By definition, an entrepreneur organizes and operates a business (or several), takes on greater than normal financial risks to do so, and is willing to risk loss to make money. Real estate agents can be solopreneurs, intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs — the choice is yours. But if you choose to become an entrepreneur, here’s what you need to know.

What does good leadership look like in 2022? How can you put your best foot forward where you work, whether you’re managing a team or an entire company? In March, we’ll plumb the topic through Q&As from top-tier industry leaders, contributions from Inman columnists (the leaders in their field) and more. Then we’ll keep the leadership conversation going in person at Inman Disconnect in late March in Palm Springs, California.

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian. He believes that business is nothing but a conduit for personal growth and embraces the company’s vision to Love How You Live. When he’s not leading and growing his organizations, you can find Adam either in the mountains or out in nature with his wife and three children.

Many real estate agents get into the industry for the freedom, flexibility and income potential. There is a very low risk and low barrier to entry into the real estate industry. It costs less than $10,000 to begin a career in real estate and pay for first-year expenses (minus taxes). As a comparison, the initial investment for a Panera Bread franchise is $942,000 to $1.6 million. 

Depending on the brokerage, new agents also benefit from productivity coaching, free training and mentoring, workshops and more. It’s not hard to earn six figures or more in your first year of real estate if you keep expenses low, stay focused on lead generation and conversion and stay consistent on your daily activities. And that may just be where you would like to stay; there is nothing wrong with that. 

Agents can have an incredible career working independently. I like to think of these individuals as solopreneurs. They are very entrepreneurial and have created their own business of one. Sure, they may contract out some work from time to time, like hiring an accountant or graphic designer, but essentially, if work needs to be done and delivered, they are the one who does it.

Real estate agents are a great example of solopreneurs. Other common examples of solopreneurs include network marketers, web designers, photographers and bloggers. 

Intrapreneurs, on the other hand, are also highly entrepreneurial individuals who choose to operate within a pre-established organization. They can be employees or independent contractors. If they are an independent contractor, they may be slightly more risk-averse and want the support and proven models and systems of a team. Buyers agents, showing assistants or new home specialists on teams are all great examples of intrapreneurs. 

If a new agent decides that they want to truly become an entrepreneur and build a business that they can step away from, they’ll have some work to do. Most entrepreneurs are solopreneurs in the beginning, yet they have no intention of staying that way for long.

I’m a good example of this. I started my real estate career in 2006, and less than three months later, I had hired an assistant and my first buyer’s agent, when “teams” didn’t really exist the way they do now. A solopreneur no longer, I was on my way to building my first business.

I knew I needed leverage so that I could focus on growing the organization, not working in it. Entrepreneurs want to create and lead something, not run it. They are not looking for a job, per se, unless that job is to hire great people, lead and create.

The founders of Amazon, Keller Williams Realty, Uber, Airbnb, Morning Brew, Spanx and Berkshire Hathaway are all examples of solopreneurs who quickly transitioned into entrepreneurs and then grew their companies from there.

Note: An entrepreneur is defined as a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks to do so, and is willing to risk loss to make money. 

Real estate agents can be solopreneurs, intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs — the choice is yours. But if you chose to become an entrepreneur, here’s what you need to know. 

Master self-leadership and discipline

Nothing is more important for an entrepreneur than to master the art of leading themselves. Self-leadership precedes leadership. I, like many others, started a career in real estate because I wanted freedom. I quickly learned that without daily routines, habits and structure, my business would end up owning me and my time instead of the other way around.

Make it a priority to invest into your personal and professional growth: Study leadership principles, read books, listen to podcasts, meditate, journal, cold plunge or take really cold showers, sleep well, and exercise — every day.

Most importantly, create an ideal schedule that allows for time to work on yourself and the activities that will move your business forward (Hint: It’s always going to be lead generation — whether that is for clients, properties or talent). New agents must learn to lead themselves first to become successful entrepreneurs.

Create a vision bigger than yourself

If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not enough to just have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like. That’s a great start. You need something that will get you jumping out of bed before your alarm goes off each day and keeps you moving forward despite challenges and setbacks.

However, the vision must be bigger than just you if you want to be able to attract talent to join you on your journey and get others to build a business alongside you. After all, you won’t be able to do it alone. Your vision must be in alignment with your true nature and authentic self.

From there, you will use that vision to inspire others to lead, build and create with you. New agents must get clear on their vision and make sure it is big enough to attract talent and inspire action to become successful entrepreneurs.

Provide focus, clarity, and direction daily

Zig Ziglar said it best, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” And the best way to do this is by providing your team members with clear priorities, helping them identify their areas of focus, and pointing them in the right direction with training, support, and deadlines.

It’s all about leadership. Good leaders let their team members and agents know what is important and what can wait. New agents must use sound judgment about priorities and clear communication to become successful entrepreneurs.

Learn to hire people who are better than you

This is always a tough one for new agents and high achievers, but remember, if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.

When you are building a real estate business, it’s imperative that you hire a real estate assistant who is better at systems and operations than you. You must partner with a listing specialist or buyer’s agent who is better at closing deals than you are. This is where entrepreneurs can either flourish or get stuck.

If you are constantly bringing on sub-par talent, then you are not going to grow as quickly as you want. You may end up taking parts of the job back and then you’re back to having a “job” rather than leading your team and business. If you make it a habit to hire people who are better than you (at the specific job you are hiring them for), you will be moving from agent to entrepreneur in no time.

The only thing you want to be the “best” at in your business is casting the vision, providing clarity and direction, making high-quality decisions and leading. Leave the rest to the amazing team of people that you’re going to hire. New agents must hire people who are better than them to be successful entrepreneurs.

Make high-quality decisions each day

It’s not about how much you can get done each day, but rather how much impact you can make. As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest contributions you will make to your clients and your team is making high-quality, high-impact decisions each day.

This might look like deciding whether or not to invest in a new CRM. You could be choosing to hire a COO or fire a director of sales. Perhaps you have to decide to let a potential six-figure commission sale go because of the time and energy it is draining from your team.

Each decision is a risk that will bring you closer or further away from your goals and vision. Focus on making three world-class decisions before noon. The ability to make these decisions is what will set you apart long-term. New agents must learn how to make high-quality decisions each day to be successful entrepreneurs. 

Which real estate career or business path did you choose? Solopreneur, intrapreneur or entrepreneur? What have you learned about yourself along the way? 

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s companies and culture here.

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