By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
What does selling real estate have in common with selling hamburgers? On the surface, not very much, unless you plan on asking buyers if they’d like to supersize their condo. But real estate practitioners can learn from the marketing strategies employed by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, to add the personalization and speed of response that the Internet marketplace demands, argues speaker, author, and former fast food franchise owner G. Liam Thompson. His book, E-Business to Go: Insider Secrets to Make Your Small Business a Big Business on the Internet (Appallaso Publishing, 2001. $17.95) uses Dave Thomas’s revolutionary fast food business model as a template for achieving e-business success.
Written in a light, accessible tone, the book outlines how such ideas as delivering products fast or not at all, giving free value-added services, and knowing your customers are transferable to any business. E-Business to Go is divided into two sections: the first describes the ingredients of a successful e-business; the second examines the role of outside vendors in creating Web presences.
Real estate salespeople will probably find the first section more useful because it focuses on delivering customer service over the Internet. The book takes a largely theoretical approach to the material, but there is some solid content that readers can use to gauge their site’s effectiveness. For instance, one of the book’s most useful features is its “Power Tests for Your E-Business.” Placed at the end of each chapter, these concise self-evaluations provide valuable questions that you should be asking yourself about your site.
For instance, a quiz titled “How Well Do You Fix Mistakes?” advises users to do the following:
- Ask a friend to contact your site’s customer service or help desk and describe a fictitious problem. Then evaluate the response in terms of speed, personalized attention, process resolution, and follow-up.
- Have a staff member analyze your site as a first-time visitor, and list every occasion where a promise or commitment is made. (For instance, that e-mails will be responded to by the end of the day.) Periodically test these areas to see how effectively these promises are being carried out.
The author launches most chapters with an anecdote from his fast food days, then explains how the story applies to e-business. To explain the value of one-to-one personal marketing, Thompson relates how Wendy’s servers took the time to learn customers’ name and to remember their regular orders, building customer loyalty. “Here’s the way I like to put it. If you know my name, AND you know my preferences, you know I’ll be back,” he says. Real estate salespeople can implement personal relationships through such tools as membership clubs and other permission-based marketing. Membership (or loyalty) clubs, in which practitioners form alliances with local businesses and offer discounts or free products to customers who join, create a sense of belonging among clients.
The book’s second section takes a look at application service providers and their effect on e-business, particularly the Internet site builder programs he describes as “apps on tap.” These Internet programs build, host, and maintain user’s sites. For instance, it might include templates for building a site and 24 hour site maintenance and tech support. This has allowed users who otherwise might not be able to create a web site, due to lack of time, resources, or experience to create workable e-businesses. The book concludes with comprehensive reviews of these sites, including ratings on pricing, features, and design options.
Overall, the book serves as a solid introduction to the principles behind marketing over the Internet. And the light tone and offbeat fast-food stories the topic easier to digest. Experienced e-marketers will probably find the book too basic, as if they had ordered a Whopper and came away with a kid’s meal.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
They called him Neutron Jack. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch accumulated other labels during his 20 year tenure, but for many years that nickname stuck. Some employees gave it to him in the early eighties, after a tough-minded decision to cut employment rolls; in honor of a type of thermonuclear weapon designed to kill people, but leave buildings standing. By the time he retired this past spring, however, he was celebrated in many quarters as the CEO’s CEO, a icon of business leadership. Now Welch returns with Jack: Straight From the Gut (Warner Books, 2001. $29.95), recounting his story from his Massachusetts Irish Catholic upbringing to his final days at GE. If you manage a company, or have dreams of doing so one day, this book provides an opportunity to learn about leadership from a business great.
Brokers might find Chapter 24: “What this CEO Thing is All About” especially illuminating. It distills some of the key ingredients that Welch feels led to his success. Obviously, there are many differences between running a Fortune 500 company and a small real estate business, but effective leadership values remain the same on any scale. Some of these elements are characteristics that leaders must build in themselves, such as integrity, self-confidence, and passion. Leaders do more than make decisions, says Welch, they set the tone for the entire organization.
Welch’s people-oriented business philosophy is reflected throughout the book, as he repeatedly stresses the importance of having the right people around you to achieve business success. He describes being a CEO as “a job that’s close to 75 percent about people and 25 percent about other stuff.” Among the many lessons he learned about managing people were:
- Don’t punish honest mistakes. When people make mistakes often the last thing they need is disciple, Welch says. Instead, a leader’s job should be to restore the employee’s self-confidence. If you fail to create an environment where people can learn from their mistakes, their mistakes will pile up as they begin to second-guess themselves.
- Don’t hire on appearances. Falling for slick, empty packages is an easy mistake to make, Welch says. He talks about how he sometimes let himself be swayed by credentials such as academic degrees, when what he really was searching for was a passion for the business.
- Always be direct. Welch scorns what he calls “superficial congeniality” the bureaucratic art of smiling to someone’s face, while waiting for an opening to stick a knife in their back. Whether or not they agree with your decisions, he believes, being direct earns the respect of people around you.
A self-described round peg in a square hole, Welch says that his outspoken honesty sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. Critics predicted he was too different to survive long as CEO, but his 20-year success at GE proved them wrong. Jack: Straight from the Gut offers his view of why he succeeded. Along the way, it provides real estate practitioners with the opportunity to learn about leadership from one of the best. Real estate is essentially no different than any other business. If a brokerage’s leadership exhibits a strong sense of the company’s goals and values, then this spirit will spread throughout its members. Though he was not universally loved throughout his GE tenure, he had a distinct vision for the company’s direction. Whatever else people called him, there was never any doubt that Jack Welch was the boss.