The Office and Paving Cow Paths

Clarkson/Osbourne Building, Sheffield
Creative Commons License photo credit: Subterranean Tourist Board

In a recent article on Inman News, forecaster and Stanford University instructor Paul Saffo spoke on the new economy. I particularly liked this quote:

We always tend to use new technology and new ideas to preserve some old tradition. Take work from home: a lot of people in your business said, “We’ll build telecommuting offices in these housing developments we’re building out in the valley.” That’s paving the cow paths.

In the real estate industry, the “right sizing” of the traditional big brokerage office is looking a lot like paving the cow paths. So the office is smaller; it’s still an office. For whom are you clinging to the tradition? The agents? The customer? Or is it just some (forgive the word) paradigm from which you can’t wrestle your way free?

In a recent local print ad, an agent, having rattled off his resume of credentials and years of dedicated service, offered up the piece de resistance. (Sorry – I don’t know how to add those little French thingies above the ees.) It seems he “works out of the brick and mortar (name of broker) office located in (name of community).”

Which is just fine and dandy. Except, why this is considered a noteworthy resume bullet point or even of the slightest interest or import to the customer is lost on me. What it was, I believe, was a very subtle shot across the largely virtual office model’s bow. It’s hard to make distinctions sometimes, so we grasp for any difference we can find.

What’s at the “office?” Resources? Not anymore. Our resources are at the end of a power cord.  Comraderie, cooperation, and synergy dispensed from the water cooler? Perhaps (although we are talking about real estate agents here), but that same sense of team can be established and nurtured as handily today at the local pizza joint or at the GoToMeeting.

It’s a place to go. That’s it. Brick and mortar does nothing to enhance my productivity, and zero to improve my skills, competencies and service to my clients. For my nickel, promoting that fact that you go to the “office” everyday (while I go to the “docking station” only occasionally to meet with a client or fetch the mail) as evidence of added value is downright goofy. It’s an admission that you are busier preserving old traditions – paving cow paths – than you are embracing the changing dynamics of business conduct.

Nobody cares where you plug in your laptop or what the view looks like outside your office window, certainly not the customer. And while we are at it, nobody cares how many licenses fill your broker’s file cabinet or that your broker has a financial arrangement with affiliated services versus established affiliations.

They really aren’t concerned about things that may benefit you alone, such as being on the “relocation team” and consequently being assigned many, many incoming buyers.  The only way this benefits your listing clients is if you are more concerned with “selling” these clients on your listings than with simply finding them the home – any home — that best meets their needs. You would never do that, of course.

What the customer really does care about is all of the other stuff on your resume – experience, dedication, success rate, and happy clients. Focus on that.

But that’s just my two cents from where I sit, and from where I sit right now, I have a pleasant view of my front porch.

Get your Instant Home Value…