of thinking.
But even if you are open to challenging yourself, the problem becomes sorting through a deluge of information coming at you daily from all sources.
What’s relevant? What’s useless? Where will the changes we’re seeing take place today lead us in the next five, 10 and 20 years?
Amidst all the information confronting us, there’s one often overlooked source that allows real estate agents to adapt to market changes and find new ways to keep providing incredible value to their customers: continuing education (CE).
Too often CE is considered as a necessary evil by many agents.
Most take the bare minimum of CE courses to keep their license current. Many attend classes or sit through online courses while chomping at the bit to finish and get back to work.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. With a slightly different perspective on the value of CE — viewing it as an investment in future success and not a time-sucking requirement — it can become a vital resource for gaining knowledge and separating yourself from the pack. Think about it for a moment.
Real estate agents operate in one of the most competitive industries in the U.S. There are few barriers to entry, so thousands of people jump onboard every month.
There is also a relatively low startup cost, so anybody who passes his or her state’s real estate exam can set up an office through a broker and be up and running in no time.
What can a hard-working real estate agent do to stand out from the crush of competition?
Industry knowledge and expertise gained through CE is an effective way to make a strong case for yourself to your customers
Marketing and technology
Because the median age of all Realtors is 53, it’s likely that many grew up in the age of Ronald Reagan and had families during the ’80s and ’90s.
It’s also likely they never used the internet in college (because it did not exist) and did not have smartphones with more power and functionality than a desktop computer.
In other words, the real estate market, the way people share information and the speed at which information is shared has been radically accelerated by technology advances.
There is so much to keep up with that it makes the head spin. CE is one way to stay current with new marketing tools, techniques and trends. Agents who embrace these technologies, and learn to integrate them into their daily work routines stand a much better chance against their competition.
Another valuable field of CE study is financial literacy.
According to widely accepted stereotypes, real estate agents are good at calculating their commissions, but when it comes to managing their financials, like setting up budgets and investing in growing their business, they sometimes come up short.
The fact is agents are perfectly capable of managing their own finances, or at least prioritizing them and hiring help to ensure things are done properly.
Although you don’t need the financial prowess of a CPA to run your business, it does take a degree of discipline and monitoring to make sure you achieve your financial goals.
What’s a way to become a better financial steward of your business? You guessed it — CE classes on financial literacy! Real estate can be as much about the “numbers” as buying and selling.
Commission calculations, price negotiations, office expenses, marketing expenses — it all adds up. Making sure it adds up to the positive is how you stay in business for the long haul.
A third and final skill set worth mentioning relates to your personal productivity.
Nobody is born with a talent for managing time.
Yet in real estate, you are faced with a great many time-sensitive tasks that need to be executed in an orderly fashion, or you risk losing the deal for your customer.
By taking advantage of any CE classes on time management, you will improve your overall productivity as an agent, allowing you to do more work in less time.
Accomplishing more translates into fewer missed opportunities, happy clients and more money in your pocket. Being an effective time manager also allows you to strike a balance between family and work life, which is sometimes a struggle for real estate agents.
The beauty of it all is that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a good time manager. It just takes some study, consistent practice and a little extra attention to the details.
Much like the flood of information you see online everyday, not all CE is the same.
Clearly it’s important to take the required classes, especially ones related to any laws impacting how real estate is conducted at the state or national level.
But with technology driving our world ever faster into an unknown future, now more than ever, you need a solid game plan when it comes to keeping informed and ahead of the competition.
CE is your single best way to acquire that knowledge.
If your bottom-line is important to you, then it’s better to not sit on the fence when it comes to investing in your future success. In the words of Warren Buffett, “Whatever makes you smarter, makes you richer.”
Sean Whaling is the founder and CEO of eCommission in Austin, Texas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.