Verne Harnish, author of The Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, spoke at NAEA’s Exponential Growth Summit, and it was packed. As someone who has “made it” in the world of business, he offered up some advice for those looking to grow their real estate business to the next level. Here are six practical tips as suggested from someone who has been there.
Focus on the Who
Bill Gates considers the following the most important question he’s ever been asked. Who are the top influencers that if they got behind your business, your business would increase by ten? Note that this is a “who” question. In fact, the movers and shakers of business all suggest that “who questions” are the most valuable.
Starting a business is hard. Growing a business is harder. So, whatever it is that you are facing, don’t do it alone. Your job is to find the right who to give you the answers you need. When you have the right ‘who’, you can make great decisions quickly and easily. Without these people, your business will suffer.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of growing your business. When you think you know what you are doing, the game is over. The real measure of a successful leader is being the stupidest person in the room because it shows you were smart enough to surround yourself with intelligent people.
To Do: Name the top 25 influencers that, if behind your business, would make your business thrive. List everyone that comes to mind, even if they seem out of reach. Then work that list every single week and pursue the opportunities to get those people on board.
Brand Yourself in Two Words
What company comes to mind when you hear the words “Deliver Pizza”? Dominos. They were able to define their brand in the minds of the market with just two simple words. If you can define who you are and what you do in two words, then you have a leg up on your competition.
How can you do that in real estate? Everyone in real estate sells houses, so saying ‘Sell Houses’ does not distinguish you from the pack. What do you do differently? What is your specialty? Where is your niche? A man by the name of Jay Fann loves to carve in wood. For a long time, he just carved whatever anyone wanted. However, his business grew to huge proportions when he specialized in carving wooden doors. But not just any wooden doors – Christian church doors. He was able to brand himself as the church door carver.
To Do: Look at your business and determine what you can be the king or queen of. Then, find two words that can describe this brand to the public.
Focus Your Effort on the Constraints
Each 90 days, you should be gathering your team together to determine the focus for the quarter. But how do you decide what is the main thing? According to the book, The Goal by Eliyahu M Goldratt, you decide based on the theory of constraints. We all have limited time, limited resources, limited cash, limited you name it. We have to direct our energy at something that is constraining us. If you can find and control the constraints, your business will grow.
The first year of Softsoap, Robert R Taylor pumped all his money into advertising and brought his sales to $39 million. But what did he do in year two? He focused on the constraint. At that time, Colgate was breathing down his neck and was trying to take over his business. He’d seen it happen before and knew he was going to be pushed aside. However, he realized that the spring pump for his bottle was only produced by one company in the world. He went to this company and asked them how many spring pumps they could produce in a year. They said 100 million, and he took a contract for 100 million spring pumps. When Colgate approached the company, they couldn’t produce anything more. Colgate bought out Softsoap for a lot of money. Why? Because Taylor focused on the constraints in the market.
Essentially, you are figuring out the front domino and knocking it over, letting it knock over everything else. Don’t start in the middle of the pile mindlessly.
How do you find your constraints? It isn’t going to happen through contemplation. Instead, spend time every week asking your employees what they see. Talk to your customers. Shop your competition. Gather information and then make the necessary changes from what you have learned. The key here is to “Learn Fast and Act Fast.”
To Do: Olympic athletes put 3 hours a day into their sport. To be an Olympic real estate agent, you need to find time to put into learning your constraints. Find 90 minutes three times a week where you can focus on addressing constraints. Then put this time on your calendar. If it works better for you, you can put 270 minutes in one sitting.
Put Routines in Place
Some people believe that routines bind you up, but the truth is that routines set you free. Without routines, goals are just aimless. Routines help you take a goal and then do something different every single day to achieve that goal.
One routine that is very helpful is reading. Hands down, reading will make you more successful than any other activity you can do. The goal behind reading is to find one idea every day that puts you slightly ahead of where you already are. Think about it this way: Those who don’t read rarely have an advantage over those who can’t. Why is this true? It is because those that are the hungriest to learn go on to build the most successful companies.
If you want to build your business by 10, then you have to increase your knowledge and the knowledge of your employees by 10. Remember that, as a leader in your business, you are not in real estate. You are in the training business. You are all teachers.
Other routines you might consider are:
- Aligning goals every 90 days
- Finding a set time each week to gain employee and/or customer feedback
- Articulating your strategy
- Helping your team know when they’ve had a great day or week
- Keeping plans and performance visible to everyone on the team
To Do: Start the training/teaching/reading routine in your company. Incentivize your team members to read business books. One way to do this is to sign up for Betterbookclub.com. Here, you can allow your team to read books, write reviews, and earn points. You’ll find that doing so will be the least expensive and most effective training you can do.
Some books to consider reading include:
- The Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
- Relationship Marketing by Thorsten Hennig
- Rookie Smarts by Liz Wiseman
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- Give and Take by Adam Grant
- The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
- Uncontainable by Kip Tindell
- The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
- Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan
- The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery
- Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras
Pull Your Team Together With a Vision
James Collins, in his book Built to Last, suggested that every company should have a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This goal should be at least 10 years away and could be as far away as 20 years. The further out the goal, the less people can debate you about it.
Once you have your BHAG, then you need to begin the climb towards that mountain. You do this with 90-day goals. Why 90 days? You can only be sure of two things: the mountain you want to climb and what to do next. Everything else is just a guess. No one has more than about three months visibility in the market.
One this is for sure: there are no straight lines in business. Your journey towards you BHAG is going to be more like a river that follows the contours of the market. You’ll make your next move based on what things look like at each 90-day meeting.
Why is a vision important? Without a vision, your business will perish. A vision gives you a reason for climbing and a reason to place a stake in the ground. Then, you begin to piece together little victories. That is why games like Candy Crush are so successful. They give you badges and levels and opportunities to succeed over and over again, building up the difficulty as you go. But, once you taste success, motivation takes care of itself.
To Do: Write down your BHAG. Then start with your first stake in the ground with a 90-day plan. What do you want to do? Formulate this mini-goal into a question, like “How can we get $40,000 a month more for the next three months?” This opens up the goal to ideas from your team and doesn’t make it a mandate. Then work the plan.
Gamify Your Business
What is it about sports that gets everyone so hooked? What keeps someone playing Candy Crush when they won’t put that kind of time into the business? Games have three things that your company needs. These are:
- A Finish Line: You know when the game is going to end. If it is a long game, then it has break points that you can count on. For most businesses, the work goes on and on and on with no end in sight.
- A Scoreboard: Does your team know how they and the business are doing? Are you showing them the 90-day goals in real time?
- A Stake in the Outcome: No one would play in the Super Bowl if there weren’t a winner that got a prize. Super Bowl rings are highly prized. Napoleon said he could conquer the world if he had enough ribbon. What ribbons, plaques, and parties do you have in your business?
To Do: Find a way to add these four components to your business. Each 90 days, set a goal. The finish line is the 90-day mark. Keep the score right out in the open. You can be fancy or simply use a whiteboard. Finally, make sure everyone knows what they get for participating in the game. Have fun with the rewards. Remember, people love to be rewarded. Try giving your team members experiences rather than things. They will remember these more.
By following these simple tips suggested by Verne Harnish, you can grow your business exponentially. They aren’t hard, but they will take work and perseverance.