Setting goals offers the promise of hope, especially in an uncertain economy. But nobody can expect results to materialize simply by wishing. What’s needed is a plan, followed by a way to track results for accountability, whether the end game is to expand your sphere of influence, open another office or increase your transaction volume.
Despite many people’s best intentions to work harder and do better, only 3% set goals and only 1% put them in writing, says Jackie Matos, whose eponymous consulting firm has advised hundreds of CEOs and thousands of teams about the importance of doing so. As a whole, Matos says, only 8% of people achieve their goals.
Why don’t more of us plan? Matos says responses run the gamut: not prioritizing tasks, or being busy, or not understanding goal-setting. “‘I want to have the best company’ is an ambitious statement but doesn’t relay what the goals are or how to get there. You need to know where you’re going and how to measure your behavior along the way,” she says.
“Saying you want to go to the moon is too vague. You need to add a time frame and return date,” she says. Otherwise, there’s an inability to execute the plan, which leads to feelings of unfulfillment.
Step one is to limit the number of goals; keep it straightforward. “You can only land one plane at a time, so it’s important to narrow your focus,” Matos says. She also advocates following a definitive method. Her preference is the SMART approach, an acronym that states a goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Entrepreneur Garry Anthony Johnson, founder and CEO of Paradise Express Ferry and the Harlem Rocket, says he learned the value of setting goals early in his career to avoid repeating the mistakes his manager was making. “He was relatively successful but not good at running the company. He spent more than he earned and didn’t go after his billings,” says Johnson, also economic development chairman of the NAACP New York State Conference.
Steps two, three and four: Write down goals so you can refer back to them, refine them and hold yourself accountable to them.
“As an architect and developer, I learned to measure twice and cut once,” Johnson says. He also learned the importance of tracking. “I do it monthly, as weekly is too time consuming and quarterly allows things to get too far afield. Monthly allows reasonable adjustments.”
Both Matos and Johnson recommend relying on coaches, seminars, webinars, podcasts and AI, while leaving enough time for personal goals, including unwinding.
REALTOR® Magazine talked with six real estate pros about their goal-setting secrets and how they’ve managed inevitable setbacks. Some report finding it much harder to attain their goals in 2023 due to market circumstances. However, they say the importance of relationship-building never changes, nor does the need for flexibility and course correction. Their responses below have been summarized and reformatted.
Tommy Choi, AHWD, C2EX
Broker, Weinberg Choi Residential, Keller Williams
My partner and I set a high goal when we opened our brokerage in 2007 and met it, but there was no method to our madness. We were either lucky or hard-working. After four or five years, work plateaued. We decided that to increase our sales and meet new goals, we needed to figure out where the business came from. We found that 89% came from our sphere of influence and database, so we decided to double our contacts. We hosted educational seminars, webinars, and social events and asked family, friends, past clients, loan officers—everyone—to introduce us to people they knew. We went from $25 million to $60 million [in yearly business] and now we’re over $100 million.
We shifted from a real estate to a people business. I work at meeting people. I don’t order a salad and eat alone at my desk. I have lunch with someone. And when I need caffeine at 3 p.m., I meet someone. I’m making deposits into my life by building relationships.
For 2023 [as of October], we’re about 30% behind our initial production and sales goals. But we’re adjusting and setting new quarterly goals based on the market. We measure against where the market is rather than where we were last year.
Salesperson and Broker Realty Group
I came to this country from Mexico 24 years ago. I was looking for a career to make money, but I fell in love with the profession and realized if I was nice and provided really good service to clients, they would send me referrals. That’s how I get 90% of my transactions. The overwhelming majority or 95% come from the Latino community.
I don’t find I need to set numbers; I just work hard. I remain a solo agent, with assistants and showing agents I pay by the hour to show homes to my buyers since I like my clients to be served ASAP. To meet goals, I learned how to delegate.
I now have three offices. I was ranked the number one Latino agent in the United States for 2023 (by transactions) by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals as well as ranked the number one agent in Minnesota for 2023 (by transactions) according to RealTrends.
Angela Mayfield, ABR, GRI
Associate Broker, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate
I try to evaluate goals monthly and definitely quarterly. I do so in the five areas I learned from [real estate coach and motivational speaker] Brian Buffini: family, business, financial, personal and spiritual. With financial goals, I set them and then [calculate] the number of transactions needed to meet them—a lesson I learned from my experience in nonprofit fundraising. I also help team members set and reach their goals by writing them down.
I use Buffini’s approach, which is that the only way you know how you are doing is to take the time to review and write down the action steps to keep improving; otherwise, goals get hijacked.
I reward myself for meeting goals by checking a box “completed,” and I celebrate with lunch with our team, a massage, a good meal, or time on my back porch to watch the sun set.
Partner and Broker, Engel & Völkers
Vero Beach, Fla.
I came from the cosmetics industry, where I was a sales and marketing executive. As a broker-owner, I shifted my goals from personal productivity to building a team. My biggest goal now is to recruit the right staff who have a track record. We opened in 2023 with 20 advisers, and, when we see there’s a need, we plan to open two or three more locations along the Treasure Coast [on Florida’s southeast coast], with each having its own volume expectation.
I onboard new staff about our culture and goals to get them to the next level. We track goals one-on-one quarterly, and everyone gets together to plan yearly. We also believe in learning from experts; we have them come to the office biweekly. For example, an attorney recently explained legal changes since the collapse of the Surfside condo.
I mesh personal and business goals by blocking off time on my calendar in different colors, so I have time for yoga, biking, family and putting myself out in the community.
Broker, The Shulkin Wilk Group, Compass
When I started 19 years ago in my family’s real estate business, I didn’t have a wife, kids or a house. I didn’t feel I needed to set goals beyond making sales and earning a living. My early goal was to plant as many seeds as possible, and I’d go almost anywhere to get business at any price point. Eventually, I realized I needed a target. To me, complacency leads to laziness, so I couldn’t rest on my laurels based on what I achieved the year before.
Each year I set a main sales volume target that is higher than the previous year. I hold myself accountable. I have achieved this goal every year except one. As 2023 wraps up, though, our results will most likely be lower. We sold $162 million in 2022, and our goal for 2023 was $200 million. We’re not on track for closed transactions, but we are if we include pending sales as well as listings.
I have been building personal relationships my entire life and pride myself on maintaining so many. I do so through my childhood friends, my wife’s network, our neighborhood, old dog park buddies, my kids’ friends and their families, and my brothers’ and parents’ connections.
While it feels like I am always “on” at times, I know it’s important to unplug, which I do by coaching my kids’ teams or watching “Survivor” with the family.
CEO & Co-founder, Realifi Realty
Beverly Hills, Calif.
My parents wanted me to go to law school, but I started selling real estate in college and loved it. They didn’t support a commission-based career. I worked hard to make sure I made enough money to be independent and pay my own bills.
In those early days, I never wrote down goals, though I thought a lot about the income I wanted to earn and how many deals it would take to get me there.
I now write down my goals so I can check them off on my phone when completed. When I wake up, I start on my to-do list. Every week, I try to post at
least three videos on social media, which include a mix of property tours and advice, such as information on new legislation or homebuyer tips.
My husband, Jason Ling, and I opened our brokerage in June 2023. We want to expand nationwide in five to 10 years. We spend a lot of time networking with real estate professionals around the country. I was included in REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 under 30” class of 2017 and will serve as the 2024–2025 national president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America.
Real estate can be a lonely profession, so I mentor my team of over 25 agents daily, and we work together to sell homes and reach our goals.
My parents have changed their thinking about my career—they are very proud of me now.