Brokers: It's time to retire Dr. No and hire Captain Yes

It’s been a long six years.

But specks of light now beam in from the far end of the doom-and-gloom tunnel.

Hand me my Ray-Bans.


You’re still here. Fist bump.

Few could argue with much of what you had to do to get here. You grew obese during the calorie-rich good old days, your company’s arteries clogged by unbalanced splits, overpriced vendor contracts for dated technology and leases for square footage no one uses.

The down market may have actually saved your life.

It forced you into a crash diet.

Here you are in 2012, lean but…

Are you mean? 

We know too many brokerages in disrepair from six years of cutting, slashing, burning.

Their company website is obsolete. Their back-end office is no better. Their physical space, drab and lifeless with ‘80s-styled decor and rows of empty desks, HP towers and monitors.

Their collateral is outdated. All forms of print advertising were cut but never replaced with a comprehensive digital strategy. No video. No image library. No fresh content. And a Twitter account no one mans.

The saggy roofs and peeling paint of these brokerages can be seen for miles.

They gutted themselves down to the studs. Yet competitors within their marketplace invested. They built new websites. Increased agent training. Licensed new technologies. Thought strategically about mobile. Embraced social marketing. Revamped their entire SEO strategy.

Now, as the market rebounds, the firms that invested are reaping the results. Their market share has jumped as if shot from a cannon. Agents are joining them from other brokerages. Their yard signs are poking out of front lawns like spring bulbs.

These firms that cut and slashed are having a hard time seeing the light, even as their P&L improves.

I think I know why.

Dr. No

He’s the individual within an organization who thwarts progress.

He’s the IT guy that’s Microsoft certified. Manages your Exchange servers. Protects everything he’s wired up over the last 10 years. If it’s not his idea, you the broker will never hear about it.

He’s kept you tangled in cables and routers, and he’s never even told you about Google Apps.

You might recognize Dr. No in your boardroom. He’s carrying around an oversized 15-pound PC laptop. Or maybe you’ve seen his office, filled with partially deconstructed PC towers, boxes of modems, hard drives, old mice and miles of Cat 5. He hates everything Apple.

Dr. No is the person you’ve appointed to deal with vendors. He is a born skeptic. Doesn’t return phone calls or emails. His negotiation tactics are always the same: any new product must be super cheap, fully customized and exclusive to you. Otherwise, no deal.

Dr. No requires immediate ROI. From day one. He has no vision. No faith. He explains how your company isn’t equipped to roll out anything across the agent network because “agents won’t try anything new.”

The archetypal Dr. No attends meetings dressed in a scowl. He’s defensive during any discussion that involves something new. He resorts to using terms like “phased roll-out,painful integration” and “won’t run on an IIS box” to reject ideas from the outside.

Recently, a prospect who desperately needed help getting a decade-old website modernized and optimized for SEO and conversion sat flush with embarrassment as his Dr. No stormed out of the room during a discovery meeting with me. The broker apologized. He had a feeling that was going to happen. He also had a feeling that watching his competitors evolve while he sat in stasis might be tied back to his Dr. No.

He was hoping we could come on board and find a way to work with the good doctor. Not likely. Life’s too short.

Surviving survival

Dr. No might be a person. He could be your CTO. Your marketing director. Your CFO. Dr. No could be you.

Maybe Dr. No isn’t a person. Perhaps it’s a prevailing sensibility within your organization that’s tied to legacies, time-honored traditions and blind loyalty to old vendors even if they haven’t lifted a finger to improve their product… ever.

Sometimes it’s just a belief that you require no outside help at all.

Other times, it’s tied to fear that the agents within your brokerage will revolt if they have to learn something new.

Whatever it is, you’re tired of surviving. You want to thrive. Grow. And kick your competitors to the sidelines.

Maybe it’s time to retire Dr. No and hire Captain Yes

Who is Captain Yes? He’s happy. Delighted. Confident. He collaborates. She’s social. There’s nothing she can’t do and she expedites quickly. He’s eager. He has a network. He admits the things he doesn’t know and loves to partner with people who do know. He has ideas that at times seem kooky, and might require a little investment and systemic change as they unfold.

She has a fire in her belly to do whatever it takes to try something new to see results.

If this person isn’t in your org chart, you’re probably not operating at full throttle. You’ve been behind with no plan for how to catch up. You’re making excuses. And apologizing.

That’s no way to run a real estate brokerage.

In an upcoming post, I am going to profile some of the Captain Yeses I’ve had a chance to work with or meet. Hopefully, they will inspire you. I know they’ve had a big impact on me.