The Question That Empties Your Mind In Two Seconds Flat


rose-at-war-memorialA friend asked me one of those questions that instantly empties the mind of all ideas – you know the kind I mean?

Her question was, “What inspired you this week?”

I was surprised by how empty my mind suddenly became. I won’t say whether or not my mouth hung open while I waited for a thought – any thought – to come.


(( cricket sounds ))


But… eventually the gears started turning again, and I remembered a few things. Not big, earth-shattering moments, but interesting moments all the same. As I recalled them, I felt more connected with my life somehow, and refreshed by seeing the good. What a great exercise!

One of the small moments was when I worked with a young couple who had offered on a house. Their offer was conditional on the sale of their own house. They were so in love with this new property, and eagerly awaited the approval.

Someone else came along and offered though, with no conditions. The seller chose that offer of course, and my buyers had to move on. What I loved though, was the maturity this young couple demonstrated. They did not whine or mope or even complain. They took it in stride, wisely understanding that’s just life. They reminded me of that other sweet couple who seemed to know the secret to life’s happiness.


Probably the most moving for me was a meaningful moment I shared with a friend. She lives in Alberta, and we were chatting on the phone about my mom’s 70th birthday party. Two hundred people had shown up to celebrate with our family. She, on the other hand, was missing her mom that Mother’s Day week. She had wanted to place flowers at the gravesite in memory, but the grave was in Manitoba and she couldn’t make the trip. I offered to bring flowers to the site on her behalf. She was deeply grateful.

There I stood at the grave of my friend’s parents, lain side by side. Clasping a bouquet of Daisies, I realized how blessed I am to still have my mom. I can still hug her and touch her hand and hear her voice. We laugh and smile and celebrate together, and I know whenever it ends, it will feel like our time together was not long enough.

I laid the Daisies in front of the headstone, and imagined what it might feel like to do this on my own behalf one day. I felt a deeper empathy for my friend, and left with a refreshed appreciation for my family and friends, and for being alive.

Like I said, they were not earth shattering moments, but they did grab my heart in their own ways.

Now it’s my turn to empty your mind – what inspired you this week?


What She Said About Me Changed My Week


This week at the bank, I stood in line just like people in bank lines apparently should – facing forward, avoiding eye contact, and trying not to feel like herded cattle. As we all stood there, slowly shuffling forward, the woman next to me turned and we realized we knew each other. We started chatting and it didn’t take long before the conversation turned to something I’d said online. (Online presence comes up a lot!)

She had read about how Eniko had recently partnered up with me. Apparently she’d been reading my blog for a while because she smiled and said, “So you made another change.” Then, with a smirk and head shake, she added, “Man, you’re just not scared of anything.”

Oddly, I felt a sudden need to defend myself. What? Of course I’m scared of stuff. I WAS scared to include Eniko – oh wait. No.  Actually I wasn’t. If anything, I was afraid not to.

That evening at home I came across a Facebook personality quiz. I love personality profiles, so I took the quiz. The result made me laugh.  It revealed what I already knew- that the reasons I’m perceived as fearless are my strengths – innovation, team work, and staying ahead of the curve for example.  It also pointed out my weaknesses accurately.

The cool part was seeing how Eniko’s and my strengths and weaknesses compliment each other perfectly. It was a shot of affirmation that made my week. What a perfect pairing!

I do enjoy change. It’s part of who I am. Lucky for me, it’s vital to success in business. A business can’t grow without change. How would that work? I mean, growth IS change.

So here’s to growth (and, consequently, change) – personal growth, spiritual growth, and business growth.

What changes are you expecting this year? Are you excited, or nervous about them?

The Surprising Story Behind Sutton Group-Kilkenny’s Start



Recently my boss, one of the founders of Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate, passed away. As I reflected on the great employer he was, and all the things I appreciated about him, I remembered how I loved listening to him tell the same story over and over again about how Kilkenny Real Estate became a Sutton Group franchise. So I thought I’d share it with you.

Blaine Campbell was a bit of a rebel. Don’t let his friendly, helpful ways fool you – he was a forward thinking guy who would gladly rock whatever boat needed rocking if it was the right thing to do. How Sutton Group – Kilkenny Real Estate started, for example, had everything to do with bucking the system.

Generally, being a real estate agent comes with a whole lot of expenses. Office space and administrative staff are an expected cost. Back in Blaine’s day, it was also standard to pay high commission splits. No one ever questioned it – like gas or hydro prices, it’s just the cost of doing business. People just accepted the status quo.
Blaine wasn’t interested in status quo.
He knew there had to be a better way. He found three other like-minded agents to join him in his plan to break from status quo, and together they shared the expenses of office space and an administrator. Kilkenny Real Estate was born. Maybe that doesn’t sound earth shattering, but one does not typically get close and cozy with one’s competitors, especially not entrepreneurs, and especially not in a dog-eat-dog industry like real estate. It would be like Sobeys and Safeway partnering to share a building, office supplies and personnel, but still be individual, competing companies. It just doesn’t happen.

But he didn’t care. This was, to him, a logical improvement. Beyond logic though, he also believed that relationships in the work place should be built on honesty and integrity. When that happens, sharing goes smoother, and synergy happens. (Synergy is the proven idea that a number of people working together can accomplish more than that same number of people working individually)

Other agents heard about this new arrangement and wanted in. Lower costs? Trustworthy team mates? Synergy? Everyone wanted a piece of that. Blaine welcomed them. And more came. And more. … and more. Suddenly the office was filled to capacity, and then some. As demands on their office and staff increased, so did pressure. Synergy slowed, frustrations rose.
Something had to give. Blaine had to either send everyone on their way, and return to the small four agent arrangement or a big change would have to happen.

He then heard about the Sutton franchise. The Sutton pay structure was much like the original agreement between the original four agents. Basically Sutton Group frees the entrepreneurs to keep their income and decide how they want to run their own business. After all, we are independent contractors.

After looking into Sutton Group a little further they decided to go for it. “And you should have seen what happened then!” he told me one day, grinning. Oh, how his eyes lit up whenever he got to this part. The company grew hugely and quickly after they partnered with Sutton group. He never regretted that decision.

I love that story – it is exactly everything I love about Sutton Group-Kilkenny. Integrity, relationship, synergy, and especially freedom to steer my own money, and innovative thinking. It’s everything I ever wanted in a workplace.
And it gets better.
All that innovation and freedom was not just given to the agents, it was also for the administrators. I remember how Blaine told me one day, “The best thing that happened to the office was the day we hired Roberta Talmage.” She is the office manager now, but in her starting out days as administrator, she too had that innovative streak. Roberta created an entire new system of operations and had all the paperwork organized in record time. She didn’t mind changing everything if it was needed. I love that. And the relationship bit was there too. Blaine appreciated that he could rely on her, and that she was not only his valued employee, but also trusted friend.

Even after the huge business growth, Blaine Campbell humbly served his staff. He helped make the feature sheets, the Just Listed and Sold cards, and did all the printing and marketing for us. It was his way of staying in touch with staff. Even though his poor health kept him from the office in recent months, the business was his pride and joy.


I recently sent him a thank you email, and think it’s fitting to close with his humble, team-minded words.

“I’m fortunate to have the best people in the business running the office.

They are the ones who make everything great.”

-Blaine Campbell

I’m gonna miss him.


The Sales Tactic That Makes Real Estate Agents Look Dumb


A long, long, long time ago, before the invention of the printing press and internet, knowledge was power. Those who were in-the-know leveraged their special access to information for personal and professional gain. Those without such information could only submit themselves to the expertise of the elite.

Times have changed. Information is widely available and accessible. Information is no longer power. In the new age of Relationship Marketing, relationship is power.

“Technology has enabled the transition into the new economy, but connections in the new economy are fueled by a focus on two specific aspects…” one of which, Seth Godin explains, is generosity. “Generosity is critical because no one wants to connect to the selfish person, or to the people that are only taking. Think always in terms of offering something of value to other people and they will willingly connect to you.”

Still, there are those who insist on using old methods in a new time. Some real estate agents continue to withhold critical information from a listing in effort to leverage power. Despite being obligated by industry standards (and the law) to provide such information, they omit such things as lot size, age of house, and other tidbits necessary for a CMHC mortgage approval. What these agents don’t know, is that it’s a tired, short-sighted trick, it annoys the daylights out of people, and it will cost them in the long run.

An investor client of mine echoes Seth Godin’s assertion, saying she won’t even look at properties where the information is clearly being withheld. She says of such agents, “We haven’t even met, and I feel manipulated. No thanks. There are hundreds of other properties to look at.”  And she moves on to listings by more generous, cooperative-minded agents.


How It Makes Agents Look Dumb

Aside from irritating and repelling would-be buyers, the agents who employ such see-through tactics also risk damaging relationships with their peers. I have had to go many extra miles to find the information for my clients that these agents purposely leave out. I do it to serve my client well. But I shouldn’t have to. These agents are hired by the seller to do their job, and they sluff it. It sure bothers me when I have to do another agent’s job! Likewise, it irritates many other agents.

It’s a challenge to do a comparative market analysis to establish the value of a house when I don’t know what age house I am comparing it to.

Those who use these short-sighted tactics also risk torpedoing a buyer’s mortgage approval. CMHC has a four-hour turn around time for mortgage approvals … unless there is information missing from the application. Then the application gets tossed on the research pile, and all buyers, sellers, agents and lenders are left in limbo. All because of someone’s selfish sales ploy.



Why They Will Continue To Do It:

So why, on this green earth would an agent risk offending colleagues, sinking mortgage approvals, irritating would-be buyers, and looking dumb? One reason. Their hope is to double-end the deal. The logic goes something like this: if prospective buyers have to come directly to me for information (which I alone control), I will be the one to sign them, so will represent both buyer and seller, and keep the whole commission for myself. Hooray for me!!


For real.


I told you it was dumb…