Off to the Races
August 27, 2013

apple-full[1]The start of a new school year brings mixed emotions.  For many, summer is too long and the start of a new school year is very exciting and long overdue.  For others, summer is never long enough and the end of summer brings nothing but anxiety as the next school year lurks around the corner.  For all kids and their families, it means transitioning away from the unscheduled pace of summer to a more hectic pace that fills the calendar with to do items.  Just as schools play a vital role in the lives of our kids, they also play a vital role in real estate.  Once again this year, Blue Leaf Realty had the good fortune of helping many families get into a new home just in time to begin the school year.  For that, we are grateful and we hope that all kids who are starting school or heading back to school will be challenged to reach their full potential.

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Self-Reliance in America
July 4, 2012

The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson understood the true meaning of self-reliance.  On this July 4th, I’m wondering what it means to be self-reliant in America today.

Does it mean that I am entitled to live in a big house and drive a new car?

Does it mean that I swear allegiance to one political party or the other?

Does it mean that I follow a trail that others before me have made?

Does it mean that I am entitled to wealth and prosperity?

Or, does it mean, like the founding fathers believed, that I hold certain virtues to be so important that they are inalienable such as the ones mentioned in the Declaration of Independence – life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

I’ve always tied these inalienable rights closely to the idea of self-reliance.  In fact, I believe the founding fathers were filled with self-reliance when they drafted the Declaration and the Constitution.

To me, self-reliance is the underbelly of work – the side of work that seldom gets much credit anymore in America.  It’s not the flash of genius moment; it’s the moments leading up to the flash of genius where an inventor or scientist works at discovering something that has the power to change the world.  It’s not the moment when a business makes a profit for the first time; it’s the moments where the owners devote countless hours getting there.  It’s not the moment when a child walks for the first time without his parent’s help; it’s the moments leading up to that event where the child spends hours crawling in order to strengthen his muscles to the point where he can walk without help.  It’s not even the single moment when a team wins a championship by only a few points; it’s when the individual players realize that all those moments spent practicing have finally paid off.  Single moments in time are exciting, of course, but they are not the embodiment of self-reliance.  Instead, self-reliance is best expressed by the moments we don’t see.  The ones of failure and heartache that lay behind the moment of victory where a person simply refused to give up, refused to quit.

Ever wonder why an Olympic athlete cries when he wins the gold medal or sets a new world record.  Rest assured, it’s not the applause of the crowd or the promise of fame.  It’s because in that brief instant, in that single moment, the winner realizes and reflects on all the hard work that has led him up to that single event, that single moment in time when he uncovers his personal best.

In America, we too much cherish the event.  Instead, we should focus more on the sacrifices and hard work leading up to the event.  This is why self-reliance is no less important today than it was when our founding fathers created our beloved Constitution or when Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.

Without a doubt, the Declaration of Independence is probably the single most important American document ever written and it’s always good, in my opinion, to review at least the first few paragraphs now and again, especially on the 4th of July.  In doing so, I always wonder about the ‘pursuit of Happiness’ part and how that is interpreted.  Although it sounds good, I’ve often wondered whether happiness was the best choice of words.  It sounds very literary, of course, but I wonder if what Thomas Jefferson really meant was the pursuit of Self-reliance. not the pursuit of Happiness.  Today, happiness is generally used to refer to a temporary state.  Obviously, this meaning of the word is probably not what Jefferson had in mind when he chose the word.  Read on and determine for yourself:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Self-Reliance.

I agree, it simply does not roll off the tongue as well, but for me at least, it completes the thought much better. On this 4th of July, think about how America could be a better place if self-reliance became a virtuous virtue once again.

Great Companies Are Built on a Foundation of Small Gestures
September 5, 2011

If your business survived the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it might be time to reflect on why your business survived and others did not.  Prior to the financial industry unleashing economic Armageddon on the US economy and then hoarding capital for years, many small companies were humming along oblivious to the financial turmoil that was bubbling under the surface.  Then 2008 and the ensuing financial meltdown changed everything overnight. 

Currently, the local and national landscape  is littered with stories of small businesses that struggled to make it but could not hold on in spite of tremendous effort.  Many had invested their entire life savings only to realize that their timing was really awful and there was no bailout plan and no golden parachutes waiting for them.  Many hopes and dreams were dashed.  And, with another recession looming on the horizon, it seems feasible that another round of businesses will have to throw in the towel if people tighten up their purse strings once again.  

Still, it’s worth asking why some companies made it while others who fought the good fight did not.  I suspect the answers are as varied as the companies that were created.  Partly, businesses that survived implemented strategies such as more efficient and streamlined operating procedures and serious cost-cutting measures.  But the real answer may be less about austerity measures or the creation of new streams of revenue; instead, the answer may be found in the quantity of personal sacrifices made by the company’s owners.  I’m sure there is a strong correlation between survival and sacrifice.  There has also been a renewed sense that a solid business foundation is more than just pretty spreadsheets and financial statements – it is a portrait of a thousand small gestures delivered to the company’s customers day after day.  In fact, small gestures are the adhesive that binds a solid foundation and keeps customers coming back time and time again.  Companies that hold fast to the idea that it is the countless small gestures delivered to customers each and every day which will carry it through the tough times and reward it during the good times.  

Hopefully, we can dodge another recession in the US and small businesses across the nation will finally  get to enjoy a bountiful harvest that is commensurate with their level of dedication and sacrifice.  If not, I suspect that many small businesses will hunker down, continue delivering small gestures to their clients and customers, and survive to become stronger than they were when they started out.  Unlike the people who run large bureaucracies, small business owners know better than to rely upon Washington to get it right or bail them out.   What they will rely upon is the notion that through hard work and sacrifice great things can be accomplished.  They don’t spend their time arguing over esoteric points or fawning over their hair in the mirror or fighting over the spotlight.  Those things matter little to them.  Washington should take heed and follow suit.

Seize the Day
August 9, 2011

Setting goals is important in every profession, but goal-setting is especially important, even crucial, for small business owners.  Each week, a small business owner must set short-term goals that, once accomplished, will result in them being farther down the path toward accomplishing their long-term goals and vision.  This is why it’s so important for small business owners to seize each day.  In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams challenges his students to live life according to the motto ‘carpe diem!’  It is good advice for students and business owners alike.  Take a look at the you tube video below from Dead Poet’s where students are admonished to seize the day:

Carpe diem!

Seizing the day, however, gets you nowhere unless you become an expert goal setter.  When it comes to setting goals, set ones that are SMART:

Specific    Measurable    Attainable    Realistic    Timely

Setting goals that are SMART will compel you to be accountable to your long-term vision.  Setting SMART goals regularly will also lead to extraordinary accomplishments over time.  Remember, life is more of a marathon than a sprint!  Set SMART goals and you will finish the race well.  Blog post inspired by a  first-class friend of mine, Kelli Kilpatrick – a real life marathoner.  Hope you’re back on the trail very soon Mrs. K.

Falling Down Is Okay As Long As…
August 7, 2011

Falling down is okay as long as you get back up.  Learning to cherish failure as much as you do success is a very intriguing idea.  I’ll admit it’s not a very widely embraced one and it’s a little hard on your ego, but think about how much you learn when you experience failure.  Some people mistakenly equate failure with giving up.  They are not the same.  For some, failure results in giving up.  For others, however, failure rarely leads to quitting.  Most often, those who succeed view failure as a stepping stone to success.  If you are contemplating giving up because of failure, even repeated failure, consider following in the footsteps of these well-known figures:

Famous People Who Persevered

Many in America our fond of saying that failure is not an option.  A better way to think about this idea can be summed up by saying that failure is always an option but giving up never is.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy

What I Learned on Vacation
July 25, 2011

This year, my wife and I went on vacation to Cabo San Lucas.  We stayed at a nice resort with a great view of the Sea of Cortez.  Each day, we claimed a spot by our favorite pool.  We made sure to arrive early each morning to claim these chairs because they provided a terrific view of both the Sea of Cortez and the pool.  It was great!  During the week, I made friends with a few beach vendors who passed by our slice of paradise each day selling everything from silver jewelry to henna tattoos.  They were not overzealous in selling to us or the other guests.  It was as if they knew the answer was no before they asked for the sale.  One day I struck up a conversation with a friendly salesman that was much older than the rest and spoke much better English than I do Spanish.  It was rough going but we managed a brief conversation.  I asked him how sales were; he told me not so good.  He asked me how things were in the states, and I told him the same.  In choppy English, he proceeded to explain the basic premise of global economic interdependence.  He said, “When America no do good, Mexico worse,” or something to that effect.  He asked what I did for a living — I told him I was in real estate.  He sighed, shook his said, stared at the sand and repeated the word ‘amigo’ several times, almost apologetically.  Although he did not come around much after that, I will always remember what this very wise salesman taught me about the global economy — ‘the rest of the world hurts when we do.’    A mi amigo en Cabo — Espero mejorar sus ventas.

A Small Fish In A Big Pond
June 18, 2011

In what has become a highly consolidated and very competitive business environment, running a company in America has gotten much tougher, especially when you are a small fish in a big pond.  Surviving as a small business in today’s murky economic climate requires that you outswim, outsmart, and outmaneuver the competition each and every day.  Otherwise, you get eaten.  What’s required most of all, however, is the heart of a champion.  Every small fish in a big pond possesses the heart of a champion.  Even so, it’s still no picnic.  There are always bigger fish swimming around that must continue eating or they too will perish.  Yes, they are slow, but they are hungry and constantly on the look-out for their next meal.   Steady vigilance is required.  More than ever, small fish need the support of their community.  Why?  Because small fish embody the American Dream, and right now the American Dream is against the ropes.  

Supporting the small fish in your pond is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  The first thing is to recognize the value in choosing to work with a small fish in a big pond.  Start by patronizing those small businesses in your community that are run by local entrepreneurs.  Secondly, look for businesses with a heart.  Often, these are the small independent outfits run by a small  fish from your pond.  Thirdly, don’t assume that a large company can serve you better than a small one.  Some of the many wonderful benefits of working with a small fish in a big pond are:

  • Better Overall Customer Service
  • Faster response time
  • Exceptional communication
  • More flexibility
  • Easy accessibility

Perhaps the best benefit of all is that you get to support a small business in your own community.  Not sure what a small fish looks like, watch this movie trailer and you’ll recognize the heart of a champion.  Show some heart by embracing a small fish in your pond today – you’ll be glad you did!

Differentiate Yourself Today
May 5, 2011

As a small business owner, I ask myself two questions at the start of each day:  1. Why did I go into business for myself in the first place?, and  2. What can I do today that will set my company apart from the competition?  Reminding myself each day why I made the choice to start my own business compels me to reflect on the things I really like about running a business.  For me, it is extremely gratifying for very personal reasons, but more importantly, I like to provide great customer service.  It’s well-known, of course, that entrepreneurs start companies because they have a desire to make a profit, but usually there’s much more to the story.  Like myself, many also believe that they can provide a good or service better than the next guy and this motivates them to strike out on their own.  This makes it necessary to differentiate yourself each day by figuring out how you are going to stand out.  Standing out is a must in order to succeed in today’s crowded marketplace.   This is especially true in the real estate industry.  There are many real estate companies competing for business,  so it’s crucial to differentiate yourself in a way that appeals to the consumer.  This is always at the forefront of our minds at Blue Leaf Realty.  Here are three simple ways to rise above the competition:

  • Make your brand truly memorable – For us, the blue leaf in our logo  makes us distinctive, unique, and memorable.
  • Make your service even more memorable – For us, this means that we do things to tailor our service to each client so that we exceed his or her expectations.  Our MISSION at Blue Leaf is to Deliver Remarkable Service.
  • Make yourself available – For us, this means remaining open to  work weekends and evenings because that’s when our clients have the time to look for real estate. 

In the real estate industry, differentiating yourself from the competition is very challenging, but I’m guessing it’s the same in most industries.  That’s why it’s more important than ever before to differentiate yourself by delivering outstanding customer service.  Just like Roger Staubach said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

How do you differentiate in your industry?

 

Giving Thanks for Good Teachers
May 3, 2011

I’ve heard it said that those who can’t do, teach.  Obviously, these words came from someone who has never taught.  Teaching well is part art and part science and is incredibly challenging, and anyone who has ever taught or been taught by a good teacher knows this.  We must do a better job in this country of recognizing and encouraging good teachers to remain in the classroom.  If we don’t, they will find their way into other jobs in the private sector where their talents will be better rewarded.  This means that testing must take a back seat to teaching and teachers must be properly compensated for their efforts.  At BlueLeaf Realty, we love to help teachers with their real estate transactions.  We have a special place in our hearts for those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of young people.  Teachers – keep up the good work – we salute you!

Succeeding In Real Estate Today
April 29, 2011

Success in real estate does not come easily and requires a great deal of hard work.  With patience and perseverance, however, it is still possible to make an above average income in real estate even in today’s challenging real estate market.  A real estate agent must be personable and must have an innate drive to succeed.  They must also be willing to work hard to build their business and their brand.  If they are dogged and persistent, the hard work will pay off and their business and income will grow.  Very few career opportunities offer the same unlimited income potential as real estate.  Those who get into the real estate business believing in overnight success usually don’t fare well.  You must have a plan and must be ready to work that plan daily.  Only then will you see the return on your investment of time, energy, and effort.  You must also position yourself in a brokerage that has your back and is ready to help you reach your fullest potential.  That means the company you partner with should have a comprehensive training program designed to help you reach your goals.  Requirements do vary from state to state but Texas licensing requirements are straightforward.  Get started on your path to a career in real estate today!  There are many traditional and online real estate schools who are eager to help you pass the licensing exam.  Compared to two-year or four-year colleges, tuition for real estate is very minimal.  Upon completing your courses and passing the licensing exam, the final step is to partner with a sponsoring broker who is just as serious about your success as you are.  Email your questions about starting a career in real estate to blueleafrealty@gmail.com.