Planning for 2014 and Planning in General

We’re just a couple of weeks away from Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish next year.  It’s a great time to be making a plan because, by all indicators, 2014 should be a good year, a year to grow, to expand.  A few things you might consider in your 2014 plan are:

Adding support staff.  But remember the Golden Rule of Help-U-Sell:  you never add staff until you are so busy you are missing opportunities.  Support staff should enable you to either do more business or take more time for other things.  If, four months after the new hire, you aren’t  doing either or both of those things, the hire was probably in error.

Expanding your geography.  Help-U-Sell is a geographically targeted business, remember?  Your vision is to own the real estate business in your target market and to take ownership one neighborhood at a time.  ASSUMING you have been following a targeted marketing strategy and have begun to  dominate in a neighborhood or two, maybe this is the year you move on to broaden the target, add a few more neighborhoods.

Taking a step up and back.  Perhaps 2014 is the year you not only add a buyers agent or two, but you also add a listing assistant:  someone who can meet with a potential seller, do a listing consultation and take a listing on your behalf.  Before you recoil in horror (nobody can do it as well as me!), let me remind you that Help-U-Sell is built on systems that work, not personality.  Your listing consultation is . . . well, just the facts, and a competent, well trained assistant can do the job as effectively as you, the Broker.  Taking a step back from the listing side of the business should enable you to take a step up to working ON your business, to planning your next expansion, to becoming bigger.

Supercharging your marketing.  How many tentacles do you have reaching out into the lead generation ocean that is the Internet?  Is this the year you step up to premiere status at Trulia and/or Zillow? You should, you know.  Is this the year you start doing Facebook and Google pay-per-click to drive traffic to your optimized website? Of course, if that is your goal, you will need effective lead capture landing pages, too.  Is this the year you electrify your web presence by creating a powerful, search engine friendly blog for your business? I know:  I’m biased, but I think this may be one of the best strategies you could employ to do more in 2014.

There are four ideas that may spur your thinking.  Before we leave the topic of planning for 2014, though, I want you to also rethink the planning process.  For generations we have heard, studied and practiced the 1-3-5 year planning ritual.  The detailed long term plan has always been held up as the be-all and end-all of planning . . . and I think that is a mistake.

Our real estate market shifts regularly and rapidly.  Opportunities fly in (and out), sometimes out of nowhere,  You have to be ready to grab hold of the next big thing while it is fresh and too often, a rigid plan and a stay-the-course attitude can make this difficult.  Here’s my prescription for planning, for 2014 an in general:

1.  Get clear on your BIG objective.  Why do you own this business? What are you trying to accomplish? How will you know when you are there? And what is your exit strategy?  These are big picture things, hardly detailed.

2.  What are the likely milestones you will encounter on this journey?  Typically Help-U-Sell brokers start out all alone, doing everything themselves.  The first milestone is the hiring of an assistant.  Then comes hiring of buyers agents.  Down the road, an expanded target market or a second office may make the list.  What are the 6 – 8 major milestones between you and your BIG ojective, in anticipated chronological order.

3. Now, focus on the first milestone.  What do you need to do today, this week, this month to move you closer to it?

That’s it.  

You now have a plan.  And it is a plan that doesn’t tie you up, that allows for new unanticipated opportunities, for side-trips and even small failures, without taking you off course.

I remember the camping/car trip I took from my home in Atlanta to Washington State’s Olympic National Park in 1973.  My friend and I knew our first big stop would be Estes Park, Colorado and the Rockies.  Each night we planned the next day’s segment.  It might be 250 miles or 1,000, might include side trips, stops and so on.  And we were free to change course during the day, too, so long as we ended up a little closer to Estes Park.  After Estes Park, the next milestone was Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and we proceeded in the same manner, each day taking us closer to the next milestone, each milestone taking us closer to our BIG objective:  Olympic National Park.

I believe that kind of thinking, that kind of planning, is the way to build a lean, rapidly moving, dynamic real estate company.

Humptulips or Bust

Things are very different today than they were even five years ago.

We used to think the one year and five year plan were essential . . . and I still think they are important.

But, it’s also clear that ability to respond to opportunity in the moment is far more important than a tight and detailed plan . . . and responding to opportunity usually means trashing or at least revising the plan.

I think the best plan is to have a picture in mind of where you want to end up and of what the next big milestone in that journey will probably be.  Then have a short term plan that will move you closer to that milestone.

It’s like the road trip across country I took when I was 21.  My pal, Geary Cagle and I left Atlanta with a big picture in mind: our destination – Humptulips, Washington.  But the first big milestone was Estes Park, CO and the Rockies.  Each day we planned a route, a stopping point, side trips and breaks but we only planned a day at a time.  Each day took us closer to that first milestone and so, closer to Humptulips.  In Jackson Hole, WY, the rear end fell out of the Fiat.  Getting parts and doing the repair took 5 days:  an opportunity we responded to by getting deeply into the Tetons and the Snake River.  It was one of the best parts of the trip.

Where are you headed?  What’s the next big milestone for you?  And what are you going to do today, this week and this month to get you closer to that milestone?  And oh, by the way:  what are you going to do when you finally reach Humptulips?

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