Episode 2: How Real Estate Agents Can Better Manage Relationships – Vanessa Bergmark

Episode 2:  How Real Estate Agents Can Better Manage Relationships – Vanessa Bergmark


Oh my goodness. Hello everybody. If you
happen to be seeing this on a replay which is what we expect, just want you guys all to know that you can ask any questions of
Vanessa or myself. Put it down in the comments below and we’ll be sure to
answer it here on this post so you’ll be able to see it. I’m just going to see if
I can get a link to this thing. Let me just see if it’s even going live
on our page. Oh my goodness. Goodness, goodness, goodness. Okay, we are live on the Realvolve page so everybody should be able to see us. How
exciting – frightening! We should let them
know we had a couple of difficulties. We did have some technical difficulties and that’s what happens when you help to run a technology
company. You are going to have tech difficulties. Hello Vanessa.Welcome.
Thank you for being on my show – Real Agents. Real Life. One of the reasons that I love doing this show is that we as a company at Realvolve believe very strongly that building a business is important but having a life
is arguably almost more important than that. I am finding and talking to people that we think are doing a kick ass job of doing both to the best
of their ability, knowing that we all have challenges. Okay, now you’ve got me
in the background somewhere. A little bit of an introduction. This is my good friend Vanessa Bergmark. She is the Owner and
CEO of Red Oak Realty in Berkeley California. She started life as a real estate agent in 2003 and went into management almost
right away. She was an agent for nine months, did 11 deals and I think any of us
out there would be just excited if any of our new agents or for a new agent could do that many deals in just 9 months, especially in the
Bay Area. She went into management in 2007. In 2010, she bought a venerated brokerage
in the Berkeley area called Red Oak and took over and and really changed the
ship of a very traditional brokerage into the dynamic, often covered, cutting edge brokerage that Red Oak is today. She now has a hundred agents,
two offices. She’s got a thousand different people pulling her in a thousand different incredibly urgent and important directions all at once and her brokerage is doing about $800 million which is round and about what a thousand transactions – is that what we’re talking about, in a year? Yes. To say that Vanessa is busy
as a broker is a massive understatement. In addition to that, she has two kids that are not independent. They’re actually at the “I need mom every second
of the day.” If any of you out there have littles and you think you’re busy, wait until your kids get to be tweens. Not yet driving and very, very busy. She has a husband, a
dog, two cats and an accidental crayfish. She is one busy lady! I love the accidental
crayfish. Yes, well that’s what you said so I just kind of went with that. With that
introduction in mind, you guys can kind of get a sense of how much you either feel that you’re similar to Vanessa or
just feel like you would like to get to that some day. Some of you are probably
going – Oh my God, I will never be Vanessa, that’s me. But you’re wondering –
gosh, how can I have a life like yours? Lets just kind of dive into it. I first wanted to get into the nitty gritty stuff – the way that you’re
running Red Oak. That’s a lot of agents, that’s a lot of transactions. How many
people are on your staff and generally what do you have them doing? I definitely don’t do this on my own. One hundred agents and they’re really highly I feel supported. We’ve got right
now currently 16, as of next week we’ll have 17 staff. We have a marketing department, we have a operations department and we have a transaction
department and then we have our sales managers. I have two full-time sales
managers including myself that help with the deal doctoring. The rest of it is all administrative tasks around the marketing of properties, the
marketing of the brokerage, the marketing of the agents and then all of the
transaction support. California as many people probably have heard is a very
legal state. Law suits here, as you know. Our files are that thick. Yes, a condo is gonna have you at 300- 400 hundred pages of documents so our files, that’s a big massive job to do the transactions of this so I have a big
team of transaction coordinators. So, much staff. I’ve spoken to a number of Red Oak agents over the last two or three years and I know that you guys treat your people as high touch as I do with just
five agents. So any of you who are looking at Vanessa and going – yeah, yeah, yeah you talk a good game girlfriend but that isn’t the way it is. It is, trust me it totally is. That’s a lot of hands-on stuff. Tell me what your typical day looks like. I know every day is massively different but what are your
touchstones, the things that kind of keep you on track during a day? My job has evolved. I’ve been with the company now for several years. I came on in 2007 so 11 years it’ll be and it’s evolved from the day-to-day
operations of being in there, boots on the ground, sitting behind the desk, taking the calls, doing a lot of deal doctoring, a lot of coaching, all the
hiring and then kind of running the staff. I’ve stepped back a little bit now and
I have two incredible leaders, Passion and Melissa who you probably met last
week. I had dinner with them. Yes, they’re awesome. Yes, they’re fantastic. They’ve got sort of the vision and the values all lined up so they take the
lead now in running our office meetings our
training, our coaching, all of the interviews, working with the staff. I’m more behind the scenes, touching base with them and working through them. A typical day still has me on the phone with my top agents. One thing I
love about Red Oak agents is there is no – sorry a little text – but is staying in
conversation with them. I found that even some of our top people although they are
super independent and do it on their own, they do need the support and they stay
with us because the support is there and when they need us, we’re right there so there’s a lot of that still. I get a lot of calls. Sometimes I have client meetings depending on how serious the situation is. It runs from running the finance, the operations of
the finance is a huge piece of running the brokerage. Understanding your
profitability, where your weak points are, where your strong points are, different
programs that you want to start running. Hold up, hold up, hold up. Dude – that sounds like you’re putting in 18 hours a day. When do you start, when do you stop, what are you doing? I stop usually at 6:00. I am someone that needs a lot of sleep. I’m in
bed by 8:30, 9:00. Everyone knows that when the sun goes
down I’m done – my lights are off. I wake up probably – I’m a super early riser, I always have been so I’m up at 5:00 a.m. I have my first three cups of coffee and then I go right into work but that that time of day is when I get all
of my administrative tasks done. I get my list, I’m a big list girl. I start with that. Lists and checklists, I love that. It’s nothing super fancy. I’m not this big – I have all this in my tech platforms. I’m yellow pads of paper, I buy them in bulk. They are all over the house and they have every project on them and
I just put a line for everything but it keeps me on task. I just break out my hours in the morning. So you get up in the morning super early. You’re knocking out, thinking about your lists, probably transferring over stuff
that didn’t get done the day before onto a new list for the day, right? What else
do you need to touch in the morning during your quiet time? I definitely need some quiet time. I go for a walk with my dog every morning, he keeps me somewhat healthy. I’m big about trying to take that time to get a workout in so getting up and doing some form of exercise. Usually if I don’t do it by 6:00 a.m., it doesn’t get
done because when I eat at 9:00 a.m., that’s when the calls start rolling in so whatever was gonna happen is done. I get more work focused so I try
to get that healthy stuff in, in the morning. I’m a mom, my kids are older than yours but I’ve been doing this since they were born right through to them being old now along with me. Don’t laugh at me! I found that the transition from bad ass Realtor and
now Broker to Mom, I found that a really tough transition. Whenever time it was
that I got home and I tried to get home around 6:00, 7:00 myself. How do you handle that transition going from bad ass to Mom, to Wife, to whatever, to doing homework on fractions? Two things – one thing that’s worth pointing out that’s different from an
agent. When you’re an agent, you are working with brand new relationships on
a regular basis. Even if they’re repeat clients, you’re with people in
really intense moments and then the escrow ends and you move on and it’s a whole new relationship again. One of the things I always say that has worked to my
advantage of being a manager is – I’m dealing with the same people so we know
each other’s style, we know there’s a high level of trust there. I’ve been working with the same individuals for 11 years so it’s easier sometimes to set
boundaries with them and for them to acknowledge each other’s boundaries
where they they know I will get back to them. They have a high level of trust but
they really do allow me and respect me putting my family first. At least at certain points of the day. There are times when I have missed the band performance or I have missed the art display at the end of camp because I’ve got something really intense going on at
work. I do try to really draw the line of being home at 6:00 at night and transitioning over to that time stops with the calls. I make dinner every night. God bless my kids for eating it. I’m not a pretty bad cook but I cook it and it’s organic. And it comes with an amazing, organized pantry. It does, I still have that pantry. That’s a high priority and it’s also really a high value of who I hire. My staff, they’ve got families and their families are very important to them. I honor it in them and they honor it in me. My agents all are either raising kids, are putting kids through college or have young ones. All of that is sort of like we get it but we’re really good with the boundaries. Did you say to your agents and
your staff – sorry but once the sun goes down, I’m not responding to your calls or do they just know that through the trust
relationship that you’ve created? I said it probably 10 years ago. I said it and then I honored it and then they honor it. The truth was I don’t bring my phone up to bed. I leave it downstairs and I’ve said – believe me, if you want me calling you when you’re off, I’m up at 5:00. We can start talking early. I want to read a book, I want to go to bed and if I
have that phone there, I will pick it up so I keep it downstairs. After a while if you consistently don’t answer the phone past
8:30, they get it. What advice do you have for your agents
around boundaries? I’m totally going off script at this point. I might as well
take my questions and put them over my shoulder. Boundaries are a very interesting thing
because if you don’t honor your own boundaries, no one else will. Somebody needs to tweet that right there – if you don’t honor your own boundaries, nobody else will. That’s a tweetable right there! They just won’t and I think I honored my mine. I also showed though that I respected the fact that these issues were brewing but between 10:00 at night and 8:00 in the morning, you may be able to talk about something
but you can’t solve or do anything about that. Title companies and lenders, they’re closed for the night. Sit on it, take a breather with it, tell your clients to take a breather. This is not
open-heart surgery and in the morning we reconvene with a fresh approach. One
thing though with boundaries is – if you say this is the boundary or this is the time in which I work or when I respond and
then you constantly don’t uphold that, they don’t exist. If you don’t follow-up with somebody when you said you would – if they sent me a text at 10:00 and the next day I just completely ignored it, then
that level of trust wouldn’t be there. But in the morning I get that text, I
work on it and then we talk at a reasonable hour so it all gets honored but it’s really created a high level of trust in the brokerage and a
high level of consistency. It’s the same thing I tell my managed now as they take the lead
and they deal with most of the deal doctoring or the upset client or the
strategic offering or whatever needs to happen that’s time-sensitive.
They put those same sort of values in place. It sounds to me if I were to repeat back what I heard, sounds to me that the most important component of
this is the consistency with how you respond. Absolutely. That you consistently at 5:00 in the morning, you’re reviewing the emails or the texts that might have
come in from the day before or after you’ve gone dark and that you consistently acknowledge that you got it and that you
are working on it and you don’t ignore them and it’s not a 2 – 3 day lag or an unpredictable lag. Yes, it’s very predictable and again, that’s where high trust then gets established. It’s the exact same thing that a manager and an agent will do but an agent can do
with a client or with another agent on the other side. Just
because it’s a big issue for them does not mean that it has legs and arms and breathing fire and that it’s a huge issue for
everyone. Sometimes you just gotta bring it down a notch. In our world, with all these methods of communication that constantly gets challenged so you
gotta stick by it. It sounds like if you’re honoring your boundaries and
you’re consistent with your response. That is every time you do that, you’re
putting coins in the trust bank and your clients trust that you’re gonna get to
them. Your agents trust you’re gonna get to them and this is what allows you to
have the life that you do. Yeah. It’s also the same thing with my children I would say though. Because I do show up at night with them. They realize during the day, I’ve got this but then at night, I’ve got them. They respect the fact that I’m a working Mom, they get that. They’re at my office, they’re in my car, hearing me have sometimes whenever I’m dropping off at
school taking a call, on the way to camp, they’ve got agents coming over to my home office constantly or my staff. They are very interconnected in the world of Red Oak. As a matter of fact, I’ll never forget one time they were all excited because we got two listings on their street across from their school. They’re like – Yeah Mom, you got listings in the neighborhood. I was like – look at those little Realtor children. They even know to call it a listing and they were probably like six at the time. It was very cute. They are paying attention. They do realize that Mom works. What an amazing example that you’re working and you’re consistently
being present in their lives and they get a sense that you can have both sides
of life and they aren’t responsible for your happiness. No and frankly, one of the interesting things I remember realizing
with my son. He got into Tae Kwon Do and the teacher once pulled me aside and he said – you’re not at enough of his training’s. This is when he was very young.
He said – you’re not at enough of his training’s, you should be here more often.
His Grandmother was there a lot and I said – you know what, I know this is gonna sound terrible but he’s not taking Tae Kwon Do for me. He’s gotta be doing
this for him and I’m gonna support him and root him on but I don’t need to be
here every day pushing him, he needs to do this for himself. I have a very busy
job during his training’s. While he’s doing them, I am working so I’m not gonna
be able to do that but I will be here supporting him and encouraging from
behind the scenes. It’s really interesting, he’s been doing it now for
six years and he has developed it and cared for it and done it because he
wants to do it. Not because it’s always constantly Mom there rooting him on. I’m really big on having that same sort of methodology in how I run the company and how I run my household. How does that translate with your agents, how does that translate in the way that you communicate and mentor your
agents? One thing I say is – if you talk about values and standards as a company and you hire to those values and standards,
you don’t usually have to remind your agents or bring them back to the source
of why they need to do things a certain way because it was already important to
them to do it that way. We end up having a lot of people that we hire
that it’s more about working through maybe some external issues but rarely is
it about working through the internal issues. What I do is I hire really competent people and they occasionally need me to step in and support them or encourage them but the majority of them are super competent
people that are doing this for themselves. So you’re not trying to over manage them? No. If you ask my people, they would be like – she
does not over manage. I say – this is the way we work around here and I want
you guys to honor and respect that. A lot of them do and if they don’t, you fire
them. You get them out and other people realize that you set a standard by who you keep. A mentor actually said that to me once – you define
your business by what you let go. Yeah, I definitely made that mistake early. We all have. If any of my people
are listening – I’m sorry, I over managed you. I got it! I’m a
recovering over manager! Exactly. I wonder if most baby managers do that? In any
case, I’m moosling to myself. What do you think your mission critical is as
the Broker, the CEO of Red Oak? I think honestly it’s evolved. I think what’s most important for my agents and my staff to know is
that I’ve got the strategy for the company and the vision for the company
and I’ve got it every day make sure that the people within it are upholding that
vision. Whether it’s community driven or sales driven or industry driven, there’s certain things that are bigger picture and I try
to really, because I could get into the details if I let myself but I try to really just share the vision and keep us on track and keep us in a growth stage in the sense that we’re constantly looking for new, better
ways to do what we’re already doing. My job is to make sure that even when
all the minutiae, all little details, one or two little escrows can take over the
day is that I don’t get distracted by that because there’s a way bigger thing
that I’ve got to focus on. What is the vision that you’re trying to
accomplish there? I think it’s – we are transactional based company. Real estate in general is transaction to
transaction to transaction. What I was just saying about all these people are new, they come into your world and then they’re out again and I think
that’s where as an industry we’ve really failed. We’ve never made it anything
bigger than just a transaction. Maybe a repeat transaction but it’s always just
about this moment of time and I think that real estate truly is about lifestyle and community. We are super engaged as a company in our community,
with our foundation, with what we do just even in our movie nights
in town, how we get involved in what’s going on with politics or City Council. We’re deep-rooted out of a group of a hundred individuals that are really
involved in that community that we live in. Oakland and Berkeley are super dynamic communities as well. They’re not your average community but I
think that the main goal then is to see how can we as a company be more than just transaction after transaction? The goal now is really to
facilitate more ancillary services and resources available to our client base
so that they’re with us for their entire home ownership experience rather
than just when they buy and when they sell. You want you want to be able to be involved in their lives throughout
their home ownership so ancillary services might be vendors, contractors, design, that kind of stuff? Yeah, I’m going into that level more, getting more into the servicing of their homes and being just a referral source but an actual company that they work for and hire. We are super
connected as a company and we kind of need to take that into the business more
so that’s what we’re working on now and that’s been a big strategy. That sounds like
like a particular mentor of mine. I’m hearing echoes of somebody but
that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s one of the big visions of the company. It’s also bringing it, making sure that again we’re
not just pitching houses, that we care about the community we’re in. I know that sounds a little cliche but I think if real estate and companies really did invest more in the community, it would be a more valued
industry as a whole. You had said something in the prep call
that just hit me like a ton of bricks and I was hoping you’d expand on it a
little bit. You were talking about your mission critical and we were talking about Mom guilt. Actually, that’s the direction we were in and I’ve asked about how your
kids felt about the business and how did you fit time in for yourself and you
had said – you have had plenty of opportunities to expand your business
but that you choose instead to expand your relationships and I’ve been sitting
with that for three days going that is just * brilliant. Your allowed to curse on this show? I do. Yes, I do recall that. You were talking about how instead of adding an escrow company or buying another office that you choose to go on trips with your friends or
spend more time with your kids or lean more into your relationship with your husband who by the way is incredibly cute. I said that Brandon! He will watch the instant replay. Rather than have a bigger business and I just what I wanted to know as a follow-up question, is that
just who you naturally are or was there at some point in time where you said – I
choose relationships rather than more business? I think it’s a little bit of both but it’s probably more the choice. I think I am naturally not easily coerced into somebody else’s idea of what I should do.
I’ve always been like that which has gotten me into plenty of trouble all
through my school years because I didn’t believe that around studies or homework or tests but that’s another show. I think the key thing is – I often don’t struggle from the confidence game of I should be doing this, everybody else is
doing this. That’s their lives, that’s their decisions so maybe it is
what they should be doing but that doesn’t mean because other people are is
that’s what I should be doing. There’s a little bit of that’s always been how I’ve rolled but when it does come down to some really incredible
opportunities that have shown up that really, they were good opportunities. I did know in doing this, in the standard, in the way that I would want to do it, I
probably would have to give up something and what would it be? Would it be those
weekends with my friends, would it be the dinners with my kids, would it be the
date night with my husband or that weekend away? What would I be taking on
and when you really just stick to your values, when you look at what is most important to you and why are you here and who do you want to spend these days with? It’s always been a really easy decision at
this stage of my life with two young children that I would be out of alignment with what my values were in making those decisions to expand or
double my agent count or add another office in another hot market or take on
some other property management or something because it was a good
opportunity and it was falling into my lap. I knew that something would have to go and
more than likely it wasn’t gonna be the business, I’d be taking home my business. It was going to be a family member or it was gonna be
a friendship so I’ve always been able to say – this is not the time, this is not the time. Maybe when the kids are older or something but I choose
to be a Mother as well, not just a businesswoman. That’s probably, maybe
cost me money but it’s given me joy. I think so many of us, myself included get swept up in the shiny object, the business idea, the advice from stage. I’m the person, the only reason that I’m not under a table is that I’m able to try something out and then reject it really quick. It sounds to me like you have the compass to be able to reject it from the
get go and decide what to do or not to do based on your life? Yeah, it’s a compliment. I think that’s the other thing too is you have to check – what’s the ego and what’s the heart? What’s the butcher philosophical approach to this? That’s another tweetable right there – is it ego or is it heart? There’s been a lot of times where I’m
like wow, my ego really loves this right now. They’re saying – you could do this and you could take this on and we want you and that does matter but it doesn’t matter more than those things, like these people that I committed to. It’s not just my children, it’s also my agents.
I committed to having this special resource and relationship with them. Adding on another 100 or 200 or 300 agents under my watch will diminish
those relationships, they will. There’s no way that I could be all places at once. I look at it like would you rather have a real high touch with fewer people
or a real little touch with a larger group of people? For me, I choose the first option. I’d rather have less people but just really tight relationships. Let’s talk about how you keep your eye on that ball. When things are overwhelming with 100 agents, that’s a lot of potential drama. When you feel and I don’t know, maybe you never do but when you feel overwhelmed,
there’s just more incoming than any human should have to deal with. How do
you get refocused or how do you keep center, what do you do? I have three coaches and people have asked us, I’ve been on panels and they’re like three coaches? I call them my sages. There are three women. They actually all serve a different domain. They actually deal with the different domains within me or the pillars of which make me, me and or of my own life. I go to them for that balance when I’m feeling like I’m doing too much in one area
versus another or I’m compromised on my decision making because of course we get
overwhelmed or we make wrong decisions and then we don’t know how to back out
of them. I say that personally whether it’s you made the wrong hire or you just did the wrong move, it just didn’t work out. I didn’t ask you this before but three coaches, are they three
different types of coaches? Ones a coach for what? Pure real estate. Nancy Gardner, forty years in the business. She’s brilliant, she’s tell it like it is. She’s out of the DC area. She is actually Red Oaks coach and I inherited
her. At first, I was like ah, this is your coach. She’s been amazing and she’s done a lot of work with me over the years and she
also works with my staff. She meets with my managers. I have her and we just talk
real estate industry related stuff. Then I have one that’s essentially a values coach. She works on keeping me and making sure that my
vision in life not just in business but in my marriage and my home and what I
want to accomplish is on track and that I’m in alignment. When I get out of alignment, she does like a tweak. She’s almost like a chiropractor. She’s actually a licensed therapist and she runs these music groups. She’s a cellist but she is also a
business coach and she works now with my organization but I worked with her
probably for five years with really deep, deep coaching. Then my third one is
part of my CEO group. I would say to anyone that is an owner
and a CEO of a business and they want to scale the business up or whatever it is, just making that investment. It’s a
group of different CEO’s that come together. We meet for about six hours, one
day a month as a group and then I do one-on-one coaching with the person that
runs that group. Is this real estate related or just CEO’s? I am the only real estate in there, they’re all CEO’s. One is in finance, we have a community person, there’s an attorney that’s running a big firm. She’s a former Deloitte partner so she has that
really very high-level, this stuff I hate doing – the business planning and
the chart making but she’s really good at getting all these thoughts in my head out onto paper with strategic plans. They all kind of pick
a different thing but that’s when I get overwhelmed or when I’m feeling that things are not jiving as much or maybe it’s
I’m hiring people or how they fit in the organization. I go to that group
because leaders and people that are in charge, they also need to check in. Nice to hear that it’s just not all the necessary fabulousness. No, not at all. I mean there were times when I just want to put my head in my hands and just downright cry but I have these people
that I really trust that are there supporting me at a really high level. You need that because, no offense but you can’t really go to the people that you’ve hired and be like wah wah. I think we all kind of know that we need to be outside of that because you’ve got to have different hats in different relationships and if
you screw up the hats, you screw up the relationship. Yes, it’s true and it is crazy. Some kind of rapid fire questions. What less than $100 tool, gadget, book, whatever has really made an improvement or an impact on your life or your business? There’s a few of them. One is my Kindle. I’m a massive, massive, massive reader. I love that they called it a Kindle because every time somebody says that I think they’re talking about
me. Kendyl who’s also pretty great. I think you’re probably more than $100. Anytime you want to go deep into something, you can just instantly buy it and it’s there and then you could take 100 different books with you when you travel. I read really fast so if I had to carry all them, I’d just be leaving them everywhere or having to buy them. I just feel like that way, I take it with me everywhere. It’s always in my
purse so if I have to get a car wash or whatever, I could read. It’s just there so I think it’s just one of those things, now granted it cost more than $100 once you
get it all full loaded but it’s a cheap little device that’s just
changed my world and I think maybe go kind of deeper. Two other big ones, I use this thing called Sun Basket. There are many of them out there but Sun
Basket is a little place where you can order all of your meals for the week and
they don’t come pre-made. I know this is ridiculous because we’re talking real estate but if you want to eat healthy and you still actually want the
joy of cooking. I like to have a glass of wine, turn my music on and cook.
I don’t want it showing up done, it just doesn’t feel as authentic. You pick them, they come in all the right amounts and then you just cut them and
cook a nice dinner. You could pick weeks in advance. You don’t have to go
food shopping, it shows up at your door. You don’t throw stuff away. It hits all my high values. I’m fixing on trying one of those and I haven’t done it yet. You need to. You get a coupon and I’ll send it to you and I get $9 off my next meal. I’ve been doing it for – I’m
going on 2 1/2, almost 3 years of using this service. I’d say the third thing which is huge
for any of you business owners is bill.com I was checking into that, it looks pretty sweet. It’s a game changer because I have all of my commission’s processed through that and I can literally just download it on the
app on my phone. You could just sign checks and automatically deposit into your
agents accounts. I’m sure there’s other apps like this but this one’s super easy
to use. The key thing goes to why I like it is two reasons. One, it’s good business
practice because you’re not signing blank checks. If you’re the only check signer, you’re not signing blank checks if you’re gonna be out of town or you’re gonna be in
meetings and leaving them out there. That’s a dangerous business move and
something will go wrong at some point so not a good idea. Secondly, I can go on
vacation and I can still get my agents paid from wherever I am. I just have to process that before the end of day and it makes me scan over and check my business and check what’s going on, check
who had a great sale but it gets deposited right into their account. It does not make me have to stay in town or stay at the office later because the checks weren’t in, all the commission’s weren’t there. No matter where I am, I can do it. I am listening to you and thinking someday I’m going to have so many checks to write that this is going to be a game changer. Yeah, you will. Even if it’s one or two. The truth is for these companies that are doing… we sometimes process 30 transactions in a day. You gotta be able to sign it. If it’s a big, big, big, big company it’s just a great way. I’ve done it on a boat in Mexico, I’ve done it where it’s still giving me control over that aspect of the business but I’m
not sitting behind a desk in the traditional way so that’s one of those
tech platforms that’s just been incredible. Okay, now I’m gonna dive into
Vanessa the kick-ass Broker/Owner who has grown this business so high. What advice do you give to smart driven new agents or agents who just want to
kick their business into another notch, what advice? I think that’s the one where I would say – you’ve got to get a Kindle, you’ve got to read. You’ve got to read and you’ve got to expose yourself to the industry. It’s sometimes really hard to get a client to trust in you if had you’ve had no prior production
but there is a wealth of industry sources. I remember when I got into this business I was told to sign up for several publications. Most of which
are gone but like the RISMedia, the CAR magazines, Inman News. These are
simple accounts and subscription fees where you can sign up and get all that
information of how top people are doing this. The local business times but just learn this business because there’s obviously the art of the
deal like the art of the transaction when you’re in there doing the sale but
there’s sometimes a long time before that comes. Go to the conference’s, go
surround yourself with really smart people, sit around those top producers
and in my office we have a very collaborative setting so everyone kind of talks and airs stuff out together. Don’t be ashamed of what
you don’t know, soak it up. I’m gonna ask you two super practical questions around
this. What is a really good book recommendation and what is your top
conference recommendation for a new agent? I still think Inman conferences are gonna be the best you could spend. By the way, Inman is coming up. I think there’s still tickets available. If you’re in the Bay Area where Vanessa is, you could even go to the BarCamp. I think that they’re having it on Monday? Yes. That’s in two weeks – July 17th (2018) is I think when it starts. When it starts, yeah. That gives you a huge, really big view of what’s going on in
the industry. It’s like a buffet – you can go to the marketing stuff, you can go to the transaction stuff. So much to do there and it’s a big full week of it and then the relationships. That’s where I met you. It’s who you meet there too. Technically, I met you
at CAR where I said on mike that I have a big crush on you but that’s okay. That was NAR. Oh, was it NAR? Yes. I think Inman is great for that and I also think it’s a great news publication, I just do. We do too. Just read it. Every day, there’s 20
articles. If you’re not out selling a house, start your morning with the 20
articles. It sounds like – go to the conference, the Inman conference
and it sounds like sign up for an Inman select subscription. Yeah, it’s dead cheap.
It’s like a $149 or something like that, it’s a write off. The stuff you learn because when you’re holding a Sunday open house or someone’s
coming in to you through a Zillow lead, if you can’t talk like you know the industry as
a brand new agent, you’re not gonna get any client to work with you.
That’s the thing is just learn about what happens in the
transaction. Great books – I love Katie Lance, her social media one – #GetSocialSmart. Yes, that’s a great book for how to get your feet wet in the industry and using social media for that. She makes it so easy. I’m a huge fan. I’ve
got every one in my company one of those books. Joe Rand’s new book – Disruptors, Discounters and Doubters… This one. I love it, Iove Joe. Even though he’s got a lawyers background, he writes so that
even I can understand what he’s talking about. I think it’s a great book, I could
go on and on, there are so many – I love anything by Brené Brown. I’ll throw in two of my own. I think that Larry
Kendall’s book Ninja Selling is an awesome book for just teaching you. I haven’t read that. Oh, it’s so good. It is so incredibly good for breaking down the process of maintaining your relationships and
becoming the Realtor of choice for the people that already know, like and trust
you. It’s a super fine book. I’m a little bit obsessed right now with Chris Voss – Never Split the Difference. I’ve been taking negotiation classes with him, real estate related and
it has turned some of my ideas 180 degrees in how to negotiate with
incredible respect for the person that you’re negotiating with and no sales bullshit
manipulation. Yeah, I would like that one too. They’re super fine. One last thing – what are the worst recommendations you hear out there for agents? I think the leads thing is a tough one. I agree that you need to
work your business and hire and get transactions which require individuals. I hate that they are called a lead and I hate when transactions are called deals. That vernacular has to change. That’s some of the stuff I loved in Joe’s book when he references sales people, that we call
ourselves salespeople because it’s so much bigger than that. When we refer to somebody buying a home in a community as a lead and I know that
that’s a sales term out there, I just think it’s really… If you’re brand new and you are starting to think leads, leads, leads, leads rather than what creates a real good business is looking
at them as humans and your clients who you will help get a house in a certain
community to live their life. It is much bigger than a lead and should never even
from the infancy of when that person comes into your life, ever be thought of
as a lead. It just sounds trashy. It’s like the beginning of a relationship that’s supposed to go somewhere and grow your business and
your sphere of influence and referrals and it starts here. I hate when it’s used
and I cringe at it. That’s one of them and I think also just this whole thing of like deals, deals, how many deals, deals when it’s so about volume. You can’t get to that much volume and really give service
and I think that there is an oxymoron with volume and service. If one goes up, one goes down so you’ve got to really look at how
are you servicing the clientele in a long term game here. Like chess, this is not just about one, two, three deals. I see the ones that do that in the business, they’re not here in ten years. It sounds like with an emphasis on relationships and with a relationship on
humaneness, it almost sounds like you’re not real big on mass quantities of
internet leads? No, we track where our business comes from. We
have a form called the PEI – it’s the preliminary escrow instructions and we
always track where did this client come from, we track the age group and how you knew them so we can kind of get an idea of where we’re putting our
marketing budget as a company and then just to see where the health of our
agents businesses are. It’s over 90% I think. I want to say it’s closer to 96% of our transactions are done through sphere of influence so
very, very minimal online advertising budget for leads. We advertise online. We have a digital presence, a big one but it is not just to generate leads. A matter of fact is we were building out our site recently, we were not sitting down with this idea of – oh, make it a lead side and make it super
sticky for leads. No, we want to make it a content, a place
to go about content with the community in which you want to live. To be fair, the Red Oak site has been that way since I’ve known you. It isn’t just the new site, it has always been about being the ambassador of the Oakland-
Berkeley area. It has always been about that. Even as the industry standard has become more and more leads, we’re like fine that’s great. We are not building a site that way. It’s not a dis on leads, it’s just not my value. I find that when we generate clientele purely
through those digital platforms, it’s probably been the hardest transactions.
On a whole, those are really where we will have a more difficult transaction
cause there is not a lot of trust and relationships and prior relationships
built with these people so it’s tougher. It sounds like when we bring it back to the original part of the question – the bad advice that you hear for agents, it almost sounds like what you’re saying is don’t invest
all of your basket and your money in these mass quantities of internet leads. I like to call it on the cotton candy wishes of internet leads, those empty calories. Your feeling that they should really invest in leaning
into the relationships of people they already know. Leaning into the
relationships so the relationship part and then leaning into the knowledge of
what it takes to be a good agent. Know your community, know your schools,
know your contracts. Be somebody that someone trusts because
they’re highly competent and that’s where my Kindle is my best friend because there’s so much information in there. Don’t spend your time paying an online lead generation to funnel all these leads. They come in droves, there’s barely any air or oxygen behind them and then you
have nothing to give them once they arrive. If you spend your time not
wasting your money here and educating yourself and becoming a really, really
good advocate and resource to a client. When that one comes, take care of
them. They will send another and they will send another and that’s the philosophy I would say I think is again, not everyone’s philosophy but that
is definitely mine and the company. My girl crush on you continues Vanessa. We’re really out of time. I am so grateful that you took an hour out of your incredibly busy day and I know that everything is crashing and burning all around you in Oakland but you are a calm oasis and you spent it
with us, thank you. I’m not known for being calm. Okay, all right that was a misnomer but you spent the time with us. It was a lovely hour, thank you. I appreciate it. Now go forth and be awesome. Love you! Thank you everybody for coming and staying tuned. Again, if you saw it on the recording, you can still put questions
down below. We’ll get them to Vanessa and I’ll get you the answers. Thanks guys. Bye.

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