Outside-the-Box Business Strategies

Next time you visit one of your favorite shops or restaurants, note what they do well—and adapt it for your real estate business.

July 18, 2012

When you have a good experience at a store, on a Web site, or at a restaurant, are you consciously aware of what pleased you? In the moment, you probably are. Maybe it's the friendly customer service or the company’s high standards for quality. Maybe it’s the way the company dealt with a problem or its uncanny ability to anticipate your needs.

Don't let those moments slip away. When a company does something you admire, write it down and then figure out how you might apply those practices to your business. Here’s how three practitioners successfully adopted business strategies they learned from other industries:

Rock Star Lessons

Nashville real estate broker Richard Courtney, CRB, CRS, grew up listening to the Beatles. He’s one of those people who can rattle off album dates and band trivia without missing a beat. He even co-authored a book, Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles (Turner Publishing, 2011), to chronicle the Fab Four’s phenomenal business acumen.

So it’s no surprise that Courtney takes his cues from those lads from Liverpool. The Beatles were continually raising the bar, he says. With each new album, they strove to outdo their last. “If you want Beatles-like success,” he says, “you have to want to learn every day.” 

Courtney reads the local newspaper avidly. If he learns about someone doing something remarkable, he invites that person to coffee. CEOs, politicians, musicians, entrepreneurs—hardly anyone turns him down.

That legwork can give him a business edge. Last fall, Courtney learned that a 430-unit condo high-rise was close to selling out and pricing had dipped. He informed investor clients, who purchased units for $289,000 and $267,000 respectively (similar units were selling for as much as $60,000 more). Each was leased within one week, providing a great return on their investment, Courtney says.

A Five-Star Philosophy

When Krisstina Wise learned about the business philosophy of Zappos, an online retailer that prides itself on delivering five-star customer service, "I decided I wanted my brokerage to be the Zappos of real estate," says Wise, broker-owner of the GoodLife Team in Austin, Texas.

Wise and her 12 agents and 10 employees live out the mantra "Love your customer more than your product or service," which Wise calls a "Zapposism." Her company, launched in 1999, makes a personal connection with its customers and clients by listening to and addressing their needs. For example, buyer’s agent Josh Center recently worked with a client who wanted to buy a home in Austin’s historic Travis Heights neighborhood. The client wanted to make improvements but preserve the home’s historic character.  Center arranged a meeting with an architectural firm and even took it upon himself to create a rendering of the home with a new second-floor addition and fresh landscaping.

Build Off Your Roots

Farming is in Gary Chambers' veins. In addition to co-owning a successful real estate brokerage, Century 21 Trident Realty near Calgary, Alberta, Chambers works on the 2,300-acre grain farm that’s been in his family for more than 100 years. So it’s only natural that he applies successful practices from the farm to his real estate business. Chambers uses what he calls "the coffee shop approach." Just as his father did with grain buyers, Chambers takes the time to meet regularly with real estate clients face-to-face with the goal of transparency. “Society wants to know what goes into food production as well as what goes into selling their house,” he says.

On TractorView.com, Chambers' video blog, he discusses farming, real estate, and personal interests, such as biking, technology, and social media. "It’s important that we build business models that complement both our personality and our market," Chambers says.

Erica Christoffer
Product Manager

Erica Christoffer is the product manager for REALTOR® Magazine, driving growth and helping make data-driven decisions for the editorial products and programs that fall under the publication's umbrella. Erica also co-manages the magazine's 30 Under 30 program. During her tenure as an editor, she wrote and edited hundreds of articles for the magazine and launched the Broker to Broker section. Connect with Erica via email: echristoffer@nar.realtor.