Be the Aristotle of real estate – get a mentor


Ah, the things we learn online. Homer – you remember learning about him in school, right? In “The Odyssey,” Odysseus went to war and left his household in the capable hands of Mentor, his son’s teacher. Apparently, Mentor was really good at dealing with personal dilemmas. As a new agent, you have lots of those, right?

While being mentored isn’t just for new agents, they seem to be the ones that most need it. Seasoned agents typically hire a coach, or trainer, to assist with increasing their production, hiring management and staff and learning better business practices.

For the nuts and bolts of how to actually hit the ground running in a real estate career, however, latching onto a mentor is the way to go.

And before you get all uppity and indignant that we are assuming you know nothing about how to be a real estate agent, consider that Beethoven was humble enough to accept mentoring from Hayden. Plato turned to Socrates for help and then, in turn, mentored Aristotle. Then, there was Freud and Jung.

What is a real estate mentor?

Taking over the king’s household was an enormous responsibility for Mentor. It meant that he “had to be a father figure, a teacher, a role model, an approachable counsellor, a trusted adviser, a challenger, an encourager,” according to J. Carruthers in  “The Return of the Mentor: Strategies for Workplace Learning.”

Which is exactly what a real estate mentor should be — well, sans the father figure part.

A mentor is someone in your office who takes you under his or her wing – free of charge – and shows you the ropes.

Mentors have various ways of teaching, but the best will let you shadow them for a couple of weeks. Going on some listing presentations with a top agent is an amazing opportunity to learn how it’s done, successfully.

Why have a mentor?

It’s safe to say that Renton, Wash. broker Sheila McGraw knows a thing or two about how to achieve success in real estate. In 1995, her first year in the business, she earned more than $150,000 in commissions and was named Rookie of the Year.

McGraw claims that the best way to learn “is to model oneself after someone that has achieved the level of success one aspires to.”

Tony Robbins takes it much further and insists that you need a mentor to obtain “mastery.” “Throughout history how we passed on mastery of anything — finances, crafts, ideas, business, politics — usually you went to live with somebody, you went to work for somebody, you became an apprentice. And maybe decades or years of your life you’d commit time to be around that person day and night so that you could see and feel all the little distinctions that make them so masterful at what they do.”

Mastery is a noble goal if you hope to last in the real estate industry. “One of the things new agents need to learn early on is that no two transactions are the same. By shadowing a mentor, they’ll not only learn this first-hand, but they’ll be able to see how a master deals with the various situations,” says Montana Real Estate Brokers’ Amber Uhren.

While shadowing your mentor on listing presentations and showings is an excellent way to learn that end of the business, a mentor can also assist with the backend.

Do you know how to run a small business? How to allocate your time? From choosing the right technology tools to learning how to prospect effectively, a mentor in your corner is invaluable.

Pick a winner

I think I’ve mentioned before the top producer in my office when I was a baby agent. We called her “The Listing Pig.” Sure we were envious. No, that’s not quite accurate –we were BEYOND envious. We all wanted what she had but had no idea how to get it.

This woman had none of the qualities that we, at that time, thought we needed to be successful in real estate. She was terminally grumpy around the office, her personality overall left a whole lot to be desired and she was rather slovenly in her personal habits. Yet she raked in millions of dollars a year in production.

Come to find out, her husband was the town’s most prominent developer. He was feeding her leads from folks that were buying in his new home communities.

The lesson here is: Be careful who you envy and be even more careful which agent you choose as a mentor. Not that The Listing Pig ever mentored anyone. She didn’t. But if you choose a mentor purely on production, you might end up with someone like her.

“I firmly believe that what you eat, what you think, who you hang out with, who you emulate all makes you who you are. Emulate a jerk and you’ll probably turn into one!” says Jolenta Averill, Lake and City Homes in Madison, Wisc.

When considering who you want to be your mentor then, look beyond production. If you’ve chosen a niche, a good choice would be someone who specializes in that corner of the market.  But also look closely at personal qualities, such as integrity and reliability.

Finally, look for an agent who is open and willing to allow you into her business world, sharing her professional accomplishments and failures.

Building a business takes time so consider this mentorship period part of the initial process. Don’t rush it and don’t expect to learn everything overnight. You’re building a foundation on which will sit a thriving real estate practice.

Even after 31 years in the real estate business, Dorothee Crawford, with Intero Real Estate Services in Northern California, to this day remains motivated by recalling the words of her first mentor, Cam Merage.

“I am Persian. I am Jewish. I have an accent. I am not a native to the United States. I am an immigrant. If I can do this, you can do this.”

And I do believe you can.