Willard Says...

March 28, 2019

Your Reputation Precedes You

Spring has arrived in Chicago and baseball season is now underway. As we look forward to another exciting campaign, an annual highlight for me is the opportunity to listen to renowned White Sox commentator Steve Stone and his expert analysis. One of his favorite refrains is to tell “all you young players out there watching at home” the proper way to fundamentally handle a situation. To borrow that mantra as it relates to commercial real estate, I would like to share some wisdom with all you young brokers out there.  Your reputation precedes you.  At the end of the day, it is all that you really have to go by in this business. Once it is trashed, good luck trying to succeed.

Common sense dictates that clients and fellow brokers prefer to work with individuals who are honest, hard-working, ethical and will follow through with promises. When you are regarded to have these traits, you will be amazed at how people tend to gravitate your way. Tenants, landlords and brokers alike will be inclined to try and do business with you whenever possible.  Referrals will follow on a regular basis and people will grow to respect you. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is.

Conversely, once you acquire a reputation of being dishonest, deceptive, lazy and/or all about the commission, word will travel fast. The commercial real estate industry is relatively small and tight-knit.  It has a barber shop component to it where fellow brokers like to sit around and gossip from time-to-time. If you rub enough people the wrong way, it will eventually all catch up to you.  After all, you know what they say about karma.

Don’t get me wrong, this business can be really difficult sometimes.  Brokers work on commission and there are plenty of spells where deals are few and far between.  We all have to make a living and plenty of us have families to support. Hence, it can be awfully tempting to take the easy way out, step on some toes and hold back on sharing critical information in order to get a deal done.  In spite of it all, ethical behavior must always win out.  If you tell a lie, it will come back and bite you, usually twice as hard.  Businesses want to work with people who have their best interest in mind, not those who only care about the size of their commission.

Undoubtedly, there have been instances where I have cost myself money by being overly candid.  I could have easy told a white lie or kept some details to myself just to get a deal done. On other occasions, I could have easily pushed tenants towards longer-term leases for no other reason than to pad my pocketbook and probably gotten away with it. Still, I refuse to act this way.  I simply have too much respect for people and the extreme effort they put forth towards establishing a successful business. Without exception, the number one rule to live by in business is the Golden Rule.  Plus, the internal guilt I would feel (thanks, mom) would render me useless for days.

So, all you young brokers out there, I cannot urge you strongly enough to do learn this lesson early in your career and never forget it.  After all, you do not want to have people feeling like they need a shower after they have an encounter with you. Sure, you will strike out or commit an error from time-to-time, but in the long run, there will be plenty of home runs that you can build upon.

Oh, and one more thing. To a particular broker out there who might be reading this blog and wondering if it is being directed towards him or her, it sure is, buddy.