The pest and the CrackBerry

He stabbed his open hand over the front desk to the hotel employee. Instinctively, she reached out and shook it. He recited his name, title and the name of his brokerage.

“Are you checking in?” she inquired. “Are you in the market to buy a home?” He responded, ignoring her inquiry.

She was not.

“Do you know anyone who is?” he fired back. She flashed him her professionally trained smile, shook her head no and asked him again about checking in.

“Are any of you looking to buy a home?” the agent asked, addressing her two colleagues behind the counter.

One was in the middle of assisting me. Impeccable timing.

More no’s.

The agent generously passed business cards out to everyone. He assured them quality service should they hire him and thanked them for their time. He turned to walk away and zeroed in on a nearby bellman.

The hotel clerk assisting me apologized for the interruption. I’ll spare you the comments made by the others.

Brokers: This is how your brand is being represented to consumers. It’s a tactic that is old. Too old. Maybe there was a time when this worked. I have to believe we’re now at a point where it’s doing more damage to your brand than good.

Think about that as I move into my next point.

Fallen giants

BlackBerry recently announced its sad quarterly earnings, along with plans to lay off 4,500 employees.

The slow, steady fall of this seminal smartphone giant is a stark lesson about speed of innovation, nimbleness and sedation. Doing the same things that worked in the past isn’t going to automatically propel you forward. Just the opposite is true. The sluggish – even giants – inevitably fall behind, displaced and disrupted by the fast and furious pace of innovators.

It defines a moment all business entities face.

Less than 10 years ago, BlackBerry owned the handheld market. It was the smartphone of choice (a term first coined by Ericsson for their GS 88 “Penelope” in 1997), and garnered a cult-like following of “CrackBerry” users – business types that thrived on the ease of portable email.

As innovative as BlackBerry was and as loved as they were, the smartphone puck glided down the ice. BlackBerry could have skated toward it. But they didn’t. New entrants did. They envisioned people becoming addicted to something far more compelling than business communication. They built devices that created pure pleasure for users.


In a statement related to the layoffs, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said, “We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability.”

Nothing in his words led me to believe he’s thinking about innovation. Just as nothing in the agent’s actions above gave me confidence that he’s helping to propel his brokerage forward.

Time will tell BlackBerry’s fate.

Consumer loyalty is fleeting.

We flock to the brightest light.

We vacate when it dims.

Consider this as you move to my next point.

Enough isn’t enough

I read this study of real estate firms over the weekend. It reports a whopping 69% of all brokerages expecting profitability to increase over the next year.

Fantastic news.

In an industry so often portrayed as slow and resistant to change, the brokerage moved the needle enough over the last 10 years to prevent its disruption.

A remarkable accomplishment.

But enough isn’t enough.

While your triumphant emergence from the last decade’s economic turmoil won a battle, a war still brews.

Despite your success and well-earned profitability, the brokerage of today still resembles the brokerage of 2003 rather than the brokerage of 2023. The agent in many ways still resembles the agent of 10 years ago. That’s a problem.

While the pesky agent stains your brand with his prehistoric methods, he’s only one of the many snipers in your midst.

Like BlackBerry, if the future hook upon which you’re planning to hang your hat is the same hook that you’ve been staring at for years, that may not be good enough. If you want to lead rather than just float by for another decade, you’ll need to dig deeper.

As you bask in the rewards of today’s great market, bear this in mind.

And remember the CrackBerry.