Over nearly three decades, these are the lessons that Jimmy Burgess has put into practice to grow. Put them to work for your business.

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Experience is the best teacher, and over the past 29 years in real estate, I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to find success and fulfillment through this business. These are 11 lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: The customer is not always right

The common saying “the customer is always right,” could not be further from the truth in real estate. Early in my career, I struggled to professionally guide many of my customers along their journey to buy or sell real estate.

On the listing side, I took overpriced listings because the seller thought their home was worth more than the comparable sales indicated. That led to overpriced listings that did not sell and marketing expenses that would never be recovered. I showed homes prior to getting prospective buyers preapproved only to find out later that they would not qualify after spending days showing them properties.

I spent time with buyers and sellers with whom I was simply not compatible due to unachievable expectations or simply different value systems. These were some of the most stressful and dreadful transactions I ever participated in.

Finally, later in my career, I realized that I had a choice in whom I worked with. I didn’t have to do business with everyone, I just needed to find what I called MKP’s (My Kind of People). For me these were people that valued my professional input. They were relationship-driven and willing to commit to working with me in the same way I was willing to commit to working with them.

When I encountered people that I knew were not an ideal fit for my business I said something along these lines:

“I really try to focus on working with people that I am confident I can exceed their expectations with what they want to achieve. I’m not sure I am the best person to meet your needs, and I would rather disappoint you now rather than later. I know of another agent that I believe would be a better fit to help you achieve (whatever it is they want to achieve). Would it be okay with you if I introduced you to them?”

This led to referrals and fewer headaches. When you come to an understanding that you control your business and who you work with, you magnetically begin attracting more of your own ideal clients.

Lesson 2: There are no losses, only lessons

Are there setbacks and disappointments in this business? Of course, but the agent who learns from them is the agent who develops a thriving business.

Every agent eventually faces low appraisals, last-minute lender issues, negative home inspections, buyer remorse, seller remorse and a long list of other unforeseen circumstances that can derail transactions. The best agents learn to identify these potential problems earlier and how to address them prior to them leading to a canceled contract.

There is a refinement every great agent goes through that can only be learned through experience. The best of the best learn and grow through every transaction.

Lesson 3: Business is earned, not given

The pain of having a “friend” or a past client list their home with another agent is something very few people who are not real estate agents can understand. For me, the lesson that business is earned and not given happened about three years into my career.

One of my favorite transactions was for a young couple whom I helped buy their first home. The transaction was smooth, and I believed with every fiber of my being that I would be their agent for life. Three years after purchasing their home I noticed their home popped up as a new listing on MLS. I was heartbroken and could not believe I didn’t get that listing.

I reached out to the owner and congratulated them on getting their house on the market. I told them I always try to improve and asked if they would be willing to let me know why they didn’t list their home for sale with me. They told me they had been receiving consistent updates on their community from another agent who seemed to be the specialist for their neighborhood.

I also realized that I had not spoken to them in over two years or ever provided them with any updates on their home’s value. To put it bluntly, I didn’t deserve their business, but I assumed I would get it.

This lesson taught me that business is earned, not just given. After that experience, I put systems in place to consistently add value to past clients and people in my sphere of influence. I scheduled client appreciation parties. I sent birthday and home anniversary cards. I utilized my CRM to prompt me to provide CMAs to past clients and to make check-in calls with people in my sphere of influence.

This lesson taught me to never take a single client or potential client for granted.

Lesson 4: Your business’ growth is directly proportional to your personal growth

Every time my business grew, it was preceded by a time when I grew personally. The business grew after I took the time to learn a new strategy. It grew after I implemented a strategy I learned through a book, at a conference or through a coach.

The lesson I learned was that if I wanted my business to grow, I first had to focus on growing myself.

Lesson 5: Your vibe attracts your tribe

Whether you realize it or not, the clients you are attracting are a direct reflection of who you are. Sure, there are outliers, but if you find yourself working with several people who aren’t who you would ideally like to work with, take some time to self-evaluate.

During times when I found myself with less-than-desirable clients, it often reflected areas I needed to personally improve on. I found I attracted stressed-out clients when I was stressed out. I seemed to have a run of short-tempered clients during times when I personally struggled with patience.

If you wish to attract clients with a certain set of characteristics, develop those characteristics in yourself. The lesson I learned here was that my vibe attracted my tribe.

Lesson 6: Growth and comfort cannot coexist

Somewhere along the way, I realized there was no middle ground for my business. My business was either growing or declining. In the seasons when my business was declining, I found myself comfortable with the marketing we were doing and the way we were doing business. But during the seasons of growth, I found myself uncomfortable as we tried new strategies, and I was stretched to become capable of more than I had in the past.

If you’re looking for another level in your business, seek to grow in a way that stretches you and makes you slightly uncomfortable. This lesson taught me that growth and comfort cannot coexist.

Lesson 7: Attention is everything

We are living in the era of the attention economy. The agent who captures and maintains the attention of the most prospects today will be the top-producing agent in the future.

Now is the time to double down on your content creation. Hone your skills on social media. Practice shooting video content. Geographically farm more neighborhoods.

Do everything you can to find ways to garner the attention of your ideal client and your business will be rewarded.

Lesson 8: Relationships trump everything

Relationships are the precursor to transactions and a growing business. The person with the best and most relationships will be the top agent in your community. What are you doing to nurture and enhance the relationships you have?

The best way to ensure your business will grow in the future is to focus on creating new relationships — and enhancing existing ones.

Lesson 9: Every business has seasons

I’ve always been a growth-oriented person. I want to see my business grow every year. When I began to understand that every business has seasons, everything began to change.

I understood that to reach new levels there would need to be seasons of rest. I began to understand that to reach a new level of growth, I often needed a season where I focused on putting systems and processes in place to handle the next phase of growth.

The natural order in the world is a season for sowing, a season for nurturing and a season for reaping. The activities you do in each of these seasons will be different. Yes, there should always be some crossover of each season, but focusing on the most important activities for the season your business is in will lead to sustained growth.

Lesson 10: Hard work always yields results

There is no “easy button” in real estate. This is a contact sport, meaning the more contacts you make with prospective buyers and sellers, the more results you can expect. I’ve seen agents come and go in this business and most of them could have made it if they simply would have picked up the phone and added more value to more people.

Don’t get caught in the trap of always looking for the newest and fastest way to find business. Put in the work and you will get results.

Lesson 11: It’s not about you

The agents who understand the wants and needs of their ideal clients and who provide value exceedingly to that group build great businesses. This business isn’t about you. It’s about the buyers and sellers you have the privilege to serve.

The times when I’ve been able to remove my desires and needs from my business and simply focus on how I can better serve my ideal clients were not only the best seasons of growth for my business, but they were the times when I was the happiest as well. When you give them what they need, your needs will be more than met.

Lessons in life have the ability to shape us into better versions of our previous selves. I hope these lessons help you serve your clients better and help you build the business of your dreams.

Jimmy Burgess is the CEO for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in Northwest Florida. Connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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