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Don’t Let the Corporate Culture Kill Your Real Estate Business

by Marty Boardman on November 23, 2012 · 7 comments

small business and corporate culture

A large, national electronics and appliance store botches the delivery of a range, microwave and dishwasher. The purchaser is told these items would show up at their home on Monday and instead they arrive Friday. Does the retailer offer the customer anything, like a gift card or discount on their next order, for the inconvenience? No way. A meager, insincere apology would have to do.

A prominent fitness center refuses to allow a member to pay an entire year’s worth of dues in advance because it’s against corporate policy. Never mind that it’s more convenient for the consumer.

The waitress at a regional restaurant chain denies a customer’s order of eight chicken wings. The wait staff is only allowed to enter 6, 12, or 18 into the computer system. Would it be too much trouble to toss two extra chicken wings on the plate the customer asks? Sorry, can’t do it, says the waitress. It’s against the rules.

All of the above are examples of corporate culture run amok. How do I know these stories are real? They all happened to me in the last month.

One of the best parts about being a small business owner is having the freedom, flexibility, creativity and nimbleness to solve problems without asking for permission from the Man. For me, the most frustrating thing about the corporate culture is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If employees and managers were empowered by their superiors to swiftly and fairly right a wrong then blog posts like this would never get written.

In real estate, or any other business for that matter, it’s important to make quick, thoughtful decisions that benefit both the customer and the bottom line.

A few years ago, the air conditioning went out at one of my rental properties in the middle of the summer. In case you hadn’t heard it gets very hot in Phoenix. How hot you ask? It’s so hot here I once saw two trees fighting over a dog. But, I digress. The repairman couldn’t get to the house until the following day so I made hotel arrangements for my tenant and offered to pay for all her meals until the unit was fixed.

I once had the refrigerator in one of my vacation rentals breakdown, spoiling all of my tenant’s groceries. The next day I had a brand new refrigerator delivered to the house and gave my guests $200 to restock their food supply.

In both of these cases I could have offered a lame apology like a big retail store would do. Or worse, I could have refused to take any action at all. However, as I just pointed out that’s the wrong thing to do. I’m okay letting the corporate culture kill my lunch (I really wanted those two extra chicken wings) but I’m not okay with the corporate culture killing my business. Don’t let it kill yours either.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith and Kinsey November 23, 2012 at 8:07 am

Marty, Great post. It’s entirely true that great service and going above and beyond seems to be disappearing from the corporate culture. I have noticed I do get much better service from small local businesses, and I will do business with those that provide great service again and again (even if it’s a slightly higher price). I can only hope that more business owners will make the change to be the best they possibly can.


Joshua Dorkin November 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I’ve been having problems with my HMO’s billing department for almost 2 years now, but it looks like we’re finally good to go. After countless hours on the phone with them, I was assured that everything is square and our account is where it needs to be — but I wanted written proof. I went through 4 managers and no one would write a letter saying “you have met your deductible.” Seriously, that’s all I wanted – 5 words. All they kept telling me is that it isn’t corporate policy to write a letter — it was as if they were shocked that someone would make such a request.

Corporate culture is killing companies (most).

Fantastic reminder to service your customers, Marty!


Karen Rittenhouse November 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm

What great examples in your first 3 paragraphs (all in one month? ugh.).

I’m so tired of hearing, the computer won’t let us. Really? So now your brain has quit functioning? My husband has a 1 year old 2012 BMW X5. He took it in for an issue and drove off with a loaner. He asked them to do the one year service at the same time. Nope, wouldn’t do it. He was 11 days early. He had to take time off again less than 2 weeks later to drop it off, get a loaner car, and pick it up yet again. “You’re too early. The computer won’t let us.” He spent a butt load on that vehicle, and BMW has gotten a butt load of bad press off that unnecessary inconvenience.

Great reminder for all of us to keep it real. In today’s market, it takes so little to create a big “wow!” for the customer.

Thanks, Marty.


Dennis November 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Great post, small business of which RE is one, is all about providing the best customer service for each situation.


Ben Koshkin November 24, 2012 at 12:53 am

Excellent write-up Marty. Corporate culture may harm any real estate business. So everyone should follow this article. Thanks a lot !

Ben Koshkin
Land development


Trevor Henson November 25, 2012 at 9:55 am

Points well made, Marty. One of the items that really irks me nowadays is the monumental effort it takes to get a living, breathing, person on the phone when customer service is called. If I am having a problem with a product, shouldn’t the company want to solve it ASAP in hopes that I will not take my complaint to my social media channels..? At our property management firm, we answer our phone 7 days a week and 98% of our calls are answered on the 2nd ring – because if a resident has an issue, we want to be the first to know about it (and FIX it). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. -Trevor


Geoff November 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm

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