Here’s what I wrote up and shared with my own team. I thought it may be valuable to share it with you as well. Maybe this serves as a playbook for your team, or maybe you want to use it to frame a message to your teammates. I’m not sure if I have all of the right answers here, but I believe they are the right answers for my team at this time. Be prepared: VERY LONG POST/EMAIL
I’d like to share with you how I believe we should approach the coming weeks/months in light of the virus and its impact on our respective businesses.
First and foremost, while it is not my intention to share with you my opinion and personal beliefs around the virus and its potential ramifications (please call me though if you want to discuss this!), I think it is important to set a “baseline” that we can all agree upon and from which we can make decisions. I believe we can all agree on the following:
- This situation is far from over and will worsen in the coming days and weeks. It must be taken seriously.
- Our health and the health of those we love and care for is incredibly important. Some individuals are at greater risk than others.
- The way we conduct business must temporarily if not permanently change.
I want to briefly discuss #1 and #2 but focus the attention of this email on #3. This is not to diminish the importance of #1 and #2 but to instead spend more time on an area I believe I am more qualified to discuss.
As for the situation and how it could impact you, there’s not a ton I can tell you that you have not already read or heard. If you are not reading or listening, please start now. There is absolutely no good reason to not be informed and knowledgeable about what is occurring in the world right now, for your sake, for your family’s sake, and for the sake of your business. Please do not bury your head in the sand and hope this all goes away. Instead, arm yourself with information and make better decisions as a result. As it pertains to your health, I have included a list of “Mitigation Measures for COVID-19” at the bottom of this email. I find this list to be comprehensive and valuable. Maybe you find value in it as well.
All that said, let’s turn our focus on our businesses – your personal business as well as our team’s business. The goal here is to outline our plan, share the vision, and make certain we are all on the same page. We will get through this together, and we will be stronger because of it. I promise you this. Having constructed our team during the last economic downturn, when each day was fraught with new challenges (and opportunities) and when fear was a dominant emotion for many, we not just survived but thrived. More importantly, we helped so many people make more informed decisions around their real estate wealth. This is where I think we “do our part” in overcoming today’s challenges. We MUST continue to not just conduct but grow our businesses. We must truly help our clients and prospects make informed decisions. If we do not do it, someone else will…and that someone else will not be as educated and informed as us.
Here is our plan of attack.
#1. We’ll become insanely focused on expense management. This first starts at home! Now is the time to cut any excess spending. The monthly memberships that you are not really using, the subscription services that you can do without, the cable bill, the meals out, the spring wardrobe updating, the car payment, the babysitter, etc. Will life potentially become more challenging as a result? Maybe. But maybe this is also a great opportunity to spend more quality time with certain people, or to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to get to, or to set aside that cash that you’ve been wanting to save. Set a goal on this – for example, cutting 20% of my discretionary spending. And then go after it.
As for our business expenses…
- Categorize all business expenses by “necessity” – (A) We can do without it, (B) We’d prefer to keep it but can cut it if absolutely necessary, (C) This is important to our success (D). This is absolutely required. We will be eliminating all (A) items in the next 48 hours. And we will likely be moving to (B) items later in the week depending on what transpires. We’ll move to (C) and even (D) items if deals cancel, the market significantly changes, and/or production wanes. In combination with the categorization of our expenses, we’ll be performing an ROI analysis on all expenses, particularly those associated with lead generation. We will cut all expenses that do not produce a 4x return or greater.
- We will be reviewing all fixed expenses first, and look for ways to make them variable (i.e. increase or decrease with production) if possible. We will also evaluate our expenses and see what can be bartered for or done in trade.
- We will review our company credit card as well as our bank account statements, going line by line and searching for opportunities to cut.
- We will cut our supply orders and office food/snack order.
NOTE: While the actions noted above will have a positive impact on our business, please recognize that many of these decisions will have an adverse impact on our vendors and other small businesses. I do not take this lightly. As a matter of fact, I have lost a fair amount of sleep just thinking around it. That said, we must take care of our business and protect its profit first before we can help protect the profits of our peers. It’s like the instructions given on an airplane (your mask first before placing the mask on others).
#2. We will increase our service offerings, provide more value than we ever have before, and incorporate technology to a greater extent. We’ve spent a lot of time over the past 6 months talking around how we, as Realtors, must truly become the center of the transaction and the conduit to all things real estate and beyond. Double down on this approach. Further, we will increase our menu of services and will do “whatever it takes” to aid our clients in solving their problems – leverage our moving truck, create more convenience, solve more problems, make more introductions…truly aim to bring more comfort and stability to our clients who were already dealing with an emotional experience (the buying or selling of a home!)
The cash offer (from me, as an investor, and/or iBuyers) must become more of a focal point as many will likely want the security of the offer in addition to the convenience and efficiency they’ve been craving before the virus. Keep in mind though that the cash offers will likely not be as strong as they were just a few weeks ago. The uncertainty of the market will prompt iBuyers and others to be even more conservative.
In addition, there is a good chance that short sales and foreclosures will rise as I anticipate an increase in unemployment, a decrease in wages, and stagnant appreciation. For someone that recently purchased a home (past 12 months or so), this is a potentially dire recipe. We must prepare for this and we will start educating (or re-educating) our team members about these topics.
It is time we begin to incorporate more technology into our practices, starting with Virtual Listing/Buyer Presentations as well as Virtual Open Houses. We are mapping this out right now and it will be a topic we begin training on immediately.
#3. Double our lead generation efforts for listings, triple our conversion to (virtual) appointments, and master the conversations of the moment. Two and a half hours has been our lead gen standard. We must increase our efforts here, and we’ll discuss what this looks like tomorrow. Contact rates will likely be higher and conversations more powerful. I think that more prospects than usual will want to better understand their properties, what we are seeing in the market, what opportunities exist, etc. And I wholeheartedly believe that it is our duty, as real estate professionals, to help them navigate the times. 10x your dial time, your contacts, your adds to the database, and your follow up. When our competition is hanging it up for the next month or two to “see how this all plays out” we will be there working harder than ever. Remember, he or she that controls the listings wins the business war. We MUST take more listings.
Create more relationships by driving to more appointments. I recognize that, right now, face to face appointments will and should be limited. However, introduce Zoom. If you’ve ever wanted to test out virtual listing/buyer meetings, now is the time. Most all people will be open to this whereas, before, they would have been reluctant to try. Remember, the more intimate the interaction the higher the rate of success. Virtual face to face is more intimate than a phone conversation. Drive to it.
Many prospects and clients will want to know what’s going on and if they should be worried. Here is what we know right now –
- Mortgage rates are at historical lows. Never in history have we had the opportunity to buy as much house for as little a financing cost as we do today.
- We still have incredibly low supply, which means sellers are in control. Multiple offers, price wars, and little to no market time are still the norm. Buyer demand is still increasing and supply is still falling. This leads to even higher prices.
Buyers and sellers should make decisions on what they know right now – the cards that have been dealt. I do not believe this is a time for speculation and guessing.
That said, I believe that things will change in that the buyers will be only those that truly need to buy. And sellers will only those that must sell today. Be prepared for this conversation. If someone does not need to take action today, that is great. As a matter of fact, that may be the best advice for them depending on their specific situation. Your job is to discuss their options with them and help them make the most informed decision possible. And if waiting makes sense, commit to a follow-up plan such that you are there for them when the time is right. Build a stronger pipeline than you ever have before and when the dust settles you’ll be happy that you did.
Lastly, as it pertains to the messaging to and conversations with prospects and clients – know that Natasha and I are more than willing to jump in wherever necessary. Leverage your team to its fullest. If we can help you reassure a worried client or navigate a client through a difficult decision, bring us into the conversation. We both experienced 2007-2011 and are able to compliment you in many ways. Just ask. It’s all hands on deck for the foreseeable future.
#4. We’ll incorporate and practice the following:
- We’ll communicate with our clients more frequently and increase our visibility. Get out there and be heard. Own the situation and do not let the situation own you.
- We’ll also have an open-door policy and communicate (and educate) with our team more often. As a matter of fact, Natasha, Kate, and I will be in the bullpen at all times except during certain calls and/or meetings.
- We are going to increase our training efforts around current events – our kickoff meetings will all include conversations on the state of the industry, the events/guidance of the day, and the general themes that we currently present.
- We will continue to evaluate if working virtually for all of us makes more sense. At this time, I believe we are better together than we are apart, but that could change rather abruptly. We’ll make this decision together.
- If your kids are out of school and you do not have options for them at home, bring them to the office. We’ll set up a place (maybe even my office) for them to hang out, watch TV, etc.
- We are going to INCREASE our talent recruiting efforts. Our peers will be worried, maybe even scared, about what the future holds. We can help them formulate a plan, thrive in this environment, and bring confidence to their worlds. If Kate should be talking with someone, please connect her ASAP.
There’s no doubt that we are in trying times. We will persevere. We will set the tone for our families, teammates, and communities. Because that’s what leaders and pro’s do.
As referenced above:
Mitigation measures for COVID-19
- Support your schools’ decisions to close: Proactive school closings save more lives than reactive school closings. Your schools should close now … before infections are present. Closed schools do not mean playdates for children – this counteracts the social distancing the school closures are meant to create in the first place.
- 6 feet: The COVID-19 virus spreads through droplets. They can move 6 feet before gravity brings them to earth. Stay 6 feet away from people if you need to go outside.
- Meticulous hand washing: Wash thoroughly and wash often. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer works well if your hands are otherwise clean.
- Do not touch your face. This is hard. This is a learned skill: Practice often.
- Clean doorknobs, toilets, cellphones, countertops, refrigerator handles, and so on many times each day. The virus could live on certain surfaces for 4-72 hours.
- If you can work from home, work from home.
- No tournaments, no sports events, no soccer, baseball, dance, volleyball, softball, gymnastics, concerts, martial arts, etc. We don’t care how much they claim they will clean the equipment.
- Cancel vacation travel. We know you planned this for a long time. You will be saving many lives by doing so … perhaps someone you know.
- Cancel weddings/ bar/bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, and so on. Help other people live so they can celebrate future events too.
- If you are over 60 years old, you should stay home. You should only go out if there is a critical need.
- If you have parents/grandparents in a nursing home, you should consider moving them home for now.
- Do not congregate in a restaurant, bar, etc. Again, you will save the lives of people you will never meet.
- If you feel sick, stay home. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel too sick. Going to work will put countless other people at risk of suffering or dying.
- Cancel all business travel. Your life and the lives of others are more important.
- Expect supply chain issues: Work with your doctor to try to get a three month supply of medication.
- Many grocery stores have order ahead options with either pick up or delivery. There are online grocery delivery services available in many areas. Wash your hands thoroughly after unpacking groceries.