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Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s how

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but absolutely should.

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It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh personally and professionally. Help your organization start fresh by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re headingm or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

Taylor is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and has a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Illinois State University. She is currently pursuing freelance writing and hopes to one day write for film and television.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Mental health resources for real estate practitioners (free or inexpensive options)

Mental health issues are often untreated when no insurance or few resources are apparent, but there are many resources available to keep the entire team cared for.

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There’s no shame in needing a doctor when you’re physically sick, but sometimes people think that mental illness should be hidden. No one likes to admit they’re struggling with an addiction, grief, or depression, but trust me, friends, family, and co-workers most likely know you’re struggling – they just may not know how to help.

Mental health assistance can be very expensive, especially without insurance. With the ACA, more people have access to services, but it may not be immediately evident.

Attention Brokers:

We recommend sharing this article with your team accompanied with a note explaining why. We’ve known many agents that suffer through drug addiction, unmedicated bipolar disorder, sex addiction, depression, and so forth. Open the door to a conversation. Everyone on the team deserves to be cared for, with or without insurance.

Free or inexpensive ways to get help:

If you or someone you know is in need of help or someone to listen to you, please do not be embarrassed. If you (or the person you’re concerned with) don’t have insurance or have limited resources, here are some places to get help.

  • If you are in a crisis, dial 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a 24-hour crisis center.
  • Check with your insurance company. You may not realize that you have mental health benefits, or understand how to find a provider that fits into your plan.
  • Talk to your primary care doctor. Your doctor may know of local resources that are available to you.
  • Most communities have local mental health centers that provide income-based services. Ask about discounts or reduced rates.
  • Dial 2-1-1 in Texas (and most states) for referrals to agencies that are in your community.
  • Go to your religious organization. Spiritual leaders are often willing to listen and help you get back on track. They may be able to direct you to resources within their community and network.
  • Search for your particular issue. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (adaa.org) has a full list of resources and help for dealing with every day and chronic stress and worry. If you get too many hits, try using the phrase, “national foundation” then the issue, for example, “national foundation OCD.”
  • Go to the library and seek out a book. Self-help books on grief or depression can help you navigate your own feelings and find a way out.
  • Go to the App Store. Type in what you need help with. You might be surprised at what comes up. Happify is a good app that helps you work on being positive. 7 Cups of Tea offers trained listeners to get you through anxiety.
  • Talk to a friend, a trusted mentor, or family member. Reach out for help.
  • Exercise. Get out of your rut.

The bottom line is that whether you’re struggling or trying to help someone else who is, neither of you are alone. It may take more than one try, but we urge everyone to bookmark this page for reference, should it be needed now or int he future.

This story originally ran on September 2, 2015.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why clearly expressing your business culture is so critical

(PROFESSIONALISM) Many of us claim to be cultured individuals, but are we business cultured? Let’s discuss.

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I like to think that I know a thing or two about vocabulary and its application to everyday life. However, I will admit, there have been times where I’ve thrown around a word or a phrase without being 100 percent sure of its meaning.

This typically happens with broad phrases, and we’re all guilty of it. But, what’s cool about language(s) is that it’s virtually limitless, so there’s always room to learn something new.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “okay, Taylor, that’s great and probably not as profound as you think it is. What does this have to do with business?”

Well, one of the phrases I’ve heard people throw around and not actually have it stick is “business culture.” It’s used broadly as a cliche with little meaning behind it, often used incorrectly.

While it’s easy to correctly define such a phrase, it is so general that it is difficult for some to have a true grasp of its meaning. Whenever I’m unclear on something, I go to the smartest person I know for clarity – my father.

My dad, Mike Leddin, is the executive director of a law firm in Chicago. Throughout my life, he’s been my go-to person for advice and explanation, and this was no different when I was seeking the root meaning of business culture.

Since he has a tendency to be more eloquent than I, let’s have him weigh in…

“The business culture within a company is as critically important as the products/services that are produced,” said Mike Leddin. “Creating the right culture, one that fosters teamwork and encourages contributions, thoughts, and ideas at all levels, will be ultimately reflected in the end product/service.”

He added, “The business culture should clearly reflect the social and ethical responsibility of the company, including management’s commitment to act responsible in all ways. Properly communicated Mission and Values Statements both internally and externally, will not only define the goal and objections of the organization, but also the manner in which these be will be sought and achieved.”

What stuck with me most was his conclusion:

“Business culture is not simply a statement or goal, it is the result of the manner in which we act each day.”

This idea of business culture is important for every team member to keep in mind as we walk into work each day. Questions such as: “What am I providing people?” and “Why should they trust me?” should factor into your definition of business culture.

A company is only as strong as its morals and values. Make sure yours has one that you believe in, lest you be just another brokerage in a sea of competitors that don’t lack clarity.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why real estate brokerages are not startups

(REAL ESTATE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, and also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.

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Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does. And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

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