It's my New Year

I had to post something this morning just to get the picture of the ugly cat off the top of the page. It amused me for about ten minutes, and then I just found it annoying. So, here we go…

For me, today is New Year’s Day for me. The little soldiers of learning who are a part of the San Diego Unified School District (and this includes Scripps Ranch) are back to heavy books, sack lunches and social drama. I love the first day of school, and not for the reasons you might think. On the one hand, I find it a lot less stressful to have the short people home all day during the summer months than to be faced with an early morning deployment each school day. We have girls, so “getting ready” for school is reminiscent of the Battle of Waterloo. By the time I push them out the door, I am spent, a marathoner who has already run her race. Granted, I am down to one resident hormonal basket case, but thanks to the miracle of Skype, my oldest collegiate daughter can torment me from afar. (Just kidding, Becky. Call home soon!)

That’s the bad news. The good news is that my real estate year begins today. September is a time for planning and for getting back to full-throttle after an August where most civilians (and our would-be clients) have been mostly absentee. From a seasonal standpoint, the tempo starts to slowly build this month. We won’t see it in the numbers until January, but this is when parents everywhere begin to breathe a little easier. We all have the onslaught of holidays to conquer yet for many, the seed of moving is beginning to germinate, and they will be starting their investigative period over the next several months. And we have to be ready.

Each September, or as we like to call it, Third Quarter Estimated Tax Time, Steve and I begin the business planning thought process. It won’t materialize on paper until December, but this is the time we start stepping back to critically assess our business. We can always do better, and the minute we are finished trying, we are finished.

Every year, we reevaluate our efforts in the areas of marketing (for our listings and, yes, for ourselves), systems (this is not the sexy part, but it is necessary), and general practices. Some things I think we do very well. On the techie side, I am mostly if not entirely satisfied that we are offering more tools and superior reach than our counterparts. I have been on a one-woman mission to realize the perfect, paperless transaction and, while I am not there yet, I am closing in. We continue to promote our listings on as many on-line sites as possible. That has been the easy part. Making sure all roads lead back to us has been more challenging, and those challenges will continue.

As our business gets more complex, the systems become more important, and working on my organizational skills is high on my hit list. I believe we are extremely good with client communications and follow-up, but systems breed consistency, and I am the first to admit that you can’t exactly set your clock by our next marketing and market update. Yet.

Marketing ourselves is always the Big Kahauna of undertakings. This is because to eat, we must have business, and to have business, we must have clients. The idea of self-promotion tends to be as distasteful as the pasta I served last night, but for anyone (and I do mean “anyone”) in a service industry, it is a necessary evil. Until the majority of buyers and sellers are finding their representation from the 1-800-Psychic hotline, we must be visible. Satisfied past clients and their referrals are the life-blood of our business, but there are many more customers who will not already have a designated “agent for life” when it comes time to move. This is the tricky part, because to appeal to the uncommitted, you have to predict human behavior.

By virtue of a lot of blog reading, I am coming to the conclusion that we need to rethink our presentation. I could be wrong, but this will be the year Steve and I make a couple of bold moves. For one, we will be nuking our pictures from our “stuff.” I, for one, think we may be clinging to the old, prescribed marketing ways by rote and for no good reason. In fact, it just might be to our detriment. I suspect that home buyers and sellers don’t want to interview my summer of ’96 likeness but an agent with experience, and just because everyone is doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it wreaks of professionalism. This will be a slow phase-out (baby steps), but a phase-out nonetheless. And, I have a lot of rocks to look under to effect this next change, but give me until year-end. At that point, if you ever see me using phrases like “Top Producer,” “Award-winning Agents,” or “Top (insert integer) Percent,” you have my permission to take me out back and slap me silly with my Chairman’s Circle plaque.

There’s more of course, some things we haven’t even thought of yet, but it’s a start.

I guess we are all back to school this morning. Happy New Year!

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