In the Future of Real Estate, Nice Guys Will Finish First
The way people inside commercial real estate talk about the industry, you’d think it was the mafia. Traditional thought says ruthlessness gets people ahead while good guys end up trampled. Brokers may bend the truth, overrepresent their relationships and push their way into deals, often forcing the principled agent who’s done all the hard work out into the cold.
I've spent more than 20 years in commercial real estate, and I've seen this cycle play out countless times. It leads even the staunchest real estate "good guy" to ditch his principles for a "win at all costs" mentality.
If the same thought crosses your mind from time to time, know this: Commercial real estate success isn't exclusively for the unscrupulous. With the right strategy, an unfaltering commitment to success through service and a little bit of luck, good guys can truly experience the tangible and intangible riches of a prosperous life.
Ruthlessness has been a staple of commercial real estate since its origin, driven in part by the industry's 100% commission-focused mindset. All that matters is who generates the most revenue, and the brokers who collect accolades and get the most support from their firms are the ones who consistently hit their revenue targets.
Unfortunately, behavioral expectations become less important when firms focus primarily on production. Firms think that hitting their numbers requires tapping into each individual broker's competitive juices, which can inadvertently cause brokers to adopt a ruthless, take-no-prisoners attitude.
If you’re looking to disrupt the industry, ruthless behaviors are not the right strategy. To differentiate yourself, focus on sparking long-term success, building a loyal client base and providing clients with value-led experiences.
There are many elements that factor into the ability of your business to truly experience a cultural shift. To encourage disruption, businesses must focus their efforts first on their teams. If you can form a team that leads with integrity, people of high character and talent will gravitate toward your firm.
In an industry with few differentiators, trust is vital. While most brokers boast about their experience and resources, few market themselves as trustworthy. In an industry so defined by deception, anyone who demonstrates true integrity will stand out from the crowd.
Take The Edge Off
How can you foster a culture of service within your firm without scaring off brokers who care more about their commission? Here are three strategies you can employ to stop rewarding ruthlessness and start giving clients the transparency and support they need.
1. Walk the walk.
Change starts with you. You can't put words on a wall or speak about service, culture and love only to disregard your own advice. Leadership must set the tone for any major cultural shift.
That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect from the start. Setting a better intention and sticking to it will begin to differentiate you in the marketplace. In today’s culture, it’s rare for clients to find businesses that keep their promises. When companies follow through on their word, they demonstrate dependability and integrity — a great start for a relationship based on trust.
2. Define cultural expectations.
Culture can be slippery. Without clear expectations, bad behaviors can easily sneak back in and disrupt your efforts. Be transparent with your team members about how they should conduct themselves, which should ensure nobody feels confused.
My team has 15 core operating principles that form the foundation of our firm. They are values and qualities that we repeat and discuss regularly as the standards we expect every individual on our team to represent.
3. Only worry about what you can control.
To start making changes, you need to first be aware of what you can control and where you have authority to put changes into action.
Even if your organization is plagued with bad behavior, it's possible to enact change within smaller sections of the business and then grow outward. Focus on creating a culture of selfless service within your team or department. As that team shows this new approach in action, other members of the organization will feel inspired to follow suit.
No more trampling the good guy. Consumers want good guys, and integrity is a true differentiator in an industry that has let ruthlessness rule for far too long. Start embodying transparency and service in your organization, and you can begin to reap the true rewards of a service-oriented business model.