Real You: No Light? No Trouble?

Yesterday at lunch I was enjoying a great sandwich at Camille's Sidewalk Cafe when I looked up and saw this sign on the wall next to my booth:

Green -> Normal
Red -> Alarm
NoLight -> Trouble

It made me think. Do we too often ignore the signs right in front of us in business? I know, speaking for the real estate industry, we were in a state of greed and denial before the bust. The government's goal was to increase home ownership rates; the mortgage companies made money easy to get; the number of real estate agents had reached record numbers nationwide; and everybody who was anybody had a no-miss real estate opportunity. In February of 2006, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors released a book: Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust. The bust had started in the fourth quarter of 2005. The green light had gone out long before.

Real change does come through struggle. Don't wait for the red light to go on to make changes in your business. By then, it may be too late.

Kaira Sturdivant Rouda is a small business branding expert and president of Real Living, one of the nation's leading, privately held residential real estate firms. With web traffic increasing daily, she is certain the green light is about to turn back on in real estate.

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Time to enter the family business?

The question of whether or not to join a family business is a tough one. You have been given an opportunity, that’s for sure, but it is smart to carefully evaluate the situation before you jump in. I recommend asking yourself the following:

  • Are you personally passionate about this business? If you’re not, it may not be right for you.
  • Do you have experience in the field? If not, are you willing to learn, and do you think you have what it takes to be successful?
  • What does the future hold? Will you be an equal decision-maker, and will you be able to grow with the company?
  • And perhaps most important, will joining the family business be at all awkward? You may feel like you have to justify your existence to outsiders down the road. Some folks deal with that better than others.

As you contemplate these points, consider who it is that will be teaching you the business. The answers to your questions will help you decide if joining the family business is the right decision. Good luck!

If you make your female customers happy, your male customers will be happy, too. We are the demanding ones.

MAKE IT HAPPEN: Schedule a regular time (monthly or quarterly) when you and the members of your team can discuss how to touch base with your customers. During this time, talk about what’s working and what’s not. Consider what you might do differently—or better. Remember, your goal should be to stay one step ahead of her. Now, get moving! You have no time to waste.

TIP IN ACTION: Women are world-class consumers, making or influencing 85 percent of all purchases and 91 percent of home purchases. Given these statistics, don’t women deserve a little attention? In the 1970s, women were purchasing with his money. Today she is purchasing with her money. Knowing that, it’s no surprise that women are dramatically changing how products and services are designed and marketed. Call it what it is: the unstoppable trend of women’s buying power. At Real Living, we created the first residential real estate company built with women in mind, from the logo and font treatment to the consumer-friendly Web site. Look around you. No doubt you’re surrounded by other companies that are following a similar course of action.

Share your best practices for connecting with consumers.

For more on connecting with female consumers, check out Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs.

In today’s 24/7 world, women make over 80% of all consumer purchases across every product category

In fact, there’s a whole conference designed to inform marketers on various topics concerning the female consumer. The fourth annual The Marketing to Women Conference will be held May 8-9 at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I’m so excited to be attending this year. I’ll be speaking along with some of the most well-known experts in women’s marketing, like author Marti Barletta and the founding publisher of PINK magazine, Genevieve Bos.

In my presentation, Home is Where the Purse is, I’ll be explaining the immense buying power women have around the real estate transaction. Women are buying during life stages, so there's a huge opportunity to reach them during these moments. Marriage, the birth of a child, a growing family--these are opportune times to market to women. Since women also increase spending by 200 percent in the first year of home ownership, savvy marketers can capitalize on these life transitions. Today's woman is buying more than just a home; she's buying a lifestyle.

Are you worried? Turn off the news...

Here's the thing: when you have 24-hour news slots to fill, you have to fill them. And what has proven to draw viewers, more than anything else, is negative, sensationalized news. We all know that - and yet - we all play into it by watching.

Ick. So, yes, the economy is not what we hope. But how many different news segments do we need to hear/watch filled with doom and gloom to get the picture? Housing - whether your area had a bubble or not - has faced record trouble, but in many parts of the country, things are starting to stabilize. At my company, Real Living, we are based in the heart of the heartland - Ohio. And here, like other areas of the country without the extreme highs, buyers are coming back into the market.

You don't really hear about that though. It's doubtful the 24-hour news cycle could sustain interest in stability. That just doesn't sell. So, you'll continue to hear that you better save, that America and Americans are living on borrowed time, that the sky is falling.

So tune out. Tune back into you.

As I write in my book Real You Incorporated,, the key is to make sure you - and your passions - are in alignment. Is the business you created, want to create or where you work a good fit for the real you? Take some time for introspection and reflection. A time not filled with worry, but with possibility and excitement. Take action if you have financial challenges, but don't stew. That won't change anything.

Make 2008 great for you, no matter the latest news. It all starts with you.

What is important when times are tough

I just returned from the Real Estate Connect conference in New York and there were some very depressing economists there. As you no doubt have surmised, the housing market is in a recession. There is a wave of sadness, despair and fear crashing down on those directly involved in the industry: real estate agents, brokers, lenders and the like.

And for good reason. There are 10 month plus inventories in markets across the country. Everyone seems to have stopped buying and selling homes. So, that was the gist of the conference and then I was on a technology panel. My message? Not so much about the next technology killer app - sure there are exciting things appearing daily. But mostly, my message was about getting real.

When times are tough it's more important than ever to make sure you still have passion for the business you're in. If it's real estate, it's especially tough right now. Agents are entrepreneurs. They make the dream of home ownership come to life everyday. So what do they do if they are still passionate about real estate, but times are this tough. They reach out to their customers, who also are afraid of the housing market and the repercussions, and provide them with information and support. They check in, to make sure they're doing OK. In my book, Real You Incorporated, I write about real connections with your customers. And this is a perfect time to do just that.

All of us are in this together as the economy slows down. When you focus on putting the real you in your business - take action and reach out to your clients from your heart, sharing your knowledge and your passions - you'll find a deeper, more authentic connection with your customers when the economy picks back up.

And it will. For more, visit my website:

Speaking of the facts

I spoke tonight at the National Association of Realtors Mid-Year conference in Washington, DC. The panel's topic was: Creating a consumer facing business. Other panelists included Allan Dalton of, Marty Frame of Fidelity, Justin McCarthy of Google, and other really important folks, well, important to the real estate industry.

My particular question was: tell us about women as consumers. Talk about that niche.

Now, of course, that was a softball question from my friend, Ed Krafchow, president of a big real estate company in California. He knows I've been building a consumer-centric brand with women as the primary target audience for 6 years.

So I said: Ed, women comprise more than 1/2 the population of the U.S, control 79 percent of all consumer purchases, and make or direct 91 percent of all home buying decisions. Seems to me, female consumers aren't a "niche" or minority group that needs to be dealt with.

Ed agreed!