Friday Flash: Go time

I have a problem with public speaking.

Every once in a while I have the idea that I need to get out there and give some talks. Meet new people. Show face. Step away from the screen.

Plus, giving a talk, like writing, forces me to think. It’s good intellectual exercise. I know this.

Then a couple weeks before a scheduled talk, it comes: What was I thinking? I have no time for speeches. I have real work to do.

I hem. I haw. I complain to my wife. I consider the inhumane reality of domestic air travel at length.

Then I bear down, organize my thoughts, and give the damn talk.

I never regret it.

This week I talked to a group of brokers in Ohio. A good audience, very engaged, very open to my sometimes unusual manner of conveying ideas.

My main point: Your ability to thrive in a market that is contracting faster than George Costanza in a cold swimming pool is dependent on your ability to steal people and business from your competitors.

There is no rising tide lifting all boats now. No volume to keep all the new mouths fed. No home price appreciation to stanch bleeding margins.

A Darwinian struggle is at hand.

What’s your plan?

This only sounds dark if you expect to lose. If you’re confident and strategic, there’s actually a lot to like in this situation:

  • Tons of restless talent to recruit.
  • A general return to first principles, and a retreat from the hype-fueled fixations of recent years.
  • Competitors who will be looking for the exits on favorable terms (for you).
  • Other competitors who have had their world-beating auras zapped in the most public ways possible.

If you’re a broker, next year could be a down year, but it doesn’t have to be a bad year.

The factors above apply to many proptech/vendor companies too.

So what does a broker do then?

Steve Murray from Real Trends spoke after me at the Ohio event. Steve is someone I respect quite a lot, and he delivered the goods in his talk, offering clear-minded observations, benchmarking data, and the kind of wisdom that only comes from being very good at something for a very long time.

He made a point I have heard him make before: Brokerage companies succeed or fail based on their ability to do three things:

Recruit talent.
Develop talent.
Make sure revenues exceed expenses.

That’s the best possible answer to the “what to do” question.

But how?

Well, some companies can pursue acquisitions to achieve #1 and have a shot at #2. But all companies that are strong in culture, leadership, programs, and brand can recruit new talent (and the business that comes with it) by expressing that strength more effectively.

Agents’ ears and eyes are more open now than they have been in years. What are you showing and saying to them? What’s the pitch, the story, the case for your company, right now?

Not last year. Or the ten years before that. Right now.

Your story. Your pitch. Your brand. These are your implements of battle. It’s time to sharpen them.

We do a lot of visual identity work for brokers. Clients rarely engage us for this work thinking that what they have just begun is a recruitment project, but once the work is put into the marketplace, the feedback we get most often is along the lines of “We’re getting interest and ‘yesses’ from agents who we’ve tried to recruit for years.”

Last year, we helped Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago launch a campaign built upon two words: Move Confidently. We created a story around the slogan that explained how the company actually supported this call to action for agents. It not only recruited talent, it developed talent, awakening agents to why they were at the company in the first place and reminding them of how they, in turn, were called to help their buyers and sellers Move Confidently.

People respond to stories that speak to their desire to either attain or protect a certain vision of themselves. They are drawn to brands that make them look and feel good. Compass absolutely nailed this.

And you and I, whether we admit it or not, make decisions on everything from where to vacation to what to order at happy hour in this same way.

Now, it’s your turn.

It’s go time.

Have a nice weekend.