When I was in my late 20s, an agent at The William Morris Agency signed the first music act I represented as manager. Despite my experience as a signed artist years earlier, I was a bright shade of green when it came to the intricacies of music business management.
That manager, “JL,” who was to become my mentor and friend, made one thing very clear: One mistake on my part and my act’s career chances could be ruined forever.
He also made an offer: Use the guest desk in his NYC office. Learn from him. Just like he did for two years beside his mentor before he was allowed to make a single decision regarding a client.
A year later, having signed my client to a record deal, I reflected on my internship and its impact on me, my professional development and my contributions to the industry.
Had I not had that training, I may have succeeded anyway. But I wonder how many artists’ careers I would have ruined until I finally got it right.
I think about that a lot.
30 years later
JL and I met up last Saturday night. He was in town on tour with his clients for the last of a three-day festival performance.
We caught up on many things, including the trials and tribulations of his real estate experience, a saga that lasted from 2009-2012.
As an agent in a different industry, he spoke solemnly about the failures of the real estate agents he hired to sell his home. Their puzzling behaviors. Lethargic work ethic. The lack of professionalism.
He found them uncooperative, uninspired and unwilling to try new ideas. They clung to the tried and true methods of selling real estate. He wanted something more aggressive. Modern.
In the meantime, the next chapter of his life sat frozen in time until he could sell that house.
In 2011, he asked me to speak to his agent and offer some marketing advice. I did. I outlined an aggressive plan that went well beyond an open house and listing the home on the MLS.
My words fell on deaf ears. I was a nobody, a non-agent, reciting things his agent had never heard of. What I proposed, they “just don’t do”. Period.
My final recommendation to my friend was to bring in an outside marketing firm from New York, one that specializes in getting properties like his sold. He listened. They went to work. And the home sold.
Over a round of cocktails, JL’s vivid conclusions about real estate people weren’t favorable. He wished there was an alternative.
There’s something inherently wrong in real estate
“The volume of incompetence, laziness, lack of creativity, and overall resistance to new ideas in your industry is staggering.” His words will linger for long time.
If firms like The William Morris Agency were defined by those terms, most of the artists you love today never would have made it. The talent agency business would have died long ago.
If the American auto, medical, airline and legal industries were defined by those terms, the U.S. would be a third-world country.
If our armed forces were defined by those terms, we’d be pledging allegiance to a very different flag.
Moan and groan all you want about the outsiders invading real estate, but every day this industry spits out people like my friend wishing for an alternative.
Sometimes, wishes come true.
My friend’s experience is not isolated. We all know this. Yet no one is taking action to fix it. There’s something very wrong with that.
We cannot control the number of agents who enter the industry each day with no skills or training. We can’t seem to stop associations from giving a REALTOR pin to just about anybody.
We take outrageous facts for granted. It’s well known that half of all agents don’t really produce. And we ignore that.
But the reality is they are producing — producing a shadow of disrespect covering the industry.
Stop believing that a business brimming with boneheads who deliver terrible customer experiences isn’t going to hurt us. Look at the facts.
I’d like to see more agents sit at the knee of a mentor. It worked for me.
With the housing market’s prognosis on the uptick, you may have one last chance to right this wrong.
How? Enforce standards. Train newbies before they are ever allowed to touch a deal. Create internships. Residencies. Make continuing education mandatory. Make reviews and ranking mandatory. The list is endless.
Strive to be able to one day proudly say, “100% of our agents attend our company meetings, use our tools and get five-star reviews. And 100% of our past clients return to do business with us.”
When you can say that with full honesty and integrity, you will have found a solution.