The Lead Ladder

Several years ago while at the Atlanta Board of Realtors, curiosity got the best of me and I ducked into their book store to see what they offered.  This little book with a subtitle – Painlessly  Turning Strangers into Clients One Step at a Time was not only relevant to real estate agents, but certainly loan officers, closing attorneys and frankly anyone in business.

My personal opinion is that most real estate agents, lenders and closing attorneys that fail in business do so not because they are incompetent technically but because they do not have enough business (leads, prospects, clients, etc.) to remain profitable.

The Lead Ladder written (in 2005) prior to at least the take-off of social media and websites/companies like Zillow, realtor.com etc. is as relevant now as it was then.  If you are struggling because you can’t build enough business to remain in it or if you are doing well but want to do better this book is for you!  I always tell staff and attorneys that we need business to remain profitable so we can practice ( note law firms are referred to often as a practice) and get better.  If you wait to have the perfect system to serve your relationships you will fail. Nothing is as important to your success as staying in business which you and I can’t do without clients.

Marcus Schaller, sums up his book this way on page  ix of the foreword, “The Lead Ladder is about earning trust.” Trust takes strangers to prospects and prospects to clients and clients to relationships which become enduring (that’s my philosophy but in line with Marcus).   The book itself is less than 130 pages and can be read and re-read (which I highly recommend) in less than 1 hour or so. It’s broken into 8 small chapters and a nice appendix providing the questions necessary to create and customize your own marketing plan.

One of the things I really like about this book is it starts with the premise that while referrals are fantastic, a real business is about lead generation and to foster leads requires more than just relying on “mining your database” for referrals.   Marcus through his story discusses the woes of Ted, a sales rep who had been successful but was now failing because,

“He could no longer rely on referrals for new business.  He would have to go out and actively seek new clients.”

How many reading this feel or have felt like Ted… my guess we all have been there.

The book can be summarized as follows – identify the problem, solve it, set goals, market to those willing to pay to solve the problem, create the offer that “grabs them,” find a broad audience (i.e. advertise) to broadcast the offer, get that database going, follow-up (the right way and effectively) and the natural results (i.e. success) of the system.  All that in big font, small pages, large borders and few pages.

So it’s easy to read and retailed (when I purchased it) for $19.95 and I’ll bet you can get it cheaper on line.  What do you have to lose?  … and if you follow Ted’s journey, implement the ideas shared by Marcus you will see your business grow… I guarantee it (remember Sy Sims of the Sims Clothier commercials?).

Please read this little gem, let me know what you think and while you’re growing your business help us grow ours too!

Financial Freedom

Speaking of change… I often think about that quote –

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

We want change for the better; but do we change?

Like everyone reading this review, I am not getting any younger, and like many of you, I survived the “Great Recession.”  Survive is the honest word and that’s frankly something any of us should be proud to tell our children or a stranger.  But, time marches on and I am looking to achieve financial freedom.

Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn argued for decades about motivation and information – Zig suggested motivation was most important and Jim is credited with the famous quote –

“If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.”

In a way, both are correct, you need the motivation to change but also the information, knowledge and growth to make it meaningful and lasting.

David Bach’s book delivers enough knowledge and motivation to make a lasting difference if you want to improve your financial future.  You don’t have to be an economist or stock expert to implement his best ideas and improve your financial upside.  It’s easy to read, easy to learn and easy to apply.

For me, several of the chapters had an impact, but two chapters really stood out: Chapter 3 – Find Your Double Latte Factor and Chapter 8 – Pay yourself first…faster.  In both cases, I have heard the advice from others, but he helped crystalize the importance of each and better implement for results.  In the case of the Double Latte it was about focusing on converting wasteful spending into successful saving.  We all have joked about how much we spend eating out or drinking the fancy coffees. and how wasteful that is, but it’s not just about spending less.  David Bach argues that you should set a goal and invest a specific amount.  Don’t just save in one area and spend in another, find your double latte, figure out what you can save monthly and invest this amount immediately and over time consistently.

Paying yourself first…emphasizes aggressively paying yourself before you even pay your taxes. This doesn’t mean splurging on frivolous things because you deserve it, but rather investing in tax deferred plans such as 401ks and IRAs to the max before you even pay taxes.  Since these are pre-tax dollars, he shows how you can invest heavily, reduce your taxes and limit the impact on your “take home pay.”

These are just two of the many good ideas which he explains in easy to understand and apply to your financial life.  But I also liked his chapters on living a rich life and being more charitable. Making money to just collect is not the way to go – as they say, “you can’t take it with you,” right?

Each idea included the growth over time with compound interest based on a 10% rate of return.  I am not sure in this generation of low rates and volatility in the markets that 10% is truly realistic but … all the more reason to find creative ways to earn more, waste less and save your way to financial freedom.

Finally, I was in a closing with two partners this week, and one asked me the last book I read, I started talking about this book. The friend who asked the question, said

“Wow I need to read it… it sounds amazing.”

Meanwhile his friend, a financial planner, said, “It is a great book.  I have it and you can borrow my copy.”

Unless you are there already, pick up this book, read, apply and thank me in 30 years! Here’s to your financial freedom!

Realtors & Lenders Need Coaches Too

Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

With the theme of this month’s newsletter – “Back to School” I could not think of a better choice for a book review than Wooden.  So many of the agents and loan officers we work with have sought out coaches to help them in business.  Our firm has also looked to coaches to help make us better in business.  I recently heard a life/business coach indicate that her industry developed from sports coaching which makes sense.  Wooden is the coach of coaches. So much of the coaching I have been exposed to in business seems to borrow from John Wooden’s philosophies and strategies.

Sports coaches are famous most often for winning.  John Wooden, my all-time favorite coach, is famous for not only winning but for teaching and developing his players into great people.   While, he won 10 national college basketball championships in 12 years, at heart he was a teacher.  This book is a summary of his philosophies and suggestions for what to focus on to become the best version of you.  As I reread the book for this article I was reminded just how influential John Wooden can still be as a coach.

The book is a collection of short essays, paragraphs and even poetry which are broken down into four parts: I. Families, Values, Virtues, II. Success, Achievement, Competition, III. Coaching, Teaching and Leading, IV. Putting it All Together: My Pyramid of Success.   This book has something for everyone and at each stage in a person’s career and life.

Section 1 is for all of us.  My favorite advice in this section was to make each day your masterpiece.   His words –

“Too often we get distracted by what we can’t control.  You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away.  You can do nothing about tomorrow.  It is yet to come.  However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today.   So make today a masterpiece.  You have control over that.”

 And with that small quote is the foundation for the book and the philosophy that each and every day we need to attempt to become a little better and if we do, over time we’ll become a lot better.
In this book, Mr. Wooden “coaches” you in so many areas, and if you listen to his words, reflect on them  and attempt to apply them, you will likely see that improvement you’re seeking.  Sure you may already have a coach for your industry (albeit one you are likely paying hundreds of dollars monthly) but who better to seek coaching from then the winningest coach of all time who defines success as so much more than wins and losses.  Success to John Wooden, is the “peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

At heart John Wooden was a teacher and this is your opportunity to learn from the best!

The Four Agreements

by Richard Shafritz

Oddly enough, this month, a staff person handed me a book as a gift entitled “The Four Agreements… A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.” By Don Miguel Ruiz

As many of my friends and those who know me best are aware, I read a lot of books on a variety of subjects but often the purpose of the book is to improve in a specific area.  Self help as one comedian joked is what gets us into our problems in the first place so I like to see what others have to say that can help me improve.

This small 138 page book packs much into the easy to read pages.  If you read fast you can certainly finish in a couple of hours and if you read slow not much longer.  But of all the books which fit into this category called “Self Help” I am convinced this book is the one to read if you read no others.

I begin by noting there is definitely a “New Age” and “Spiritual feel” to the book but suggest that even if that’s not your cup of tea, push through the beginning and get to the 4 agreements which the author correctly notes that “if you begin to live life  with these agreements, the  transformation in your life will be amazing.”  The 4 agreements is a premise that you can enjoy freedom and be a much better version of yourself by adhering to 4 agreements:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Here what many reading this might be inclined to think – oh this is “common sense” and while I agree, it’s not often common in practice and I’ll bet everyone is better at one or two of the four listed above.  However, instead of 12 Principles for this that and the other as so many books suggest (and I have seen 25 prinicples and more in these kind of books) the four agreements above are enough to transform yourself and your life.

I loved this little book and want to read it until I am as close to 100% as I can be with the 4 Agreements. Please if you do read the book or have read it, let me know what you think!  Here’s to your freedom and to your transformation too.

Become Mentally Stronger!

A review of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Before we review the book… 3 questions for you to consider:

1. Do you know what mental strength is?
2. Do you believe you are mentally strong?
3. Do you want to get mentally stronger?

The author, Amy Morin, says that mental strength is our ability to manage emotions, thoughts and behaviors positively, regardless of our circumstances. With that definition in mind, consider whether you are strong. It seems most of us want to improve and get stronger in all areas.

For Amy Morin, a social worker, psychotherapist and college psych professor, there are 13 things mentally strong people don’t do, and she lays out the whole book on the back cover… wow you don’t even have to read it (or do you?). What are those 13 things she argues … well let me give you a handful of my favorites:

a. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.
b. They don’t shy away from change.
c. They don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
d. They don’t dwell on the past
e. They don’t give up after the first failure.

I am intentionally not listing all 13 chapters or things mentally strong people do. While it’s a good book, it offers great ideas, and if you can read it you will be prone to become mentally stronger. Just reading the bullet points isn’t enough.

This author knows what she’s talking about and the structure of each chapter is the following:

1. A good quote from a third party
2. A case study from her clinical practice
3. Bullet points on what the problem looks like and whether you have the “symptoms of the weakness”. [Don’t worry; only you determine it] 4. A deeper dive into why we think that way.
5. The problems which the mental weakness causes
6. Analysis of how to solve the problem.
7. Quick Bullet points on what is helpful and what isn’t.

Read the book and become Mentally Stronger!

Amy Morin has written a nice book. It’s neither an easy nor hard to read, fairly well organized and well written. Most importantly it’s great insight, advice and allows the reader to comfortably analyze their own mental strength and look for areas of growth!

Extreme Ownership

Last month, my “Rich Reads” book review was written by a serviceman, Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the gem, Make Make You Bed Little Things That Can Change Your Live … And Maybe the World. It’s a special little book to help get you where you want to go. That was an easy read and a game changer!

While having breakfast in April with friend/realtor Jim Martell, I shared my enthusiasm for last month’s book. Jim shared with me a new title, Extreme Ownership How U.S. Navy Seals Lead & Win, By Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Jim served in the Marine Corps and though soft spoken and smiling always, Jim shows the discipline of a Marine. Jim was kind to deliver the book to my office.

So in keeping with our service theme, and in appreciation of Jim’s gift, I am reviewing Extreme Ownership. Thanks again Mr. Martell for the book and your service to our country.

3 Principles of Extreme Ownership

Okay, I am diving right in… if Make Your Bed was described as an easy read, Extreme Ownership is not. It’s 300+ pages, broken into 12 or so principles, which the authors apply from the battlefield to the boardroom. With names like Jocko and Leif Babin, who were embedded in Iraq, you might expect a little “John Wayne” machismo… and you would be right. Each of the principles (i.e. chapters) is broken down into 3 sections:

  • A fairly graphic detail of a battle or time in Iraq by the Authors. Note: Adrenalin is pumping while reading this section. It’s fascinating to hear the authors describe what they are feeling and thinking in various conflict scenarios. However, if you are not a lover of armed conflict descriptions, this section might not be for you.
  • The next section is the Principle. This is a description of what is gleaned from the battlefield as a core principle.
  • Finally the “Application to Business” section gives an example of how the authors, now management consultants on leadership & management, use the Principle to guide their clients to better results.

You can certainly skip the battlefield section if that’s not “your thing”, but, ideally, you’ll get the most out of it by reading and thinking about all three sections. Unlike Make Your Bed, you won’t get through Extreme Ownership in an hour, but it’s well worth the read.

If Make Your Bed was about how to personally be better and thereby to improve the world, Extreme Ownership is for those in leadership who must constantly improve so they can maximize their company’s results and the improve their people.

No Bad Teams Just Bad Leaders

My favorite chapter, and something I will remember in 20 years, are Chapter 1 (which bears the book’s title – “Extreme Ownership”), and Chapter 2, “No Bad Teams, Just Bad Leaders”. They state:

“ The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame.”

In Chapter 2, their description of the Seal teams racing on the waters proves that if you put a great leader with a “bad team” it’s remarkable how that bad team becomes a good or even great team. Read that Chapter from start to finish because unlike the others it deals with the Seals training not fighting in Iraq and the lesson is best learned from the events in San Diego.

Make Your Bed definitely made me better and now I am confident that Extreme Ownership, though certainly not an easy read, will make me (and you, if you read it) a better leader or manager!

Review by: Richard Shafritz

Make Your Bed

If you are receiving this newsletter, you are likely an entrepreneur, business person or sales person. In short you are driven to success. Admiral William H. McRaven’s Make Make You Bed Little Things That Can Change Your Live … And Maybe the World is a special little book to help get you where you want to go.
But before I review this little gem, the main title Make Your Bed is the one thing I want you to think about, if you don’t even finish reading this review, let alone the book itself. Did you know that according to Socio Economist, Randall Bell, PHD,

“people who make their bed are up to 206.8 percent more likely to be millionaires. Me We Do Be by Randall Bell” They are also more likely to be happier (Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project.”), more productive and even more likely to stick to a budget (The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg).

So the nutshell, before the review… Make your bed and do it every day! Yes, every day!

Now on to the review… In what began as a commencement speech gone viral, Admiral McRaven in 130 small pages, which can be read in an hour or so, gives his ten ways to change your life for the better, and caps it with the written commencement speech that went viral and led to the book. It’s an easy book to read, re-read and I can’t tell you enough that you, yes you can grow quickly by applying one or more of his recommended changes (i.e. a chapter!).

Ten chapters of good, practical advice to employ by a guy who knows!

My two favorite chapters were Chapter One: Start Your Day with a Task Completed (i.e. make your bed) and Chapter Four: Life’s Not Fair (i.e. everyone ends up a “sugar cookie” at some point … yeah if you don’t know what I am referring to read the book and you’ll figure out that this is one “sugar cookie” that doesn’t smell, taste or feel good).

But really, all the chapters are great – each, when combined with the others, are that much more powerful.  The book supplies a perspective from a man who survived Navy Seal training, served his country, and survived a tragic air jump accident.  His life lessons are those that can be applied by anyone, including a guy (or gal) who never even joined the scouts.

So how has my life changed

Since I read the book, I have made my bed literally every day (even when I went to a conference recently and stayed at a 4 Star Hotel)… this has led to me feeling that sense of accomplishment in the a.m., which has noticeably made me feel better about the day and led to more discipline in many areas.

Read the book, make your bed and let me know what you think!

Together Is Better

Shouldn’t we all be on a quest to improve?  I often say that, with all the books on leadership, marketing, management, etc. that I read, and seminars I attend, one day I am going to be smart and successful.  I’d like to share with you a book each newsletter I have recently read which I think has great value to you.

My first review is a little nugget called Together is Better by Simon Sinek.  You may have heard of Simon, who wrote Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last.  This fun little picture book is chock-full of great wisdom, advice ideas, inspiration on why all of us are better than one of us!  We all are part of teams and many receiving this book are leading teams.  You can read (and reread this book) in under an hour and every time you do you’ll be inspired to be a better teammate and lead a better team.

This short story includes “a little more” from Simon.  It’s nothing like his other two books which are more challenging reads.  It’s fun, worthwhile and takes you on the journey with 3 friends, kids on a playground, who overcome obstacles working together and playing to one another’s strengths!
So much great content in such an easy book but perhaps the soul is summed up on page 96 & 97 when Simon says,

“Failure we can do alone.  Success always takes help.”

Let me know your thoughts on the review and the book if you choose to pick it up.  And, remember, we want to be part of your team and help you and your clients be successful.

Review and opinions of this book are strictly those of Richard Shafritz.