Episode 41: The Working REALTOR®: Growing Your Business

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, the podcast for and about REALTORS®. I’m your host, Erin Davis, and I’m proud to bring you a trio of experts today who share with you their wisdom and hard-earned perspective. Settle in, because there’s a lot to enjoy in episode 41 of REAL TIME.

You’re starting to build your name as a REALTOR®, but how do you keep up the momentum or add an extra boost to the foundation you’ve already built? While it won’t happen overnight, with the right advice, and dedication, you can open new doors and grow your practice into one that measures up to the goals you’re striving to achieve. Continuing our Working REALTOR® series, this episode shares tips, strategies, and lessons learned to help you continue building your real estate career at any phase. Hear from three REALTORS® from across the country. Here we go.

Well, what a stellar lineup we have here today, and it’s just an honor to speak with each of you. Let’s start with a quick round of introductions. Who you are, where you’re from, and what you or your clients and colleagues would say sets you apart in the business. We’re going to start with Nene from Oakville.

Nene Judy Akintan: Thank you for having me today. My name is Nene Judy Akintan, and my family and I are immigrants from Nigeria. Now, I wear many hats in my life. I’m a wife, mother, mentor, speaker, author, REALTOR®, and more importantly, I recognize myself as God’s unique creation.

As the owner of Oakville Living With Nene, a real estate business in Oakville, Ontario, I also co-manage a non-profit foundation, I AM. I CAN. I WILL, alongside my adult children, Temi, Tife, and my niece, Olympia. Empowering minority women and youth is a cause I’m deeply passionate about, and this commitment is reflected in my previous role as a vice-chair of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, and as a current board member of the Black REALTORS® Association of Canada. Once again, thank you for having me.

Erin: Our pleasure. It’s an honor to have you here, Nene. Ruth Alexander, tell us about yourself, please.

Ruth Alexander: Hi there, and thank you so much for having me. Nene is a tough act to follow. I definitely am so proud to be here as a REALTOR® representing Calgary, Alberta, and surrounding areas. I live in Strathmore, Alberta, a small town outside of Calgary, and I put about 98,000 kilometers on my car last year. I have a team that encompasses four other amazing, talented, passionate real estate agents. Young Mi, Kirsten, Diana, and Olivia joined me on this incredible platform of real estate and offering amazing guidance and raising the bar really of what being a real estate agent means. I’m so proud to be their leader, and mentor, and of course, I do all of it for my family, my kids, and I’m just totally pleased to be here today. Thanks so much for having me.

Erin: Thank you, Ruth. It is an honor to have you here today as well, and Steve. Steve, tell us about yourself.

Steve Saretsky: Yes. Born and raised in Vancouver, just run a pretty lean, mean team here. Very active on social media, run a newsletter to all sorts of real estate professionals, policymakers, et cetera. I also run a podcast called The Loonie Hour, which is a national podcast that focuses on macroeconomics, finance, and of course, real estate. I really spend a lot of my time on that, and try to expand the conversation and the educational piece, and it certainly helps drive a lot of my business as well.

Erin: I have to ask you, Loonie Hour, you spell loonie with an E or without, if people are looking for it?

Steve: Yes. No, it’s loonie like the Canadian dollar, so a play on words.

Erin: Yes, it is, and I love that. I just love it. For any of our listeners who are early in their career, tell us some common mistakes that anybody can make at this stage or mistakes that you’ve made yourself. Ruth, we’re going to start with you. Are there any mistakes that you made that you might avoid if you could turn back the clock?

Ruth: I think that’s a two-tiered question, and the first thing I would say is to avoid being attracted, as a new REALTOR®, to a brokerage – really, your business is going to be based on you and your guiding principles, who you are. You really have to align yourself with a real estate brokerage that shares or mirrors your branding and your goals. I made the mistake early on of joining a brokerage that really didn’t offer any of that mentorship or coaching or negotiating skills that were really, really important. It did waste three or four months of my time, and I had to start all over again, so I definitely think choosing the right brokerage is important, and the right broker who has your back and gives you that incredible training. That is going to be so important because as a new REALTOR®, your course does not teach you any of the day-to-day skills and talents that you’re going to need. Be sure to surround yourself by really experienced coaching and advisors, which starts with your brokerage.

Erin: That’s excellent advice. Steve, does any of this resonate with you, and what is your take? Mistakes you made, things you’d like to do over, any of that?

Steve: Yes. I think it’s just surrounding yourself with people that you can learn from, that are willing to be helpful. I think I went to a couple brokerages early on and maybe didn’t have the best support or mentorship, people trying to withhold information, and I feel like that’s the old school mentality. I always tell a lot of new agents, even if it’s your first year, just try to get on a team, learn from someone that’s successful, and I think it’ll speed up your growth.

Erin: Okay. Nene, how about you?

Nene: I think this is a great question. In addition to what Ruth and Steve have said, one thing I’ll say is do not be a secret agent. What do I mean? I mean, let everybody in your sphere of influence know that you are a REALTOR®. The nail technician, the grocery store clerk, your dry cleaner, the doctor’s office, family, friends, parents in your kids’ school, let them know you’re a REALTOR®. Now, don’t be annoying with this. Do it in a classy way, but do not keep your REALTOR® skills under wraps. Let everybody know how much of a great REALTOR® that you are.

Another thing I would say to new REALTORS® is, join a committee. We belong to different boards, and each board has different committees that you can volunteer on. I did that when I started, and I met an amazing lady REALTOR® who actually became my mentor. My very first deal came through that lady. Join a committee, put your name out there, get to know the older REALTORS® in the business.

Ruth: If I may follow up on that, Nene, that’s such great advice.

Erin: Yes.

Ruth: Speaking to not being annoying, I think it’s really important as a REALTOR® to be very proud of your position. You are a really important piece of what people need when they are trading in their biggest investment in their life, so be really loud, and proud, and have no shame in being a REALTOR®.

Nene: Yes, I agree.

Erin: Steve, would you like a chance to add anything to this at all?

Steve: Yes, just on the educational side of things. My biggest thing I think when I tell agents and stuff is just learn your markets, know your product inside and out. It’s going to make you more confident, and then that confident will come through to the client on the other end.

Erin: Up next, sharing what you know to help build your brand. When’s the last time you visited CREA Café? It’s your place to take a break and catch up on the latest trends and topics affecting you and your clients. Find it all at CREACafe.ca. Now let’s get back to tips, strategies, and lessons learned in three successful lives as REALTORS® with our guests, Ruth Alexander from Calgary, Oakville’s Nene Akintan, and from Vancouver, Steve Saretsky on REAL TIME.

In our first Working REALTOR® episode, we talked to REALTORS® about building your name. Now Steve, you run one of Vancouver’s most popular real estate blogs. How has being a go-to source for market insights helped you to grow your brand and your business?

Steve: I think that it creates a level of trust that people that are already following your work, they feel like they know you, and so when you go in to meet a client for the first time, they already feel like they’ve known you for two years because they’ve been following your work for that long. It doesn’t feel like you’re having to hard sell or close anybody. The relationship feels like it’s already there, as weird as that may sound. You have to think about a lead source that comes through where it’s like if you just send a pamphlet in the mail saying, “Just sell with us,” there’s not really any relationship there. They don’t know anything about you, they don’t know who you are other than you sold real estate. Whereas when you write consistently or you’re doing a video consistently on the internet, people feel like they start to know your personality and how you think about the market, and what you’re seeing, and your stories. I just think it creates a relationship ahead of actually meeting somebody.

Erin: An important part about writing a blog, as I speak here from experience, and you will know this, Steve, too, is to not make it all about you, but to turn it outwards and make it about them. Make it things like, what’s in it for the reader? What makes them want to come back and see, “Okay, what’s Steve got to say today?”? Would that apply to you as well?

Steve: I can tell you I’ve never had a call to action on any of my content. It’s never like, “Hey, by the way, call me if you need to buy or sell.” It’s just like, “Here’s the information. It’s not that hard. If you want to track me down, it’s very easy to do.” It comes off as non-salesy and you’re out there. You’re putting the reader first, which is I’m going to try to educate and give all the best insights that I have available. I’m going to document that in writing and put it out there, and I’m going to put it out there consistently. I think people appreciate that, as opposed to.

I think the wrong way I look at it is, you get a lot of REALTORS® and people say, “I should do social media. Are you getting leads from that? Does it work? What’s in it for me?” I think it’s the wrong way to look at it. It’s like, give first, and over time, the more you give, the more you’ll receive back. I think it’s just you have to frame your mindset a little bit differently around content. Everybody’s always looking for the instant gratification that if you put out two videos, you’re going to get a new listing out of it. I think that’s just the wrong way to look at it.

Erin: I love that. It takes time to build that kind of loyalty and connection with people. Steve, what strategies help you balance the creation and promotion of so much content? You’ve mentioned a podcast as well. With your day-to-day responsibilities as a REALTOR®, how do you do it?

Steve: I think it’s just prioritizing. I look at it and say I’m a media company first, and then I’m a REALTOR® second. I genuinely believe that because I think creating the media side of it actually ends up driving the entire real estate business. It’s the content first. It’s really just taking the time and prioritizing the content and the media side. I think it creates this platform that you have that you can then leverage into so many different other things as well. People are willing to spend an hour, an hour and a half, two hours a day cold calling, or door knocking, or prospecting, and open houses, but they’re not willing to spend an hour a day producing content. I just find it interesting.

Erin: There will be people who wonder, “Well, should I outsource this?” because there are people who do this for a living. How do you feel about outsourcing? I’ll ask you this, Ruth, as well in just a moment, and Nene. Steve?

Steve: I think that for the most part, you can’t outsource your direct social media. I think that you can get help with it. I think that you can have people that edit videos for you, that maybe you write the blog and have somebody else actually post the blog for you. In terms of being active on Twitter, or on Instagram, posting it and responding to comments, that should be you. You should be responding to people, not some assisted social media – it’s a people-first business, and so you have to be actively involved. You can’t outsource that.

Erin: Ruth, you have said that you are all about building awareness. Let’s talk about that and how you do it, how you fit it into your life, as Steve has talked about here, too.

Ruth: I will mirror Steve in saying it’s really difficult. I have tried to “outsource” some social media to take off some of the burden, because social media is not an easy task. It’s very time consuming. I have the wrists and the social media elbow to prove it. It’s like a sport, and you really definitely have to be all in. It has definitely built my brand from the ground up, and it’s about storytelling.

I do have a call to action almost everything I do, because I’m half hunter and half gatherer, and I can’t help myself. It’s just my personality. Again, I’m just being my true authentic self, and everyone knows that about me. I cannot go to an event without shamelessly promoting or handing out a card, and overhearing conversations about homes, I’m all over it. I do try not to be annoying, but back to social media – thanks for the reminder, Nene. I do have a good sense of humor around it, and I think that helps break the ice. Back to social media, the content – I don’t have a blog, and I commend you, Steve, because that is a tremendous amount of work. I have to say I started my career without much knowledge whatsoever, like most REALTORS®, of any stats and the importance of the stats. I really started using my passion for marketing. I used that first to get my name out there, and I just rolled with it, and I have now – it’s my fifth year only in the business, but I’m addicted to the stats and the numbers. It’s also very important for anyone listening that’s a new REALTOR®, or anyone in the business, understands that the public get one version of the stats. We all know as REALTORS® that if it’s a seller’s market by 197% in Calgary, for example, every single seller in the entire city and surrounding areas believe it’s a seller’s market. We know very well all over Canada and in every province in every city, there are microcosms of economics going on in various different neighborhoods. One next door to the other can be very different. One can be an extreme seller’s market, while the other’s not the case. I do find it fascinating, and building your reputation on a storytelling basis is a nice combination of getting people to know you, to like you, and then they trust you. Much like Steve mentioned, when I show up to a listing agreement, to complete strangers, I am not a stranger to them. They feel like they know me, and they’ve asked me to come to their home because they like what I’m putting out there. Our combination of tips, showing the passion we have for our work, and educating clients is really what we do on that platform.

Erin: I’m so glad you mentioned education, because I know that, Nene, you are a huge fan of educating yourself and of training. Let’s talk about how you stay on top of it all, working, not just putting out, but also taking in. It’s so important.

Nene: Yes. It’s very interesting when Ruth. Just to digress a bit, when she said two property on the same street are not the same. There are economics attached to each one. Clients come and they say, “Oh, we saw that this sold for gazillion dollars. Why are we not listing mine at ” I’m like, “Okay.” We need to drill it down, so it’s very important. Educating ourselves as REALTORS® is critical to success in the industry. Knowing your statistics, knowing what is happening in different communities. Not only your community, but different communities so that you’re able to knowledgeably – because it’s very important to give the right information. I hear some interesting things sometimes, and I’m like, “Oh, where did that come from?”

Anyway, being able to give clients timely information, helpful, and relevant information is very key. I do a lot of training, self-development. I’m listening to two or three podcasts or training for my brokerage every week. There’s one thing I also do, which is time blocking. I keep that time for myself every day to learn something new happening in the market. Knowing your stats, training is very important. If you’re a new REALTOR® listening to this, just be mindful of the fact that you need to train and develop every single day. Not just new REALTORS®, even tenured REALTORS®. You need to keep on top of the market.

Erin: When we return, where to go when you need to know. Our guests share their sources. CREA Learning Hub is a source, too. If you like learning about all things Canadian real estate on REAL TIME, visit the CREA Learning Hub. It’s newly refreshed to be more interactive, user-friendly, and even easier to navigate. Now back to REAL TIME with our REALTOR® guests, Nene Akintan from Oakville, Ontario, Ruth Alexander of Calgary, and Steve Saretsky of Vancouver.

We all know that CREA is a fantastic resource for stats, and insights, a national authority, but it never hurts to get insight on other sources for information. Steve, where else do you source your information? We’re not just talking straight numbers that are constantly changing. How do you mine that information?

Steve: I’m definitely a – I almost call myself a professional curator, which is like, there’s so much information out there and so many different news sources. I almost go and round it all up and then summarize it in notes, basically, for people, whether it’s a – Twitter I found is a great place. You can follow some of the best mortgage brokers there, best REALTORS®, best housing developers, politicians, economists, et cetera. You can really curate your own feed to have incredible information from all these individuals, and then be able to source it for yourself. That’s probably one of my main go-tos. On the data front, in Vancouver, I’ve gone and actually spent money and built out a platform where we’re able to actually take the aggregate data from our MLS system and run it through some platforms where we can basically create charts, and tables, and graphs to figure out how the housing market’s performing.

Erin: Ruth, is there anything you’d like to add on this before we move on about how you curate where you get information from?

Ruth: Much like Steve, we have a variety of tools. I invest in a lot of tools not all REALTORS® invest in, that gives me the charts. People are very visual. It’s important to read CREB’s monthly market report, but it’s great to dial it down into visual charts so that our clients can easily understand and see the trends. For example, we have three neighborhoods in Calgary that are just right up against one another. When you print out an actual graph and chart, much like Steve is mentioning, it’s really easy to see how very different they all are, even though they’re neighboring communities.

I think it’s important to always invest in tools that are visual so that you can break it down. Often, even though a lot of our clients are MBAs, and engineers, and PhDs, they really need to see it. It’s important as a REALTOR® to invest in those tools so that your clients understand all of this jargon that we are very comfortable with.

Nene: Actually, Ruth and Steve said this. It’s very important to capture the data in a way that people can understand it. To her point, I have a lot of physician clients who they’re investors, but when I drill it down to the numbers and the graphs, it makes a whole lot of sense to them as to why they should invest in this versus this. Those are some of the important things that REALTORS® bring to the table that sometimes people don’t really understand. Just investing your time in getting that training, getting the tools, mining the data, like Steve said, to be able to present it to your client in a holistic way, but also very – it’s instant. They see this and it makes sense to them immediately.

Erin: That’s so important at a time when we have so little time. I’m going to do something really quick here, a lightning round. We’ve seen massive changes in Twitter over the last little bit. Of course, Elon is now calling it X, whatever you call it. I’ve heard, Steve, you refer to it as Twitter, and I still do, too. Are you staying with that platform? Are you diversifying to Mastodon or Post or any of the other upstarts? I’m loving Threads, for example. Any of the other upstarts that are trying to take a run at Elon’s discontented customers. Start with you, Steve.

Steve: I’m personally not. I think that Twitter is the water cooler for especially investing, investors. Finance is a huge community there. Obviously, I’ve spent so much time, I’ve been on that platform for a decade now. I think we’re getting close to 50,000 followers. That’s hard to replicate and take to a different platform. With that being said, I could definitely invest my time. We’ve got a YouTube channel, run the podcast there, and I write a Substack, which is where I do my newsletter. Definitely feel like I’m spread out across different platforms, but the reality is, I don’t have a big enough team here where I can be on every single platform, but yes, we’re certainly doing our best.

Erin: Ruth, how about you?

Ruth: Exactly, Steve. I think it’s really hard to be really good at everything unless you have a massive staff, I guess. The problem with the massive staff doing your social media is you lose that authenticity. I think that is our trademark. Twitter, I’ve never been a huge fan of because I have a channel, I never use it. I’ve built mainly, surprisingly, on LinkedIn. That is my best channel. I’ve worked really hard on that. Instagram is more of an entertainment vessel in my opinion. I use it to entertain and to go back to that know you, like you, trust you. We use it more as an attractant versus anything too, too serious. Then Facebook, we just repost. If I have any advice for REALTORS® who want to get involved in social media, pick one or two and become really good at it, without becoming a dinosaur, of course. You have to be really conscious of new things coming up. TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, or Threads, whatever it is, take the time to be really good and get really in tune with one before you start the other. It’s often overwhelming for REALTORS® to think, “Oh my God, I have to post three times a day. What am I going to post?” Believe me, it’s taken me years to become just a natural at it. If you’re just starting out in social media, you want to grow a following, remember, it’s social. It’s not just about posting, it’s about commenting on other people’s posts, sending them messages, giving them kudos. It’s a give and take. It’s called social networking. A lot of people forget that and they get really, really bogged down into what they’re posting every day. They forget that they’re supposed to be interacting. Having said that, it’s a very time-consuming art. Be cautious to try to be everything to everyone and use every channel. Pick one or two that resonates with you and that you’re enjoying posting on and go from there.

Erin: Wow, that’s some great advice. We’re hearing words and terms here that, 10 years ago, people would have gone, “What did she just say?” We’re talking TikTok, and Insta, and Mastodon, and Post. Okay, Nene, what’s your go-to?

Nene: My go-to is actually Instagram because I’m a goofy person. Just like Ruth said, Instagram is entertainment. Everything for me is content, so Instagram is my go-to. My following is not as much as Ruth’s. However, what I find out is I have people who come up to me in the streets who don’t follow me, but they see my Instagram posts, and then we start to talk real estate, and they become my clients. Like Steve, I’m not going anywhere. I’m still on my Instagram, but I’ve learned something from you, Steve. Twitter, investors, I love that. Also from Ruth, I just learned LinkedIn. I love doing this because I’m also learning as I’m going along, so thank you for sharing.

Erin: Coming up, we’ve all heard the lyric that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. For one of our guests, that’s exactly how she fell in love with being a REALTOR®. Now, whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned veteran, there’s always information to add to your professional toolbox at CREA Café. From legal matters to navigating technology, it’s all there, simply by clicking on creacafe.ca.

We return now to episode 41 of REAL TIME, as we enjoy the wisdom and perspective of three experienced REALTORS® with vastly different backgrounds, starting with Ruth Alexander from Calgary. Well, Ruth, as we touch on social media and drill down, as you all say, you’ve worked as a social media strategist for a number of years and built a big following for your own business. You’ve already given us some really good tips and stuff, but I think it’s interesting to note that you actually started on social media a long time ago, and even before you became a REALTOR®. Was that your ace up your sleeve?

Ruth: I do think it was an ace up my sleeve, and I’ll tell you, becoming a REALTOR® just happened almost by mistake. I guess all the best things that happen to you in your life sometimes stem out of hard times in your life. If you go back 10 years ago, I had a cottage and a property in Mexico that had to be rented out in order for me to make any type of income. Of course, that’s when VRBO – I don’t even think Airbnb was out then. It was VRBO. I had to rent those properties out in order to put groceries in the fridge for my kids.

I had lots of great photos. I just happened to know how to take a picture. I had lots of great photos of these properties, and I quickly pivoted to putting them on VRBO, writing about them. Then, of course, I just had Instagram and Facebook when they first came out. I learned how to copy a link and post pictures. I learned that pictures worked better than videos back at that time. I started to learn about algorithms, and I really was very successful at getting renters.

That translated into, “How do I use this skill to make more money?” I approached some REALTORS® that I knew, home builders, various different companies, because it was so fresh. I really did know how to quickly copy and paste photos, write a description, copy a link, put it in the post, what hashtags were, in a very basic way, when no one else was doing it. I basically did it to survive. The light went off in my head to use my marketing knowledge and this online knowledge and get my license. That’s how I put them all together and it worked.

Erin: There’s a lot of power in having nothing to lose, isn’t there?

Ruth: Definitely.

Erin: As we learned earlier, Nene knew you and felt like she knew you already before we all sat down for this chat here today. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Ruth: Nene, you’re in Oakville, Ontario. I have no idea how you learned about me, but it is through my use of hashtags I can bet. Through hashtags and boosting my followers. It is called a bandwagon effect, and it really has worked. A lot of people that I run into all over the province and the country, when I’m visiting different cities – one of the members on my team called me one day and said, “Oh, my gosh, I was at the farmers’ market and someone came up to me and said, ‘Oh, I know you. You’re with RARE Group. I follow all of you on social media.'” Just a complete stranger. It does work, but it only works if you’re consistent, and committed, and creative. The three C’s. You have to keep on doing it. Like Steve said, you have to spend the hours it takes to find your groove, and nothing comes easy. That’s so true of social media, isn’t it, Steve, and Nene?

Nene: Yes.

Steve: Yes.

Nene: It is.

Steve: I think everything works, right? It’s like door knocking works, cold calling works, open houses work. You have to do them a lot and do them very consistently to actually see the results. I think that’s the same thing for social media. You can’t post two pictures on Instagram and think you’re going to get three sales out of it. I did a YouTube channel.

Ruth: We’re laughing because it’s true.

Steve: Yes, it’s crazy. Anyways, I did a YouTube channel where I did a video every Saturday just covering the Vancouver housing market and Canadian real estate. I don’t think I got my first lead or deal out of it for about 12 months, maybe 18 months. Then as you got into year two and a half, year three, it just started compounding, and compounding, and compounding.

Ruth: Isn’t that the way with any business? You are a business owner, you are an entrepreneur in this business, so you cannot expect a quick fix. New REALTORS®, often I see this mistake a lot, they become a REALTOR® and they do the big, “I’m a REALTOR®,” post. I think they’re disappointed when they don’t get business from that post, and they don’t understand that repeating it is not a sin. You have to repeat, repeat, repeat because of the way algorithms work on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. I think people think that 700 people see their posts, but truthfully, just a small percentage ever see your post. Having that no fear attitude of continuity and doing it over, and over, and over, and not having any shame associated with it. “Oh, I shouldn’t post that I’m a REALTOR®. Everybody knows I’m a REALTOR®.” That’s not true. They may not have seen that post. You’re looking at your page every minute of every day, but remember, when you’re browsing, you’re browsing, and you see thousands of posts. There’s no shame in continuing to post the same thing. Maybe just do a different image or select a different frame in that video that you posted last week. Select a different frame. It shows up differently on everyone’s feed.

Erin: That is so important. So many of us have trouble with self-promotion. Not everybody, and certainly not among REALTORS®, but those of us who produce content have difficulty because it looks like, “Well, I’m doing this again. I’m putting out this message again.” You’re so right. It’s different eyes, different attitudes, different times. I’d like to go back to something that you said, Ruth, that Steve said, and that I’m sure Nene was nodding in agreement, the three C’s of consistent, creative, committed. I’d like to add something that Nene truly believes in, too, which is connected and being the same person on and off social media. Would you like to expand on that a little bit, please, Nene?

Nene: Yes. That is very important because when people meet you, they feel like they know you. Like Steve and Ruth said, they feel like they know you. If you show up differently, they’re going to be like, “Huh.” I know we’ve heard stories about some celebrities who, when people meet them, they’re like, “Oh my God, that’s not the person I thought it was.” For me, I’m very goofy. I’m goofy on social media, I’m goofy at home, I’m goofy when I meet people on the street. It’s very important to be consistent in your posts. You have to be authentic in who you are, so be yourself. Don’t be somebody else on social media, pretending that you love real estate or this, and that, and the other, and then when they meet you. You know what I’m saying, Ruth. When people meet you, you’re totally different. It’s important to be consistent in every aspect of it, so that way you’re as relatable when they meet you in person as they see you online.

Erin: Steve, anything you want to add?

Steve: Yes. I think just have fun with it. Give more than you take. I think you should always have your end audience in mind, so you’re not bombarding them with your sales pitch. You’re out there, you’re providing good educational content or entertaining content, and then if you want to throw in the odd post where it says, “Hey, guys, just reminding you this is what I do,” of course. It’s always finding that healthy balance because you’re not going to grow a large following by just self-promoting yourself. I think it’s, like I say, you just have to – I always say this, and it’s like, think about all of the accounts that you follow on social media. Let’s say you’re on Instagram. Think about the accounts you follow on Instagram.

Why are you following those accounts? Usually, it’s because they entertain you or they educate you. I think your social media should, in general, be doing one of those two things.

Erin: We are glad you’re following our podcast, and we have 40 more insightful episodes just waiting for you to dig in and be inspired. There’s a new one every month, and we’re grateful to have you joining us here in our REAL TIME podcast community. As we wrap up today, using your passions outside of your life as a REALTOR® to fuel your business. Back to Steve Saretsky of Vancouver, Ruth Alexander of Calgary, and Nene Akintan of Oakville.

Nene, you’re very active in your community, whether it’s volunteering, as you mentioned off the top, or mentoring new REALTORS®, and you’ve even founded a non-profit with your kids, I AM. I CAN. I WILL. We love that. How has building other people up helped you build your own career? Which of course we know was not the motivation behind it, but look how it’s worked.

Nene: I’m very active in the community and I learned that growing up. My father was a physician and my mother is an educationist. I saw them volunteering in the community, whether it was going to an orphanage or receiving people, just having a potluck for people who couldn’t afford to have a meal.

I saw the joy it brought my parents. Now we were 12, my father had 12 children. I just believe that my personality and my character is as a result of what I experienced as a child. It comes very naturally to me. I was saying earlier how during COVID when businesses were closing down, shutting down, I would go from one business to the other, recording videos with them, just making appeals to the community to support the businesses. I didn’t do it because I was expecting to get something out of it. The interesting thing is those same business owners promoted my businesses for free. I’ll share a very quick story. Just when COVID hit, I was now like, “Okay, what am I going to do? What am I going to do about – Nobody’s buying houses,” or so we thought anyway. Like Ruth said earlier, so we thought. We thought real estate was gone. Then I remember that I had approached a marketing company to market my brand. When they gave me the numbers, it was ridiculously expensive. During COVID, something – I’m a believer, I’m a Christian. During COVID, I would say the Holy Spirit prompted me to go back and approach this company, and I did. I got a 70% reduction in the cost of the marketing on the buses in Oakville and the community that I’m in because a lot of REALTORS® and businesses were dropping off. Nobody was putting anything on buses because who’s going to see them anyway? I took that leap of faith believing that something good will come out of it. This same marketing company, which happens to be a Canadian company, now promoted me for free shortly after that, because somehow, I don’t know, somewhere along the line, I had talked about how much I’d benefited from them, and how much discount they gave me. Those community things that you do without expecting anything in return seems to – Steve had said it earlier. You put out good and you get good in return, even though you’re not expecting that. The act of doing that, the act of helping people in the community build, the act of helping REALTORS®, mentoring them, and doing things like that actually has made my business expand exponentially. Sometimes I marvel, I’m like, “Wow.”

Erin: You mentioned the joy that you witnessed as a child in Nigeria. Is it that same kind of joy when you mentor someone and see the beginnings of success, Nene?

Nene: Yes, it is that kind of joy. It’s a joy that I wish I could bottle and sell. When I mentor a REALTOR® or mentor somebody who is trying to get their real estate license, I wait for that call. The call that says, “Oh, my God, I got my first deal.” or “Oh, my God, I just got my license.” You hear the joy in their voice of having achieved something. It’s that same kind of joy, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Erin: Absolutely. We’ll start with you, Steve. How can you be intentional about where you volunteer your time, because there aren’t enough hours in the day?

Steve: I think on the community side, I would argue that your community now is online. I look at it a lot of times that I’m volunteering my time online. I’m responding to people’s questions. People that are sending me a DM in my inbox there, I’m taking the time to respond to their question. Sometimes someone says, “Hey, I’ve got a mortgage,” or a question, or “I don’t necessarily work in your market, so it’s not going to lead to a business opportunity, but I’ve got this investment property in this part of Canada. Can I pick your brain on what you would do?” It’s like, “Okay, well, I’m happy to jump on a 10-minute phone call.” I think it’s always just like, I look at it and say, online, you’re building a brand, you’re building a community, and you’re servicing that community. It’s a different mindset of what we’re used to, which is when we think about community, you think about just your local vicinity.

Nene: That is so true, what Steve just said. I say it’s so true because we do get a lot of those calls or text messages or inbox messages asking us questions. My mantra is, “Information is free.” I’m going to give you the information I have, I’m going to educate you, not because I’m expecting you to use me as your REALTOR®, but because that would help you make the right decision when you choose to buy or sell that property. Whether you use me or not, and I always say to people, it’s not whether you use me or not, I just want – because I’m big on building generational wealth, I work a lot in the Black community. I’m big on empowering people in the Black community to own homes. I always say to them, “It doesn’t matter whether you use me or not, but this is the path you should take.” To Steve’s point, community is not just physical community, it’s also online community.

Erin: A light went on for me there. What Steve said about, yes, but – there was an implied but there. “Yes, I’ll answer your questions, but I’m giving you 10 minutes.” I really like that because you’re setting limits, you’re setting parameters. It’s something that, Ruth, you said you had to learn as well after being yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Tell us about that shift that you had to make and you have made successfully.

Ruth: I think the hustle is real when you’re starting a new business. In my case, I was starting from nothing, building a business and being a sole provider for my children. It was the total inspiration, but with that came saying yes to everything and being everything to everyone. I think that the shift happened for me when I stepped out of that survival brain, just always trying to survive, and moving into more of a thrive mindset. That took a lot of coaching and mentoring. I have a great broker who met me that first day when I – even that first day when I walked in, I was offered a plan, a certain split plan where I would pay less every month and give a bigger split, or I could pay more and have no split. I was so determined that I definitely chose the no-split option and took a big risk because I really didn’t have a lot at that point in my life. I really believed that I was going to make something of myself and make this business work. When your back is against the wall, you will do anything, I think, especially as a parent, or just an individual. If that’s not where you want to be or stay, you’ll do anything. I really did build those first few years upon the premise of saying yes to any property at any price. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t an expert in the stats, but I did know that I had a no fear, no lose attitude, and I was going to be consistent, and committed, and creative like no one else. That’s how I built a foundation, but there’s a real thing called burnout that comes from that. I did find myself at the end of last year more successful than I ever dreamed of, but I was depressed, exhausted. Physically, I didn’t even know how to spell the word gym anymore. I woke up in the morning and rolled out of bed onto my laptop and finished my day by shutting my laptop 12 to 15 hours later. It just wasn’t and isn’t sustainable. I have definitely worked really hard in the last year to learn the power of no, and put up those boundaries, ask for help, building a team of people that I can really rely on, and learning to delegate and let go. It’s not easy to let go when you’ve built something from scratch. You have a lot of passion, and dedication, and you really do want to build a reputation of being detail-oriented and getting things done better than anyone else. I really had to let go of a lot of those belief systems I had in place that were all based on surviving. They were not based on thriving. I know that’s kind of a cliche saying, but the hustle is real when you need to provide and build a career from scratch. I’m 52 years old, so I started this business later in life, and that means I have a smaller window to succeed and build wealth. I have really taken away the shame of talking about that and I think that has really positioned me for a brighter future. Just the ability to say no and time block, like Steve said. It’s the way to be, and I’m super happy to be on that new path as of about a year ago. It’s opened up a whole lot of opportunity, and you start attracting more, and more people to your business that type of calmness brings.

Erin: Good for you in every possible meaning of that phrase. Absolutely. As we reluctantly wrap up here, how about the future for each of you? Steve, what excites you now?

Steve: I just think the trend of the REALTOR® job or position changing. I think we’re becoming more advisors and less about hoarding sales prices and data, but sharing. I think the role’s changing. I think that everything’s shifting online, and obviously, you got AI and stuff coming out. I just think the role is going to change. I think there’s going to be a huge opportunity and a land grab for people that are willing to adapt and embrace these technologies.

Erin: Nene, we’re talking technologies and embracing. What excites you now?

Nene: I’m excited about the future of AI in real estate. I’m also scared about it because I like to write. I create a lot of my content, and I feel like while AI makes it more effective, and makes me more efficient, it’s taking away some of my creativity. In that regard, I’m a little bit worried about that and worried about what my role will be in real estate going forward, but I’m also excited about the possibility. I’m excited with meeting Steve and Ruth today, and just hearing Ruth speak about certain things that usually people won’t speak about, I’m excited. I’m honestly really – I feel privileged. I think that’s the word.

Ruth: Thank you so much, Nene. If you don’t mind me hopping in really quick about AI, I would like every REALTOR® to think about it in terms of, like Steve said in the beginning, outsourcing to an automated social media platform posting company is the same thing as relying on AI for everything. There is no substitute for human creativity, human passion, human education, and the other so many innuendos. Real estate is very complex. There is no robot on the planet that can replace a quality, educated, passionate REALTOR®. There is no robot out there that could replace us, so you should have no fear, and in fact, embrace it for the menial tasks that it can do, which is maybe get you started on a listing remark, and then use your creative writing skills to make it your own. It is saving you time on that level. Use it as a tool, as an assistant to your already very talented writing skills. Use AI, and then you jump in and make it your own and customize it. Use it as a tool and not as anything to be feared, because nothing can replace you and who you are and how you do your business.

Nene: Thank you.

Erin: So sorry to see this conversation coming to an end, but let’s pretend you’re giving a keynote on growing your business, and, oh, I would love to be in the audience for any one of you. What would the last line of your presentation be? Steve?

Steve: Give more than you take.

Ruth: Good one.

Erin: All right. That’s where the applause would kick in. Thank you. All right. Nene, what would you say?

Nene: Over the years, I’ve told my children, “Do everything with a spirit of excellence.” When I say, they roll their eyes, but I know that when I’m long gone, they will pass on that statement to their children and grandchildren as part of what I believe is generational wealth. Generational wealth is not just material wealth, but things we learn. My statement would be, do everything with a spirit of excellence and gratitude.

Erin: Amen. Ruth?

Ruth: I would say two things. One, stay on your own mat. There are a lot of REALTORS®. Yes. There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of ways to do your business. Stop looking around at everyone else and just be you. Be your true authentic self and have no fear. Just go for it.

Erin: I love that. I’m on my own mat, and thanks to you all, I’m in the warrior pose. Thank you oh so much. Ruth, Nene, Steve, we are so grateful for your wisdom and your openness today, and your authenticity. Amazing.

Nene: Thank you.

Ruth: Thank you so much.

Steve: Thank you. Awesome.

Erin: It was, and we thank you for listening, for sharing part of your busy life here with us at REAL TIME, the podcast for and about REALTORS®. Hey, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. Feel free to spread the word about what we hope is helpful to you in countless ways. Thanks for that. REAL TIME is a production of Alphabet® Creative, technical magic by Rob Whitehead and Real Family Productions. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you again soon on REAL TIME.

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