Friday Flash: Gather ye your best

Here we are, us people of real estate, up against the end of a weird and mostly prosperous 2017, full of fear.

Fear of Compass.

Fear that we may have underestimated Redfin all along.

Fear of a young guy in San Francisco who started Opendoor.

Fear of courts blowing up our independent contractor model.

Fear of whatever else may be watching us through the brush, waiting to pounce.

And that’s always the thing with us, isn’t it? The damned Lion Over the Hill. The predator that will rip us to shreds in broad daylight if we don’t live the paranoid existence of the wildebeest.

I think this worry, this anxiety about outsiders, is something more than the competitive energy you find with incumbents in any industry. With us, it has the flavor of a condition.

I believe this condition comes from our knowing, deep down, that our house is not in order, if you will excuse the pun. The basic problem for real estate – and the greatest opportunity for newcomers – is our tolerance of lameness.

We know this, and do little about it.

Outsiders know this, and keep trying to do something about it.

This makes us scared.

Compass isn’t about the tech; it’s about creating an enclave of productivity and quality, a company of big boys and girls that could, at some point in the future, dominate markets.

Redfin isn’t about discounts. It’s about creating a better process, a better customer experience. No, Redfin doesn’t have the best agents. But that’s not the point either. They’re playing a different game.

Opendoor isn’t about big data, or flipping. It’s about leveraging capital to make the real estate transaction better, faster and cheaper. They’ve got faster done; you can bet they’re hard at work on better and cheaper now, too.

This makes us nervous, weighed down as we are by half a million surplus agents, dependent upon “vendors” for our future and still making the devil’s bargain of tolerating this state of affairs.

What, then?

Yeah. This again. A plea for cleaning house. A hope that we improve before we are improved upon.

Because that would be a shame. There are too many great agents and brokers in our industry that are only vulnerable because they tolerate the lameness that surrounds them.

One of our broker clients, a CEO I greatly admire, has a mantra: Manage to the top.

Our industry needs to start managing to the top. It’s the only response to our fears. To get better. To stop sustaining bozos. To enforce standards. To embrace quality. To upgrade the way we look to the world through design, and speak to the world through words.

So as the holidays set in, gather ye your best, look inward and get ready to attack 2018.

Because there is only one thing worse than fear.