When I first started in the real estate business, websites like Streeteasy, Trulia, and Zillow were starting to “democratize” the property search process by putting listings online. The landscape was changing; buyers and sellers would no longer need to rely on real estate agents to tell them what properties were on the market. These sites would show prices and even give market evaluations.
Everyone warned me that these changes portended the extinction of the real estate agent. Nobody would need a real estate agent when information was liberated on the web.
As I started to teach real estate agents how to leverage technology in their business, they routinely asked the same question: how do you keep your clients off of the search platforms?
If my clients wanted to surf the web searching for apartments online, all the more power to them. I didn’t try to stop them from searching on their own; I encouraged it.
In fact, I saw this as a good thing. I was leaving a profession (as a lawyer) in which I spent most of my days sitting behind a desk. I wanted to be out with clients, not hitting refresh on a computer screen.
I wasn’t trying to compete with Google. From day one, I was clear that my core role was not to “sell homes” or “find homes.”
My approach to my business, and the way it has evolved, was shaped by something my first manager told me:
Real estate is about people, not about properties.
Viewing my business as rooted in people, not properties, helped me to see that I was really in the business of coaching clients through the inner and outer chaos that comes with any transition: letting go, grieving, embracing the mystery, creating a vision for the future, taking leaps, moving out, on, up, and through.
The Foundation of Any Endeavor
In the process of achieving any long-term goal or project, it’s important to pause and check in that we are building on a solid foundation.
If we step back to look at patterns more generally, this is the formula — the foundation — for any business, project, or endeavor:
Focus on the WHO, not the WHAT.
People, not properties.
In my real estate business, clients often ask what their home is worth. I can give a client a measure of objective value of their home, based on comparable sales, but the true measure of what it’s worth depends on what buyers (the who) are willing to pay for it.
This principle applies in other realms.
Your message (what) can’t make an impact if you don’t share it with someone (who).
Your idea, project, or program (what) is worthless if nobody (who) is interested in paying for it (and certainly if they don’t know about it).
Reversing the effects of climate change isn’t about saving the Earth (what); the Earth will adapt. The efforts are about preserving life of people on the planet (who).
When you’re creating a product, a service, an offering, a blog post, or anything else, the first question to ask is who is it for?
A what without a who is a solution looking for a problem.
Whatever you’re doing or creating, the first question to ask is Who is it for?
If you can’t answer that, then why create it in the first place?
As a coach, I’m cognizant that the approach to helping one client will not work for all clients with the same problem. Any solution to any problem is only helpful if the solution fits the person who has the problem. I coach the what based on the who.
Yesod: The Foundation of Connection
Today is the beginning of the sixth week of the Omer, the 7-week period between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot. According to Kabbalistic philosophy, this period is a“spiritual cleanse” through which we refine one of 7 aspects of Divine consciousness, called Sefirot, culminating in our liberation from the mental and emotional ills that oppress us.
This week’s attribute is the quality of Yesod.
Yesod translates to foundation, and it also is understood in this context to mean bonding, union, and connection. (There’s much more to this, which we’ll explore this week).
A core aspect of this is relationships: our connections to the other people in our lives and in the world.
The foundation of life is connection and relationships. Without a who, we don’t need a what.