It’s not every day I get to sit down with my dear friend Laura Monroe, Director of Industry Engagement and Social Media for Inman News in NAPA and enjoy a glass of wine (or 2 😉 ) AND a great Conversation That Matters, but that’s precisely what we did on the heels of Inman Connect in San Francisco.
We tackle the ‘noisy world’ and discuss the importance of taking a sabbatical from tech, social and business every once in a while, for sanity and recalibration!
We talk about being PROACTIVE vs REACTIVE.
Both BIG fans of Culture, we dig into creating the value internally and determining the ROI and how brokers need to communicate to their agents that ‘you are not a tool’ by defining their values.
Laura references Zach Schabot, Founder of Go Realty and Go Connect who uses very specific language and a communication style that is attracting a very specific agent. We LOVE this ‘Not your Father’s Real Estate Company” flavor!
We get to learn a little more about Laura the Mom, and her amazing family life, her passions, and we are joined by Laura Monroe’s hair @BestHairInRE ~ tweets by Tara Christianson – the MOST HILARIOUS stream that exists!
I’m sure you’ll agree that Laura is one savvy, special, smart and fabulous gal and you’ll love her as much as I do!
Teri:Hi, everyone. This is Teri Conrad. I am in the Napa Valley, doing Conversations that Matter with my very, very good friend, probably my best friend, Laura Monroe. We just came off of Inman Connect, which was – I don’t even know how many Inman Connect’s I’ve been to now but every time I go, it’s an amazing experience, all this information coming at you. Really for me at this point, it’s about the relationships. We have so many friends in common and we do so much. Laura of course is the Social Media Director – Director of Engagement now actually. You changed your title, why is that?
Let me introduce yourself, do that.
Laura:I am the Director of Industry Engagement & Social Media for Inman News. Yes, we just finished Inman Real Estate Connect, in San Francisco. We decided to take our little weekend together because we haven’t been able to do that in a while.
Teri:She’s way too busy now.
Laura:Come to Napa, one of our favorite places, and have some wine.
Teri:We are sitting at Laura’s very favorite winery, which is – where are we again?
Laura:Rombauer Vineyard, famous for its Chardonnay and its Zinfandel.
Teri:We now have a Chardonnay?
Teri:When we get together, we always have these amazing conversations.
Laura:We’ve already had like ten of them already.
Teri:Like 30 of them, I know. It’s like whoa, how we do ever remember what we want to talk about. There is a few things that really stand out for me, and one of them was – I don’t even know where to start.
We started with, back in the day you and I were talking about building a program for agents because we saw that there was a struggle. There was this overwhelm and there was all this technology coming at them, and social media was coming at them, and it was just like everybody was going a little bit nuts. You and I both bled for the new agent because – why don’t you share with the audience if they don’t know you, what your history was before you joined Inman?
Laura:Well before I joined Inman, I had my own consulting firm as a real estate virtual assistant helping agents and brokers with their businesses. A lot of it had to do with digital marketing strategies. It had to do with social media; had to do with building websites; had to do with content strategy. Really, we both came from a place of wanting to help and assist and be able to put plans together for agents and brokers to be able to help navigate.
I think one of the challenges as an entrepreneur is that it’s difficult to navigate while you’re working at the same time. Continue to navigate where you want to go while you’re actually doing it at the same time, and not knowing where to go to get all of your resources.
Teri:Well the problem is what I’ve experienced is usually you’re either working in the business or you’re working on the business. What happens typically and especially – I think agents do really struggle with scaling their business because they get to the point where they’re like everything’s coming in, they’ve got all these leads and so they’re taking all these listing agreements or their buyer’s out or whatever they’re doing and so they’re busy working. The sales funnel gets lost over here and then everything dies down and then it’s like that wave that we’ve talked about many times before, where it’s like you’re hot, this is just crazy. Then there’s this downtime.
We had someone in one of the panel discussions step up and say gee whizz, what do I do? I had a heart year last year but right now things are down. What do you advise?
Laura:I think one of the challenges that we have is that we’re conditioned now because of social media and technology and how fast it comes at us that we always have to be in motion. We always have to be planning something new. We’re always chasing the next big thing for our business, the next —
Teri:The shiny tool.
Laura:The shiny tool, the next technology. More than that, we’re even chasing the people that we feel like we need to align with to make our business more prominent in the industry, to be noticed more. We’re even focusing on working on those relationships in a way that’s strategic. I think that what we really need to do is be able to – and we’re chasing answering our phone calls, our lead phone calls, within five minutes. We need to be there for the consumer. We need to be there to take the next Instagram picture so that we get that out on social media.
There is this momentum that we’re constantly feeling like we need to be in. What we’re not doing is stepping back and taking a moment to think about what we’re actually learning, where we actually need to focus on our business, more than anything, having self-awareness about ourselves, so that we can filter away the things that are not our strengths, the things that are our weaknesses and really focus on the things that make us stronger. Sometimes that’s not chasing momentum. Sometimes that’s actually the critical thinking that goes behind doing all that.
Teri:Which is so challenging because we live in, and I talk about this all the time, we live in this outcome-focused, are you producing. Like what are you doing, action, action, action, and measure, and metrics, and analytics and it just goes on and on and on. There’s so much pressure to live up to the expectation. By the way, I really feel like everyone’s well what is she doing, what are you doing? You’ve been quiet, so clearly nothing’s going on for you. There’s this like – we measure – it’s very difficult to be quiet for a while because people do
Laura: It is, it is.
Teri:People do, they judge you when you go inside for a while, but I agree with you it’s like let’s get quiet for a while because you know what?
Laura: Well I think when you get to a point where you have to worry about what people will think if you’re taking a sabbatical from social media, or you’re taking a sabbatical from technology, I think that people assume that either, No. 1 that you’re not relevant, or No. 2 that you’re not doing anything but I think those are the times that we really need to give ourselves permission to take sabbaticals. Not just for vacation but for actually reconnecting with your own business. If you’re not connected to yourself in your business, then you’re not really actually creating the best things for your business.
Teri:I love this. It sort of segways into that proactive versus reactive conversation when you have a moment – for instance, everyone who was just at Connect had all kinds of information thrown at them. Here’s what you need to do, here’s what you need to do, here’s what you need to do.
What’s interesting to me is we hear it from certain people or we see it written in print and we accept it as gospel and the truth is, to cut people a break that’s because we live in a very crazy, noisy world where there’s always stuff that you’ve got to filter through. To be perfectly frank, we need people to say what you need to do because I don’t have time to go and figure all of that out, so you feel for people who are stressed out and overwhelmed. At the same time, I completely agree with you when you talk about, do you even know what you even think. Do you even know what you think?
Laura:Some of the challenges that come out of being fed a lot of information all at one time from a lot of people, is that real estate is a very hyper-local specific success stories. People who have success stories, in Omaha, Nebraska may not work well in California. There’s a lot of conversations that don’t happen that say I may be very successful with this Facebook page because of all of these other things that you’re doing behind the scenes that you’re not necessarily speaking of.
There’s a lot of nuances that are missed in big conferences, so you have a more difficult time comparing your business to someone else’s business who may be – let’s say we’re using video marketing as an example. You’re going to look at someone who does an amazing job with video marketing, and you’re going to go back and say well wait a minute, the price points on my homes that I sell are $40,000, as opposed to someone who is selling a $3 million home. You’re not going to have the budget.
These are the things that lead to those areas of feelings inadequacy and feelings of, maybe I’m not such a good real estate agent if I’m not doing A, B, or C. I think that being able —
Teri:That’s that conversation around success that I like to have, which is —
Laura:The value is, what is your value?
Teri:How do you define success because by the way, you are only as successful as happy as you are, I think. When you —
Laura:I think that most real estate agents and brokers come from a place of really wanting to help their clients and their buyers and sellers find a home. I think we’re all coming from the same place of really being people-people and wanting to please everybody. I don’t think it escapes this industry that the reason why we’re so active on things like social media and wanting the best technology is to have better relationships and to do better. Get better referrals, get more referrals.
Again, I think that we also have to give ourselves permission to spend as much time – if we spent as much time working on ourselves as we spend on social media focusing on what everyone else is doing, the landscape would change.
Teri:Right. That’s where I come back to I actually feel for people because real estate can be a very lonely isolating existence, as you know. You were an entrepreneur working from your own home and that’s why I think social was so incredible for us because it was allowing us to connect with other people who thought like us and we could share ideas and business strategies and everything else.
I do feel like when you’re so stuck in your forest that you can’t see the trees, we’re looking to other people to give us examples. Really the big piece is, and I hate talking about it, it sounds so hairy-fairy, but inspiration. We look to someone like [Arrage Kassar] to show us the magic of video marketing and how fabulous it can actually be. Of course, knowing in your market or my market, is never going to fly, save the odd property that would warrant that sort of investment.
The truth is that they average day-to-day business that you’re operating was never going to be at that level. Where I get excited though and I think that people get sidetracked is that it’s not – there is no one way.
Laura:I think that one of the things that you and I were passionate about when we started working and collaborating on our Dare You project was that we really wanted people to be able to identify and clarify what their value system was and where their center was. What they were measuring was actually aligned with who they were.
Teri:I feel like some people think that’s really hairy-fairy but I, truly, so I heard on a panel this week at Connect, Sarah Jones and she talks – she runs a brokerage out of, I believe, it’s Texas.
Laura:Its’ Texas, Houston, Texas. Bamboo Realty, by the way.
Teri:Hands-down, probably my most favorites speaker of the entire week and what I truly loved about her was, A, how grounded and obviously just a real person she seems to be. Also, her strong handle on the importance of culture, and articulated in a business fashion, so that we’re talking – everybody’s talking ROI, ROI, and it’s like, yes, I know; we’re in business to make money, I’m aware of that. At the same time, that’s – to me, there’s a very short-term vision and then there’s a long-term vision and are you taking that 10,000 foot view and really looking to build something that is enduring and where your people have some buy-in.
I know I have a client right now who’s trying to structure some internal culture. It’s like, you can say the word ‘culture’, which is one thing but actually creating culture is a very, very different thing. Then equating the value and the financial ROI from creating that internal value is a very difficult thing to track and measure. I find this subject so – I always talk about the magic being all the things that happen in between things you can actually measure. You know this.
Teri:When she was talking, and this is what I love especially when we talk about women, leaning in and taking ownership at the table, at the conference table, how do we balance our lives but still be seen as credible contributors to the business world. This is something that I think actually there is a feminine consciousness that plays in here, but I think it’s powerful. Not to be poo-pooed, and not to be patted on the head, okay girls, go braid your hair. It’s not about that. It’s really about we have these companies who are missing the core component. I’m so sorry, I’m rambling on but here’s what I – I’m going to bring you a question in one second.
I see companies operating from a acquisition and retention proposition. It’s one of the two. We know this from every company that retention is far cheaper than acquisition. Why do you think that more people in real estate, at the corporate level, are not spending more time and energy at the retention piece of the pic, which is typically around that culture piece?
Laura:This is what I think. I think that one of the things we don’t place a lot of attention on is that real estate – people that are in real estate are people-people. What we don’t focus on is the internal people that we work with. Let’s think about this for a minute. We talk about consumers. We talk about clients. We talk about vendors. We talk about title. We talk about the people that are our strategic partners. How often do we hear conversations about the people that we work with every day, my broker; another agent in my office; my assistant, my team member?
Very rarely do we have conversations about the internal structure of those relationships because they’re not the hot topic. They’re not the hot, sexy topic. Really, in a day-to-day world, those are the people that we are receiving a lot of our inspiration from, or we’re receiving a lot of friction from. It could go both ways.
Teri:Actually in-teams is a hot topic.
Laura:In-teams is a very hot topic. For those brokers and those people who understand that, on a day-to-day basis, the people that we are working with are the people within that internal structure, if we can’t identify and rally around a culture so that we’re all inspired, so that we’re all educated, so that we’re all working toward a vision, just the day-to-day transactions and the day-to-day commission check is not something that’s terribly fulfilling.
We can all sit back and say that what we do for our clients is fulfilling and what we do for our families is fulfilling. If we could sit back at the end of the day and say I really did an amazing job helping out my assistant today, or my assistant did an amazing job helping me out today, then we would start building a culture from within instead of trying to create something outside that gives people an impression of what our brand is and then working from the outside in. We all need to work from the outside out.
Teri:We all talk about Simon Sinek to death, start with your why. He speaks to this very specifically when he says instead of talking about what you do, talk about what you believe. Even saying just that, don’t you feel a sort of a shift?
Teri:Emotionally. I look at team building and people struggle with this, and the truth is there’s all this talk and education around the new tools, tack and tools, tack and tools, social media. Lovely, love them, need them we all want to know. At the same time, what I think the typical agent really wants to know is how do I scale my business? I am one person doing all of these things. I’m the accountant, the marketer, the sales person, the customer service, everything. You want it, you’re inviting all this business in, then it comes like a wave and you’re like oh, my God, how do I now manage it all? You’re working well into the night. Your family life and all of your life balance is thrown out –
Laura:Working all your weekends for everyone else. Right, right. It’s a challenge, it’s really a challenge. That’s why I’m saying that if you have – on my panel at Connect, Heather Alliah said an amazing thing when we were talking about setting boundaries. Not only do you have to have boundaries, not only do you have to set boundaries, brokers need to give agents the permission to set boundaries within their businesses I think. I think as agents, as independent contractors and entrepreneurs of their own, it’s okay for us as an industry to say set your own boundaries, make your own business.
One of the things at Inman that we love is we love innovators and we love people, even outside the industry, we love the start-ups, we love the technology, we love the scrappiness of starting something new and having it evolve into something that you love. Again, I think that one of the things that’s missing is that there’s – we’ve seen a big communication gap between franchise to broker to agent.
There’s a support system that is lacking, most of the time, we have agents that express frustration in not having the training and the tools, but what I hear from agents is I don’t want to be a tool for my brokerage. I don’t want my brokerage to see me as the number of my sales per quarter. I want to be recognized for the values that I have as a person, the values that I bring to my clients, and the person that I actually am.
I think if brokers can make that connection, and I think culture is the way to make that connection, you empower your agents to do amazing things. If you can provide structure in that value and in that way of communicating to your agent that you’re not a tool, you’re not the technology, you are the one that brings us our business but the reason why you do is because of who you are on an individual level.
I think that any brokerage that can do that, and then turn around and bake that into their brand as a brokerage and then actually showcase and really showcase the importance of those value systems and their agents. I have some that are right on the top of my head.
Laura:I think of Go Realty. I think of Zach Schabot in North Carolina. He has a communication forum. When he is trying to recruit new agents into – there is a very specific set of words and language and a communication style that’s very, very specific.
Teri:Hold on, so back up. A brokerage like that is actually progressively trying to attract the kind of agent that is going to fit his culture?
Teri:Which so many do not.
Teri:Most, I would say.
Laura:If a brokerage has a defined value system and a very defined culture, they know what type of agents they want to bring in. He has a very specific way of communicating, which he has shared very openly, but you can’t walk into a company like that as a new agent without being excited about the direction that you, as a person, are going.
Teri:That sounds awesome. I love it. I want to believe it really, really badly. Now I’m a brokerage, let’s pretend, and I have bills to pay, and I’ve lost a couple of agents for whatever reason: maybe the market was shit and they just all laughed – whatever it was. Now I’ve got – I need those fees to keep the brokerage going. We are in this business to make money, right?
Teri:How do you stand by your values and your mission and your cultural statement – how do you stand by that and continue to, like – because this is – we talked a big game, right? At the end of the day I think it’s a real challenge and especially when it’s shifted so much and everyone’s trying so hard to differentiate and establish their own brands and it’s so disconnected. Like you said, there’s the association level, the brokerage level, the agent level, and the vendor level: like there’s all these different players in the game and everyone needs to make a living.
I mean, I’ve heard – I’m sorry I’m going in a thousand directions. Here’s – let me try and bring it back to this: I’m a brand girl; you’re a brand girl. We love looking at brands that really have identified – their core values are very, very clear. Clarity being a big piece of the puzzle, but the challenge – I’ve seen this at Connect every year where brokers talk to brokers and they all sit there and nod their heads and agree and Kumbaya over, “Well yeah, but the agents don’t really understand,” and then agents over here are going, “Yeah, but the brokers don’t really understand. Here’s what we’ve been told we got to do.” How do we bridge that?
I feel like we’re going towards the same place but there’s something missing. There’s a disconnect and I can’t quite figure out – I mean, I guess if the brokerage is saying, “Hey you, come and pay your desk fees and you’re lucky to have my little logo as part of your proposition value statement,” and it’s like, “Well yeah that’s lovely, but you’ve told me to go out there and build my own business and really I get nothing for support,” or next-to-nothing, and again, I appreciate that it’s a challenge. If I were a broker, I’m not quite sure what I would do, but it’s got to be more than that. It’s got to be more than that, don’t you think?
Laura:It is, but there’s power in – there’s power in inspiring numbers, and I don’t think it’s a stretch for brokers to understand that when you can inspire all of your agents, you’re going to get more productivity out of them, rather than just hoping that the top producers that feel inspired by their own business success are the ones that are bringing in the dollars. I think that a lot of that is that number one: agents need to be – agents are free to choose who they align themselves with and where they hang – where they hang that license. I would encourage any agent that is choosing a new place or deciding where to go – and I hear these stories all the time that, “I switched brokerages because I needed to find someone that was more aligned with my values.” That’s a personal – to me, that’s a personal responsibility as an entrepreneur and an independent contractor that you find someone that’s going to support your values –
Teri:Hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute here because your opportunities are only as great as –
Teri:– what is being offered in your market. Absolutely. I mean, unless you can –
Laura:Which is why we’ve seen a lot of agents actually open their own brokerages – move into being boutique brokerages.
Laura:I would say that that’s even a bigger thing – or they move into an agent team where they can be under mentorship and other support in a smaller environment. That’s why we’re seeing these greater nuances and these different business models change and innovate because people are not happy. I mean, I even had a conversation at Connect where it’s like, I was with a big franchise. I felt like I learned all that I needed to learn. I had top producers that were mentors. Then I sat back and said, “Why can’t I do this myself when I’m the one that can collect my commission 100 percent? I can go out and I have better marketing skills. I have better technology skills and I can actually create what it is I want to create?”
Teri:I want to totally switch gears now and I really want to dig into Laura the person because a lot of people don’t know you the way that I know you and I want them to because you are such an amazing extraordinary business woman.
Teri:I’ve known you for years, of course. She actually built my first website, which is going back a ways now, and she actually laughed earlier today because I was like having some tech issues that Michael Thorne was helping me with. She was like, “Oh, my god!”
Laura:Go in there!
Teri:She remembers how dramatic that was.
Laura:I was having post-traumatic stress.
Teri:Sorry about that, but to the point which is you are this amazing dynamic woman who has like all these different levels that I really think it’s important that people know this about you. Let’s start with you’re this amazing mom. Her kids are amazing.
Teri: Why don’t you talk about Brandon and Natalie for a sec.
Laura:Most people are shocked to find out that I have a 19-year-old son and that I have a 14-year-old daughter. I’m –
Teri:You’re not that young-looking.
Laura:No, well not anymore, right? I’m just like, “I’m still cute!”
Teri:You’re still cute.
Laura:I have a son that is a football player. I always start by saying he’s a football player because people identify with that fairly quickly. He is a full-ride scholarship to San Jose State. He’s a running back. His second game this year he’s going to be playing in Alabama, so we’re really anticipating like a big season with him.
Teri:Can I – I just – I feel like I just need to interject just slightly because as a girl from Canada, watching the Brandon journey has been super exciting for me.
Laura:From high school – junior high school all the way up –
Teri:It’s a total Friday Night Lights experience and it’s like this American football thing is so different than it is in Canada. The truth is is like watching him become this rising star and getting all this press, he gets huge press, people are like, “You got to watch this player. He’s an up-and-comer.” Watching you share this story of his –
Laura:I’m his mom. I think of him as my little boy and I think of him as the little tike that got his little cars – Hot Wheel cars and just the little boy.
Teri:Yea, but he’s so cute.
Laura:Obviously any parent would be absolutely thrilled to death to see their children achieve their dreams, and I think that’s really kind of the most important thing.
Teri:Where is he playing?
Laura:He’s at San Jose State University in San Jose, full-ride, he’s –
Teri:You need to watch this guy, because I’m telling you guys, he’s going to be an NFL-er and I’m going to be like, “I know that guy!”
Laura:We hope. You never know, I mean, college is a whole new experience. We just say, “You know what? Focus on the education, focus on having fun, and what comes will come.” We’re big believers in what you put out there you’ll get back in, but sometimes life is difficult and there’s a difficult transition. The chances of going from college football into NFL is – it’s not a big odd.
Teri:Of course. The truth is, though, don’t you believe, on some level that it’s less about how – obviously hard work, determination, which I know that Brandon has all of those qualities, but a lot of it is – life has a certain agenda for you.
Teri:There’s different lessons you’ve got to learn along the way and it’s going to be what it’s going to be.
Laura:Absolutely, and to see him go through a lot of the challenges with college, we get to see where he’s having those challenges. To be there to support that and kind of talk him down and – you go from being a high school football star to going into college where you have to start completely over, there’s always a challenge. Then you add school and you add college and real life and moving into an apartment and living with people that you may or may not like. There’s all of these life challenges. We’re proud of the fact that he’s been – stayed very grounded, stayed very humble.
Teri:He’s very grounded.
Laura:He loves it when he comes home, and I just love it when he comes home to visit. Then my 14 year old Natalie is – she’s like a stark opposite of her brother and she is very determined to be a stark opposite of her brother. She’s sarcastic and she’s so smart. She just blows me away with her intelligence and her drive. She loves video editing and she loves doing like what we’re doing right now which is video production.
Teri:I know, yeah. I need her at home with me, actually, yeah.
Laura:You probably do.
Laura:I mean, she would absolutely love it. She, even at this early age, is very much – I feel like she’s very much a leader; still trying to find her niche, but yeah.
Teri:Fourteen: give her a minute, maybe.
Laura:Yeah, give her a minute.
Laura:Give her till 16, maybe.
Teri:I actually – and I just wanted to – I think it’s important to share that part of you because it is a testament to the amazing person that you are and the amazing mom that you are.
Teri:I love your kids. I think they’re truly awesome.
Laura:They love you.
Teri:Yeah, they’re awesome. Then there’s – that’s one piece of the Laura Monroe puzzle, then there’s like this savvy businesswoman who, by the way, started off as an actress.
Laura:Oh, god. Really, we’re going to go there?
Teri:We’re going there.
Teri:We’ve got wine so we can.
Laura:Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I was the typical cliché actress in LA/waitress. I started off in theater. I mean, that was my passion. Starting off in theater I never wanted to do film, TV, commercials, anything like to make money. I never really wanted to make money. I just wanted to be on the stage. In fact, I didn’t even really want to be on the stage. I just wanted to be in the theatrical environment. I wanted to be either hanging lights, painting sets on the stage, or directing. I really wanted to do a little bit of everything. If I could make some kind of career out of that, it would have been amazing. I was a Julliard wannabe. I was an American Academy of Dramatic Arts wannabe.
I actually, for a moment – this is kind of a good segue into values, because I love theater so much because it was focused on the art. It was focused on the people. It was focused on the craft. When I made the segue into commercials and television it suddenly became about making money. It suddenly became about, “Are you a product that’s marketable?” It suddenly became about all of these other high profile, “Are you the right fit? Are you an A, B, or C level talent?” That was completely juxtapose to the people, the power, the passion, and the stories that were behind theater.
I actually exited the industry once I entered into commercials, and film, and t.v. Not so much because – I don’t want to say because I failed at it, it was just that I got to a certain level where I was exposed to a part of the industry that I realized was not a part of my value system, and I chose a different path. Long story short it was – right now my mind is thinking of some of the amazing stories that I have, that I will not bore you with.
I am that typical person that’s like, “Oh I have a story to tell you” and I could go on, and on, and on about it, but I won’t. There are people that I know, and I’m thinking of one right now who’s going to say, “Oh God I’m going to hear that again.” I will be that older person that’s like, “Have I told you this story?” I’ll just be like, “Oh it’s only the tenth time, but I’ll tell you again.” I have my memories. I have the people that I’ve met.
Teri:I have to say I’ve tagged pictures of Mary Louise Parker. You look exactly like her.
Laura:Back in the day there’s a lot –
Teri:Meanwhile, I think we do have to address while we’re here in this fun place; Laura Monroe’s hair has her own Twitter profile. I will include that somewhere so everyone can go and enjoy Tara Christensen’s incredible –
Laura:It was created by a friend of mine who – Okay the actual story is that Brian Copeland, who is a very dear friend of mine was speaking at one of our events with Inman. He had done a very touching presentation in his segue into introducing me into coming on stage. I was the next presenter and he was just, “I’d like to introduce Laura Monroe, who is not only blah, blah, blah, but she also had the best hair in the real estate industry.” As we have our ambassadors that are saying they’re tweeting the tweetables, and that was a tweetable. Before you know it, the best hair in the real estate industry came into fruition. Since then, it now has its own Twitter profile. I don’t do the tweets myself, but I have a brilliantly, hysterical, clever friend who does.
Teri:Which will put you in stitches. All of the ambassadors were enjoying incredibly entertaining –
Laura:As was I.
Teri:It’s so fun. It’s so fun. Anyway, we won’t bore everybody. We think it’s funny.
Laura:You’ve got to say the Twitter handle @besthairinre.
Teri:@besthairinre Twitter handle. Follow that and have a good chuckle. She is just –
Laura:I’m chuckling right along with you.
Teri:That’s so fun. Meanwhile, we’re sitting here at the winery in Napa.
Laura:Enjoying our wine.
Teri:Enjoying our wine having a very real sister moment, and we’ve got Kawasaki tweets are just in.
Laura:Yeah, so one of the really surprise, fun moments with Connect was that one of our keynote speakers, Guy Kawasaki who everybody knows from the Holy Kaw publication, formerly of Apple, and now with Canva which is one of our favorite design tools to use for our content marketing. He was actually at Connect and we had a really great chat. We’re doing some really exciting things with Canva, Inman, and Canberg, and get together and do some pretty fun things to provide some resources for the real estate industry.
Teri:That is so awesome.
Laura:Yeah, but being able to plan that and collaborate with Guy Kawasaki, and do some things is – gosh, it’s like a pinch me moment. It’s one of those things that I really love. We started talking today when we were driving up here that I think one of my passions is really being able to do some business development and explore where other companies are looking to go strategically.
Teri:Right. By the way let’s just bookmark that for one second and back up. Your title is actually – I think everyone equates you with social media and really you’re – that is down there.
Laura:Not. That’s the smallest part that I do.
Teri:You are business. You are strategy. You are so much more than that and I would love to dig into that a little bit, and you were about to go down that road, so why don’t you carry on.
Laura:What I was going to say was one of the things I’ve really realized my passion is, is that every business it doesn’t matter how big of a brand – when we were talking I was thinking about the main companies that I’m really working on some business development issues with and that’s – not issues but fun, new, collaborative directions and projects. I think of Better Homes and Gardens. I think of EverNote. I think of Canva. I think of these opportunities that come by way and I’m so blessed to have them, but when I can be having conversations every day with team members that are working towards reaching new goals with their companies, and where we can actually get together and do something better for the industry, that is something that really thrills me.
I could talk social media all day and talk relationships that we build. Our relationship started through social media. Some of my best friends are through social media. I think my journey from being and entrepreneur working by myself to being someone that’s lucky enough to be in a media publishing company that provides a platforms for technologists, individuals, entrepreneurs, all brands, franchises, brokerages, CEOs; this is something that I’ve just been, “Wow. Holy Kaw.” I’ve had my own moments where I appreciate every individual that works for a big brand, and when you sit back and realize how many – it takes a village. It takes a village to build a brand. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re launching one product or ten, or if you’re launching a new brand.
When everyday I’m exposed to new companies that – or even older companies for example even at Connect, ERA Real Estate just launched a completely new redesign of their brand. They’re moving forward and innovating what they’re doing, and that changes their culture. For me to be able to look at that from a big brand to then be able to juxtapose that to a smaller brand, to then on an individual level of a brokerage level or an agent level, this is where I really just get chills.
To me, the human stories that happen in between all of these little conversations. The conversations that need to happen to move people forward to the next level is something that if I’m a part of it, I love it because the dynamics of sitting with someone face to face and asking them what their goals are and where they want to go, and what are you trying to accomplish is really exciting.
Teri:Which is really not social.
Laura:It’s not social at all.
Teri:It’s not social at all. That face to face sitting down, these moments that we get to have face to face in real life, which is by the way why I go to Connect. I go to Connect because I’m there to see my people and have these sorts of conversations that we find so enriching, and discover new ways to think and approach different problems.
Laura:I think there’s a misconception sometimes that real estate Connect is another real estate conference, or maybe it’s a technology conference. Really was it is, is Brad Inman’s vision from day one which is, “I just want to connect you with you. I want to connect you with the right thing for your business.” Inman News is a platform, not only for us to have open conversations with that, but it’s an agnostic platform in terms of we’re not brokerage specific. We’re not brand specific. We are not technology specific. We welcome everyone because we realize the nuances behind all of the different layers of real estate.
It’s almost overwhelming for us sometimes to be able to communicate through articles, and journalism, and through our events that there’s so many nuances to connecting, iterating, innovating, and moving things forward. If we can provide a platform and an opportunity for people to do that, that’s why we do what we do.
Teri:It’s funny that you brought that up because there was a discussion in Lobby Con at some point where some of us who have been to many of these conferences before, we struggled to find new takeaways, because some of the content is very repeated. It’s all tech, or app, or whatever it might be. We’re just like, “We’re not sure about the content.” The truth is that it’s never really about the content. The conference itself is the structure and the glue. It’s the reason that you’re there, but where the real value comes is in the connections and the conversations that you have sitting in that lobby and creating new opportunities and new relationships.
Laura:Or even at a party or –
Teri:The parties – we love the parties and the karaoke, but the truth is when you develop your relationships and create your tribe – I can honestly say I don’t know everything.
Laura:Neither do I.
Teri:I can guarantee you whatever you need to know, I know someone who has the answer guaranteed. By the way, I think that’s an extraordinary value. That comes not from my online relationships, it comes from my offline relationships. Probably, many of those offline relationships started online.
Laura:That’s the thing – the thing that’s unique about what I get to do is that I get to be involved in social media, but the real fulfillment and I even said to our group of ambassadors today, “The real fun for me is when I get to go bring a group of people together. We have a community. We have a bond.” Then, immediately when we get on site in real life, they go off and create their own connections. They do it in very different ways, but we’re also bringing together different skill sets, different backgrounds, and different stories.
The really fun thing for me is not so much being able to tweet, and Instagram, and photograph, but it’s seeing what they do with that power, and seeing what they do with that sense of community. When we were talking culture earlier, again it’s about building culture. When you have culture within a brokerage, within a franchise – you can still have culture even if you work by yourself. There is a power that comes out of that when you’re building your brand.
Teri:Okay, so I’m going in a couple different directions here. One is, as I develop my new brand (which is by the way hella more than a logo and a tagline) and I’ve gone through a whole process, and you know how I feel about that.
Laura:Or a process, as we say in America.
Teri:Or a process, sorry USA. What I was going to say is going through that process makes me think that there’s this whole side that’s not address that is the clarity piece, which we’ve talked about many, many, many times and I believe in the exercises of taking that time getting uber clear, understanding your values, what do you believe, how are you articulating that. There’s this whole series of conversations that need to happen in between to get you to that point. I think it glossed over really fast because we’re stressed and we’re –
Laura:We’re not having those conversations with ourselves which goes back to what we were talking about earlier which is, “Where is your critical thinking?” Really, critical thinking is about having a conversation with yourself.
Teri:I love that. That’s really good.
Laura:It’s really not about conversing with everybody else in the world. It’s about getting clear about what your conversation it.
Teri:Which is also sort of tied to, “Do you even know who you even are?”
Laura:Do we all know?
Teri:I don’t. To be fair, I think we all – it’s a fast paced world out there, and we’re all struggling to make it work. I feel for people who are just going through the motions and jumping through the hoops. I kind of get that, but on the other side of that – that’s that conversation. Let’s park that there. Let’s go here for a second which was you were talking about your ambassadors. I think it’s really important that we focus on what it is that you’ve developed. For instance, this morning you had a moment where you were emotional, on the heels of Connect, thinking about your ambassadors and the time that you weren’t able to give to them, talk quickly about why that matters to you.
Laura:You’re going to make me cry.
Teri:Good. Yay, Barbara Waltersmoment.
Laura:When you’re putting together events and you’re working with – our company does a lot of different things. I’m dealing very much on a daily basis with some bigger brands, and lot of bigger relationships with multiple people. I think at the end of the day sometimes you sit back and you reflect on – when you get that many amazing people into one place at one time, and you’re dealing with them on a one-to-one level. At the end of the day I sat back and I was like, “Not only did we have a good event, but I felt like I wasn’t able to spend enough time with each of my ambassadors; to really be able to tell them how amazing each one of them are and what a gift they are to Inman, but what they bring as individuals.
Each one of them is so uniquely individual, and I’m not just talking about this year. I’m talking about last year and the year before that. I’ve been with Inman for two years. I’ve now done I think four Connects, and it never ceases to amaze me that we have these amazing people that are doing so many amazing things with their businesses and within their own local communities. We bring them from Canada, Australia, and they help me so much that once we get on site – the irony of it is I almost spend less time with them on site than I do in the digital space.
I think that’s something that always happens emotionally for me. It’s not just missing them, but it’s missing having the chance to have as many moments with them as I wish I’d been able to have to really tell them. That’s a challenge for me. Working on finding other moments to –
Teri:Honestly, I believe that’s a challenge for everyone in the digital age is we’re spending time together, but we’re still getting stuck in our phones, and that’s just where we are in this world. I think it’s important that we learn to say, “Okay, that’s there, focus, invest.” That takes a very conscious effort and intention.
Laura:It does. Again, it takes a little bit of critical – and what came out of that was I actually sat back and I said, “Okay, you know what? I need to apply some critical thinking to the way that I’m being intentional about reaching out to my ambassadors.” I can’t look at them as a group. I have to look at them as individuals. The irony of that is I just came off an event where we’re talking about how to be better service providers and create better customer experiences for our clients in the real estate space, but I’m sitting here going, “The irony is not lost on me, but I feel like my takeaway is I want to create better ways for me to keep in touch with my tribe, my people, and continue to build our community.
Teri:I happen to know that your ambassadors think you are the bomb, and absolutely adore you, and completely forgive whatever you weren’t able to give them this time. I do think it’s interesting, and I applaud you for being the wonderful, learnable, lovely person that you are to look at, “Where could I have done better?” I think all of us in the industry – it’s a constant battle and challenge. We’re all looking to, “How can we actually improve? What have we learned? How can we iterate?” All of those things.
Laura:It’s a lot all at one time.
Teri:Yeah. I think we should wrap it up and drink more wine.
Laura:I think we should wrap it up and drink more wine too. We have the winery to ourselves now by the way. It’s quiet. There’s nobody here. We’re going to get busted.
Teri:I want to thank you for having this very important conversation that does matter. How can people find you, if for whatever reason they live under a rock and don’t know who you are?
Laura:@thebesthairinre or @lauramonroe on Twitter. Laura Monroe on Facebook. firstname.lastname@example.org via email.