There’s always something to howl about

Cruise Ships, Battleships, and Dinghies – Did you miss the boat with your Real Estate Company?

Signs of the times.

When the going gets tough, the tough jump ship. I am starting to see the telltale signs of a challenging market for many agents as manifested in the game of Musical Brokers that is typically played when agents sense business could be better.

I, too, have been guilty of going agent-overboard in the past, several times actually. Two of the moves were pure genius, yet another was impetuous and, in hindsight, downright stupid. In each case, Steve and I were inspired to make a change because of vision: Our vision of the future of our industry and our perception that our Broker lacked it. I have come to the conclusion that real estate companies generally fall into one of three categories: Cruise Ships, Battleships, and Dinghies. (Tiresome methaphor ensues).

Cruise Ships

These are the big boys who captain the party boat. They are large, they enjoy huge name-recognition, and they barrel blindly ahead with a full boat. Everyone is having such a good time that no one is looking to the iceberg on the horizon. Alternative business models? An evolving client base? Shifting technological and economic tides? Everyone is too engrossed with the all-you-can-eat buffet to see it coming, at which point it is too late to change course. At the first sign of rough waters, bookings decline, profitability tanks and excursions are canceled. They are used to these dry-dock periods, and they will be back the next time people are ready for a good time.


Battleships are also huge and unwieldy, and corporate. They are in charge of the troops, they have rules (too many), and they thrive on control. They are most concerned with image, image of the company, and individual rights and privileges are routinely subordinated for the greater “good” (read “bottom line”). They have a long-range plan, yet the Joint Chiefs are too bogged down in red tape to read or react swiftly to the undercurrents of a changing industry. Battleships, like the Cruise Ships, are unable to turn on a dime, but correct course they will – eventually. In the meantime, too many sailors have gone AWOL.


Dinghies are small, unstable vessels yet closer to the action. They feel every swell and every change in wind direction, and can see the fog before they are in the thick of it. But, dinghies are slow. They know that their survival at sea depends on superior reaction and response time; they can’t outrun the larger ships, but they might, at least in the short term, outmaneuver them. Or, they might just waft around aimlessly. In either case, they know that when the weather improves, they will need a bigger boat to continue to compete. And this will require a highly-caffeinated Captain.

I’ve been affiliated with all three models. My former Cruise Ship is currently beached, and my former Dinghy is dangerously close to sinking (as the Captain had no sea legs). My Battleship, however, is making the turn. I am seeing signs that they are getting it, have been getting it, in fact, but they just move a little more slowly than I would have liked. Gone are some of the silly rules (mandatory sign riders promoting the company’s website, for instance). The officers are making concessions to the troops – They still won’t allow a forward from their website to ours, but they have conceded links. We were even surprised with recent approval of a personal press release which allowed reference to both our personal website and our blog, a move which was to my knowledge unprecedented. And all eyes are fixed firmly on the horizon. They are finally not only acknowledging the changing technological landscape, but embracing it, if ever so slowly. Affiliations with and feeds to search engine portals, a shift of marketing emphasis away from print and toward online, and a culture which encourages rather than disdains personal branding are just a few of the examples.

Unless you are captain of your own ship, you will always be at the mercy of those at your helm. Not all of your company’s decisions will be in your individual best interest, nor will you ever enjoy complete autonomy. But, unless you plan on piloting your own Dinghy, you may enjoy the knowledge that your ship will remain afloat.

Your choice of real estate brokerage comes down to a personal decision, and it is far too easy in tougher times to miss the boat.


10 Comments so far

  1. RE Agent in CT » The Feed Bag June 5th, 2007 4:09 pm

    […] Kris Berg writing on Bloodhound is stellar as usual in Cruise Ships, Battleships, and Dinghies – Did you miss the boat with your Real Estate Company? Required Reading […]

  2. Phil Hoover June 5th, 2007 7:17 pm

    Okay, Kris ~ I missed your point?
    Were you implying that you were dingy?
    Or, are you the captain of your own ship now? 🙂
    If you aren’t, you should be!

  3. Kris Berg June 5th, 2007 8:16 pm

    Phil, I’ve been called worse. No, I am an independent contractor with my license hung at a Battleship. It works for me, until they give me my walking papers due to insubordination. In the meantime, I will enjoy my position, one of all of the accountability but none of the authority, yet a boatload of armament. Perhaps, along the way, I can effect some change. (Dinghy or dingy? Perhaps a little of the latter as well).

  4. Brian Brady June 5th, 2007 8:51 pm

    “Unless you are captain of your own ship, you will always be at the mercy of those at your helm.”

    Why else would anyone get into real estate brokerage?

    Excellent analogies, Kris. I work for a yacht; small, nimble, but with a big lead bottom to stabilize us during difficult times.

  5. Jay Thompson June 5th, 2007 9:59 pm

    “Tiresome methaphor ensues” my a$$. It’s YET ANOTHER fantabulous post by Kris Berg. Don’t you EVER just write something that’s pure crap? You’re a freak I tell ya, a freak!

    Though you did misspell “metaphor”… 🙂

  6. br June 5th, 2007 10:20 pm

    Awesome post Kris!

  7. Kris Berg June 6th, 2007 7:35 am

    >Though you did misspell “metaphor

    Dang it! I’m firing that spellchecker.

  8. Jay Thompson June 6th, 2007 9:12 am

    Firefox has a built in spell checker! (though it flags the word “blog”….)

  9. “The grass is not always greener on the other side”. It is amazing how many agents are “jumping ship” from one company to another as the market adjusts. We couldn’t be happier with our ship.

  10. […] I’ll give you a real life example of why I’m skeptical. Every time I buy that little, grossly overpriced tube of Oil of Olay Age Rejuvenator, I remind myself that it took 10 years to get myself into this mess, and it will take me another ten to reverse the process – That is, if it’s not too late. I wrote awhile ago about big real estate companies having a lot in common with battleships. They are slow to react. Zillow and Trulia and the likes (and there will be millions of more “likes” entering the ring before I hit the publish button) are lean, mean, nimble and entrepreneurial. NAR is still singing “The Way We Were”. While NAR is attempting to build a national, Realtor-only Gateway, everyone else is busy providing the same information to the consumer. Remember the consumer? They are the dudes who actually buy and sell the product we represent. While NAR is sitting around in the exclusive, members-only clubhouse in their smoking jackets, Rich Barton is out dating my client. […]