Here’s my interview with Scott Darling, founder of Darling Real Estate, while on a leadership retreat in the Bahamas earlier this year as part of his Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
Here is the interview from the Telegraph-Journal from Dave Veale’s Leadership Unleashed column, published November 10, 2012…
It’s Good to Control Your Business but Not Let the Business Control You
Q & A WITH TOP REAL ESTATE AGENT
Scott Darling is the owner of Darling Real Estate and has consistently been one of the top agents within Royal LePage Atlantic.
PHOTO: CINDY WILSON/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Scott Darling knows a thing or two about succeeding in a tough market. He has been going head to head against agents across Canada for two decades – and coming out on top. Scott has been with Royal LePage for the last 13 years, after having spent seven years with Realty World. He is the owner of Darling Real Estate and has consistently been one of the top agents within Royal LePage Atlantic.
In the last twenty years, Scott has had to continually evolve the way he has done business. He moved from being an individual agent to growing a team of agents. The Darling team was one of the first teams in Saint John. The team dynamic is something Scott truly believes in. Over the years he has realized that working within a small group is a better for him as it allows him to still be actively involved with the clients as opposed to managing people.
Interestingly, Scott doesn’t see himself as a salesperson or a negotiator. He sees himself as a facilitator. His job is to simplify the home buying and selling process for his clients.
Given his time in the real estate business, I began by asking Scott to tell me about when he first got into the business.
A: In 1992, the real estate education system was archaic. I didn’t take any courses when I started – I read a book and passed my licence. You were thrown into an industry where you were dealing with the biggest financial decisions of people’s lives.
Q: How has the real estate industry changed?
A: It has just jumped leaps and bounds in the amount of education required now to get a licence. We now have continuing education courses that are mandatory. On top of that, I now have my manager’s licence. There’s more continuing education, better accreditation.
Q: Are you seeing new opportunities as a result of these changes?
A: Now you can specialize – specialized education is something that real estate should be focused on. You shouldn’t have a residential agent trying to advise someone who is buying a commercial building. There are things that they just will not understand or really appreciate about that part of the business.
Q: What has caused the change in the industry?
A: When I first started agents used to have all the information and everybody held it tightly like a Bible. The days of holding information are gone. A real estate agent’s worth isn’t the information they hold, it’s how they get that information to people and then what they do to help people with that information. The consumer is so much more educated now.
Q: What are consumers expecting now?
A: Real estate agents really need to know the market. They also have to go one step further and know every area that touches real estate. They have to connect with home inspectors, mortgage brokers, lawyers, etc. I really think consumers expect and deserve a full service consultant to facilitate every aspect of a sale.
Q: What is it that you think has helped you endure and be successful in the industry?
A: I’ve been very fortunate. I think I always tried to stretch outside the box of what everybody was trying to conform to while still abiding by the rules and regulations. Most of all, I was always free to tell people that if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out. Instead of giving them what they want to hear I try to give them what they need to hear.
I also believe you have to be involved in your community and make time for your friends and your family. To be successful you need a good balance.
Q: What have you found to be the most challenging in your industry?
A: I think the toughest part has been creating top of mind awareness. If you’re not able to keep in touch with people so they know that you’re still in the business – or still doing that part of the business – they won’t find you.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since I got into the business and started becoming successful is hearing ‘Oh, he’s too busy for that.’ I’ve always been told if you want something done you give it to a busy person.
Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A: Treat people the way that you would want to be treated. Make it win-win with your customer.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get in the business?
A: First, they have to have enough money in the bank so that they can handle the advertising to get their name out there. You’ve got to look at it as a business. Find a specialty – like an area of the city – that you focus on. Know your market well and learn all the stats. Get acquainted with mortgage brokers and other professionals that touch the real estate industry.
Q: You’ve been ranked a top agent and you’re in the Chairman’s club at Royal LePage (top one per cent across Canada). What are you doing differently than an agent in another market like Vancouver or Toronto is doing?
A: We have to do a little bit more volume. In my top year I had about 350 transactions, whereas somebody in Vancouver might have made the same commission on maybe 200 transactions. The work is the same. No matter if it’s a $70,000 home or a $500,000 home, all the steps to get that house sold are exactly the same.
Q: Best piece of advice you received?
A: One of the best lines I ever heard when I first moved to Saint John was from a gentleman who told me “Maritimers don’t saddle up and ride the same day”.
Q: What is the most satisfying part of being in the real estate business?
A: I think it’s neat to know that you’re impacting people’s lives, hopefully in a positive way. For example, I’ll run into people on King Street and they’ll say, “Jeez, I’m still in my house and I love it. ” That’s very satisfying.
Q: Who is it that inspires you?
A: Definitely my father. He’s my top role model. It’s not easy to follow in his footsteps but it’s been fun to try. I try to emulate some of the things that he’s done and then I try to one-up him. Besides my father, I would say that my wife has been a huge inspiration.
Q: The market is a bit soft right now, what is your approach given the current situation?
A: I think at the end of the day it’s good to be able to control your business instead of having your business control you. When things get tough you’ve got to make sure you’re marketing your properties properly because everybody understands price. We’re in a buyer’s market right now.
People have to remember all the key things they did when they first got started in business that worked. For me, it’s back to basics.
Dave Veale is a leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or via Twitter@Dave_Veale. To read past columns and watch videos go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca.