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It’s no secret in the real estate industry that the past few years have been full of curveballs. The ever-changing landscape has posed unforeseen challenges for new and seasoned agents alike. I’m often asked, “How can you make a business plan and stick to it with all the moving targets?” 

It is fair to say that business planning in the past was much more straightforward. Easier to design and grind, never needing to look back and adjust mid-year.

It is safe to say that those days are in the past. Don’t get me wrong, some can set up their business plan and stay with it all year, meeting and exceeding their goals. If that describes your past few years, well done.

I’d still challenge those celebrating to consider if their success might not have been greater or if processes could have been improved if they had analyzed their business quarterly (or even mid-year) and made some adjustments. As for the rest of the industry, don’t be afraid to reset and pivot.

“Focus on long-term success but be willing to make short-term adjustments to get there.” – Simon Sinek.

I have a great friend I’ve had the privilege to work with for the better part of the decade. They hate the term coaching, and business planning is not something they look forward to.

They would also tell you that they love business focusing sessions, just not being locked into the boundaries of a written plan. This friend has a deal with me where they get to “quit” once a quarter. Now, it isn’t a “real” quit, more of a venting session about frustrations that come with the role of being a great agent. 

While their business plan might include one “quit” per quarter, the better focus is on how to better draft that business plan (or as we’ll call it focus) to include the quarterly checkup and adjustments. The business we find ourselves in often has frequent challenges that come our way.

Even the best annual business plans can’t accommodate all of those trials. It’s ok. That is when we need to look into the mirror and do the sensible action of adjusting our plan to keep us on the path.

First, we must go back to the beginning and ask the hard questions. 

  • Did you create a business plan late last year to guide you through the following year? 
  • Was this plan realistic? 
  • Was the plan detailed enough to keep you on a path, or was it so general that there wasn’t enough structure to keep you going in the right direction? 
  • What was your frame of mind when creating the plan? 

I’ve reviewed many business plans that seemed far from realistic. When I’ve challenged the agent on their thought process, they say, “I don’t know what I was thinking,” or “There is no way that was realistic or what I really wanted”

Unfortunately, our mind is conditioned to celebrate the big victories and drown in the big defeats. Suppose we don’t consistently look at and give ourselves permission to adjust the plan. In that case, a rough quarter sets us down a negative path that leads to a washout of a year. 

One lousy month or quarter doesn’t get to own the year. Everyone is responsible for taking control of the plan and adjusting as needed to hit the original goal.

Now I know some are reading this saying, no way, that is horrible advice! Set a plan and do the work to make it happen. This is, unfortunately, old-school thinking.

The market is shifting too frequently; honestly, what worked late last year (when the business plan was created) might not work well (or at all) by mid-year. 

Far better to adjust the sails and still reach the desired port than to sit motionlessly or, worse, end up going to the wrong port. As John Wooden said, “Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time.” I can’t think of a better description of what a successful agent does each day.

As an independent contractor, the best time you can spend on your business is developing your business plan, or in this case, reviewing and adjusting your business plan.

Without the desired direction, you’re sure to feel lost sooner than later. As they say, “If you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.” 

Don’t just change (or give up on) your vision. Plan to make adjustments to make that vision a reality. Time block a few hours of silent time as you near the end of each quarter to analyze your business.

Ask the tough questions:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • Am I happy with how my business is performing and where it is heading?

These questions, if answered honestly, will guide you to any needed changes, not only for this year’s business plan but also help with the plan you will carve out for the next year. If this step seems overwhelming, it’s ok; some might argue that it should be something you need help with. 

Once you have your business plan and structure set up, I strongly recommend finding an accountability partner to help review the changes. The accountability partner needs someone who feels comfortable calling you out if your adjustments fail to serve your bigger picture.

Some will get too aggressive, like just doubling the next quarter’s goals if the prior quarter’s goals were missed. That sounds great from a math approach, but is it realistic? 

If not, you will just find yourself doubling the next quarter into oblivion, never being able to enjoy your successes. Others will just set soft, easily attainable goals. While those might increase confidence, remember, the vision shouldn’t be compromised, just the path to get there.

Finally, while a peer accountability partner is often pretty easy to find, I highly recommend putting in the time to work with a mentor or, better yet, a coach. Many brokers provide this service to help their agents achieve their highest level of performance. 

If that isn’t an option at your brokerage, then hire a coach. “The biggest expense agents have is the money they didn’t make due to poor structure and ill-advised business choices.” 

B.J. Sonderman is director of agent success at RedKey Realty Leaders St. Louis. Connect with him on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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