Adam Hergenrother reflects on his 35-hour USARA Adventure Race National Championship and how it translates to real estate business building.

I recently had the opportunity to compete in the USARA Adventure Race National Championship in Bloomington, Indiana. There is nothing like being awake for almost 35 hours, alternating between being lost in the woods and paddling a canoe for miles, all while debating whether or not to drink pond water, to give you a new fresh perspective on life and business.

After immediately falling asleep on the plane ride home, I woke up a few hours later somewhere over the Great Lakes and started to reflect on what the heck my mind and body had just gone through. Here’s what I learned:

1. Daily success habits are non-negotiable

Without a doubt, I would not have been able to push through the adventure race if I hadn’t already created daily habits of practicing my emotional fitness.

Every morning, I prime myself with my morning routine of meditation, exercise, journaling and reviewing my goals and future self. This simple yet extremely effective morning routine means I am mentally and emotionally ready for whatever comes my way in life or business.

I was able to endure sleep deprivation, borderline dehydration and all the physical challenges during the race because my mind was right.

A daily personal development routine is critical for long-term success. When building a real estate business, nothing is more important than a daily routine of lead generation. We know this, yet when we get busy or stressed, it’s the first thing to go.

My personal development routine is non-negotiable. Is your lead generation non-negotiable? If you just built that one habit of lead generation, the rest of your business would take care of itself.

2. Audit your business ‘gear’

We spent weeks researching and acquiring all the necessary gear for just 30 hours of work. Between the gators, headlamps, space blankets and heart rate monitors, we looked like we were going into combat. But we were prepared and ready for anything because we had the right tools for the job at hand.

How many of us are doing this for our business? Do we have the right tools, the right systems, the right models, the right technology in place to build our business? Is it time to upgrade your customer relationship manager (CRM)?

Do you need to implement a task management system for transactions? Does your marketing collateral need to be revamped? When was the last time you did an inventory of your business gear? Go do it now.

The real estate industry is shifting, and you need to be prepared to compete in this new market.

3. Fail forward fast

My team started the race off in the lead, heading straight to the canoes to paddle 12-14 miles to the first transition area. Soon after we started paddling, we took a shortcut, hitting the bottom of a peninsula and carrying the canoe across land, instead of paddling around. We put the canoe back in the water on the other side, which saved time.

Or so we thought.

We were actually in a river instead of the lake. We ended up paddling in the opposite direction for a while, just to figure out exactly where we were and eventually get back on course. But we never stopped moving. We made many mistakes throughout the course that set us back a few minutes or had us walking in circles in the woods, but we never stopped.

We had a goal to complete the course with as many check points as possible in under 30 hours. No matter how many times we failed along the way, we were going to make it. At the end of the day, it’s not about the mistakes or failures you make, it’s how quickly you can respond to them.

More importantly, it’s how you will respond to your failures that you will be remembered for. Business is nothing more than a conduit for our own personal growth. Building a real estate business is simple, but it’s not easy.

Building a business is about weathering the storm and having enough emotional fitness to survive your mistakes. Never stopping, never giving up, but continuing to push toward your goal.

4. Understand where you are and where you’re going

We just entered the fourth quarter. Most real estate agents are taking stock of their business, battening down the hatches for the winter season and planning for the year ahead. There were several times throughout the adventure race when I can safely say we were lost. We had to stop, assess, recalibrate, decide, commit and move forward.

As business owners, sometimes the only step that is going to propel you forward is one that takes you two steps backward. But that is the step you need in order to understand where you are and where you want to go.

You can never make any real forward progress unless you are clear on where your business stands. If you’re not clear on that, it makes it incredibly difficult to make the right decisions for your business.

As we get ready for the year ahead, take time to audit your business, map out a business plan, commit to the activities required to get there (hello, lead generation!), and then execute.

5. No one succeeds alone

There is no way in hell I would have made it out of the woods if it wasn’t for my team. We each brought our strengths to this mission. I’m a stronger cyclist and was able to hook Amanda and pull her behind me, at the same time creating a draft for Tom to follow.

Tom and Amanda are much better navigators. Tom kept us on track and plotted check points in certain areas, and Amanda did an amazing job questioning decisions, routes and searching for alternatives. Teamwork, folks.

Zig Ziglar said it best: “You don’t build a business. You build people, and people build the business.” If you want to build an organization (or make it off an island in the middle of the night), you’re going to need a team of people all working toward a common goal.

Everyone has a unique gift or zone of genius, and no one succeeds alone. It’s our duty as leaders to find our employee’s unique gift, unlock it and let them shine. When you have the right people in the right seats on the bus, it’s incredible to see how each team member will execute for the common company goal.

6. Go back to the basics

At one point in the race, we were walking around for eight hours trying to find the next check point in a series of check points. Yup, that’s a long time to be orienteering.

At the furthest point in the section, we were completely lost and it took hours to figure out where we were. When you’re lost you start to move very, very slowly and question everything. You get frustrated and start to lose time and lose confidence in your process, your decision-making skills and in yourself. But by going back to known points, we were able to reset, try a new route and move forward.

There have been times in my business when it felt like nothing was going right. That’s when I go back to the basics. Lead generating for buyers and sellers and lead generating for talent. Lead generating solves all problems. It is the most fundamental activity in a real estate business and yet it’s the one that we like to neglect the most.

When you’re lost and struggling in your business, you know what to do. You may not like it. It may feel like you’re slowing down or moving backwards, but trust the process.

7. There is always a way

One of the cool things about this race is that there is no one way to get the job done. When the gun goes off, the teams scatter and can hike, bike, canoe, run and take whatever route they choose to accomplish the mission.

Don’t feel like paddling around the peninsula? You can drag your canoe across land. Don’t feel like taking a chance on the pond water? You can find some campers and bum a couple bottles of water off of them.

At one point toward the end of the race, we were lost, cold, hungry, tired and just mentally drained. We knew we had limited time left. We decided to leave the course we were on, leaving two check points behind, with the goal of clearing the rest of the course. If we had stayed to get two more checkpoints, we would have potentially missed six check points that were easier to get to.

We knew that it was time to move on, so we did.

There is always another way to tackle a challenge and achieve your ultimate goal. The key is executing on the option that is going to have the biggest impact on your overall goal. Do you want to build a profitable and sustainable real estate business? Then that might mean hiring your first buyer’s agent in order to spend more time securing listings.

It could mean switching up your lead generation activities from networking to door knocking. It might mean forgoing real estate owned properties (REOs) to focus on luxury properties. There is always a way. Once you’ve chosen the most impactful option, commit and execute.

But know that if you get stuck and that option stops being a viable solution, there is always another way.

8. Embrace the suck

Building a business is not for everyone. No matter how well prepared you are, problems are going to show up. There is no escaping them, especially if you are building a big business or want big things in your life.

A career in real estate offers an incredible opportunity to assist people with one of the most transformational events in their life. It offers the opportunity for work-life integration, for unlimited income potential, and ultimately, for freedom.

Those don’t come without a lot of hard work, long nights and sacrifice. But that’s part of the fun! Building a business is not a destination, it’s a journey. It’s about who you become along the way, and it’s about the good, bad and ugly experiences.

The adventure race pushed us to our mental and physical limits, while rewarding us with the understanding of what we were truly capable of. If building a business were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Adventure racing was certainly an experience, but business is my sport. Probably the most exciting part is that business is an ever-changing game. Once you’ve figured out the rules, something in the industry changes or better yet, you disrupt your company first before your competition can.

Business building is competitive, often brutal (much like adventure racing!). It’s an intellectual sport of innovation, team building, operations, negotiations and leadership. The battle to build a legacy that lasts well beyond your human existence is an adrenaline rush.

I may have just competed in my first and last adventure race, but the real estate game is heating up and I’m ready to play.

Adam Hergenrother is the Founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, which includes KW Vermont, Hergenrother Realty Group, BlackRock Construction, Adam Hergenrother Training, and Adam Hergenrother Foundation. Follow him on Instagram.

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