According to the Small Business Administration, there are approximately 28 million small businesses, defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees, operating in the United States today.
28 million. Think about that for a moment. That’s a small business for roughly 1 in 11 Americans.
How can there possibly be so many small businesses in existence today? Simple. Most employ just a handful of people — or no one at all, other than the principal. SBA statistics indicate that 73.2% of all small businesses are sole proprietorships: individual men and women who answer to no one.
Sole proprietors work in a dizzying array of industries. They can be solo lawyers and accountants, management consultants for hire, tradespeople, skilled contractors, semi-skilled laborers and more. They all share some basic traits that set them apart from their 9-to-5 counterparts: an outsized work ethic, strong organizational and planning skills, the ability to visualize and set in motion a long-term plan, and the persuasive skills necessary to convince others to buy into that vision — and, in many cases, literally buy what they’re selling.
Real Estate Agents Are the Ultimate Small Business Owners
Not every real estate agent is a sole proprietor. Many work for large brokerages or boutique firms. Some own their own brokerages or boutiques, making them actual small business owners.
But many real estate agents do operate independently, as true sole proprietors. They are their own bosses, responsible for everything from counting the beans to keeping the lights on. They need all the attributes that make other sole proprietors successful. And, like them, they have no one to fall back on if things go wrong — and no one but themselves to blame when they do.
Even real estate agents who don’t operate as one-person teams need to draw on the same soft and hard skills as small business owners and sole proprietors. If you’re looking to break into the real estate business, you’ll want to arm yourself with these capabilities. Because the competition already has.
1. The Art of Persuasion
No surprise, right? Real estate agents need to follow the well-worn motto: “always be selling.” As an agent, you’re only as good as your next sale. If you don’t sell, you don’t eat.
On this point, real estate agents are no different than any other small business owner. Everyone who makes their own way needs to make their own sales. Without enough sales, the way forward peters out in a forest of failure.
But the stakes are higher in real estate than most other industries, because sales can be few and far between. For some agents, not much separates great months from bad ones. And that means it’s doubly important to always be selling.
Small business owners don’t have to get up every morning and lace up for another day in the trenches. No one sets their alarm clock for them, and no one’s watching their punch cards for signs of slacking. They get up and get at ‘em because they need to. They just can’t live without the chase.
If this sounds like a foreign concept to you, maybe you’re not ready for this business. There’s no shame in relying on external motivation to get you going. But you need to replace it with something that comes from within before you climb down into the real estate trenches — or the results won’t be pretty.
3. Relentless Self-Improvement
Remember the grade-school rhyme: good, better, best, never let it rest. (Are we dating ourselves here?) Like all small business owners, real estate agents need to be driven to improve themselves at every turn — even if it’s not immediately clear how much they can improve. That means connecting with and learning from more seasoned agents, pursuing opportunities for continuing real estate education and training wherever they’re found, and practicing self-reflection wherever possible. After all, real estate agents don’t just compete with the market — they compete with themselves. If you don’t keep pace with your fellow agents, you risk falling behind.
Own Your Own Future
For millions of Americans, purchasing a new home is like buying a one-way ticket into the middle class. One of homeownership’s many advantages is, well, ownership: control and agency over your very own piece of land.
Real estate agents usually don’t own the properties they sell, of course. But they do own something else very nearly as important: the ability to make their own way in a confusing and sometimes chaotic economy. They own their own destinies, their own futures.