I used to wonder why people get depressed during the holiday season. It’s such a festive time of year. People buying gifts for each other, many parties to attend, a new year to look forward to, and new beginnings as well. What could be so bad?
But the older I get, the more the picture becomes clear to me. This year is no different, and the daily economic news we are faced with does not help the situation.
For budgetary reasons, I was laid off just before the holidays last year. It made sense to me because I was in a salaried upper management position working for a real estate sales and marketing firm in a downward spiraling market. I understood the reasons, but the company needed to save face with the developers they were working with, since the developers needed to know the company they hired to market and sell their development was financially secure and would be there till the end. The explanation of my departure from the company and its clients, however, was a bit more twisted and contorted than the simple truth, leaving many to wonder what really happened.
So there I was, a real estate professional in a downward spiraling real estate market, in the midst of the holiday season. I had been with the company for a little over ten years, so my departure, though expected, was still a shock to my reality.
Sitting down to write my blog today, I really wanted to stay positive. But the reality of the housing market and the economic situation seems to be getting worse. On the radio this morning I heard new home prices plummeted another something percent and new home starts were the lowest in so many months. I’m not sure what the numbers were exactly, it all starts to blur together after a while. Another month worse than the last month, more people losing their jobs, another down day on Wall Street, or another bank that sends the government a white flag warning that they need help.
It is easy to get down on yourself when you lose a job. Our industry is experiencing the equivalent of the dot com bust, and I’m sure you have heard that it is going to get worse before it gets better. So when faced with a challenge, as I was last year, I embraced the philosophy of “one fire at a time”.
Things can spin completely out of control in the business environments of today. What was a trivial problem several years ago can become an overwhelming task at this point. It is important to remember that the housing market today is where business heroes will be born. Those industry heroes will only get to that status by taking on each task as it comes, and crossing it off the list once it has been completed…one fire at a time.
After all, isn’t that what we are dealing with in the real estate industry today? Seems to me it’s one fire after another. I can not find the buyer, or the seller is unrealistic about a price, or the lender has turned down your only buyer, or the inspector found mold, or if I don’t get this commission check…well, you get the point.
We all know that things will pick up, and when they do, we will be so much more educated than those just getting into the real estate industry. Just look what we have learned. Just look where we have come from. Just look what we have accomplished for ourselves, our business over the last few years.
The morning after I lost my job, I went to my favorite Starbucks, lap top in hand, ordered my usual triple mocha, and figured out what my financial needs were in order to feed my family and survive (triple mocha’s did not make the list). I then categorized my strengths and weaknesses in the housing industry and strategized my next steps. I figured it would be a huge risk to start my own company, but what did I have to lose?
I started making phone calls that afternoon, sometimes sitting in my car in the driveway so my new daughter’s cries wouldn’t interrupt the conversations (don’t worry, my wife was around to take care of that job). Most of the calls didn’t go so great. The people that wanted to buy felt it was not a good time, and the people that wanted to sell were unrealistic about their price.
One fire at a time!
The next day, I received a call from a developer I had worked with in the past. He couldn’t believe that I had been laid off. He said he had a small development that needed the expertise of a professional real estate person, without a large company feel. Eighteen total units, ready to sell. He wanted me to sell it. I was in!
Several months and eighteen units later, I found I had started my own company and was making presentations to developers off the success of other developments. I found that when money was short, little overhead was attractive…not just to me, but to developers looking to save on some much needed cash.
I’m at a much different place than I was last year at this time. I did not realize it then, but I’m thankful now for the situation I was forced into and the education that has brought my career to this juncture…one fire at a time.