Embracing The Messy Middle

Published: April 30, 2019

Today’s blog is inspired by Scott Belsky’s book The Messy Middle.

To the outside eye, it can seem like businesses or entrepreneurs luck out when it comes to success. He or she simply came up with an idea or product, found some investors that were willing to put up some money, created a prototype, gained consumer recognition, and then sold the company for $1billion. The End. However, 99.9% of the time this is most likely not the case. What the outside eye does not see is what is referred to as ‘The Messy Middle’.

The Messy Middle is the difficult period between starting something new and hitting the finish line. It is a combination of ups, downs, twists, and turns that occur when starting a large project or business. You are probably familiar with the comparison of starting and operating a business to that of a rollercoaster ride; this is also a great way to understand the Messy Middle. The twists and turns and ups and downs sometimes come out of nowhere as a total surprise. When you are headed downhill, you know you are about to go up, and vice versa when you are on the uphill climb you know you are about to take a plunge.

Along with the unforeseen twists and turns, the Messy Middle also brings about a slew of emotions, including hope, excitement, self-doubt, and struggle — it’s not always pretty. However, no business has ever succeeded without one hiccup or one alteration in its path. There are hurdles or outcomes that happen in business that you cannot control or influence. On the contrary, there ARE some things that you CAN influence and it is crucial that you flip your focus to this mindset — focusing on things that are in your influence, rather than out of your influence.

There are some key ideas and tools that you can implement to help overcome, or soften, these emotions and hurdles that are experienced when in the Messy Middle. We have outlined just a couple of them here.

Since childhood, we have been groomed to expect short-term rewards for accomplishments — the acceptance letter to your dream college after working so hard in school, or the promotion at work after a quarter of top performance. However, when growing a company it is rare to experience short-term rewards, especially when you have your eyes set on the end goal, which is a long-term reward. Try implementing short-term rewards for yourself and your team to work towards and celebrate to make it feel like you are making progress. These rewards do not need to be grandiose. The key is that they help kindle team motivation and engagement to keep going, to keep pushing, even when it seems like the end-goal is so far out of reach.

Some business owners think that they need to scale and grow in order to reach the end goal. While this may seem like the solution, it can actually cause a business to become inefficient. Instead of adding resources to scale faster, encourage your team (and yourself) to become resourceful with what they already have. Belsky refers to adding resources as ‘carbs’ as they eventually go away and don’t do much for the organization in the long run. Whereas resourcefulness is ‘muscle’, and when developed as a team it gives you strength and power over time.

This just grazes the surface of how to conquer the Messy Middle. For more, we recommend picking up a copy of Scott Belsky’s book (Click Here to Purchase a Copy).


You have likely had your own “messy middle” experiences in growing your real estate practice and/or sales team.  In my experience, I have found that the middle-type experiences occur when breaking through the natural production ceilings that exist in our industry.  These occur at or around 30-40 transactions (as an individual), 70-80 (as a small team), and then 160-200 (as a larger team). It is no surprise that the “mess” occurs each time production is doubled – 40 to 80 to 160.  This is usually because you hit capacity with the team of individuals that got you from point A to point B. And those that got you from A to B may not be the group that can get you to C! So my advice…always be looking for talented people to join your world, and consider hiring them even when you do not have the perfect fit on your organizational chart for them.  For every ceiling you hit in your business you are usually a relationship away. That said, build a bench of relationships NOW!

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