Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In some ways, this couldn’t be more applicable to the past week I have had.
The week started off with a bang. Technically it was the prior week, but who’s counting? You see, on Saturday, April 14th, 2011, at 10:58PM, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. We finally got to meet our son, Michael for the first time, and the entire experience was amazing, exciting, and at the same time the most humbling experience I’ve ever had.
What an amazing week this was. I got to take time off work, spend time getting to know my little guy, and the topper was that my birthday was this Sunday, the 22nd. Life was great and I was enjoying every minute of the week and the weekend.
As we were getting ready to cut the birthday cake though, I got a text from a friend that was going to change things in a most terrible way. The text said that Joanne Knapp had passed away.
Joanne Knapp was a Realtor® at Sereno Group, in Los Gatos, California. Joanne, and her son Roger were a very successful Real Estate team that truly cared about their clients, putting their needs first and foremost, doing it “the right way”, even if it meant that they may not necessarily get that next commission, or make that huge pay day.
Joanne Knapp started out as a client of mine. Over the years we knew each other though, she became so much more. She became our friend, and she also became our Realtor®.
I never told her this, but many times, over the years that I’ve known her, I would think about how her way of doing Real Estate is how “it should be”, and how she could be an inspiration to Realtors® everywhere.
Sadly I never got to tell her how I felt about her. I can though share with you my experiences with her, as a vendor, a client, and a friend. It is my hopes that you will read this post and embrace even one piece of how Joanne approached life and business.
The word “pressure” should never apply to Real Estate
Owning a company that specializes in Real Estate marketing puts me in an interesting spot. You see, there is only one of me, but I have thousands of clients. At one time or another, everybody asks me about who my Realtor® is, and if I’m looking to sell my home, or buy a new one, or if I might know of anyone that can use their services.
They ask me this, because they are doing their job. As a Realtor®, you’re supposed to “ask” for business. After all, if you don’t ask for it, how are you going to get it?
This is in fact how Joanne, her son Roger came to be my wife and my Realtors. You see, one day Joanne and Roger asked me to have lunch with them. We were working on a marketing project that was going to go out to their sphere of influence, and we were going to grab a bite to eat and go over the details. As we frequently did, once we were done talking about work, we got to talking about more personal things. This particular time, it happened to be the fact that I was about to get married.
Joanne was thrilled for me. She hadn’t met Kristy (my wife to be) before, but she knew a lot about her because of conversations we had had in the past. Kristy is a third grade teacher, and Joanne at one time was a teacher as well. She always remembered little details we had discussed, and when we would later see each other, she would ask me how things were going, and how Kristy was, actually remembering and referencing things we had talked about in the past.
This particular day, while having lunch, I described what was going on with the wedding, as well as a call I had received from my CPA that day. My CPA had mentioned to me that she was looking at what our taxes were going to look like for the year, and after we got back from our honeymoon, Kristy and I either needed to plan on having a kid, or buying a house. Joanne asked me if we had been talking about having kids, which of course we hadn’t. She calmly said, “then we need to talk about you guys getting a house. How about you and your fiancé come in next week to see us?
I agreed, but honestly didn’t really know what to expect. Kristy and I had enough pressure on us with our rapidly approaching wedding. My company, while successful, was still kind of in “start up mode”, and my staff and I would regularly pull 80-100 hour work weeks. The thought of getting pressured into buying a home, and all the things that would come with that was frankly more than I thought either of us could handle.
Before business comes, a relationship should be born
When we arrived to Joanne and Roger’s office, for our meeting, I was quite surprised in that everything I thought we were going to be doing was completely off base. The first meeting in fact, we did not discuss anything about getting pre-qualified, getting set up on listing alert, the buying process, or even the possibility of going out and looking at any homes.
Instead, we sat down and got to know each other. I obviously knew Joanne and Roger, but they had never met Kristy, and they had never seen us “together”. We talked about our lives, what we were looking forward to, our wedding day that was coming up, and everything else under the sun.
After we had talked for a while, Joanne gave us both questionnaires to fill out. These were not your typical Q&A forms though. Just as Joanne had taken great interest in our lives, personalities and what kind of people we were, the questionnaires were constructed the exact same way. We filled them out, and Joanne and Roger set up a time for us to come in again and see them the following week.
Leaving their office, I was kind of shocked. The meeting was nothing what I thought it would be, and nothing like I had told Kristy it would be. When we got in the car, I asked her what she thought and her response was,
“I really wasn’t looking forward to doing this, but I knew we needed to, so I just sucked it up and went. I’m really happy I came though. They are such nice people and I had such a great time talking with them.”
Suddenly it was all becoming clear to me. Many Realtors® use the statement that “Real Estate is a relationship business”. The truth is though that very few carry this belief throughout every aspect of their dealings with clients and prospects. Joanne and Roger on the other hand, simply “got it”, and this meeting set the foundation for what was going to be a long lasting relationship.
Our future meetings with them of course started revolving around Real Estate, but the very interesting thing is that simply by spending time with us, and truly getting to know us in the beginning, the homes they suggested we look at were spot on with what we wanted. Everything from the cabinet space Kristy would want in the kitchen, to the types of neighborhoods I would want to live in. None of these things were questions they actually asked us when we first met. They just knew these things, having truly listened to us and learned about us when we met. It worked perfectly and within a matter of a week or two, we had found the perfect home that we just loved.
Sometimes it’s good to talk people out of making a mistake (even if it affects your bottom line)
After we moved into our home, Joanne and Roger kept in touch with us, and we would periodically get together for lunch and dinner, when time would permit. A couple years after we moved into our home, Kristy and I got antsy and were thinking that we wanted to move to a downtown area, where there were more things going on and more amenities within walking distance. I got online, and within a week or two, we found a place that we thought was perfect.
We called Joanne and Roger and asked if they could meet us at the listing and show us the home. Joanne was available that evening, so she met us there and we walked through the home. The home was beautiful, larger than our current home, and on paper, really great. Joanne however wasn’t thrilled for us to sell our home and buy this one.
She asked us to hold off for a brief bit, and revisit the area, two to three times, at different times of day, to really see if we were dead set on living here. We did so, and it turned out that she was right. For various reasons that I won’t bore you with, Kristy and I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the right home for us, and we opted to stay where we were and not move.
Joanne knew us, our tastes, and our needs. She was able to see that this was a bad fit for us, before we even realized it. While she could have helped us sell our current home, buy the new one, and collect two commissions, she didn’t. Our happiness was of paramount importance to her.
I could go on and on about how Joanne and Roger conduct their Real Estate practice. All the examples though point to one single thing: Relationships come first. With good relationships, come good business.
I know many of you already know and practice these things in your day to day business. Many though do not. To those that do, congratulations! To those that don’t, I hope this article has intrigued you to give thought to some of these things.
Just spending time with Joanne made me a better person. My most sincere condolences go out to all her friends and family. I will miss you greatly Joanne, and I hope you have found peace.