In Volume 1, Chapter 8, “Suit Up and Show Up,” we covered the importance of personal appearance. And as a longtime “car guy,” I can assure you that I searched long and hard for the justification within brokering to own a nice set of wheels. I can argue just about any side of any point, especially one that ends with something cool in the driveway. But this is not really an argument any of us can win if logic is applied.
Arriving at my first industry golf tournament, it was clear as I walked through the parking lot that this is a profession that
has more than a few car guys and car girls in it. At that time, my mostly used-up Lexus GS430 and I felt radically outclassed. But the car had been a good buy, and it looked respectable enough. Though it was not quite as exciting as, say, an Audi RS4, this was year one of brokering and the RS4 would arrive eventually… er, will arrive eventually.
In your first year brokering, a year that one in three of you will be lucky to make it through without giving up on the profession, be smart with every penny you earn. Do you really want to add the weight of a car payment to your shoulders?
Keep your initial expenses under control. Refer back to your business plan, the one you paused at the start of this book to sketch out. Budget!
The most powerful tool you can own and operate to drive your business forward is the telephone. Not a fancy suit, fancy office or a fancy car; 500hp might win the stoplight drags, but it does not win business—answering your phone does.
It is easy to succumb to the false premise that you must be projecting a certain image in all ways, including with your ride.
This is a story that the narcissist in all of us tells to get its own way. “It’s expected… I need to project an image of success… Clients want to work with successful-looking people.”
You need to project the image of an expert by actually being an expert.
What clients want in a Broker is a skilled Broker. They don’t want someone distracted by thoughts about how he is going to make next month’s payment on a car he never should have leased (c’mon… you were going to lease and you know it).
Cancel your subscriptions to all car magazines for the next five years and focus on brokering.
While it is absolutely true that you need to suit up and show up, the reality is that virtually none of your clients will ever see your wheels, and with each passing year fewer still will see your office or yourself in person at all.
Even in the early days when you are doing whatever needs to be done to complete a file, including personal visits, the overwhelming majority of your clients will likely live in condominiums, apartments and townhouses. They will never see your car.
Anybody who tells you that you need to take on a car payment is likely someone with a car to sell you.
Unlike a Realtor, you’re not pulling up in the driveway of a house to meet clients very often, and you’re not driving clients around, ever. Clients will never know what you’re driving. So don’t take on debt at this tenuous time in your career. I repeat myself here, to make the point as indelibly as possible.
If your car is truly embarrassing, don’t park it in the client’s driveway. Park it a block away and walk to the front door. The point is, it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to impress somebody. It actually takes a whole lot of skill instead. So be skillful, not indebted.
Be the expert.
How the expert got herself to my house matters very little to me. How much she knows about the topic at hand—that is much more important.
One of my favorite things to do is to own the truth, especially when that truth is awkward. If you’re a brand-new Broker and somebody calls you out on the car you drive, own it.
Explain that you are a brand-new Broker and your priority is building your business and paying cash for the nice things in life, not financing them before you are ready. Now you are projecting responsibility, and that is somebody people want to work with—especially when it comes to financial decisions.
Here is another response for you: “I’m all about good debt, but not bad debt; so if you would like to have a conversation about the difference between good debt and bad debt, that would be great.”
Or, “Did you know that a $400.00 per month car payment cancels out $100,000 of mortgage money you would otherwise have qualified for?”
This is a simple metric you should know by heart for your clients, and one you should keep in mind for yourself.
Be on point and know that you’re going to be in the 53 percent who are still in the game four years from now. Maybe you’ll buy yourself a nicer car then.
Warren Buffet drove his K Car for the first few billion dollars of earnings, didn’t he? The lack of flashy wheels did not hold him back from success.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did have a Porsche 911 in my driveway during part of the third year in this business, along with a few other flashy rides. The thing is, the Porsche was five years old with 105,000 KMs on it, and I paid $35,000 cash for it. This did not stop everyone from assuming that I was rolling around in a $100,000 car.
Frankly, I was not entirely comfortable with that perception-creating machine, and so I sold it—on my 40th birthday. It was a reverse midlife crisis. I was just hours away from becoming a cliché (a bald middle-aged guy waving at the other bald middle-aged guys in their Porsches).