By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Wealthier and more mobile than previous generations, Baby Boomers will have more choices after retirement than previous generations, experts predict. Baby Boomers may accumulate as much as twice the total wealth that their parents have, according toa study by Lisa Keister, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University and author of Wealth in America: Trends in Wealth Inequality (Cambridge, 2000). To tap into this market, real estate professionals will need to understand which factors Boomers weigh when considering potential retirement spots. Retire in Style: 50 Affordable Places Across America ($22.95, Next Decade, Inc. 2001) by Warren R. Bland, Ph.D. guides readers across 10 regions and 23 states to search out affordable, retiree-friendly communities in the country.
The author, a geography professor at California State University, Northridge, drew on his own travel experiences, as well as research from city and county agencies in writing the book. He judges each community on a series of criteria: landscape, climate, quality of life, cost of living, transportation, retail services, health care, community services, cultural and educational activities, recreational activities, work and volunteer activities, and crime rates and public safety. For each category, the author assigns a rating on a scale of one (poor) to five (excellent). The book then combines the ratings for each category to create a city’s overall score.
Some of the categories are grounded in statistics; for example the cost of living rating uses information from ACCRA (American Chambers of Commerce Research Association) Cost of Living index and supplemental information from city and county agencies. Other criteria, for example, quality of life considers such factors as noise pollution, traffic pollution, and the general friendliness of a city’s population, leaving them more open to interpretation. The author also notes that since the relative importance of individual categories will differ for each reader, individual category scores may be more important than cumulative ones. For instance, Boulder, Colo., received the highest overall score of the 50 communities evaluated in the book, but its cold winters and high cost of living might not be for everyone. Other top communities included such diverse locations as Portland, Oregon; Asheville, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas.
Retire in Style is broken into three sections. The first is an introduction that describes the criteria used to choose the top cities, a map of the top 50 places, and a reference chart that lists individual ratings for each community by category. The second section consists of descriptions of each community, including a brief explanation for its rating in each category, a breakdown of its climate throughout the year, and a map. The final section gives readers additional resources, including contact information for local chambers of commerce and visitors’ bureaus, as well as addresses to request information about climate, cost of living, crime, and health care in each community.
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the top 50 communities, then you probably already know that your city appeals to retirees. But even if your community is not one of the chosen few, you might be able to find towns in or near your market that offer similarly attractive climate and cost of living. If so, you might be sitting on an untapped retiree market. Using what you’ve learned about retirees values, you can devise a marketing strategy to appeal to these buyers. Retire in Style can let you zero in on what retiring Baby Boomers want and recognize if you are overlooking a great marketing opportunity in your own backyard.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Sometimes you need to slow down before you can speed ahead. TurboStrategy: 21 Powerful Ways to Transform Your Business and Boost Your Profits Quickly (AMACOM, 2003, $19.95), by prolific speaker and consultant Brian Tracy, reveals how taking the time to assess your business operations, workers, market conditions, and competition, can help you formulate a forward-looking plan to transform your business into a streamlined profit machine.
The book promises to help you turn around a lagging business or even help accelerate an already thriving business. It stresses the importance of flexibility, so sudden changes won’t knock you off course. This is a timely message for the current real estate market; business is booming now, but have you prepared yourself for any eventuality?
You might feel as if pausing—even for a moment—will cause you to fall behind your competitors. But moving at breakneck speed without a plan can prove disastrous. The book cites a statistic from the American Management Association that a staggering 70 percent of managers’ business decisions are doomed to failure. Pulling over and mapping out where you are, and where you’re going, can help bypass these detours.
The book provides a soup-to-nuts approach to this process, with a 21-point plan designed to reinvest struggling businesses and boost already successful ones to the next level. Each chapter ends with a series of questions that crystallize what points you should remember after reading the main text. For instance, “Chapter 3: Conduct a Basic Business Analysis” asks you to define your competitive advantage, describe your business in terms of what you do for your customers and what results you produce, and determine which 20 percent of your activities generate 80 percent of the returns.
These points may seem elementary, but as the Tracy points out, many business owners still overlook them. He quotes Harold Geneen, the CEO who built ITT Industries Inc. into a major computer conglomerate: “Get the real facts. Not the apparent facts, the hoped-for facts, or the obvious facts. Get the real facts, based on analysis.”
This means focusing on the cold, hard numbers. What is your current sales level? What are you selling, at what price, to what customers, and with what level of profitability? Geneen believes that becoming trapped in doing the same old thing is a constant danger for business owners. He advocates “ zero-based” thinking, which basically means asking yourself, “If I weren’t doing this today, would I do it again, knowing what I know now?” Sometimes it’s more efficient just to tear a system down and start over from scratch, rather than trying to fix it.
Another key component of the book’s strategy is setting goals. How can you expect to succeed if you don’t even know what it is that you’re trying to achieve? This involves setting both quantitative business goals, as well as defining overall vision. Clarifying your goals is often simply a matter of restating them within a logical, structured framework. In “Chapter 4: Decide Exactly What You Want” Tracy outlines the “GOSPA Model,” which provides a template for strategic planning.
The GOSPA Model consists of five parts:
- Goals. Your quantifiable targets in areas such as sales, growth rate, market share, or percentage of return on investment.
- Objectives. The interim steps, or subgoals, that you must take to achieve your goals, such as a specific rate of return on advertising or a reduction in costs for an activity.
- Strategies. The menu of strategies that you can use to achieve your objectives and reach your goals.
- Plans. Concrete blueprints for achieving your goals, comprising step-by-step lists of day-to-day activity, broken down by sequence and priority.
- Actions. Clear, specific, time-bounded tasks to carry out your plans.
Later chapters present tactics to ensure that you are ready to face market changes. This includes analyzing not only your own business, but also your market and your competitors to compete in current conditions.
“Chapter 11: Do It Better, Faster, Cheaper” explains the importance of differentiating your company from competitors to achieve market superiority. According to Tracy, competitive advantage—what you do better than anyone else—is the most important determinant of success. Simply trying to cut prices (commissions) alone isn’t enough to separate you from the pack. Perhaps your sales force possesses special expertise, such as language skills or knowledge about buying second homes. Or maybe you are well versed in technology and can offer customers a little extra, such as sending buyers automatic e-mail notifications when a property meeting their criteria comes on the market. No matter what you choose to highlight, Tracy believes that you also need to be better, faster, and easier to use in at least three areas, and that you should emphasize these areas in your marketing and sales work.
The book also recommends planning out possible scenarios as well as how you will deal with them when you face change head on. But you also must focus on making continual improvements to anticipate gradual changes. Stripping down your business operations to peak efficiency will create an organization that can respond rapidly to change. “Chapter 17: Reengineer Your Company” shows how to streamline and optimize your business to raise your profits. Complexity creates a barrier to peak efficiency. Tracy’s “Law of Complexity” states, “The complexity of a process increases by the square number of steps in that process.” He advises listing the steps you take to complete business tasks, then look for steps that can be eliminated or outsourced, such as hiring an outside computer specialist, rather than having a tech support person on staff. Similarly, you should examine your own schedule to look for tasks that you could delegate to an assistant.
It’s virtually impossible to predict how long the real estate market can sustain its present heat. However, whether you own an independent company with a two-person staff or run a major franchise, taking a moment to outline concrete goals and watching out for adverse changes will serve you well in any market. This all starts with slowing down to examine where you are, where you’re going, and how you plan to get there. By taking these steps, you can maximize your ability to succeed and boost your bottom line.