Hustle, Hustle, Hustle

by Alistair Helm in ,


I find serendipity an amazing thing. I find it strange when you start seeing repeated comments in the course of a day, especially when they come in fast succession and when they so clearly resonate in the context of your own day-to-day life. So it was the other week, when I felt I was being bombarded by advice to Hustle!

I’ve been a real estate agent for 9 months now and have been ‘encouraged’ to hustle to get listings, hustle to get your name out and about, hustle to ask people incessantly “are you looking to sell, do you know anyone who might be?”

Just last month a couple of local real estate agencies latched onto Hustle as a theme to grow your business.

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Thinking about this notion of hustling for business, reminded me of one of my favourite sessions I used to undertake in my role at Trade Me Property. I regularly spent about an hour providing insight into the everyday life of a real estate agent to enlighten software developers. This was invaluable; they relished the opportunity to get a sense of the world from the perspective of their customers. And in so doing, take this learning and apply it in the products they designed and built, given the agile environment in which we operated.

I recall that I’d often shock and surprise them with the simplicity of the role of an agent. However, on the other hand for every one of them, the lack of a cushion of a salary, and the incessant need to be working every hour of every day to seek out their next business opportunity. I could sense every one of them were nervous of this. It certainly didn’t illicit an instant rush to join the band of agents, despite the potential earnings.

However, in retrospect what I said then and what I know now seem even further apart apart as my first hand experience has grown. The fact is, what I was talking about then in my opinion actually bares little relationship to the true experience of my first year as an agent. Some months ago, I wrote an article sharing some of my early experiences of being an agent and the challenges I had faced breaking into this new role. Subsequent months have not seen that change much.

Real estate is as is so often said; is simple but by no means easy. To my way of thinking this relates to the process of engaging buyers and sellers in the core element of negotiation. Yet it also fully reflects the process needed to be undertaken before a rookie will ever get close to this end of the business, ever gets close to getting a listing in the first place. It’s again incredibly simple to understand. Without a listing, prospective agents have no presence and no involvement with clients, either as buyers or sellers. Add to this the fact that without a listing it is hard to prove your skills and capability. Sadly, this doom loop is staring every rookie in the face – no listing, no case study to demonstrate capability, so no listing.

How to break out of this doom loop is the core challenge for every agent in their first 6 months. I say 6 months, as the sad fact is that more than half of new agents barely make it past the 6 months mark, fewer last until the first anniversary. The reality is few can self-fund themselves through this period with no income.

I know there will be some readers who will by this stage be thinking to themselves “but this is good ; it sorts out the grafters, the hard workers from the people who just can’t handle it” and the other comment I suspect “fake it till you make it”. I get this. Darwinsim and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ syndrome combined. However, might this actually be the counterintuitive? Might the industry be fast tracking people into this industry who are great as prospecting machines rather than being great practitioners of this profession at its core? I may be splitting hairs, but I sense as a reader you will see my point. Is Hustle, Hustle, Hustle the right proving ground of this industry?

Every agent need to get their brand known and ideally top of mind. The simple fact is there are no shortage of agents across all of the country. All of them can and want to, support every customer. So it’s a tough battle every day to win a listing and unless you are known you are literally invisible.

There are many methods of getting known. Door knocking is still favoured as it provides an ‘in your face’ experience that says “here I am I’m a local agent who’s looking for work”. Other agents, such as a former colleague of mine have a natural exuberant personality that shouts from the mountain top. Jadyn Dixon is one of those people who loves the limelight and is doing a stellar job of getting known in a way that may not be suited to everyone – just look at his recent videos and through this his feature on Seven Sharp – incalculable marketing impact.

I am not really in either of these camps to be honest. I cannot muster the courage, or as I see it the disingenuousness behaviour of door knocking, nor do I intend to undertake outlandish videos. I’m choosing a more structured and credibility based route. I’ll readily acknowledge this strategy is potentially going to take longer, but I feel it’s better to remain true to myself and my principles. Principles such as offering deep property insight, significant marketing knowledge and experience, delivered with professionalism in a personable and trusted manner. To date it is working, but to be honest I have to wish I was succeeding more of the time!

As a final note whilst writing this article I came across this interesting post on Medium highlighting the trend of overwork in the tech start up world “Hustle Porn Is the Latest Toxic Scourge to Hit Entrepreneurs’ not a notion I had come across before, but I related to the depiction of the dog-eat-dog attitude that the only way to succeed is to work 18 hour days. Maybe real estate as an industry needs to take a breath and realise endless hustle may actually be counter-productive to the profile and the resultant opinion many people have towards this industry. That’s just my opinion.