David Morris weighs in on getting out of a job rut to build a thriving business
By Heather R. Johnson
When David Morris decided to pursue real estate full time, he had a lot going against him. Double-digit interest rates. A weak economy. Poor health from the stress of his previous job.
But with a wife and growing family, he had even more reasons to succeed.
So Morris quit his job managing a high-end kitchen gift store to work for the only boss who could push him to build a thriving business: Himself.
In 1991 he joined RE/MAX and never looked back.
More than two decades later, he’s a Luminary of Distinction, an elite honor for earning over $20 million in commissions during at least 20 years with RE/MAX. How did it happen? In part because Morris doggedly stuck to fundamental business concepts he believed in. He managed and analyzed cash flow. He developed annual business plans and marketing strategies. He adhered to a budget. He advertised consistently. He used the brand.
The leadership and support he received under the RE/MAX Balloon helped him grow his business and start the David Morris Group – a three-person team with RE/MAX Realty Affiliates in Reno, Nevada. He could bring in more agents and expand to a mega-team if he wanted to, but he values the intimate nature of his smaller group.
Here is some of his best advice, developed over his long career. It’s often surprising and applicable for agents of all levels. Want to achieve the success of a David Morris? Keep reading.
Take ownership: This is your business, not your job
In Morris’ early years, selling homes for Coldwell Banker, he had a job but not a business. During a conference in 1985, Morris realized his typical process (list homes, sell homes, move on) needed an overhaul if he wanted to create a lasting business.
“I sold property, but did I give customers good service?” Morris says. “Did I make them feel like they were important? Did I make them want to do business with me again? I suddenly realized it’s not how much business you do; it’s the profit you make and the satisfaction of your clients. If they’re not satisfied, the numbers mean nothing.”
Newer agents who want career longevity, Morris says, should ask themselves one question: Do you want a job or a business?
Morris wanted a business. His new client-focus and entrepreneurial drive meant he was ready to join RE/MAX.
Prepare for failure
“You get paid for success. You have to budget for failure,” Morris says. “Escrows don’t always close as expected, or at all, and disaster may be just around the corner. Overspending and debt can and will strangle any agent, and so can changes in the economy that are beyond your control.”
With this in mind, Morris cautions against cutting your commission to make a deal. Not only will you and your broker receive less – you’ll also have less financial cushion for failure.
On the flipside, success also takes preparation. As your marketing begins to gain traction and people start responding, you can handle only so much business on your own. Plan ahead so that when leads begin to roll in, you won’t neglect your farming efforts and create a counterproductive peak-and-valley cycle.
Hire the help you need
Give yourself more time to work “on” your business by spending less time “in” your business. For example, delegate administrative tasks to an assistant.
“Investing in a full-time assistant allows you to focus on business development,” says Morris, who has had an assistant for more than 30 years. “If you’re struggling to reach the next club level, you have to make time outside of chasing transactions to work on the business.”
Morris recently returned from a three-week vacation. Because he has a staff he trusts and can delegate tasks to, his business kept running smoothly while he was gone.
Offer past clients value without technology
About 40 percent of Morris’ business comes from referrals. “You have to invest in your clients,” he says. “What do you provide them? How can you earn their recommendation?” He wants to receive those recommendations personally. “It’s important to train your clients to personally connect you with referrals so you’ll know who to thank. When clients say they’ve referred you to someone, you can take action and follow up immediately.”
To get those direct referrals, Morris relies most on what he calls his best form of marketing: face-to-face contact. He suggests client lunches, small get-togethers and casual but strategic pop-bys. A quick visit with a gift, for instance, helps cultivate a deeper relationship with clients and keeps you top-of-mind, Morris says. The key: Offer past clients value without relying solely on technology.
If your clients aren’t satisfied, numbers mean nothing.David Morris
Morris enthusiastically recommends all agents read Michael E. Gerber’s best-selling business book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. “It talks about wearing multiple hats. As you grow your business, you take those hats off [by delegating], so you have a successful business,” he says.
If you want to get to the next level, educate yourself. Take advantage of RE/MAX University, which features a library of more than 1,000 videos, more than 70 designations and certifications and other opportunities for professional growth. Earn certification as an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) if that’s your focus. Seek out insightful training from pros such as Brian Buffini or Tom Ferry.
Before you start geographic farming, ask yourself: Where are you going to farm? What’s the turnover in the area? What types of homes are selling? Is there potential for a meaningful ROI? Is the price point right for you?
Once you start farming, you must be consistent. Have someone else read your messaging, and make sure each message is compelling.