I have also had over 40 agency principals visit my office during the same time, including 30 in early April from Robert Bevan's Best Practice Study tour, who were on the same journey.
What I have learned from both sides of the fence is that everyone is looking down the barrel of some significant changes in the way they do business in the coming few years.
The common theme is that real estate as we know it is being redefined before our very eyes with some radical views being expressed as to what the future looks like.
Some traditions are slowly dying while the fundamentals are as strong as ever, but they are being finessed and adapted to modern communications and are driven by a far more sophisticated consumer who has high expectations.
Feedback from my visits has been wide and varied as to what the future looks like but the common theme is that there is nowhere to hide anymore for the lazy agent.
So what are the predictions and how will our businesses look in 2014 and beyond?
- Unless you understand why you do what you do and unless you can put your goals and commitments into an accountable action plan, then you will never reach your full potential.
- If agents are not clear on the impact/impression they leave with people, their reputation will suffer, and with the improvements in agent service and client care that are currently evident there will be a lot of dinosaurs of all ages wandering around wondering what happened to the "game" they were in.
- The environment of our client/customer connections has changed; transparency is not only desired, it is expected. Audit trails, compliance, communications, it's all accessible and traceable…there's nowhere to hide.
- Current, relevant local information transference on an individual needs basis will be paramount, agents will need to be really aware of both their clients' and customers' needs and deliver appropriately.
- Digital marketing is becoming far more sophisticated and easily accessible from all platforms, and the near future will be a consumer needs/desires-driven agenda. Pull style marketing versus push will find new platforms to work with in varied demographic styles.
- Communities'/neighbourhoods' and the agents' participation/visibility therein is building greater trust, and with the growth of social media interest groups and rating sites it will leave nowhere to hide for the unprofessional agent.
- Physical visibility as well as a strong perception of brand awareness in the marketplace backed up by strong digital presence is just as important as ever, and it's where you are judged. Print media is still alive and well.
- The best agents are realising the value of their time/expertise matrix and are leveraging their strengths and delegating their weaknesses to associates/assistants in the super team format that is leading to unparalleled performance.
- Property agents versus real estate agents, the property industry is broadening its horizons with multifaceted profit centres being built into successful businesses. The question is being asked if real estate is a term for the 21st century.
- Property professionals are doing more high-quality training than ever before and yet at the same time the regulatory licensing requirements have never been so low. This will change through REI's and property professionals forcing improved standards and higher level qualifications to hold a licence and retain it.
- The best agents' business premises are now places that clients are encouraged to visit and hold meetings at, with some serious investment being injected into long-term premises plans.
- The visible shopfront has also made a comeback, as well as purpose-built premises for business growth. Growth and improvement are a common language with progressive agents who do not rest on their laurels.
- Multi-partnered businesses and equity participation will strengthen established businesses with less reliance on a single leader, allowing all partners to play to their strengths, be it in sales, management, HR, marketing, operations, training or leadership.
- Big versus small, there will be room for both, but in between is where the problems may lay. Economies of scale work at both ends, but the traditional five to 10 people operation may have to look to the franchise system to find its solutions in a highly competitive and visible marketplace.
All of the above will never change one fundamental - we are in a people business and people being both our client/customer and the people in our teams will always be what it's about, and the culture that a real estate business creates around this will be first and foremost how business in done.