Dave Crumby wants to help real estate agents avoid all of the mistakes he’s made — and there are plenty of them. And that’s why this book just might be the must-read manual you need to plan 2014.
REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate
By Dave Crumby, Lani Rosales and Martin Streicher
Realvolve, 271 pages, $24 (available on Amazon)
Until Dave Crumby conquered his personal health and craft, he felt lost in real estate. Though he worked hard and was outwardly successful, inside he felt like a salesman who was constantly unemployed. He struggled to find joy in his work, even as his bank account — and his girth — blossomed. At an all-time high of 230 pounds, he was gripped by anxiety about all aspects of his business, which to him seemed shaky at best despite his efforts to strengthen its foundation.
By the time the market started to head south in 2007, he was coming off his best quarter ever — some $80,000 in commissions. As the headwinds of foreclosure and global financial collapse began to roll into Phoenix, Crumby thought he could outsmart and outspend the crisis. Yet his own house lost $400,000 in value, and he was forced into a short sale. By his own admission, he went broke, just like dozens of his clients and many Americans all over the country.
For Crumby, going broke caused him to reinvent himself — and find his real purpose in life.
Want a copy of REAL? • Comment on this post by December 1, 2013, and I’ll draw a name at random and send you a brand new copy.
“REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate” is the narrative of a man who has come to equanimity with his work and his personal life, and is the better for it. Crumby, now 50 pounds lighter and the CEO of technology company Realvolve, has a lot to say about what you need to do to construct a full and successful life, and build a thriving real estate business.
Part guide, part memoir and part business manual, “REAL” brings together his co-authors, Lani Rosales (CEO of AGBeat) and Martin Streicher (CTO of Realvolve) along with 18 contributors who each lend a different perspective on how to really commit to — and thrive in — your career in real estate.
Crumby makes a compelling argument that real estate is a craft — not just an occupation held together by leads, commissions and marketing. When you’re solely focused on getting to the next deal, Crumby says you undermine your business, and in so doing, your life.
That’s because Crumby, like many of his contemporaries who are also writing books (like Chris Smith and Austin Allison, co-authors of the forthcoming “Peoplework”), says that forging deep and real relationships has to be the foundation of any successful business.
While it may seem obvious that treating people like people would be a key to business growth and success, for Crumby, it’s about karmic survival. He maintains that you’re supposed to actually like what you do and enjoy the people who are in your life.
Crumby says you’ll end up doing business with some of the people in your life, while others will remain in your orbit. But each will, in some way, contribute to your life and your personal happiness. Your life isn’t split into two neat and tidy packages, work and personal.
Rather, Crumby says they naturally blend into the whole of who you are, which is why it’s imperative to find your equilibrium in both. If you compromise your personal happiness and health, you’ll never be able to appreciate business success.
That’s why Crumby posits that forming real relationships isn’t a marketing tactic to be dispensed with as the business grows. Rather, it’s about forming real, life-long relationships with people so that you, at a personal level, feel good inside and out about your life, and the craft of real estate.
In fact, Crumby says there’s science behind the importance of building what he calls a “people portfolio.”
If you have 1,000 people in your portfolio — and by people, Crumby means actual people you can go out to lunch with, or send a well-received email or text, or enjoy a non-work conversation with at the golf course — Crumby says this will yield at least 80 real estate transactions a year.
All you need to do is meet and talk to three new people a day, which over the course of three years will net you a well-populated portfolio of people you actually like that enrich the quality of your life.
Considering that the typical real estate agent does just 12 transactions a year (according to the latest study from the National Association of Realtors), this is a path to profits and possibly, personal success.
Why only possibly?
Because if you embrace only the numerical aspect of the people portfolio concept, you’ll be driven by the numbers and not by the relationships you can and should form with people.
When the people in your database become “leads” that you don’t know, Crumby equates this to a failure of craft, which includes the art of forming and nurturing relationships.
Such a breakdown leads to agents who indulge in paid lead generation and automated marketing, as if a machine could replace them or somehow mechanize the process of forming real relationships.
While Crumby isn’t explicitly against lead generation and marketing automation (he does, after all, run a technology company whose primary offering is a social CRM built for Realtors that helps keep track of contacts), he thinks that such tools need to be selected and used to enrich the social fabric of the agent’s craft.
That means that when you acquire a name from a paid service like Trulia or Zillow, that you treat that person as a real person — not just a name that is tossed into a database, dropped into an email drip campaign, and never to be personally contacted. Crumby asserts that touching someone in a multipart email campaign is no substitute for a real relationship.
Follow Yourself — Because You Know What to Do
If there is a commonality to the contributions from 18 notable figures in real estate, including Spencer Rascoff, Pete Flint, Sherry Chris, Austin Allison, Marc Siden, Michael McClure and Kelly Mitchell, it’s that the most important thing you can do is to follow your own star when it comes to running your business.
No set of tools, coaching program or technology can make your business into whatever you decide it is. In essence, the contributors’ pieces closely echo what they have been saying publicly at industry events.
It’s no surprise, for example, that Sherry Chris focuses on the power of values to build a brand, or that Austin Allison touts the importance of working with others and delivering an exceptional client experience (an homage to his new book, “Peoplework”).
The contributions that are most affecting are those that are highly personal, and share more about the writer’s struggles to build a sustainable business.
For example, Matt Beall, founding broker of Hawaii Life, entitled his chapter “Burn this Book.” His key takeaway is that you should listen to yourself and follow your own lead. He goes on to say that you don’t have to work with everybody (and that it’s a lot better if you don’t). In fact, Beall maintains the best advice he ever received was to tell a client to “f*** off.”
Marc Davison, a partner at 1000 Watt Consulting, gives a particularly eloquent explanation of success — it’s about “ending every day, knowing that you treated someone better than you expect to be treated yourself.”
Listening plays a big role in most of the contributors’ essays. It’s clear that for many, like Pete Flint, founder and CEO of Trulia, that listening to customers is an integral part of his company’s practices.
Flint’s contribution is written as though it’s a letter to his daughter, and concludes with a direction to “dream big, listen first, learn from your peers, and do your best,” Flint writes. It’s impossible not to agree with his advice.
A contribution from Nobu Hata, director of digital engagement, NAR, talks about relationships from the perspective of time. He says that too much time is spent on thinking, not acting — and that real issue is that too much time is spent on shiny objects, rather than plain old clients.
Dottie Herman, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, and Kelly Mitchell, founder of Agent Caffeine and Breve TV, have something in common. They both believe in the power of perseverance.
Herman, the self-made New York real estate mogul, says that your ability to persevere is in direct proportion to your ability to believe in yourself — and to love what you do.
Mitchell, the host of two popular podcasts, is a study in figuring out what works, and sticking to it. After entering real estate following a successful career as a technology executive, Mitchell soon realized the real estate was just like any other startup. It demands the same focus and all-out commitment. But for Mitchell, the secret sauce was in learning what worked for her, so that she was true to herself.
Michael McClure, CEO of Verified Agent and the moderator of the 5,000+ person Facebook Group “Raise The Bar,” goes pleasantly old-school in his essay, “The Golden Rules of Real Estate.”
Although it’s not new to hear that you should be honest, competent, and professional, as well as a true fiduciary to your clients, McClure delivers these ideas with true passion. Even his advice to practice the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have done unto you) rings true to his role as the industry’s diplomat.
“I believe that extreme diplomacy is the path to the greatest level of success,” McClure says, adding that if you can consistently over-deliver and form strong, long term relationships, you’ll do well in real estate.
You, Us and Forward
“REAL” is split into three sections. “You,” the first section, focuses on Crumby’s story, and provides a wealth of insights into why relationships drive real estate today.
“Us,” the contributors’ section, provides a spectrum of opinions and personal stories.
But I found the “Forward” section of the book the most compelling. Crumby makes everything in the book actionable within a few slim chapters.
“Progress is only possible with change; change is made possible with action,” Crumby writes. He goes on to define seven components he says are essential to running a successful business: people, value, habits, organization, health, mind, rejuvenation and growth.
Suffice to say that you’ve probably seen other business books cover these topics individually, and often in great depth. But what makes Crumby’s slim chapters powerful is that he ties these concepts together into a plan you can actually use.
This is where he gets into the meat of how to build a people portfolio, create value (and that’s not really about marketing), establish healthy and successful habits, create a clear space so you can work effectively, take care of your mind, body and spirit, and quit analyzing unimportant metrics that bedevil your progress.
In the end, what Crumby wants most for his readers is to help them avoid all of the mistakes he’s made in his career. He’s the first to admit that he’s made plenty of them. His introspection is admirable — but perhaps what makes “REAL” a must-read is that he’s made all of his insights practical and actionable for others.
If you’re planning for 2014, read this book. “REAL” will cause you to look away from your spreadsheet and your business plan, and into your own heart. And that is where your success lies.