To Thrive, Adopt an Immigrant Mindset

Stop hoping for the best and start preparing for the worst.

Did you know that immigrants started more than half of the current crop of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more? Or that more than 10 percent of the Forbes 400 are immigrants to this country?

Many have theorized about why it seems newly arrived residents tend to make more in their lifetimes than their native-born counterparts. I have my own theories. Americans have been conditioned to have an entitlement mindset and to just wait for things to work out or be done for them. Immigrants, on the other hand, expect to work their tails off for absolutely everything.

Immigrants are more likely to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Meanwhile — as any parent who’s told their kid to bring a coat can testify — native-born Americans are more likely to hope for the best and therefore, not prepare for anything. While you’ve checked the forecast and know rain is coming, all they see is the clear sky overhead.

It’s intuitive to plan ahead in our personal lives, but brokers have to do the same with their businesses, too. If you’re seeing blue real estate skies overhead now, it’s a perfect time to prepare and make a plan for when the storm clouds roll in. If you want to thrive under any circumstances, adopt an immigrant mindset and be prepared for the worst.

Here are three ways to build the immigrant mindset in your brokerage and be ready for anything.

1. Assess potential challenges

Make a list of circumstances that could derail your business. This is not an exercise in gloom and doom: It’s one to prevent doom and gloom. What happens if your top producers quit or retire? Or what if the market has a downturn? It is cyclical, after all, and we are due for one any time now. Maybe your competitors start stealing away your top agents or attracting the best new talent. Maybe interest rates go up and buyers get nervous. What happens if agents’ conversion rates change because people are waiting to list or buy homes?

2. Make a plan

Preparing under duress is a recipe for failure. But if on the other hand, we make a plan while our heads are clear, we know it’s one that makes sense. Let’s take on that recruiting subject, for example. There are more millennials in the workforce than ever. Chances are the way you recruited and attracted agents in 2016 is going to have to change in 2017. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something for which you need to plan. Does your brokerage have what millennials are looking for in a workplace? If not, make a plan to bring them in. Consider what you must adapt to create a place where people want to stay. Write out a plan with steps detailing how to get there.

Going back to the scenario I mentioned above about rising interest rates: If President Trump enacts the tax breaks he’s promised, interest rates are likely to rise in 2017. They’re only low because the economy has not been healthy enough to support increases. This is going to disrupt agents’ patterns. They’ve figured out the number of people they need to talk to in order to get a listing. But with rate changes, their tried-and-true strategy might not work as before. Agents will need a strong plan B to convince potential clients it’s still a good time to purchase even though their buying power is reduced.

3. Execute the plan

In business, we sometimes wait until the middle of the storm — when our brain stops working — to plan. But that’s when we should be taking decisive action. People tend to have one of three reactions in a tough situation: They fight and get aggressive, flee the situation completely, or freeze up. Having a plan ahead of time allows you to skip the panic of trying to figure it out in the middle of the stress. Instead, when it gets rough, you can just execute the existing plan rationally and calmly. 

Preparing for the worst allows leaders to maintain certainty, commitment, and courage, which is important for the whole team. It’s dangerous for your agents to see you losing your cool. Having a plan and executing it amid the chaos gives you an edge. It’s time to think like an immigrant. You can still hope for the best; I am all for optimism. Just be sure you’re also prepared for the worst of times. After all, this is how you’ll end up back on top in the best of times.