Are You Solving Problems?

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Anthony: Are you solving problems? Are you solving problems for other people? Are you providing a service or a product that solves some kind of problem for others? If you’re not, you don’t really have a business. Think about that. In business, no matter what the business is, look at Amazon, look at a hospital, look at a car dealership. Every one of them solves a problem for other people. You need to order something, you don’t want to go to the store, and what do you do? I’m sorry. You pick the phone up, you put an order in, and you order what you want, and it gets delivered to your home.

You need a new car, you go to the car dealership, they sell you a car. Stay with me, stay with me. The reason I’m explaining this is, and the reason is top-of-mind with me, is the other night, I was driving to Home Depot with my oldest son who’s almost 11. We were talking to a realtor at another company. We were discussing business and discussing things and that realtor was so open and honest about the areas of the business that’s a weakness for them. I explained to them that we have a service that solves that. I’m not going to get into the details, I’m not here to do an advertisement.

We hung the phone up and my son says to me, “Dad, I just heard that, why doesn’t he just do that?” I said, “Well, Mason, to put in place what we’ve put in place, to put it in place as a single agent for yourself, is a gargantuan amount of work. It’s very expensive.” I don’t think I said, gargantuan, I think I said, a lot of work. He said, “Oh, okay. Did you solve that? Did you have that when it was just you?” I said, “No.” I said, “BAs we’ve grown and we’ve scaled, we’ve identified ways through staff and technology and blah, blah, blah, to solve this specific issue that realtors tend to have.” Then, we got talking on this short ride to Home Depot up the street.

I was explaining to him that if you’re not solving someone else’s problem, you don’t really have a business. Then, I went on to explain to him how in the last five or six years, because the market has gotten so incredibly busy and sales have been so hot, the real estate business has really changed. There was a time, years ago, where some of the captains of our industry, some of the legends that have been around forever, like Dave Liniger of RE/MAX. Gary Keller, I would say is another one, that they were innovating and when they came onto the stage, they were new and they were solving problems.

I’m not saying that those companies don’t solve some problems now, this isn’t a shot at them. What I’m getting at is, in the last four or five years, and those two guys would agree with me. It’s turned into, “How much commission can we give away? Maybe we can give a bonus and then, we can get people to sign a contract and stay with us.” There’s certain companies that are doing that like crazy. I’m literally explaining this to my son and I was saying, “Listen, when you have a company, if you’re not solving someone else’s problem, the retention, the business, keeping that customer becomes next to impossible. They can go to the next place and get better service, better product, whatever it is. When you’re truly solving other people’s problems, other people’s struggles, other people’s needs. Now, they have a need for you. Now, you’re necessary.”

What I’ve seen a lot of, especially in the last three years, is companies giving people some money. “Hey, come here, join our company. Here’s a sign-on bonus, here’s some money to stay with us.” They call it stay bonuses at some companies. I kind of laugh because I say they’re doing that because they don’t have other things that are solving people’s problems. Some of you will listen and some of you have gotten those bonuses and you might think this is a direct shot at you, but it’s really not, or your company, it’s really not. It’s just me explaining business.

Amazon is actually not the cheapest with every single product, but they have identified how to solve the problem and solve the need. I should say, fill the need so well for the consumer that they don’t need to be the cheapest anymore, because they’ve done such a good job. They’ve identified their market, they’re very good to their market, they make it very convenient. Now, their market is what? I don’t know, 60% of the world or some crazy number of the country. What I’m getting at is you have to think about your business. What are you doing for your buyers, for your sellers?

If you’re a team leader, if you’re a broker owner, what are you doing for your realtors that is making it so that you’re solving their problems, you’re filling a void, you’re filling a need? If you’re not doing that and doing something different, then you’re kind of making yourself like everyone else. Not kind of, you’re making yourself like everyone else. When we came up with our Offer Now program, a year and a half ago, two years ago. That’s a program where, if someone doesn’t want to list their home, we’ll buy it. Of course, some people say, “There’s a discount?” Yes, in most cases, there’s a discount.

Well, when you’re trading your car, it’s super convenient and the dealership often buys it at a discount. That’s business. What did we do there? We solve the problem, we fill the void, we fill the need for people who don’t want to bother listing because they don’t want to deal with showings. All of a sudden, that’s looking pretty good. The point I’m getting at is, when you think about your business, if you really want to have a business that people depend on, look at Dunkin’ Donuts, look at Starbucks. If my wife doesn’t drink coffee by 11:00 AM, she gets a headache. I don’t drink coffee, thank God, but she gets a headache if she doesn’t drink coffee by 11:00 AM. Talk about filling a need, talk about solving a problem. That’s a business. That is a business.

You have to think about those kinds of things. I asked our whole management team a month ago, a month and a half ago, to watch an hour and 53 minutes segment on the Bezos reign it’s called, of Amazon. I’ve listened to it or watched it literally probably eight times since then. I asked the management team to watch it and give me a one-page write-up on their thoughts of it. What they think we’re doing like Amazon, what they think we could do better to be more like Amazon. It was interesting to me, that half of the management team said, if they raised the Prime membership, they would pay it because they’re so dependent on it.

Bingo, that’s a problem solver. That is a differentiator, that’s filling a need, filling a void. If you don’t do that with your business, your business won’t be sustainable. You can’t put yourself in a position where the only way that you can retain customers is to give them money. Can you imagine going to Starbucks, “Hi, good morning. Here’s $15, sign this contract that you’ll buy coffee from us for the next six months.” It’s insanity. This is happening more and more and more. This is because there’s been some disruptors with venture capital money or investment money from certain countries overseas that has started this.

The point is, if you provide value, that is the sum of everything I’m talking about. If you provide value, if you provide enough to make a customer dependent, the customer won’t leave you. In the realtor space, the realtor is somewhat of the customer of the brokerage. Different dynamics, a little bit different of a relationship. I like to call it a partnership, I’m careful not to say the customer but in many ways, you could say that. We, as a brokerage, do all we can to provide products, services and tools to keep agents happy, keep them with us, solve their problems, handle their needs and provide value.

We don’t need people to sign term agreements and they promise to stay here for three years and all this stuff. Obviously, in acquisitions, if there’s real estate acquired and things, you might have something like that in a one-off case. By and large, that’s not something we participate in. Years ago, I did it and in the last year, I said, “What the hell do I need these contracts for? I don’t want people here if they don’t want to be here.” You don’t want to be here, go. Go somewhere else. I’d love to have you here, I don’t want you to leave. My attitude is certainly not, “Hey, leave,” but my attitude is also, like, “If we’re not good enough to keep people here on our own merits because of what we provide, then we have a much larger problem.

If we’re solving their problem, they’re going to stay with us. That was the conversation I have with my son Mason, I wanted to share with you all. I meant to share it yesterday morning, I didn’t have time. I hope that you all get something out of it and I hope that you think about it, and you’ll let me know your thoughts. Comment, go ahead. If there’s haters there that are mad that I mentioned stay bonuses and sign-on bonuses, bring your hate in the comments. I don’t care. I think it’s a point of weakness. We don’t do it at our company and we don’t need to. If we ever got to the point that we thought we needed to, we would add to our value, not give away money.

If you have to give away money, that’s a problem. You’re lacking value. You know what I mean? In any event, I hope that makes sense and I hope you all have a great day. I need to eat breakfast. I just went for a long run and I got to eat. Thanks everyone. Have a good day.