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Do It Yourself and More Nonsense From Otherwise Intelligent Folk

At 57 I still can’t decide if those insisting on always doing things themselves are deluded, arrogant beyond understanding, or so much brighter than I am, I’m doomed to forever be in the dark. The unrelenting confidence oozing from the pores of do-it-yourselfers piss me off if only on principle. :) How many times do they hafta reinvent the damn wheel — reborn as a richly elegant octagon — before they discover the problem is them? Of course there are usually so many questions they don’t even know to ask — their ignorance basks in the glow of never ending faux bliss.

Wanna know the problem with ignorance? Ya never know how much you don’t know. Why? Often cuz you’re a do-it-yourselfer. Today I’m speaking mostly to real estate agents, but the principles apply to any job. As an agent your bottom line job description ain’t rocket science. You’re either finding a home for someone or selling a home for someone — both in a timely and professional manner. As simple as that is to state, we all know from experience that’s a bunch of overflowing plates on our daily table. All the skill sets required to become expert in those two jobs can be daunting when one wishes to actually, you know, be an expert.

Those skill sets are learned. Mentors, company training programs, blogs, seminars/conferences, webinars, and even books are some of the vehicles carrying agents to the legitimate status of expert — combined of course with endless hours of repetitive study and practice. Yet how many times do we see a so-called expert, often self-proclaimed, wanting us to believe they did it all themselves? They all have brown eyes eventually, cuz spewing that BS long enough tends to turn ‘em that way.

You’re not an expert in online technology. You’re not an SEO expert. (Though you and I may be the only ones online who don’t claim that these days.) Let’s look at an incomplete list of related areas of expertise for which do-it-yourselfers fail miserably while belligerently maintaining they’ve mastered them. What a crock.

Using the web via blogs/websites to sell/list property.

Successfully employing SEO principles online.

Using ‘social media’ in general.

Drip email programs. Or, more honestly put, how to stretch out the time it takes to finally get folks to threaten bodily harm due to your expert marketing. :) Don’t get me wrong, I think the drip approach works as well as intended — but only when designed/executed by an expert.

Direct mail marketing.

Postcard marketing.

There’s plenty more we could put on that list if we put our heads together, right?

Here’s how do-it-yourselfers convince themselves of their superior expertise. They compare their results to other do-it-yourselfers. Agents do this incessantly on blogs and at conferences, seminars, and REbarcamps. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be funny. Don’t misunderstand me — this isn’t a blanket indictment of those media — but seriously, the person on the stage is often the one who’s merely a couple chapters ahead of everyone else in the book.

In my time I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder, a marathoner, and an NCAA umpire, including post season. Was I a do-it-yourselfer? No, as I had more respect for those who were legitimate experts in those three fields than to demean their expertise in that manner. In the gym I was trained by a world champion one on one. When a runner, San Diego was blessed with numerous long distance experts who were nationally and sometimes even world famous. As an up and coming umpire, former major league umps and several with NCAA World Series experience trained me on the diamond, hands on.

The arrogance demonstrated by do-it-yourselfers who think they’re at levels they can’t even see, much less execute, is possibly exceeded only by the difference between what they think they know and reality.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand economic realities. Sometimes something is better than nothing, and good enough for now can become much improved over time. I get it. I’m not endorsing the typical agent who’s forever getting ready to do something — just prior to leaving the business. We all do what needs to be done if we’re serious. But when there’s a choice, please, stop with the I can do-it-myself as well as the expert, cuz you’re embarrassing yourself.

If you studied what a real expert does for six months you probably still wouldn’t know what they’ve forgotten. Harsh? Not really. The word expert has been bastardized second only to the word ‘great’ in sports. I was a pretty decent umpire, but I wasn’t within sniffing distance of Doug Harvey, a slam dunk expert, who was one of the best Major League umps who ever trod a diamond. I learned to train and run ever improving marathons, but was never on ESPN. With one exception I never finished in the top ten WOMEN in my age division. :) I competed in bodybuilding, once placing 7th in what I think was called Mr. Teenage So. California. Don’t be impressed though, as compared to the top three, my name might as well have been Nancy. Though I was trained by an expert for two years, they’d been trained by experts for 8-10 years. The winner went on to have quite a career, making several magazine covers. Talk about perception meeting reality. Crestfallen doesn’t cover it. :)

So can we please temper the do-it-yourself mania? It’s gettin’ on my last raw nerve. My son makes the argument the do-it-yourself era in real estate related skill sets has been slowly fading for the last year or two. He bases that on the observation that he doesn’t read any more about agents ‘…lying naked on the beach while the money pours in from leads generated from their miracle website, designed and engineered by them alone.’. Gotta love the way he puts things. :)

He further notes that those who’ve survived this latest cleansing have, to the extent affordable, ‘called the guy’ whenever possible. I hope he’s right.

‘Calling the Guy’ has been my M.O. since forever. I’m a real estate investment expert, but only a pretender when it comes to CRM, various forms of marketing, internet technology, and the like. Those thinking they’ve effectively mastered all those skill sets are either kiddin’ themselves, or truly are way smarter than the rest of us. That said, it’s amazing how many answers I get to questions I never knew to even ask when talking with a real life expert. Why would anyone want less than the best results possible?

What say you?

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  • 16 comments

    16 Comments so far

    1. David G from Zillow.com June 30th, 2009 11:56 am

      A great rant well worth reading. Let me know when I can send you a quote to do your online marketing / CS for you Jeff ;-)

      Personally, I think it’s a matter of knowing your strengths. There truly are great marketers in Real Estate and you can learn from them (like here or at REBC) but … not all great Realtors are great marketers and the ones that aren’t need to know who to ask for help/mentoring.

    2. Mark Madsen June 30th, 2009 1:13 pm

      “but seriously, the person on the stage is often the one who’s merely a couple chapters ahead of everyone else in the book.”

      Well said.

      I believe someone who is a true expert at something:

      1. has already made most of the mistakes
      2. knows all of the right questions to ask
      3. has a very realistic perspective and understanding of how much more information is left to learn on the topic

      I also believe that we need to leverage the combined expertise of several people in order to have a more well rounded and successful real estate practice.

    3. Jeff Brown June 30th, 2009 2:29 pm

      Hey David — Thanks for the offer. I’ll let you know when I’m ready for a quote. :)

      Your observation about knowing our strengths is on the money. Thanks again.

    4. Jeff Brown June 30th, 2009 2:36 pm

      Appreciate that Mark — I like your 3 points. In my area of expertise, you simply cannot know all that’s there all the time. The ever changing tax laws alone will make you crazy if you allow it. :)

      One of the first ‘recognition factors’ for me when identifying an expert in any field is when they begin answering questions I would never have had a clue to ask. At that point they begin to attract my focused attention.

    5. Greg Swann June 30th, 2009 3:58 pm

      Oh, man. I can’t even begin to catalog all the ways I disagree with this. I guess I need to hire a guy to write my list. ;)

      I don’t mow my own lawn.

      I don’t change my own oil.

      There are a lot of things I can do but don’t, and a lot of other things that most everyone can do that I cannot. If I didn’t have to, I would not pump my own gas. In the long run, my plan is to have a driver so that my hands are free to work in the car.

      But: I will only pay a guy to write copy for me if I don’t care at all about that copy.

      I would love to pay an artist to take on my design work, but I can’t afford it. Yet.

      There will never come a day when I will relinquish dictatorial control over our software, although I have paid my son to actually write code for us in the past.

      If I could afford him, I would hire Richard Riccelli to do a direct mail package for us, but I would test other packages against him, even so.

      Except for Richard, I have zero confidence in the guys who claim to be experts at marketing. I think most of what passes for expertise, at least in any field of knowledge that I understand well, is just monkey-see, monkey-do.

      In any case, I’m always looking for the most bang I can get for the buck, and I don’t have the bucks to throw around taking chances on people. We market by objectives, and, because we build our own marketing tools, we can tool and retool and test and retest to make sure we’re hitting our marks.

      I’m not interested in doing anything that is not mission-critical, and there are a host of mission-critical jobs that I am very happy to delegate. But marketing is my business. The better I get at it, the better I’ll do, and the better I do, the better I’ll get. There may be a guy who can do it better than I can — in the abstract. But there is no one who will market my business with the ferocity and intensity I bring to the problem every hour of every day.

      Delegate the inessential? You bet. As much as you can afford to. But you cannot delegate the work that matters most.

    6. Jeff Brown June 30th, 2009 4:11 pm

      Greg — I don’t see where we disagree a whit, based upon your comment. The things you do yourself, write copy, code, etc., are areas in which one could consider you an expert.

      Mow lawns and change oil? Me too — but that’s time management, nothing requiring ‘elite’ expertise.

      The things you’d love to have experts do for you, you would if affordable — exactly what I said, almost in those words.

      We don’t disagree.

    7. Greg Swann June 30th, 2009 5:01 pm

      > We don’t disagree.

      Dang! Now what? ;)

    8. Greg Swann June 30th, 2009 5:24 pm

      Actually, I do need to concede some ground here. I am a high-D off the charts. Cathy is an Sd, which makes for a very lovable sales person — good at keeping sellers off the warpath. We need a high-C so bad that we are literally getting buried in our need for a high-C. That’s my Q4 goal: A high-C to dig us out of all this paper. You win, grandpa. I’m in your debt.

    9. Ken brand June 30th, 2009 6:38 pm

      Nicely written and red-dot on the money.

      I concur Dr. – 2 things/thoughts

      1. When it matters most, or just matters, hiring the-expert is a sign of maturity and wisdom.

      2. If we are fortunate enough to be earn true “expert” recognition in what ever we do, no matter what, let’s not puff-up, strut-tall and proclaim braggadociosly, our Expert/Guru emperorship. Confidently humble is the way.

      Thanks.

    10. Jeff Brown June 30th, 2009 7:49 pm

      Exactly Ken — You either are or are not, and others will let you know.

      The more knowledge, skill, and experience I’ve gained over the years, the more I’ve realized the pursuit of those three assets were what would keep me humble, and always learning. Also failure, though painful at times, has often opened up significant opportunities to grow relatively rapidly.

      This never ending correction has already dragged me kickiin’ and screamin’ into nooks and crannies heretofore unexplored so far. Good stuff.

    11. Greg Swann June 30th, 2009 8:35 pm

      > The more knowledge, skill, and experience I’ve gained over the years, the more I’ve realized the pursuit of those three assets were what would keep me humble, and always learning.

      It would be wrong for me to fail to disclose that humility is what I’m worst at. ;)

    12. Dan Connolly June 30th, 2009 9:51 pm

      As on who was essentially self taught in all of the aspects of real estate, I have to stand up for the do it yourself types. Just because you teach yourself how to do something doesn’t mean that you can’t get it right. Before I take on anything I do my research. I don’t like failure.

      Over the last 23 years I think I have read every book ever written about real estate sales. I took every training seminar I could. I probably took over a dozen seminars from different sales trainers some of them more than once, paid the $395 or $599, and bought the tapes. Shortly after I was licensed, I took appraisal courses and got certified for that.

      Why I call that “do it yourself” and not “going to experts” is because I didn’t buy any one person’s complete approach. I took a little here and there and developed my own unique self taught method.

      I have a friend who is a self taught pianist. He plays beautiful intricate music. I made the mistake of thinking “self taught” means playing by ear. He said,no he got books and taught himself how to read music, what scales were, and everything else that he needed to know.

      I think really at the crux of it, Jeff you are a do it yourself kind of guy as well. Even though you may hire an expert to show you how to do something, you are the one who separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to deciding who actually is an expert, and you are the one who learns what needs to be learned, and the one who carries what you have learned all of the way through to execution and completion.

    13. Jeff Brown June 30th, 2009 10:21 pm

      Hey Dan — Why’d'ya gotta call me names for? :)

      I see our point, but are you splittin’ hairs here? Using your thinking, if I only studied physics under Einstein back in the day, I wouldn’t become a well rounded expert on the subject. In my side of the biz, not unlike yours, things fall into a couple very broad columns. They’re either part of a particular ‘school of thought’, debatable if you will, or they are set in concrete; one way, no debate, end of discussion.

      Example: Often it’s debatable whether or not a 1031 is the best strategy. But it’s not debatable when it comes to the rules/structure of a 1031.

      You’ve become an expert exactly because you learned mostly from experts. You think Sandy Koufax learned his curve ball from the Little League coach who lived down the street? Or may from Curve balls for Dummies? :) Not likely. He wasn’t self taught either.

      For the record, here’s a direct quote from the post:

      Mentors, company training programs, blogs, seminars/conferences, webinars, and even books are some of the vehicles carrying agents to the legitimate status of expert — combined of course with endless hours of repetitive study and practice.

      You said the same thing in different words in your comment, right?

      You and I learned to become what we are today almost identically. I can still hear some of the legends whose seminars I attended as a youngster. I read their books too, including those who didn’t put on seminars. I took most of an entire year off to do that along with completing the entire curriculum offered by the CCIM program. We’ve lived much the same professional life, Dan.

      You’re miles from being a do-it-yourselfer. Not even close. We both learned from many, many experts. They taught us, and we were very willing students.

      Do it ourselves? Not friggin’ likely. :)

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    15. Sean Purcell July 2nd, 2009 10:43 pm

      Hey Jeff,

      Coming late to the party (I’m days behind on essential reading and BHB is at the top of that list) but your “rant” is, as usual, a good read. Especially the part about the guy on the stage being only a couple chapters ahead.

      I also appreciate Ken’s line:

      If we are fortunate enough to earn true “expert” recognition in what ever we do, no matter what, let’s not puff-up, strut-tall and proclaim braggadociosly, our Expert/Guru emperorship. Confidently humble is the way.

      Reminds me of something my dad used to tell me: “If you have to tell people you’re the boss… you ain’t the boss.”

      Keep ‘em coming bawldguy.

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