Through the years, aspects of the real estate profession have been characterized to varying degrees by Hollywood, arguably the most disturbing being in Glengarry Glen Ross which happened to come out in 1992, the year I got into real estate.
Despite an all-star cast that included Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, for many the enduring portrayal in the film was Alec Baldwin’s performance of the motivational speaker hired to introduce the month’s sales contest, where first prize is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is the unemployment line.
While the company I worked for took a much softer approach in motivating its agents, I see parallels early on in my career, where I was driven by the competitive spirit to win the monthly and annual sales contests that helped justify the 60-plus hour workweeks I regularly put in to post the kinds of numbers needed to win the Salesperson of the Year Award.
It didn’t take long however before I began to realize that awards are one thing, but there was a lot more to being successful than simply selling more houses than the next agent.
In order to maintain the trust that clients were putting in me, I had to take on the role of a one-stop problem solver willing to do whatever it took to back up my commitment to get the job done. On any given day this could involve doing any number of menial tasks before putting on the tie and dress shoes to present the house to the buying public. This aspect of the work was portrayed with a familiar sense of desperation by Annette Benning in American Beauty, but her character was a far cry from what I wanted to use as a role model, and the solo approach was simply not scalable.
In the course of taking on responsibilities for a rapidly growing number of clients, it became clear that I would need professional help to carry the load, and life became much more manageable when I hired my first assistant, Debbi. She came with experience in helping a high-volume agent, and she also came with the necessary contacts and organizational skills to keep us on top of the details. With her by my side, we soon built a cast of supporting characters of our various vendors, along with an escrow team able to effectively meet our clients’ needs. And by delegating the work to people who were far better equipped to do the tasks, the client received a higher level of service.
It is with some sense of nostalgia that I see how my model for “agent assisted living” has continued to evolve and grow with the expansion of Main Street Realtors as it exists today, across our broad range of divisions with the overriding focus on the quality of service we offer rather than the number of sales we transact.
And ultimately, it still comes down to being able to deliver that Hollywood ending to our clients.