Welcome to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast where you’ll hear the good, the bad and the ugly of how real estate agents overcame challenges and grew their business. Check out the Episode Notes at CrushItinRE.com/podcast. Here’s your host, Lindsay Favazza.
Lindsay Favazza: Welcome to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast. I am Lindsay Favazza, your host, and I am here today with a good friend of mine, Lamacchia Realty agent, AJ Bruce. Welcome to the podcast, AJ.
AJ Bruce: Thank you for having me. I like that you called me your good friend. That makes me feel great.
Lindsay: I usually call you my bestie, but we don’t usually share that with everybody because we don’t want them to get mad.
AJ: You said it, not me, but I keep that a secret just so other people don’t get jealous.
Lindsay: Well, the secret is out. I have known AJ now for quite a few years. We just realized, actually, we both started the same year because I started 2016, so you were a couple of months after me. You came in with that whole group in Worcester and just were one of our agents that came in after the transition into the independent brokerage. You were in that initial group of agents that weren’t a part of the team, I guess, when we moved over.
It’s interesting to have seen your business grow. Tell me and start us back to before you are with Lamacchia. You did work for other brokerages.
AJ: I worked for one other, yes.
Lindsay: Take me back to that time, how you got into real estate, and how that whole transition happened to coming to Lamacchia.
AJ: I’d love to tell you the story. I had always been in the service industry; serving, bartending, doing stuff like that over the years. It was random how I got into real estate. It was just one day, me and another person had decided that we wanted to change and we decided to take our pre-licensing course and get licensed. Honestly, the rest is history. There was no-
Lindsay: What year was that?
AJ: That was back in 2014. Yes, 2014. Then, I got licensed, I believe it was still in 2014. I worked for one other brokerage and then, Lamacchia was the second place I was at. I have been here since and I don’t plan on leaving.
Lindsay: Well, you better not.
Lindsay: 2014, the market had obviously somewhat started to rebound, but it was still a little bit of a rough market back then.
Lindsay: When you started before you were at Lamacchia, how many sales were you doing? What was your-
AJ: None. I maybe did one sale and two rentals. I really didn’t do much business. There wasn’t really a lot of structure to it. It was figuring things out on your own.
Lindsay: No matter where you would be, it’s hard in those first couple years to get established.
Lindsay: 2017, I have written here, you had about 20 sales and then, 2018, you went to 30 sales, so a 50% increase which is amazing. Then 2019, you went up to 43 sales which is another 40% to 50% increase. You’re transactionally– you started to stay around the same. I know 2020 was a pandemic year and you sold 48 homes which is insanity. Then last year, there was a slight dip, but again, your volume was the same.
You’ve been very consistent now for at least the last four years and through this pandemic. Craziness. Tell me how you keep that consistency up. What do you do to keep things going?
AJ: I try to keep consistent habits. It definitely was a different ballgame when I first got involved in real estate. The market was much different. Right now, I was talking to a car salesman the other day and he said that there’s guys on the lot that work four or five hours and they go home and they think that it’s cake, they’re in for a rude awakening when the market switches. It changes a little bit because it is work.
I think it’s such a glorified job that people think that we just go out, and show a home, and make millions of dollars. It’s not that way.
Lindsay: The Selling Sunset’s and The Real Housewives and all of these things are just not helping the cause.
AJ: Yes. Right. I know.
Lindsay: They make it look so glamorous.
AJ: I’m waiting for them to start a new series, Selling Worcester, that I will be the Christine Quinn of that.
Lindsay: You will be the star.
AJ: Keep an eye out, people.
Lindsay: I love it.
AJ: Yes, it is. It is work. We all work very, very hard. I think that the smoke and mirrors makes people think that it’s just we’re out there driving Bentleys and making millions and sitting in the office whole day.
Lindsay: Closing deals left and right, yes.
AJ: That’s not how it goes. It’s interesting to see the change from when I first started when it was a much different market even back in ’14, ’15 to now. Things change all the time as we know, but it is. It’s just a completely completely different animal.
Lindsay: What does your day-to-day look right now? Tell me. You start your day, what do you do? How does your day evolve like a typical real estate day for you?
AJ: I wake up, I typically brush my teeth.
Lindsay: Sometimes, you’re just too busy.
AJ: Yes, in all seriousness, I try to keep a consistent schedule in getting up early. Not 4:00 AM like Anthony Lamacchia but I do get up earlier and I try to do the same thing. I log on to my computer, check my emails, get things sent out. I don’t text people too early in the morning, of course, because I don’t like when people do it to me. Just see what I have going on for the day and get a plan going, so as far as consistency with that goes, but just stuff around the house and whatnot.
I just feel like once I start getting going and doing productive things, it sets the day for me to continue being productive throughout. Without getting into too much detail of exactly what I do, I try to just do the same things or at least get something going early in the morning, so I have that mindset to want to stay busy throughout the day. When you’re lazy in the morning and you just sit back and say, “I’ll get to it. I’ll get to it,” procrastination is terrible because then, you’re procrastinating all the time.
Lindsay: All the time. It’s hard to get back into gear at that point.
AJ: Yes. With the pandemic, no one was in the office. It was honestly without a doubt over a year, probably closer to a year and a half that I really wasn’t in office. That’s not good for me because my ADD is so bad. I know a lot of people can relate that when I’m at home, people think it’s great to work from home, but for me, it’s not because I see a bag of chips and some cookies. Three hours later, I’m like, “Oh, I forgot to check my email,” or whatever the case is. Do you know what I mean?
Lindsay: Yes. It’s funny that you say that. Being in the offices before, where we were in the offices so consistently, even though I’m marketing, I would feel bad scrolling through Instagram during the day because I’m at my job. When you’re at home, it’s a little different. You find yourself, you’re like, “Crap, I just spent 15 minutes scrolling through Instagram. What am I doing with myself?”
AJ: I think I binged every show on Netflix.
AJ: The day gets away from you. It really does. It’s so easy to-
Lindsay: Be distracted.
AJ: -lose track of a schedule. For me, now that things are clearing up and it’s more common to see people out and in the offices, I like that because I tend to be in the office and I get more work done. I really do. It’s good to get back into a normal rhythm.
Lindsay: Where do you get most of your business from? Would you say it’s fear? Would you say it’s leads from the company? Would you say it’s referrals from your– Tell me where most of your business comes from.
AJ: Obviously, at first, I relied a lot on buyer-seller leads, whatever. I know a lot of people who are in real estate do struggle at first with showing yourself approved. While you think all your friends and family will go to you to sell your first few homes or whatever, it’s usually the complete opposite. As much as they love you, they don’t trust you. Until you show yourself approved, they’re not going to.
It was that, at first, more lead-based business, but now, almost all my business comes from people that I know, referrals, repeat business. I do still here and there deal with company leads, of course, but most of my business comes from my own sphere.
Lindsay: It’s smart to have those at-bats as we always call them. Just in case things get a little bit slow, you still have something to-
AJ: Yes, it keeps you in a rhythm, no question about it. I’m grateful that we do get those because they do help tenfold. Once you make a relationship with a client and they do respect you, trust you, fall in love with you in that sense, they’re going to use you again. I don’t look at it as, “Oh, you get a company lead and that’s one and done.” It’s like, “No, that can open up an entire web of other people that now becomes your sphere.”
Lindsay: I’m sure from the people that you had in 2017 and the 30 sales you had in 2018, some of those people were either referring or were repeat clients now for these other years.
AJ: 100%. Yes, and you got to take care of them. Anytime I get someone who sends me a referral, I always make sure that I send them something. It doesn’t matter what it is, but sending them something so that they know you appreciate it, they keep that in mind. When you’re top of mind for them when someone’s looking for a realtor, they know, “Hey, that’s right. You sent me something in the mail.” It’s good to stay consistent with that as well.
Lindsay: Absolutely. What are some of the marketing things that you do to stay in contact with people and stay top of mind?
AJ: Truthfully, I do need to get more consistent with that, but I do send out postcards. I try to get calendars out because I know a lot of people like to have those on their fridge and not-
Lindsay: Sports calendars.
AJ: Sports calendars.
Lindsay: End of the year calendar, all that stuff.
AJ: Yes. Whatever it may be, sales growth calendars, every recap of the year, it’s just good to stay top of mind. Back to when I was a kid and growing up in wherever and I would always get postcards in the mail of so and so realtor from wherever, I knew all of them. I grew up in a smaller town, but I knew who those people were and I still, to this day, remember when they would send those calendars.
I know it makes a difference. It’s really important to do that. Social media is a huge thing I use. I know everyone has mixed opinions on how they use social media. I always learned and I’m a firm believer that I try to do a good mix of personal life and business because I don’t want to be that person that people remove because it’s everything you post is a graph and a calendar of the market.
I, of course, post my accolades. I post my sales. I want people to know that I’m in real estate but I don’t want to make it all I do. I want them to know that I have a life outside that and that I am still AJ Bruce. I try to be funny. I try to be fun. I post stupid things, but that’s, I think, what keeps people engaged.
Lindsay: At the end of the day, they’re going to work with you, because they like you. It’s less about how many homes. I mean, obviously you have the homes to back it up too, but it’s they want to actually spend time with you, so if you’re not posting the things that show who you are as a person, then they’re not going to get to know you, and want to work with you.
AJ: I know, and that’s the best part about working with people you know. It gives you a chance to hang out with them. The people that I do associate with, I actually love everyone I associate with, so it’s fun for me too. It really is.
Lindsay: Yes. You become friends. I mean, this is a big deal, what you guys do. It’s a big deal to be helping them buy or sell their biggest assets.
AJ: Oh, 100%. It’s funny to say that.
Lindsay: You become very personal with a lot of these people.
AJ: You do. It’s funny for my brother, when he was still alive, had worked for a funeral home, and I had worked there from time to time too for a little while. I almost related to that in the sense that when I had worked there for a while, every family that came through I felt myself trying to hold back tears, and I got very emotional, and over time, I got very used to working around funerals.
I get almost desensitized to the fact that even though I’m not directly related to these people, they’re going through such a difficult time in their life, and I had to sympathize. When you start working in real estate for an extended amount of time, to us, it becomes just a job in the sense that we’re used to drafting offers, sending-
Lindsay: The stress of this job, yes.
AJ: Every day, and it’s-
Lindsay: Of the process in general.
AJ: Yes. You get to a point where you do become desensitized. I use that word again, but you got to take a step back and say, “This person is about to spend $0.5 million, $1 million,” whatever the amount may be, “and it’s a huge deal.” While for us it’s just another day on the job, they’re spending and making possibly the biggest purchase of their life and you really need to take a step back and realize how big it is to them, and try and be more sympathetic. I find myself having to reel it back in and do that quite often.
Moderator: Let’s take a quick break and hear from Dave Karoly, the master of objection handling, as he teaches you how to overcome buyer and seller concerns.
Dave Karoly: A lot of times, especially with this year, sellers are getting ready to prepare their home. A lot of people are getting those questions of, “Well, yes I’m going to be listing, I’m going to be working with you, I promise, but I want to wait till some of that work gets done.” We all know, sometimes with great intentions, those people don’t end up reaching back out to you.
They hear from somebody else, they find a buyer directly. A lot of things can happen in that interim of, “Oh yes, we’ll be working with you. Don’t worry about it,” until the time that it actually comes to list the home. When someone tells me that, a great line I’ve always used is, “If we could find a buyer that was willing to pay your price, close on your terms, close once the school year’s over, and maybe you didn’t even need to do that work, would you want to know about it?”
Just because we agree to work together doesn’t mean a sign instantly goes in your yard and your home instantly goes on all those websites. That’s only when you’re ready, but with the database of buyers I have, it’s certainly a lot, and all the buyers my company is working, there’s a potential that that might happen. You could avoid the headaches of an open house. You could avoid the headaches of the nosy neighbors and the tire kickers.
You could avoid the headaches of having a ton of people come through your home. Now, I can’t promise there’d be a margin. Maybe you wouldn’t even want to entertain those showings or entertain those , but also the more time we have to get prepared, like anything, the better your home’s going to present when the time comes.
Moderator: Thanks Dave. Now, let’s get back to the show.
Lindsay: You have to be more sympathetic, but then I’ve also heard people say that sometimes, they almost feel like they get too involved, or they feel like they’ve now taken on some of the stress of the clients.
AJ: Lose balance.
Lindsay: Yes. How do you strike that balance where you’re not trying to keep the line, but at the same time, not let it affect you and let you lose sleep over their stresses?
AJ: Yes. I think it’s just setting expectations from the start, because when expectations aren’t met, that’s really when controversy comes, so from the beginning when you make it clear that this is business, and there’s a division between me as your realtor, and then you have your lender, your attorney. Dividing that up and having a team to back you up in that, makes things easier tenfold.
Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of things in real estate that you have to crack down and be the bad guy with things, but when someone else can do it or when there’s something that you can diverge to someone else, it helps. When they realize that at the end of the day this is still business, it becomes easier in that sense I find.
Lindsay: Let’s pivot for a second-
Lindsay: -and talk to me a little bit about some of the things that you’ve struggled with over your career, personal or professional that have helped you get to where you are at, and where you’re at with your business now.
AJ: Yes. As of more recently, I would say the biggest change in my life has happened within the past few months honestly. It’s not something that everyone knows about me, but I have struggled over the years with drinking and other struggles, but it has changed drastically as of recently. Thank you to many a people, but to see things from a more clear standpoint.
I look back over the past now going on six or seven years in real estate, even when I thought I was doing my best, I now realize I really had so much more in me. It’s very easy to get clouded and anyone else out there who has struggled with something similar, it’s so easy to pick up a drink or whatever it is to drown things away and not think about it, but one thing I can say is when you wake up the next day, those things are there.
Lindsay: Still there.
AJ: Dealing with those things on top of the anxiety, and guilt, and shame of those other issues, makes things 100 times worse. I really have just found that there’s no part of me that wants anything to do with that, and it really has changed my life. This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. This is-
Lindsay: You seem that.
AJ: Thank you. This is the most driven I’ve ever been to do things, and help people. Whether that be help people with their own struggles, I love to do that. It makes me feel this amazing sense of just happiness. Even the people who are probably like, “AJ, we don’t want your help. Like settle down, buddy,” I want to help them. I’m like, “Buddy, can I help you?”
Lindsay: When they are ready I’m sure.
AJ: Yes, exactly. It’s got to be when people are ready, but I just have this overwhelming sense of wanting to help people. That goes into of course real estate as well. My mind has totally changed and it’s become not so much about me and what things look like and what I’m doing for business. It’s when you change that focus to really– does everyone personally come first? Yes. You’re your own biggest fan.
You have to worry about yourself first, but once you figure out why you’re doing the things you do, and having that in you and wanting to help other people, everything changes.
Lindsay: It’s just being a better version of you, right?
Lindsay: When you take some of those things out that you’re struggling with, now you could be better person for yourself, and you can be better person for everybody in your life including your clients too.
AJ: 100%. There’s a quote that I always think back to, and it’s, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
AJ: I always repeat that to myself, because it’s so true, because it’s all about mindset. I can look at something that wasn’t the best situation negatively or I can turn it into a positive and a learning experience. Really, if you take that quote and you break it down and you repeat it, it makes sense. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. It’s so true, because it’s really just how you take something and form it into what you need to form it into.
Lindsay: I can’t wait to see how your life changes moving forward too, because without all that energy that you were spending before on the things that you shouldn’t-
AJ: I have so much energy.
Lindsay: There’s so much energy that’s
AJ: Like let’s get on a plane and go to Vegas.
Lindsay: Let’s do it, right? Then now, a lot of that too will transfer into more sales even though that’s not necessarily your focus, it’s just going to happen, because you have more to give. Then you’re going to have more people that are going to gravitate to you. I’m excited for you, my friend.
AJ: Thank you.
Lindsay: I think it’s going to be amazing. I really appreciate you sharing that, because I guarantee there’s someone who’s going to listen to this regardless of if they’re a real estate agent or not-
Lindsay: -that would sit there and go, “You know what? It’s really bold of you to share it. It’s really courageous.” Then on top of that like. “If he can do it, I can do it.” That’s really why you share.
AJ: There is. There’s a lot of blurred lines with it. I encourage anyone who is struggling, and is comfortable with it, to reach out to me, because I’d love to talk to anyone about it, but it is at your own time like you said. Anyone has to be willing to make the change, but it does make a difference. Even sitting there doing 48 transactions, close to 50 deals a year you think that things are great and you’re like, “Oh, how much better could it get? I’m okay with passing deals off to other people, because I don’t want to take more on.”
You become lazy in a sense. It’s crazy to think that I found lazy doing almost 50 transactions, but I could have done more in the sense that I was not meeting my full potential. It’s changed my life, and it’s different for everyone, but that has absolutely changed my life 100%.
Lindsay: It might explain a little bit of why there was a little bit of a step back last year, because there was some regrowth happening for you-
Lindsay: -as far as just your personal life and all of that, but I can’t wait to see what you do next, because I know the future is so bright, and it’s going to be fun to watch.
AJ: Maybe I’ll get married, have some kids.
Lindsay: I love it. The world-
AJ: Don’t see that happening, but–
Lindsay: -is yours
Lindsay: Tell me before we finish it off, I want to hear from you what advice you would give to someone who’s maybe been in the business just like you for five, six years now that have been really actively selling five or six years that are maybe not at the level that you’re at. That are maybe still sitting around that 20 deal a year mark. What kind of advice would you give to that person to get above that mark?
AJ: That’s a great question. Everyone’s so different, but to me, the best advice I can give is just really find what makes you happy, because once you are happy, it transitions and goes out to everyone else. It really does. It’s the law of attraction when people notice that you’re happy that you’re successful, they want that too. It gives them the urge to dig down and find what makes them happy. I know that sounds cliché, but I think that once you’re happy with yourself and what you’re doing, things just fall into place.
That doesn’t mean you just act happy every day, and then you’re going to start doing great in business and whatnot. You have to truly be happy. Of course, consistency too. Staying consistent with everything you’re doing is really what I can say.
If you’re not at where you want to be, as far as sales and all that goes, you just got to try new things because what may work for me, may not work for someone else. I have a very unique way of interacting with people and it works for me, but some people may not find that that would work for them. Everyone’s different personality wise too, so not everything is consistent. For me, I would say really just finding what makes you happy because it’s noticeable to everyone and makes people want to be around you.
Lindsay: It’s that law of attraction, it’s going to attract more things, more happy things to you.
Lindsay: It goes back to that quote that you said about when you look at things differently. You can look at the 20 sales and think, “Wow, like 20 sales is not where I want to be.” You can look at it and say, “You know what? 20 sales, when I first started, I should be proud of that.”
Then now you can maybe break through that line of like, “Okay, if I’m comfortable with what that 20 sales is, if I just maybe make some shifts in my business to do things just slightly different, then maybe I will start to attract more and more of this.”
AJ: 100%. It happens. When you’re fogged up by other things at the time that you think are going to help you and take it away, you don’t think of that but once you do put that aside, you realize that it actually does start to fall in place. Everyone gets in their own head. I still do it to this day. I try my best not to, but when you’re in your own head and this is never going to work out. I’m never going to be doing business like so and so, this top producer, absolutely can.
Guys, anyone listening out there that has been in those big crowds where they’re like, “I love seeing these people up on stage. I want to be one of them,” but you had that feeling but I’m never going to be up there. It’s nice to see this.
Lindsay: You were up up there.
AJ: Well, but again, I was that person that sat there and thought that, and I just made changes and tweaked things until it works for me and it really is. I don’t like to sit there and say, “Oh, it’s possible for everyone,” because I know that sounds annoying, but it really is. It’s just a matter of finding out what works for you. Once you find tour niche, your groove, things really will just start to fall in place.
Lindsay: One of the things is getting more training and listening to other people, which is why we do this podcast. It sounds like I’m trying to promote the podcast, but like, it’s true. This is why I do it because I think that just someone listening to you, now they can do a little bit extra or someone listening to any of the other guests that we’ve had. It’s something’s going to trigger in their mind and they’re going to be able to do more business and have a better life and all of those things happen.
AJ: Just like you need food and water to live, you need training and you need constant reminders of what you need to be doing because if we didn’t do these weekly, daily, all these reminders, we wouldn’t do it. We really wouldn’t. Some people have enough discipline to really strap down and do that. I know that I don’t.
Lindsay: Good for them.
AJ: Good for them.
Lindsay: Most people don’t.
AJ: I need that constant reminder. It helps me. I think that’s why it’s so great that we offer that because at least, even if I don’t want to do it someday, I’m like, “but I need to,” and you do it. Just like brushing your teeth, it’s better done daily.
Lindsay: AJ, do it every day, all right?
AJ: Just like showering, it’s done better daily.
Lindsay: Well, again, thank you so much for being so honest, for being so open with the audience. I really appreciate you spending the time today with me and doing this.
AJ: It was a pleasure.
Lindsay: Let’s go get lunch, my friend.
AJ: Let’s go get lunch. Thank you for listening. Appreciate it.
Lindsay: Thanks everybody for listening. We appreciate you and we will see you on the next episode of Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate.
Thanks for joining us on the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast. We hope you’ve learned some valuable takeaways. Be sure to take action and grow your business. You can check out the Episode Notes and more content from the show at CrushitinRE.com/podcast. And if you’d like this episode, and you’d like to hear more stories, please share with others, post on social media or leave a rating or review. To catch all the latest from Anthony you can follow him on Instagram at Crush It In Real Estate on Facebook and YouTube. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time.