25 lessons we learned in 25 years that we believe define success

This year Valerie and I celebrate our 25th year in the business. We have learned many lessons throughout the years most importantly that success is defined by ones conduct and not the amount of money one earns. There are many agents who are not top earners yet embody the qualities of a great agent and there are many top earners who don't - usually because of their misguided ego. So here are the 25 lessons we learned in 25 years that we believe define success:

  1. Work with a reputable brokerage. Remember the saying "tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are"? The reputation of your brokerage will reflect on you so ask "is this a brokerage whose reputation I want to carry with me every day?" Also, don't move around often because instability won't enhance your career. In fact, if you measure success in dollars, many of Toronto's top earners have been with the same brokerage for years.
  2. Don't count on family and friends for business. Many agents compromise relationships due to hurt feelings when their friends or family don't use them. It's wiser to pave your own way and create a business that generates leads through hard work instead of hand outs. Then it will matter less if people you know don't use your services.
  3. Guard your reputation like it's gold. A bad reputation spreads like wild fire. People talk more about the bad things than the good so protect your name.  Always act in the client's best interest and you won't have to worry.
  4. Be prepared when agents and consumers report you to RECO. If you're in the business long enough this will inevitably happen. Ultimately follow the rules that govern us and keep documentation to protect yourself. To avoid mistakes that generate complaints consult your broker if you're unsure of a situation. Even after 25 years we still count on the knowledge, wisdom and guidance of our brokers, Henry Balaban and Scott Webster.
  5. Report an agent who has done something wrong. Our industry has a dreadful reputation and it's your duty to contribute to the clean up. Even if the agent does not get fined for wrong doing, a complaint filed with RECO will make that agent think twice before crossing you again. One should command and demand respect in this industry.
  6. Don't let success go to your head. The world doesn't have room for all the ego in this industry. Ego is destructive and leads you down the wrong path. Keep your success in perspective because, in the grand scheme of things, you're not that important.
  7. Don't knowingly lie. We live in a litigious society and if a consumer sues you, your lies will not withstand an examination for discovery process in a civil law suit so your lies will come back to haunt you.
  8. Don't begrudge another agent who got business instead of you. We don't mind when someone gets a piece of business we didn't IF the agent won fairly and is known to be ethical. If they are not, we shake our head and feel sorry for the unsuspecting client.
  9. Respect long serving agents because they paid their dues. Some young agents belong to the entitlement society and, since they have never worked a recessionary market, hard work is not in their repertoire. Yet they want it all - NOW. But "good things come to those who wait… greater things come to those who get off their a-s and do what it takes to make it happen.” Long serving agents deserve respect and it will take you a little longer to get to where they are.
  10. If you make a mistake, admit it quickly and make restitution. The longer you hide it the worse the consequences will be when it's inevitably discovered.
  11. Stand up for what you believe in and make a difference even if that means standing alone.
  12. Mentoring others can be very rewarding. Be generous and give back to our industry and contribute to improving it.  
  13. Give back to the community and make a difference. It is your responsibility and it will come back to you in spades.
  14. If someone tells you it can't be done do it anyway. Many years ago I referred a client to a an agent in Schomberg yet she refused to sign the referral agreement. She arrogantly said she was well known and would probably have received the call from my client anyway. Talk about ego. Every month I  would check MLS to see if the property sold and, lo and behold, after 18 months it did. I wanted to report her but was told that the arbitration committee run by TREB members at the time had never before heard this type of complaint. I believe there's a first time to everything so I submitted the case, it was heard and I was awarded my referral fee.
  15. Don't be intimidated by super agents. In my third year in the business I was cold calling in Chaplin Estates,  a gentleman visiting from Calgary answered the phone who was looking for an agent to sell his mother's house and had set up interviews with six top agents. Being new and inexperienced I didn't think I stood a chance. Mr Client asked us all to answer six questions in writing. Ironically I got the listing because he said I followed his instructions while the top agents delivered "I'm number one" material laced with ego but did not answer a single question he asked.  
  16. If you're angry with someone don't send them an email or text in that state unless you're prepared to accept the consequences.
  17. Don't ever take cash or kickbacks. People are human and greed is not uncommon. A few consumers have offered me cash payment so they can save HST on commission. Don't be tempted. The consumer is not bound by the rules that govern us as you are. It's not worth losing your license over this.
  18. Be very careful what you say on social media. Everything you post, comment and share paints a picture of who you are. How do you want to define yourself? This will be your brand.
  19. Be kind to others. It doesn't cost you anything yet it could brighten someone else's day.
  20. Put yourself in other people's shoes. Be empathetic and ask yourself "would I want this to happen to me or my children?"
  21. Always ask if you're not sure. Don't answer a question just because you don't want to come across as unknowledgeable. Tell the person you will get back to them and ask your broker.
  22. Cut your losses if it's not working out with a client. It's not in your best interest or the clients if your relationship is no longer working.
  23. Disclose disclose disclose. Don't hold back any material fact that is your client's right to  know.
  24. Appreciate that you are privileged. We are part of an industry that has enjoyed a stretch of nineteen years of high returns. Therefore hard working agents are financially rewarded so don't take it for granted. Go above and beyond the call of duty for your clients. What other industry requiring no formal degree or an investment in inventory allows people to earn the kind of money we have the potential to earn?
  25. Always do the right thing. Don't opt to put your commission first.  Ask yourself "what do I want my legacy to be? Is it "I made a lot of money selling real estate" or "I acted ethically and fairly in all my dealings with people"?

You decide. It comes down to the legacy YOU want to leave behind.

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14 Responses to 25 lessons we learned in 25 years that we believe define success

  1. Veronica Piper says:

    Well put! I can remember a top producer in my office whom I’ve had great respect for approaching me in my first 2 years with this advice for me “keep working as hard as you do and stay as honest as you are and ypu will continue to do well”. I have always kept this as priority. Thank you for putting it out there as a reminder to be proud of being a professional. Best wishes VP.

    • Josie says:

      Veronica you were well advised. Thank you for commenting.

  2. rebecca isenberg says:

    Great points, insightful, and loved the topic.

  3. June Sommers says:

    Thanks Josie for putting these sometimes forgotten suggestions/rules of fair play out there. This is my 44th year and I concur with every one of these. Please send it to RECCO TREB and OREA ,these rules should be given to every new agent along with their licence!
    Our business will never be respected if 98% don’t follow the rules. Thanks!!

    • Josie says:

      Hi June,

      I hear you. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air too but we can’t give up trying to make things better. You know what they say “the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” We have to believe that things will improve. Maybe down the road when I retire I will run for a committee that can make a difference and shake things up a bit.

      Have the best day.


  4. Gina Hillis says:

    Hi Josie, thank you for sharing your wisdom… Exceptionally well written and certainly agree with all of them! Thank you for the reminders …Gina

  5. simone mayer says:

    I truly enjoy your newsletter and your website is part of my daily read go to’s. I am not an agent but have been interested in the housing market for years. You offer more than “homes for sale”. There is something about your personal touch and sincerity that makes home searching interesting.
    Thanks for the lessons.

    • Josie says:

      Simone it is so sweet of you to take the time to write such a lovely comment. Thank you so much.

  6. Josie,
    Thank you for sharing your 25 lessons in Real Estate. We have been in the business a long time and for those of us who are honest, hard working and kind to our clients we always get our rewards.
    For those new in the business…it should never be about the money. We are handling the biggest investment for our clients and should treat them always like it is our investment then we will never forget the importance of doing the job right always.

    • Josie says:

      Hi Claire-Anne,

      You are so right. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have done your best and the client is happy. Thank you for commenting and for your wisdom.


  7. Barry Lebow says:

    Josie, I start my 47th year in real estate in August and I so love what you have written. Following your 25 points, it is no wonder that your are considered one of the leading Toronto Realtors. No doubt, you work hard but you have rules and they guide you. Job well done – now for the next 25 years!

    • Josie says:

      Barry your comments mean a lot to me especially coming from icon like you. All the best.



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