Back in 1976 when I started Apple Computer with Steve Jobs, he used to constantly tell me “the modern corporation is like a crab.” He’d continue, “If the crab is achieving its goals—whether it’s eating fifteen small fish a day or singing a perfectly-tuned ‘Under the Sea’ in a Jamaican accent— then it’s going to grow and need a new shell.” Steve was right; and we were quickly growing out of my parents’ garage! Luck would have it that only a few days prior, we had received a call from a man purporting to be a “commercial real estate broker specializing in representing high-growth tech companies.” (He found us a flexible short-term sublease with a large tenant improvement allowance and even some free rent!) His charisma and professionalism made me realize something. I didn’t want to build world-changing technology; I wanted to be an office broker! The rest, as they say, is history.
Although my close pal Steve never came close to my level of success, he was onto something with his dumb little crab metaphor. Crabs, like companies, need a place to call home. But in a crab-eat-crab world like ours—fuck it— this metaphor is done.
We in the real estate world survive off commission. If eating regularly is something important to you, then you constantly need new clients. Doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, without clients, there is no job. Meaning put on your tailored suit, lease that BMW you can’t afford, and start hittin’ the phones, baby! We’re gonna get some business!
An old school broker would tell you, after a loud clear of the throat so you know how grizzled and experienced they are, “Now look here, buddy boy! Hit the phones all day, every day and don’t stop ‘til you get a goddamned meeting!”
I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to list: 1- cold call, 2- canvass, and so on. No matter what I write, I’m not exactly breaking any hard-hitting news here. I’m a cool, millennial broker, smoother than Justin Beiber’s hairless chest. I’m with the times. I’ll instead give you a guide that’s vague enough where you can’t refute its veracity, but specific enough where you’ll say to yourself “Ha! So true! Let me tag some of my friends in this!” 21st century America for ya.
1. Be likeable
As the French would say, le duh. This may be the most obvious tip I could possibly give, but it’s still worth saying. Unless you’re Martin Shkreli or Heidi & Spencer from The Hills, being likeable is an essential asset to your brand. Nobody wants to be stuck touring office space for hours with a pompous d-bag. To be sure, there are some unlikeable schlubs in commercial real estate. But either they’re savants who can draw an exact zoning map of LA County by memory or went to USC.
2. Stay true to yourself!
The cheesiest, most Disney BS I’ve ever uttered, but it’s true. Just because it works for Joe Schmo doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Señor Schmo may be a quick thinker with a voice like Morgan Freeman, so it’s a safe bet to assume he’s a solid cold caller. On the other hand, if you have a thick Boston accent and live in Miami, cold calling may not be your best bet. Nobody likes a Boston accent outside New England, unless you’re a Kennedy or Matt Damon, of course. Instead, canvassing or attending a boatload of networking events may prove more fruitful. You’re bound to find a Pats fan in South Florida somewhere! In short— be you and use whatever talents you have to get business.
3. Don’t be a weird drunk
This is the hard-hitting advice you won’t find in a Tony Robbins self-help book. When I say weird, I don’t mean saying slightly inappropriate jokes. Hell, I eat that shit up! I mean more along the lines of saying “your daughter’s hot” to the CFO of a company you’re chasing. We’re professionals, people, come on. Schmoozing over drinks with potential clients or colleagues is as a time-honored real estate tradition, so for your own sake, make sure you keep it tight. To use another unnecessary animal metaphor, always try to be the dog with the wagging tail, not the one dragging its ass on the carpet. (If you don’t drink, just cross out the words “a” and “drunk” and you’re set.)
4. Be a part of an organization
Like reading? Join a book club. Like riding loud motorcycles through residential streets? Fuck yourself! But then join a motorcycle gang; you might meet some cool people. Play golf? Well, my friend, you’ve hit the jackpot. Successful business folk love playing golf (arguably they love talking about playing golf even more, but that’s neither here nor there). Put yourself out there and meet some people! Nobody cares how you do it. Be authentic, make some friends, and money will start falling out of the sky like acid rain in Beijing!
5. Don’t write blog posts
You’ll never get business that way. Don’t try it. It’s stupid.
There you go. Vague, but slightly inspirational. Extremely arbitrary, but uplifting? Whatever. Real estate’s a people business, so just use some common sense and (hopefully) you’ll be fine. Just remember what my old pal Steve Jobs used to say, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Written by Tommy Adelson AKA “The Country Club Broker”
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