Three Keys to Success in Real Estate

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By: Torrey Littlejohn Littlejohn, Torrey

When talking to newcomers in real estate I always attribute success in the industry to a combination of the following: who you know (relationships), what you know (knowledge), and how you work (availability, productivity, and efficiency). The “who you know,” unfortunately, often is not fair; get over it. Some people will come into this industry with generations of real estate DNA. It’s Dallas, and that’s a reality.

I’m from St. Louis. I went to college in North Carolina, and my first job in Dallas was in corporate finance at an airline. I didn’t know one real estate professional in this city. My entrance into the real estate sector and tenure as a broker doesn’t make any sense. But I’m here, and I owe a lot of my success to overcompensating my anonymity with knowledge and work ethic.

In my 20s, my knowledge (point No. 2) was a unique finance skill set, and my availability/productivity/efficiency (No. 3) was driven by a workhorse mentality. However, I never lost sight of No. 1, and over the past 12 years in real estate, I’ve built a strong network of meaningful industry, community, and client relationships.

While recently completing a self-assessment, I recognized that these three things are just as important to me in this stage of my career as they are to newbies. In fact, focusing on these guiding principles are even more relevant to my professional success, as my life and the dynamics of this market are constantly changing.

Who You Know

When I first entered this industry, “who I knew” referred to leasing agents, asset managers, and other colleagues within the industry. I was too young to know decision-makers. My days and evenings were filled with lunches, networking events, and attending industry panels, trying to soak up as much real estate knowledge to compliment my unique skill set.

However, as I approach my 40th year, “who I know” often means the parents of my son’s t-ball team, a fellow board member on the nonprofit I sit on, or the newly elected city councilman in Lewisville (yes, I live that far north—almost Oklahoma, and I love it).

With the recent population growth and explosion of corporate relocations in the region, the “players” are quickly changing. More than 528,000 residents were added between 2010 and 2014. In Plano, specifically, there is an anticipated 10,000 to 12,000 new employees coming to one intersection over the next three years. Networking and meeting the ever-changing population of decision-makers, colleagues, and neighbors is a must if I want to keep up.

Last week, I realized that of the approximately 20 houses on my block, only 10 families were there when we moved in back in 2006. Dallas is a transient society, and I have to keep my relationships current. Who you know personally and professionally will need to evolve and expand as rapidly as this market. I guess that means I’m planning the next block party—if I don’t want to borrow sugar from a stranger.

What You Know

Just as a rapidly as the people are changing, so are the dynamics of this market. As brokers we sell our services by separating ourselves from competitors; the cream rises to the top. I like to think knowledge and experience are the best differentiators we have.

Yet, as the region grows it takes quite an effort to stay on top of the shifting dynamics. I’ve learned that I can no longer be a jack-of-all-trades in all areas. Specializing in a geographic area or an industry allows you to become a more knowledgeable “specialist.”

Where are the millennials and why are they choosing this submarket? What is the availability of housing in the Far North Dallas suburbs? What will the “Toyota effect” do to housing affordability, labor availability, and wages in the Upper Tollway/West Plano market?

So, I’m constantly reading articles, attending industry roundtables, and, most important, taking the pulse of my clients to sharpen my knowledge and polish my crystal ball. The knowledge we bring to the table is a resource for our clients to make expensive, long-term decisions.

How You Work

As a wife, a mother of two, and a commuter who lives an hour from the office on a “good day,” I’ve had to re-evaluate how I work. Unlike my 20s and early 30s, I can’t always be the first one in and the last one out, but I can be extremely creative about when and how I get work done.

I put in the same amount of hours (if not more), but I work a lot smarter. I schedule meetings up north after 3 p.m. I make calls on my commute to and from work. I read proposals while being a “dance mom” at the studio. And I often respond to emails at the end of my day while my 8-year-old is doing homework.  (Shhh – Don’t tell anyone, but if you really want to read a 120-page lease, YaYa Footspa is the perfect place to do this—uninterrupted quiet space … I’ve heard .) I am the master of finding creative and productive work spaces; maybe that’s why tenant rep is so natural to me.

This business affords us the opportunity help shape the growth of this city, work with great people, and have a tremendous amount of fun. It’s a small sacrifice to try and be the best at what we are doing by constantly re-tooling.

— Torrey Littlejohn is a vice president with the Dallas office of JLL.

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This post was originally written for the D Real Estate Daily blog.

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