On A Playing Field Of One

playing field

“How much you going to ask for rent this time around?”

He caught me by surprise, an older gentleman who’d snuck up behind me last Friday morning. When he introduced himself as “the neighbor,” I kindly explained that I was not the property manager and was simply diagnosing the property, to help the owner unlock the potential of the home, should she decide it was in her best interest to sell.

“We like homeowners around here …” he muttered, as he turned to walk the other way, seeming satisfied with my answer.

I continued my stroll around the house, casually taking notes, when not two minutes later, a dog waddled into the backyard, followed closely by a second nosy neighbor. “Frank says you are out here to convince the owner to sell the house …”

I didn’t have enough time or runway to explain to her that she had it all wrong. My approach, in fact, is the complete opposite.

I don’t sell people.

As I’ve written before, I am not in the “convincing business.” 

It reminds me of a time, not long after I’d been licensed as a Realtor— almost nine years ago — I sat face to face, at the end of a humongous table, in a sterile boardroom of a large life insurance company. I was meeting with a guy who’d been introduced to me by way of a small networking group.

I’d agreed to the meeting, as a means to “support the other members of the group.” Though, to be completely honest, he’d been hounding me, relentlessly, for weeks and I saw no other way out.

“I already work with a financial advisor thanks … I’m not at the stage in life where I’m ready for that kind of life insurance yet … Matt, I appreciate your persistence but I’m just not ready to take on …”

Every logical response I offered was rebuffed with greater tenacity. Each rational explanation fell on deaf ears.

Finally, as a means to get him to simply go away, I relented and said, Yes. When I walked out his office that day — in the summer of 2008 — he almost had me convinced that his “plan” was something I’d be a fool to pass up.

I say almost … because I knew exactly who I’d turn to next. My own advisor. Someone who’d been introduced to me by way of referral, a year or two before. Someone I considered an honest fiduciary versus a product-pushing, commission-driven salesman.

“I can see why he would’ve tried to sell you on that product. It’s commission-heavy.” He counseled, “But based on what you are trying to accomplish long term, I can’t see how this makes sense for you.”

The following morning when I called Matt back to decline his offer he responded brazenly, “Your advisor probably has a lot more perspective on your financial plan than I do, so I’m not surprised.”

His lack of surprise told me all I need to know about his motives. That interaction effectively ended the relationship and the networking group disbanded not long thereafter.

All it takes is one bad apple and trust begins to erode quickly. 

Last Thursday afternoon, I got a call from a family friend. Someone who’d reached out via Facebook to let me know that her father had passed away and she’d need help moving her mother into a new home nearby.

I typically do not take meetings on just a couple hours notice but I could sense that this one was different. As I walked down the driveway, and into my friend’s home, she casually remarked, “Ryan, you know Mother was a Realtor for a while too … Mother, Ryan’s sister was friends with … growing up … his parents and I go way back …”

I extended my hand to introduce myself, as Mother chimed in, “Oh yeah, what company do you work for?”

I explained that I own Three Pillars Realty. And that I’d worked for six-plus years for a boutique brokerage and another three with a bigger team at Coldwell Banker. This, before striking out on my own about a year and half ago.

“I worked for Coldwell Banker too, for a time. My daughter was involved in real estate and told me that with such an extensive background in psychology and behavioral science, I would make a perfect Realtor … I told her, you’re crazy, I’m not a salesperson.”

“Me neither,” I responded.

“Well how do you do what you do then?” she asked me.

Sad isn’t it? That we must ask that question. Sad that an intense disdain for commission-driven professions, like mine, causes people to immediately put their guard up.  To get defensive.  To expect to be “sold” or convinced to do something that may not be in their best interest.  But at the same time, that question of …. well how do you do it then … is empowering.  Empowering from the standpoint that I, and those who adopt a different mindset, we are essentially competing on a playing field of one.

“I build relationships,” I told her. That is my philosophy. It’s the why, the how and the what all rolled into one.

Two days ago, over coffee, someone asked me point blank, “Where does your business comes from?” And I struggled to identify that last transaction that I participated in that did not come by way of a referral. A relationship.

From trust, established slowly over time.

Every email I send. Even article I write. Every newsletter I publish. Every client appointment that I attend . . . is meant to stake my flag on the mountain of trust.

Trust is a function of getting to know someone, on a more personal level. Not just what they do but who they are and why they do it.

Their character.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care about selling houses. But I care lot about helping homeowners unlock the potential in their properties before they hit the market.

I don’t really care about the scope of the work involved. But I care deeply about removing the guesswork and executing an approach that becomes the meaningful connection between expectation and eventual gratification.

I don’t really care about where the property is located. But without a doubt, I care about meeting clients where they are, listening to their objectives and ultimately serving their best interests.

And that my friends, does not require a lot of convincing.

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Ryan France

Ryan France is a native of Austin Texas, father of two, super-early riser, avid reader, admitted podcast junkie & bulletproof coffee addict. In a past life, France was an aspiring professional baseball player. Today, Ryan is an entrepreneur, author and relentless innovator of the real estate industry. Read more on the "Who is Ryan?" page.