This post is a quick review of Gary Keller‘s The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, (not an affiliate link) which is simply the best small business systems book I have read. If you can see any parallels between your business and a real estate business, you need to read it, and if you can’t, call me and let me help you figure out how the lessons of this book about building systems can be applied to what you do.
I read the book in part because I needed to understand how real estate offices worked. When you work with small business owners, real estate offices can be an important market segment. I have bought and refinanced houses, so I’ve seen the business from the client side, but I didn’t know how the business worked from the other side of the desk. How did the business flow? Where does the money come from?
One of my clients works in a Keller-Williams franchised real estate agency, and he suggested I read the book because it had some useful information about how to hire employees for the office operations of a real estate agency. It does. The steps Keller recommends for hiring employees won’t work for everyone, but that’s OK.
Keller makes a point that I heard Paul Graham, of Y Combinator, make in an interview downloadable from Mixergy.com: some business start-up decisions lead to dead ends. Keller emphasizes “planning big”–developing systems that can scale, and hiring people who can grow with your success. I like to think that Hiring is Hard teaches the same idea. Whenever you can, recognize that your job as the business owner is to build business systems that can scale as you grow, rather than to solve a short-term immediate problem with a one-time, non-repeatable fix.
I completely understand Keller’s emphasis on lead generation. My own business coach stresses that lead gen is the single most important and critical aspect of small business success. My own business is built on “hiring” being the second-most important system, after lead gen. Hiring only becomes important AFTER you solve the problem of getting enough clients to call on. Improving conversion (sales) comes way down the line, if you can get enough business “through the door.”
I did not understand the vast difference in lead gen opportunities between being the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. At the moment, I’m not sure I know of other businesses with such a lopsided differential between two sides of the transaction. When I asked a question about this book in Linkedin.com, I got a mixed bag of answers. Some people thought only mortgage brokers and real estate agents would find it useful. Others thought anyone in a trade with high-commission sales, low-cost back office support would be able to benefit, and others thought no-one outside real estate would understand it.
I can’t promise that you will be able to apply all the lessons in Millionaire Real Estate Agent to your business. If you like to do what what I call “long distance mapping,” that is, seeing connections between unrelated information, you’ll probably find something worth applying in your line of work. If your business employs high commission sales people, you’ll almost certainly find something useful, too.