Default Dead Estate Agency.

Default Dead Estate Agency.

Default Dead Estate Agency.

Default dead, an expression coined by Y Combinator, Co-Founder, Paul Graham, seeks to answer this question for investment ready start-ups:  “Assuming the expenses remain constant and their revenue growth is what it has been over the last several months, do they make it to profitability on the money they have left?

The reason Paul Graham wants to know the answer is that “the rest of the conversation depends on the answer. If the company is default alive, we can talk about ambitious new things they could do. If it’s default dead, we probably need to talk about how to save it”.

“When a start-up grows fast, it’s usually because the product/service hits a nerve. There is surprisingly little connection between how much a start-up spends and how fast it grows”.

“When a product/service hits a nerve”.

That’s also, unsurprisingly, key to any fast growth agency business.

A clear and compelling idea.

In his riveting book, Microfamous, Matt Johnson categorizes estate agents/realtors, not as “clear and compelling”, but  as “clear & ordinary”. Very clear what they sell, but also viewed as a commodity. This category results in “price-shopping and lack of loyalty. Prospects are in control because they don’t view us as irreplaceable. We end up begging for business, cutting fees, making deals, offering discounts and compromising profits just to stay in business”. 

Clear and compelling, or clear and ordinary? One is default alive, the latter is very much default dead as a business.

The inquiring mind might then ask, what could make an agency/realtor compelling?

Is it what you do?

More passionate, five star service?   Hardly.

Is it how you do it?

Online, high-street, hybrid? Better? Cheaper?  None of it, compelling.

Where and When?  Nope.

The only thing that makes an estate agency/realtor compelling is the person behind the brand.


That’s your only hope.

You started out as such, but somewhere along the way, you became just another realtor.  An identity crisis. A crisis that you now, even embrace – it’s comforting trying to be everything to everybody.

Just on the off-chance that someone likes what you offer.

Comforting – but a strategy for real estate that leads nowhere.

It can be fixed.

Incredibly, without much money.

All that’s required is courage.

The courage to be yourself. The courage to be imperfect.

I didn’t say it was easy – just that it could be achieved for not much money.

Being yourself.  Said differently, personal brand.

Not personal brand that chases likes and followers. Shares a succession of inspirational quotes and video posting nonsense in cars.

Anyone can create content that grabs attention. Not everyone can captivate someone and compel them to action.

If you want vendors/landlords to trust you, it requires transparency.

A transparency that brings vulnerability.

Hence the courage.

They might not like me. They might think I’m a fool.

They may ridicule me on social media.

They might disagree with how I think and with what I say.

They might even realize that I don’t know as much as I claim to know.

You need to be O.K with all of that.

Because the people that do belong in your life will be O.K with it.

That small audience will encourage you to be different.

Because they are different.

They don’t want to fit in.  They want to stand out.

They don’t want to follow someone else’s rules. They especially don’t want someone else telling their story.

They – and you, are that snowflake. 

Unique and wondrously compelling.

So there’s that question to ask. Are you default alive, or default dead? An agent prepared to stand in the spotlight and share their beliefs and values?  Or, just another #me too realtor?

The rest of this conversation depends on your answer.

Let’s assume that you’re default alive.

Finding that small audience?

Far, far easier than finding a large one.

You need three things.

Message – Platform – Distribution.

A message that resonates. Not some incurious trope that identifies you, or your agency, as unimaginative.

“Talent. Drive. Innovation. Service.  We have what it takes to push real estate forward”. – Keller Williams Realty.

What on earth are they going on about?  If they define innovation as persistent door-knocking, no wonder real estate has such a poor public perception.

Try story.  That’ll work. It’s how we all make sense of this world. Not through logic, but by using story to create emotion and meaning.

When you have the message, then….

A platform.

One that you own.

A blog. On the web site – that you own.

A video. On YouTube along with the other 3,000 hours uploaded every minute of every day, if you must.

But also, on the web site – that you own.

In the U.K, is filled with free advice and love.

And a podcast. Check out Matt Johnson’s link at the start of this post. He’s the leading authority on done-for-you podcasts. Hosted on Libsyn, or similar, and again, on the web site – that you own.

A book, if you can stretch yourself that far.  Bill Goss at the Elite Publishing Academy is the place to find answers. An eBook, if you can’t.

Owning the media makes you, you’ve guessed it, a media owner. Not simply a realtor. It has credence. It has gravitas.

And finally…


Here’s the thing with a personal brand. You form relationships.

Relationships that are strong.

Relationships with local businesses, if you’re sensible.

Interviewing the business owners on your podcast. Writing about them on your blog and the difficulties that, as small, independent business owners, you both face.

Then, when you hit publish on your podcast, it will be shared by those same business owners to their customer base.

It’s all coming together to position you, not as a realtor/agent, but as a member of the local community. A media owner. An entrepreneur. A human being.  Who just happens to be an agent.

Potential clients are picking up social cues from your tone of voice, from its cadence and from your body-language on video.

Before they even contemplate what your message means for them, they are forming their  own story as to whether you are liked and whether you can be trusted.

Personal Brand is self-defined. It’s how you describe yourself. Personal values are paramount.

Curiosity – Compassion – Integrity – Candor – Honesty.  For what it’s worth, those are mine.

Reputation is how others see you. Based on what you say, how you say it and with your actions.

“I knew a lot about him, but unlike others, I had spoken to, or read about, I knew none of the colour. I did not know what his favorite book was, what makes him happy, how he spent his money. Did he have time to talk about subjects other than …..”  -Sarah Langford.  Author, In Your Defence.

Reputation may keep your business ‘alive’.

Personal Brand will make it flourish.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

If you have any comments, or questions, I’d love to hear from you.  My advice is always free.

And, if you would like to receive a simple email when next I post on the blog, there’s a form on the home page. No follow-up calls, no spam, nothing. Just the notification.

Stay safe and curious in these troubling times.








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