Debbie HanlonBy Debbie Hanlon

When I first got my real estate license and was interviewing brokers (and trust me, you interview the broker, they don’t interview you – but that’s a topic for another column) one of them asked me where I saw myself in a year. I said I wanted to be number one in Newfoundland. Six months later I was well on my way to reaching that goal. My database was growing steadily, I was considered a local real estate expert and I’d marketed myself along with my suppliers so my name was getting out there.

Then one day I came to a bit of a rude awakening. I was looking in my bureau drawer for something and I found four uncashed cheques from deals I’d written. I was so busy making money that I had no time to enjoy it.

I’d gotten into real estate to make a better life for myself and my three children, but somehow real estate had become my life. I could have kept going at that crazy pace and kept making sales and money, but I knew if I did I’d end up being just another burned-out real estate agent. I needed a plan.

Anyone can work themselves half to death and make loads of money but that isn’t really success. Success is making loads of money while still enjoying a life outside of real estate and to do that you have to have a business plan. Otherwise the work is controlling you when you should be controlling it. No matter what stage you’re at in your career, if you don’t have a business plan, get one. It will make everything run a whole lot smoother and help keep you focused on where your career is going.

I’ve written hundreds of business plans since then, but at that time I didn’t even know what a business plan was. Six months earlier I’d been a single mother on welfare, so writing a business plan was right up there with piloting a space shuttle when it came to how much I knew about it. But you can’t let things like that stop you or slow you down. If you don’t know about something, research it or talk to people who do know. That’s what I did and it made me start thinking of myself as a business instead of as someone who sold real estate.

Like any business, you start with how much money you need to make in a year to cover your expenses. Write down all your costs of doing business from fuel for your vehicle to your business cards. Then you figure out how many deals you have to write to make that money and how many open houses, listing presentations, duty calls and so on you’ll need to get those deals.

Now, once your business plan is written you have to track it and adjust it as needed. Having a plan and not monitoring it will help you make enough money to survive in this industry, but revisiting that plan, tweaking it and following it will help you thrive in this industry. That’s the difference between an average agent and a top producing agent.

I probably would have been number one in Newfoundland without a business plan in place, but because I took the time to write one and follow it closely, I became number one in Canada. It was the most important thing I did for my real estate career. I did it, and do you know what? So can you.

You wouldn’t build a house without a plan, why would you sell them without one?

Debbie Hanlon is the president and founder of Hanlon Realty. She is a three-time top 50 CEO winner and was named one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. She is currently an elected city official in St. John’s, Nfld. and is available for motivational and training seminars. Email [email protected].

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.


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