Shane Michael Singh is a Chicago-area writer and a former REALTOR® Magazine intern.
George Chung: Mr. Hollywood
A side career in TV has proved a welcome diversion for this veteran broker-owner who stresses back-to-basic tactics to his associates.
January 1, 2010
Whether overseeing his brokerage business or waiting for his cue on the set, George Chung practices time-honored techniques for succeeding in sales—and life.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Years in Business: Became a sales associate in 1972; opened brokerage in 1978.
2009 Gross Sales: $25 million on 50 transaction sides
2008 Gross Sales: $30 million on 60 transaction sides
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Sales Associates: 12
How His Career Started
When I graduated with an engineering degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1970, the job market was terrible. I had my real estate license then but decided to stay in school for an MBA. Two years later it was the same story; nobody wanted an MBA with an engineering degree. So I tried residential real estate, and within three months it started clicking for me. By the end of the first year and a half, I was making more money than the mid-level managers I knew who'd been working at engineering companies for 10 years.
Why He Believes in Door Knocking
I'm dead set against sending junk mail and e-mail advertising, though we certainly post our listings on REALTOR.com and other sites. I believe in the personal touch, which is why I expect my associates to knock on a thousand doors every six weeks. We hand-deliver a free newsletter with information on everything from property taxes to energy tips, along with our listings to the 35,000 homes in our area. Door knocking helps people overcome the fear of rejection. It's a building block—and it'll work in the Internet age as long as you couple it with a halfway decent Web site. If someone doesn't want the newsletter, we cross them off our list. But it's very few. And we've had fewer than 10 households say they'd prefer to receive the newsletter as an e-mail.
His Belief in Teamwork
When I started in the business, no one helped each other. I'd say, "Can you hold this open house?" and someone might stick out their hand and say, "How much are you going to give me?" It was so asinine that when I started my own company, I took all the things that were bad in my short experience and did what I could to make them better. One example is our program called "Target Market Protection," where associates are handed any calls to our office that come from the assigned area where they knocked on doors. Without this team philosophy, associates become afraid to take time off because they might miss or lose a listing or sale that costs them more than their vacation.
On the Importance of Open Houses
Today households have two wage earners, and often in that situation, the only day they have off is Sunday—if even that. We've terminated a lot of interviews with potential associates who question my expectation of them to hold open houses every Sunday. What kind of service is that to a seller if you don't want to hold an open house? Nothing replaces real face-to-face interaction in this business. I require it of my associates because I don't want them to get in the lazy habit of doing two a year and becoming part of the coffee klatch.
Benefits of Working in a Small Pond
When I started my company I drew a circle around my office on a map and told myself I would try to make a living off that one-mile radius. I intensified my focus in that small area and created a niche market where I became the big fish in a small pond. I later found that this focus helped me to survive downturns. In bad times, home owners come to me since they know I've been around and I know how to handle a tough market.
His Double Life
I did some acting to help pay the bills through college, and I've kept it up as a side vocation. I've now had small parts in more than 25 television shows, including "The West Wing," "Lost," and the new TNT drama "Dark Blue," starring Dylan McDermott. It's a creative outlet and a welcome relief from the day-to-day pressures of being a broker. When I go onto the show's set, I get to sit with no phone calls and no interruptions for a little while. One side benefit is meeting producers and directors and other people on the set who may need real estate services. But I do it judiciously. I'm not there to cultivate leads.
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