My entrepreneurial career started exactly 34 years ago when I was 18 years old. Being laid off from two jobs after graduating from high school was an awakening experience for me. About this time my brother Jack invited me to move to Chicago and start a silk-screening business. I accepted the invitation and the challenge, packed up my few belongings, drove to Chicago, and took up residence in Jack’s guest bedroom.
Over the next four-and-a-half years what started as a small business in a garage became one of the most successful businesses of its type in the Chicago area.
At age 23, we sold that business and I became a Realtor™. It was at this time that I started devouring everything I could get my hands on in the personal and professional success category. In addition to learning from the top teachers in the area of human development and personal achievement, I observed people’s behavior and tried to distinguish the characteristics and skills of those at the top compared to everyone else in their fields.
As I continued to learn and grow, I felt that something was missing. Most of these great teachers talked about the big things people need to do to succeed—such as setting goals, employing discipline, and having a positive attitude—but my gut told him something was still missing. I saw too many people doing these big things, yet still falling short of reaching their goals.
Then one day, while listening to a story called “The Point System” told by Brian Tracy, the missing pieces came together for me.
Brian described two salesmen going head-to-head in an imaginary sales contest. The winner needed to earn 100 points. Both men were well groomed (worth 5 points) and appropriately dressed (worth 8 points). They both kept appointments and followed up as requested (worth 4 points). Each was knowledgeable about their products (worth 6 points) and gave remarkable presentations (worth 10 points). With the evaluations nearly complete, the salesmen were tied at 99 points each. One more factor was taken into account—their pens. One used a Cross pen throughout his presentation (worth 2 points); the other used a Bic pen, which had no point value.
The salesman with the Cross pen won the sale. One Little Thing made the difference between winning and losing a sale. One Little Thing, seemingly insignificant, separated one salesman from the other. One Little Thing mattered.
I began applying the little-things-matter concept to my real estate career and, almost immediately, my results improved. I asked myself: “What are the things I could do that would ultimately affect a seller’s decision as to whether or not they would select me to market their home?”
How I Created My Brand
First, I made a list of the fundamental things that I should do. Realizing that these qualities were the same as those my competitors would list, I needed to take it a step further. I had to be creative and stretch my mind and think of all the Little Things that would give me the edge.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the Little Things that gave me the competitive advantage:
- I was very friendly in all of my communications.
- I wore a suit every day even when it was hot.
- I made sure my tie was in style and the proper length.
- I kept my shoes shined.
- Although I could not afford it, I bought a Cadillac because I needed to brand myself as being successful.
- I carried a pager and returned all my calls within one hour.
- I arrived for my appointments five to ten minutes early to mentally prepare for the appointments. I rang the doorbell at the exact time I was supposed to be there. I was never late.
- I greeted people with a smile, a friendly greeting, and a firm handshake.
- I made equal eye contact with both the husband and wife throughout our conversations.
- I asked questions about items in their homes to show I cared about their interests.
- I introduced myself to their children and called them by their names.
- I petted their dogs or cats even though I was allergic to most animals.
- I looked for something about which I could sincerely pay them a compliment.
- I used an attractive, high-quality leather presentation book.
- With a confident tone, I told them that they could cancel the listing agreement within 24 hours, if they were not completely satisfied with my efforts to sell their home.
- I always sent a thank-you note after my presentation.
- Of course, I never left home without my Cross pen.
By applying what I had learned, I earned more than $250,000 my first year.
During the next three years, as I listened to more self-development tapes, read more books, and observed other successful people, my list grew longer. I was constantly thinking about and looking for the Little Things that would improve my personal brand and help me stand out from my competitors.
One way was to become humble and vulnerable. I learned a lot from my mistakes. When a home-seller selected a competitor over me, I thanked the home-seller for giving me the opportunity to present my services and requested feedback and constructive criticism.
Not only did I focus on the Little Things that mattered, but I also began to master the Little Things by striving for excellence. As I mastered each Little Thing, my value to the market grew exponentially and so did my income.
Within four-and-a-half years, I became one of the nation’s top-selling Realtors, selling more than 115 homes a year and earning the distinction of being one of the youngest Realtors ever inducted into the RE/MAX™ Hall of Fame.
Tired of the long cold Chicago winters, I moved to Florida at age 28 and started my own sales and marketing business. By applying the Little Things Matter way of thinking to my new career, I’ve enjoyed a level of success I had never thought I could achieve. During the last 23 years, my business has generated more than $2 billion in sales and has paid me $27 million in commissions.
Little Things Matter has become a way of thinking that I’ve applied to every part of my life—developing my career, enjoying a marriage of 29 years, parenting four children, volunteering in the community, coaching children’s sports teams, and teaching other entrepreneurs.
The journey hasn’t ended. I continue to look for the Little Things I am not doing and the things I can do better.
Now, after 34 years of testing and trying, the evidence is undeniable—Little Things Matter.