Childhood Stories That Shaped Your Career

The lessons learned as children help these practitioners achieve success in business.

January 1, 2006

Lessons learned as a child come in many forms—favorite stories, family wisdoms, and first-hand experiences that make you smarter about life. The morals these lessons impart often stay with you and can help make the difference between success and failure—in your career and in your personal life.

Here, practitioners share some of the most memorable lessons they learned in childhood, and how they apply the wisdom to their work every day.

Keep Rolling the Rock Up the Hill

Persistence is one of the most important attributes you need to work in real estate, says Charlie White, a salesperson with Tarbell, REALTORS®, in Palm Desert, Calif., who moved into real estate eight months ago after many years in the information technology industry.

Whenever he needed inspiration, White thought of his father, a U.S. Marine in the Korean War who continually emphasized, “Never give up.” “He talked a lot about his experiences during the war, and would relate things about hanging in there when things were difficult,” White says. “After he died, I found out that he had been a prisoner of war, and everything he said suddenly made sense to me in a new way.”

White’s tip: When listings are slow, don’t get disheartened. Ask veteran real estate professionals to mentor you, and develop a network for guidance and support.

Amy Hartley, a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Graham & Associates in Jackson, Miss., says persistence also is the message her grandfather taught her when he would read aloud Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham almost every night before she went to sleep.

“The story was about trying green eggs and ham, even though you don’t think you’ll like them,” explains Hartley, who applies the lesson in her approach to potential for-sale-by-owner clients. FSBOs may not think they need your services, but you should be persistent in educating them on why they do.

Hartley’s tip: Try to get through at least three no’s before giving up on a potential client. On the first contact, take prospects a package of material on your services and offer your help. If they say no, send a follow-up card, and then call on the phone before giving up. Be sure to check the National Do-Not-Call Registry, state no-call lists, and your company-specific no-call lists to make sure the person you’re about to call is not on any of those lists before you pick up the phone. If they are, contact them again by postcard or go back for a face-to-face.

For Joyce Stevenson, a salesperson with Guarantee Real Estate in Clovis, Calif., the idea of persistence was taught by her father, a schoolteacher, through countless truisms.

One saying she credits with helping her get past roadblocks in transactions is, “If you knock on the front door and don’t get an answer, go around to the back door and kick it in.”

Stevenson’s tip: If you’re not getting the information you need from someone to close a deal, make the effort to talk in person. Face-to-face contact and going the extra mile will often solve communication problems.

Say It With a Smile

Another lesson that echoed through childhood for Stevenson and others is that it’s important to treat all people with respect. For her, the saying that embodies this is, “A smile is a frown turned upside down, and what’s in the heart turns it over.”

Stevenson’s tip: Share fables, limericks, and childhood tales in your newsletters to build relationships with clients through information that says more than “do business with me.”

A truism that Cindy Hooper’s parents often told her was, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“I’ve learned that everything is in your attitude, thoughts, and demeanor,” says Hooper, a salesperson with the Linda Rappaport Team at Greenthal Property Sales in Long Island, N.Y.

Hopper’s tip: Remember that real estate is a service industry, so accentuate the positive and see the power in your own attitude.

For Charles Price, a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate in Salem, Ore., treating others with kindness and respect was something his mother always emphasized.

“When I was a child, she taught me to be nice to everyone, so even when I was making mischief in school, the teachers always loved me,” Price says. “In real estate, our business is about relating to people, and serving them in a way that makes them want to do business with you again.”

Price’s tip: When customers are frazzled or in need of a little hand-holding, extend a personal touch to help them get through the transaction as easily as possible.

Be a Student of Integrity

When it comes to closing transactions, nothing’s more essential than knowing the rules and acting with personal integrity, says Joy Purfurst, CRS®, GRI, broker-owner of the Joy Purfurst Real Estate Co. Inc. in Houston.

“There’s nothing more important in life than personal integrity and education,” Purfurst says. “I’ve seen many practitioners lose transactions because of lack of knowledge.”

Purfurst’s tip: Take real estate courses throughout your career to keep up to date on changes in the industry.

Kate Myers, a broker with Coldwell Banker Barbara Sue Seal Properties in Lake Oswego, Ore., says when real estate professionals operate in a forthright manner, deals just go smoother.

“My mother once told me, ‘If you have to explain what you are doing when someone turns on the lights, you probably shouldn’t be doing it,’” Myers says, laughing. “I was 13, and that was the first and last time I ever toilet-papered a house. I have, however, often come back to that phrase.”

Myers’ tip: Keep all parties in a transaction apprised of developments as they occur so that no one is surprised at the last minute about potential problems.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break a Sweat

What Mary A. Tinkler, a broker with Shattuck & Co. Real Estate Inc. in Gresham, Ore., remembers the most from her childhood is a saying repeated by her father, who brought his family to the United States from England when Tinkler was a child in 1955.

“He’d tell me over and over, ‘the money is in the land, and they aren’t making any more of it,’” says Tinkler, explaining that her father believed real estate was the best investment anyone could make. No business could exist without the land it stands on.

Tinkler’s tip: Never forget that your clients may have the bulk of their life savings invested in their real estate, so work hard because they deserve the best you can do for them.

Real estate is a business where long hours are often the norm, says Pam Frey-Primiani, a salesperson for Coldwell Banker Elite, REALTORS®, in Medford, N.J.

“When my mother, who’s also a practitioner, used to tell me to get out of bed in the morning because it was time to get ready for school, I would plead, ‘Five more minutes, Mom!’” Frey-Primiani recalls. “My mother would always say, ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead.’ It’s strange when you’re 8 years old, and your mother tells you that. But now, in a business where you’re working all the time, I say to myself, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’”

Frey-Primiani’s tip: Be accessible to clients, and do whatever it takes to help them buy or sell their house. For example, if your sellers need a new paint job in the living room in order to sell the house, and the sellers don’t want to do it, get out a paint brush and do it yourself.

Applying these lessons and others that you learned early in life will help you achieve real estate success on your own terms.

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