AgentsEntrepreneurNick Schlekeway May 21, 2019

Real Trends: Ten Lessons from Industry Giants

Take-Away & Action Items from Real Trends Gathering of Eagles

So, there I was (couldn’t resist that opening) in a 360-degree glass room at the top of a high rise in downtown Denver, Colorado, surrounded by the best leaders and finest minds in residential real estate.  This group had come from all over the country, by-invitation, to the Gathering of Eagles, hosted by Real Trends. I was greatly honored to join this group of leaders who assemble once a year to discuss the tools, trends, and people who are having great impact upon our industry; but I digress back to the high rise. You would think that I would feel overcome with positive emotion, confidence, and maybe even a touch of pride at being in the presence of this distinguished group of real estate brokerages, owners, and operators. No. Not me. I am so incredibly awash in anxiety, feelings of inferiority, and frustrations over the latter that I am unable to engage a single person in meaningful dialogue. I flit around the edges of several groups, take a few pictures of the beautiful setting, listen in to a few conversations in which I could easily contribute, and try to figure out where the hell these overpowering feelings are coming from so I can get a grip and fall into a conversation with someone.  Nope – not happening. I cannot engage.


I wish I could say this is the first time that I have run into this, but that would be a lie. Anytime I go into a big room that is packed with total strangers, with zero alcohol on board, no presentation or formal “role” at the function, and unaided by a more social teammate at my elbow, I struggle. Plain and simple. Truth be told, this is something I have battled since I was a young man.


I took a walk that evening and was feeling defeated by my fears of inadequacy and by the feeling of being “less than.” During quiet reflection, I was able to see how the day’s conference activities of keynote speakers and breakout sessions had been slowly building towards this feeling of “less than.” Sometimes, getting inundated with news of large market forces, exciting new trends, and strategic breakthroughs (from other leaders) can leave a person feeling, well, quite lame and behind the curve. As I reflected on this, tripping over a curb here and there, it dawned on me that I felt exactly the same way after the first day or two of the INC 5000 conference in San Antonio, Texas, last fall.


In fact, I had actually gotten into a heated argument at that same conference with a teammate who was feeling much the same way after her first day of listening to everyone tell us how great they were doing. After our argument subsided, which had no doubt been caused by our mutually-negative auras, we had observed that not only did we both feel the same sense of pressure and inferiority, but many of our companions at the conference were having the same reactions. After this realization, the awareness which followed helped us pull out of our ego-inspired spiral of negative self-talk. Pacing the streets of Denver last week, this memory stopped me in my tracks, and I had to laugh at myself. I was doing it again. The exact same thing that happened in Texas. I was allowing my own fears of inadequacy to take over and spoil an amazing opportunity for professional and personal growth.

henry desro

I didn’t exactly skip back to the hotel, but my spirit lightened considerably as I realized what was happening and that these thoughts could be countered with positive feelings of gratitude, as well as simply ignored for what they were: useless noise and a distraction.


My first take-away from this conference was that they should all come with a warning label – “Warning: First 24 Hours to include massive and crushing feelings of inadequacy as you hear about all of the things you are NOT doing.”  My second take-away was that most everyone was in the same boat as I was; and, in fact, who doesn’t have triggers of negative self-talk and inadequacy which they must overcome through awareness and truth?


Oh, and before I forget, I was able to perform quite well at the remaining social functions of the conference, even for an introvert. At least, I more than made up for the “awkward creeper vibe” I put off on day one!

As for the remainder of my take-away’s and epiphanies, which hopefully turn out to be more useful to you than the silent ravings of my inadequacy, some of them are directly related to real estate and some of them are not. All of them, in my humble opinion, are applicable across many sectors and many walks of life.


  1. Ego Kills – The vast majority of leadership failures and management blunders across organizations and sectors are not caused by a lack of experience or training or desire to succeed. They are caused by ego. Effective leadership, identified several times as the most valuable and desired asset in any organization, is provided by leaving your ego at the door and practicing Extreme Ownership (highly recommend the book by Jocko Willink). It is both an art and a skill to maintain the confidence of team members and to hold clarity while keeping your ego at bay.
  2. The Rich Get Richer – In real estate sales, there is a growing national trend in smaller and smaller numbers of Realtors and Brokerages controlling larger and larger percentages of market share. Why? There was a statement made by Real Trends, and repeated several times at the conference, that “Technology is driving fewer agents to do more of the business.” I disagree. This take-away will be expanded upon in a future write-up; however, for now, I will simply state that while technology is playing a role (correlation), it is not the only or even the primary driver of this trend towards market domination by fewer players (causation). Fewer agents have more market share for the same basic dynamics which are driving the near-unprecedented wealth gap in America.


Noise Destroys – According to author, coach, and speaker Mike Staver, “Noise is the #1 most destructive force in your life.” What kind of “noise” am I referring to? The constant distraction of social media, email, text messages, snapchat, pointless phone calls, negative people; and finally, the most destructive noise of all – FEAR. We live and work in the Age of Fear, where hundreds of companies are putting millions of dollars in capital to work in keeping you scared. That’s right.  It is no accident that you are under constant bombardment with headlines about industry “shifts” caused by seemingly-invulnerable “disruptors” who are coming to rob you of your commissions as well as your first-born children. Why would they do this? Because – as long as they can keep you distracted from what really matters, as long as they can keep you scared, they can keep you buying their products.


  1. Low Inventory & High Competition – The New Norm.  This one is pretty straight forward conceptually but has (or should have) deep ramifications for how we conduct ourselves and generate business. Nationally, household formations are outpacing the construction of new homes. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, there are an ever-increasing number of direct and indirect competitors entering residential real estate sales: venture-backed technology firms buying directly from consumers, new brokerage models, more Realtors than ever before, etc. Low inventory and Increased Competition will weed out individuals and companies who fail to provide and articulate a high-value proposition.

  2. Who will have the relationship and/or rapport with the consumer? In this age of increased competition from different business models, it can be confusing to understand where we fit in as Realtors and where the competition is attempting to wedge themselves.  Although a slight oversimplification, it would be accurate to summarize the competitive landscape by saying that everyone is after the same thing: they all want to be the first trusted contact by a buyer or seller in a real estate transaction so that they can control the process from that point (i.e. they can control the lead). That’s right. They want to take what successful Realtors have done for decades and push them out by beating them at their own game. Zillow opened this door by providing consumers with items of value (home search & property data), building trust, capturing data, and then, wait for it, sold those buyer leads back to Realtors. Realtors decried the move complaining, “You can’t sell our own leads back to us!” Sure they can. They ceased to become “your leads” the minute you allowed a third party to establish more rapport and more trust with your sphere/database than what they have with you. This is the battlefield. Who does the consumer trust and who provides them with the most value? Net worth chart
  3. Three keys to sustainable success as a Realtor – Larry Kendall. Mr. Kendall has built one of the most powerful and prolific Realtor training systems on the planet. Ninja Selling has equipped thousands of Realtors with the tools, skills, and systems to ensure that THEY are the Trusted Advisor who consumers trust with their real estate questions. By utilizing his system of Ninja, these agents have had great success in defeating the competitors described in item 5 above. In Denver last week, Mr. Kendall outlined three critical aspects of finding success on the Ninja path:
    1. Discover and pursue your Purpose, your Why – only through intentional pursuit of what truly drives you can you hope to discover sustained passion and results.
    2. Follow a proven system. Follow – not create from scratch and hope it will work.
    3. Engage the correct daily habits – the habits of success.

  4. The new “Mad Men” – Who remembers this show? What a classic! All those greedy ad men who sat around smoking and drinking every day, contemplating how they could best manipulate the poor consumer out of their hard-earned money.  Millions of dollars were spent calculating and testing the human emotional response to advertising and how to tug on the heart strings just right in order to elicit the desired response, a purchase. We laughed at them, we disliked them, we felt manipulated by them, and I think we are all generally glad that they are no longer around… or are they? Don’t think for a second that you are free from their snares just because you no longer watch network T.V., or step foot in a movie theatre, or read the newspaper. Scrolling through Facebook? They are watching. Vegging out on a little You Tube? You just think you are directing the experience. Searching with Google or Amazon? That’s right. They are right there next to you, all cozy, telling you what you need to spend your money on. The truth is they didn’t “go” anywhere. Different platforms, same game. Social Media, the key word here often forgotten, is Media.

  5. Social Media – Not the present. Speaking of social media, and this is another one of those concepts that goes as deep as you would like it to, I recommend monitoring and limiting your use. Why? Simple. Ask anyone who knows anything about happiness and peace about how it is attained, and you will rapidly start to hear them say something about living in the present moment. “If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present” – Lao Tzu. Smart guy Lao Tzu! What does any of this have to do with social media? Social media is the antithesis of the present. You will agonize over the past, worry about the future, or lust after the present circumstances of another person. You will do many things while engaged in social media, very few of which have anything to do with being present in the moment, in your moment.

  6. Realtors Hate Technology – Why does this even need to be said? Don’t we all just know this inherently? Not only do they despise computer programming, spreadsheets, web engineering, and database systems; but typically, the better they are at their job of being a Realtor, the more they hate these things. By necessity, the better they are at being a Realtor, the more they hate staring at computer screens and the more they seek to be in front of people. Why does this matter? Well, apparently, someone forgot to tell the tech companies, backed by venture capital firms from Wall Street, this important detail of our industry. It doesn’t matter how smooth, how artistic, or how beautiful the program may be, great Realtors will delegate its use to an admin (as they should), average or climbing Realtors will view it as a necessary evil and flounder with it a few hours a week, and a poor Realtor will likely decide it is worth his or her time to try and build their own tool instead of prospecting. No – technology is not worthless. Yes – we embrace technology.  However, we embrace it in its appropriate place in the value-stack and certainly not at the front of the line. These are tools, much like your car and your cell phone are tools. You need them, but they will not make you successful. More to come here in a future article.

  7. Your Success – Moving forward into the next decade, your ability as a Realtor to build a sustainable and profitable business will be a direct correlation to your effectiveness at building trust with consumers through relationship, professional services, and clear communication of a superior value proposition.