In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.
We’re about two weeks into really feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and we’ve got several more months to push through. President Trump extended social distancing guidelines through April 30, so we have to settle into this “new normal.”
Is this temporary? Yes. But for most of us, business is at a standstill. We continue to fight with state officials to deem real estate “essential” in our respective locations. But even for those of us who live in states where real estate has been deemed an essential business, it’s not business as usual.
As real estate agents, we have to face the reality of pivoting our business models and daily activities to best serve our clients and customers, while shoring up our businesses and planning for the future.
We’ve been here before. Many of us survived the recession about 10 years ago (I actually started my career in real estate and then opened a Keller Williams Realty office during that time).
Every four years, we have to shift as real estate rides the ups and downs of an election year. And every year, we contend with the seasonal shifts of the real estate market. Real estate agents are better equipped than most to deal with a shifting economy and a new business landscape.
If you’re feeling pain in your business right now, it’s not because of COVID-19. Sure, you may have had a few closings terminate or get pushed over the past few weeks, but your business shouldn’t be suffering unduly — yet.
Our industry is not like retail or restaurants. When they were shut down, their revenue stream was eliminated immediately. For us, we still had or have closings on the books for many weeks or even months ahead. That is, if you had done the work required to safeguard your business from the get-go.
And that has nothing to do with the pandemic. That’s simply part of being in the business of real estate. Our income is directly related to the work we put in. It’s a blessing and a curse — I know.
So, right now, if your business isn’t where it needs to be, don’t fight reality. Take ownership over the fact that you maybe didn’t give it your all in Q1. That’s OK. The first step to making a change is facing the truth. The next step is getting to work.
Now, in May and June, when I imagine businesses will start to reopen and people will head back to work, those in the real estate industry will really start to feel the effects of the pandemic. With closings 45 to 60 days out, we will feel the lag, and it will likely not pick back up until July or August.
Again, that’s OK. Don’t fight the reality of the situation. It doesn’t matter if you like it or if I like it, who’s right or who’s wrong. What matters is that we acknowledge the situation and then focus on what we can control.
Here’s what you can do to pivot and ultimately prosper over the next two months.
1. Get into the right mindset
This is always the first place to start. You have to lead yourself first before anyone else — your team, your family, your clients or your community — will follow you. Tell yourself the truth about where you’re at in your business during this unprecedented time.
Do not get caught up in the drama surrounding the facts. And do not let fear set in. However, that’s easier said than done. Sometimes your mind seems to get off at the fear exit and take you down Doomsday Lane. When that happens, it’s important to shift back to center.
First, be aware that fear is just an illusion (at least in this instance it is). Then, use a simple technique I call “three, two, one, relax.” Inhale deeply, then exhale deeply. Lower your shoulders, and concentrate on breathing in and out three times as you say, “three, two, one, relax.”
Over time, this will become a staple in your toolbox. You’ll be able to take it out and use it any time you need to stay centered, regardless of external events.
You can also use other practices — meditation, exercise, affirmations and journaling — to center yourself each day and block out the noise. It’s from this place of clarity that you’ll be able to make the best decisions for your business and lead with strength and resolve.
2. Maintain your routine
Our routines are being disrupted right now — there is no doubt about that. No more Starbucks runs on the way to the office. Instead, many of us are working from a corner in our kitchen while home-schooling our children for the rest of the year.
I have three children under 8 years old at home, which means maintaining a routine equates to maintaining our mental and emotional fitness.
One of the first things that slips during a chaotic time is our health — whether that’s eating more sweets at night or skipping our morning workouts. But maintaining your morning routine and your daily work routine as much as possible is critical to thriving during this time. The more structure you can put into your day (and your family’s day), the more productive everyone will be.
This is also key if you have a team. Make sure they’re sticking to their routines, and add in at least two daily video chats to check in on the day’s activities. Adjust as needed midway through the day, and then finish the day strong.
3. Get creative
Whether it’s a neighborhood bear hunt or personalized videos for your entire sphere of influence, we all have to get creative on how we stay connected and how we generate revenue right now. Chaos breeds innovation. You will have to do things differently than you did before.
The current state of affairs may force you to streamline your systems, do more with less or create exciting ways to engage with potential clients. In fact, your new systems and processes will likely be better than what you were doing before. These changes might even make your business that much stronger.
Ask yourself the tough questions, take action, and test things out. Those who can navigate this time with creativity — instead of succumbing to fear or the stories people are telling you about what won’t work — will not only survive, but thrive.
4. Make the tough decisions
There’s a time to lay low and wait to see what others are going to do. Then, there’s a time to make moves and tough decisions. Now is the time to go on the offensive — strategically, of course.
From radical expense management to vendor negotiations, and yes, to furloughing or laying off employees, tough times call for leaders to step up and make some tough decisions. This is why mindset is so important. You must be able to let go and stay centered to make the best decision at any given time.
During times of uncertainty, there’s also a lot of potential opportunities. If you just invest in the right system or a new platform or a new line of business, your business might not take a hit.
This is where saying “no” (even to something that seems like a sure bet) is going to be key. Stay focused on the activities and lead generation tools that are giving you a return. Double down on communication with prospects and clients. Say “no” now, and make the hard calls, so that you can be prepared to say “yes” to all the opportunities that will emerge a few months from now.
5. Build your pipeline
While buyers, sellers and investors may be hesitant to pull the trigger right now, it’s the perfect opportunity to line up clients for Q3. If you’re unable to list a home or show homes right now, focus on what you can control.
You can conduct buyer and listing appointments via video. Get contracts signed now with go-live dates in the future. And what better opportunity than now to build an online community in your target neighborhoods or to call your SOI to check-in or to connect with your vendor partners? I know this is something you regularly do, right? But if not, there’s no time like the present to build this habit so you’re prepared — no matter what shift you get hit with in the future.
6. Serve the moment
This is a challenging time for everyone. When you show up calm, centered and ready to lead, you’re providing a safe space for others and can help them grow through this experience. How else can you serve during this time?
Whether it’s delivering essential items to a neighbor, keeping your clients up to date on local directives, providing business or real estate training to your office, or offering some inspiration on Instagram, when you approach life by what you can give, rather than what you can get, we all win.
While this may feel like the new normal, remember, it’s only temporary. This, too, shall pass. Don’t fight reality. Will you be ready to charge ahead, or will you still be playing catch up and simply trying to survive?
That’s up to you and the actions you take today. Lean into the situation, stay centered, and make the tough decisions. Pivot (sometimes hourly), and ultimately, you will thrive.
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.