Developing and Protecting Your “Expert Status”

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In any business, there is something that you as an individual should strive to be known for and that is your “expert status”. When I say this I’m not talking about putting yourself above another person or about being better than another individual.

What I am talking about is merely that when someone thinks about your niche or a particular real estate investing strategy, it should be you or your company that they immediately think about; it should be the one that comes to their mind first.

Once you have begun to carve out that name for yourself and your business, it’s imperative that you guard your reputation like your life depends on it because it does.

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How Do You Get To Be This Person With Expert Status?

Now you might be thinking. “There are a million real estate investors out there I’m competing with.” Well maybe not a million, but there are certainly a lot. Yet there are always certain people that come to mind when you think of a particular niche or a specific type of information that you need. These are those folks that you think of as the experts in your field. So how do you get known as the expert in your field?

There are a number of ways that you can achieve expert status; specific steps you can take to stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen over time if you have a plan. I believe the biggest way is just to put yourself out there and network with like-minded individuals. Be the person that represents your niche. Get known in your industry.

It used to be that you had to belong to a lot of different groups and attend those meetings. Face to face networking is still very important, but the internet has opened up a whole new world to us. It’s vital to your success that you get good at networking to build and nurture those relationships both online and offline. The internet has opened many doors for me, and it can do exactly the same thing for you.

3 Ways To Strut Your Stuff

  1. Start a blog. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just do it. Begin to share your knowledge with other people. Give freely of what you know. Mentor other real estate investors that show up and interact with you.
  2. Write Articles and post them on article sites.
  3. Comment on other industry blogs and in forums. Offer quality comments. Simply saying “great job” won’t cut when it comes to comments.

The Importance of Protecting Your Expert Status

I was reminded a few days ago of just how quickly you can lose ground when it comes to being thought of as “the expert”. It takes so long to build your credibility and be respected in your field, and it can be gone in a flash.

I was dealing with a company that I have worked with for over a year now, and one that I have often recommended. They have been a valuable member of my team in a number of ways. But recently I have begun to see problems where none existed before. They have some folks working at their company that – simply put – just aren’t very good at what they do. They can’t seem to get the details right. They make the same mistakes over and over. Up until this point If you had asked me for a recommendation, I would have told you that their customer service was exemplary.

So What Changed?

Several times in the past few weeks, I have discussed a particular project with them and detailed exactly what I needed from them. This particular person who we will call Susan “got it”. I knew that she understood my business and exactly what I needed and would be expecting.

Since the next step (actually doing the work) wasn’t her job, she passed me along to the appropriate person that we will can Jan. This is where the problems started. Somehow, the entire communication I had with my original contact was either not passed on to Jan or she didn’t understand the specifics. So when my work was delivered a week later it was completely wrong. I contacted Jan and told her exactly what the problem was. There was no apology, but she said she would get to work on the changes and get back to me in a day or two. 8 days later when I hadn’t received anything, I sent an email inquiring about my project. Jan replied and simply said that I would have it in the morning. There was no explanation and once again there was no apology; just silence.

Well, I got it back the next day it was still wrong; in fact it was done exactly the same way it was done the first time. There are several things going on here:

  • A lack of communication between the two people in that company; that is obvious.
  • No review of the original (incorrect) work against the new work.
  • Zero understanding of my business by Jan who is person #2.
  • No concept of the value of a long term repeat customer.

Can you see what has happened here? I have lost faith in this company to meet my needs without constant micro-managing which I don’t have the time or the desire to do. Their “expert status” has been compromised. That is something that you just can’t allow to happen in your business.

So What’s the Solution Here?

If this company is going to cater to real estate investors as one of their many niches, they had better be sure to have someone on staff that understands this business. Since they are a big company, they need a real estate specialist.

You need to be absolutely sure that each person in your company is representing your brand authentically with every contact.

Here Are 3 Tips For Your Business

  1. Forget about trying to work short staffed and juggle so many hats that you start dropping the ball. People have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting a business to work with. You want them to choose you.
  2. Don’t grow so fast you fail to properly train your staff members. This is a recipe for disaster. You can see all of your hard work go down the drain pretty quickly if you mess up on this step. It’s not really their fault if you didn’t train them properly.
  3. Select the right team members from the beginning. Don’t rush the hiring process. You need to make sure that the person you select has the same values and company culture that you have.

The one thing I have noticed that is different about “Jan” is that unlike the rest of the people I have dealt with in this particular company, she doesn’t seem to care that she messed up the whole project. There were no apologies; no “I’m so sorry; I will fix this right away ”. She just doesn’t fit with the existing company culture, and she has just about driven me away as a customer.

There will always be problems. Have a plan to fix them quickly, and always be sure to quickly say “I’m sorry”.

Photo: Alan Cleaver

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.

24 Comments

  1. karen rittenhouse

    Fabulous post!

    We had this exact discussion in our office meeting this morning. We had a client who was “driving us crazy” with so many calls and emails. The staff was fed up. We “re-evaluated” and determined (1) the client pays our bills (2) we understand what we mean but they may not (3) better to have a client persisting so we can try to get them through their confusion rather than have them walk away without explanation and complain about us to others. We agreed that the clients we have are far more valuable than the clients we’re trying to obtain so they are worth extra time and effort as needed.

    This “re-evaluation” was a great training moment for all of us. Sometimes we all get so busy that we are rushed and expect others to just “get it”. Having enough staff, having the right staff, and having them properly trained is imperative.

    Thanks for reminding us.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      That is such a good idea Karen. Based on my customer service experiences recently, I am pretty sure companies don’t do that on a regular basis. And you’ve hit the nail on the head our customers pay our bills. If they aren’t happy with us, they have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the services they need.

      One other point you made was expecting our customers to “get it”.

      A perfect example was when I got back a list recently and had it combined with an existing mailing list. I looked at the combined lists, and the items such as “name and property address” were in different columns. Other headings were in different columns also. When I asked the list company about it they said, “Oh it will merge up fine”. They assumed I would know that. Why would I assume that a name that was in an “A” column a on a spreadsheet would merge up the same as if “name” was in column “C”?

      Like you said, don’t assume your customers will know and understand the finer points of your business.

      Thanks for your comments.
      Sharon

    • Congratulations thats very impressive. I will try to keep that in mind for future reference. Great job on getting your team to do a point by point analysis like that.

  2. After an extended discussion with a professional colleague (in another field), he convinced me that I NEVER want to be an expert. Experts get sued … or at least asked to testify (and taking time away from their professional pursuits).

    Therefore I never want to be an expert.

    Instead, I am experienced.

    [ … perhaps a distinction without a difference ]

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Kevin –

      That might be true if you are a doctor or an attorney or in another similar field. But in real estate, just about everyone is experienced or at least they claim to be. Being an expert in your field is a totally different thing.

      For instance, I know a lot of bloggers that are “experienced” when it comes to creating a blog. Josh Dorking is an “expert” at creating a blog. Big difference.

      If you want to be ordinary and just blend in, then tag yourself as “experienced”. But if you want to be known as “extraordinary” you want to be labeled an “expert”. I guess it all comes down to how you want to be viewed. I don’t personally know of any industry leaders that are just called experienced.

      Thanks for your comments.
      Sharon

      • Sharon, consider the possibility of Joe Smith being called on the witness stand (or even deposed) and having all of your marketing materials and blog posts in front of your when the plaintiff’s attorney asks “Mr. Smith your own marketing brochure and these dozens (hundreds) of blog posts state that you are an “EXPERT” in roofing (or fill in the blank). Your own business card states “The Roofing EXPERTS.” Yet the roof collapsed on my client now in a wheel chair. Can you explain how an EXPERT would use inferior materials, substandard methods or untrained workers to install the roof that collapsed?”

        * * *

        Now reread that attorney’s question substituting the word “experienced” for the word “Expert”

  3. When Sharon says that this status doesn’t happen overnight, she’s absolutely right! In my field, I see so many newer real estate agents who get discouraged in their first year (real estate is known for having a high turnover rate). It takes years to discover your niche. But if you stick with it long enough, you’ll learn everything you need to succeed. And after 10 years, I still learn something new everyday!

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Kevin –

      If you are comfortable with that, then I think that’s fine. I owned and operated a home inspection company for 17 years so I am fully aware of liability issues.

      But if you get hauled into court for any reason in your real estate business, the very fact that you have years of experience will make you “the expert willing or not”. Any attorney will say that with your years of experience you should have known …… you fill in the blanks. That’s just the way it works.

      • Sharon the Plaintiff’s attorney can believe anything he/she wants in terms of how many years it takes to become “an expert.” Making that subtle distinction between expert and just experienced in the minds of the jury (or jurist or arbitrator) allows me to answer the question I posed (above) with “in all my projects I never ran across this situation. Perhaps someone with more experience would have known better or could have prevented the situation but to me this was a learning experience too.”

        Subtle.

        • Kevin –

          You are obviously referring to a specific problem so I can’t comment without knowing the problem.

          The point of the article was that if you are going to reach your full potential in any endeavor and you don’t strive to become an expert in whatever that is, you are missing out in so many ways.

          Not everyone wants to be or cares about being thought of as a leader in their field and that is fine. You should be positioned exactly where you want to be. It is an industry standard that once you have 10,000 in your field you have mastered or become an expert in whatever that field is. Like it or not, you will be viewed as someone that “should have known”.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Lee –

      You are so right about real estate agents, but the same thing is true of real estate investors. People just throw in the towel when they figure out this is a hard business. It has been my experience that in most cases you have to try several niches to find the one that fits with you and the lifestyle you want to create.

      And like you, I learn something new everyday. Being a lifelong learner is an absolute necessity in this business.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Sharon

  4. Very nice article Sharon. I like your 3 tips for business. These are some of the very things that I try to incorporate into our business. We are newer company that is going through a period of strong growth. It is hard to balance growth and staffing but by keeping communication open with all of my employees I keep tabs on what needs to happen.

    I really like that you bring up that part about saying “I’m Sorry”. I always stress to my staff to try new things and try to solve problems on their own. I tell them that if they make a mistake that it will not be the end of the world. In addition if and when mistakes are made that affect tenants or property owners I make sure that we call them to let them know what has happened and how we plan to fix it.

    Thanks for sharing this article.

  5. Mark –

    There is no doubt about it. Managing periods of fast growth can be hard to do. I think Karen Rittenhouse had an excellent idea. Having regular company meetings helps keep everyone on the same page. Just talking through some of the challenges you are having often leads to answers for solving those problems.

    In my particular case, I fully understand there will be problems and mistakes made in any business relationship. All I really wanted to hear was “I’m sorry and here is what I am going to do to fix the problem”. Nothing more.

    Just saying that you are sorry will go a long way with just about everyone. Your customer just wants to feel valued.

    Thanks for your insights and good luck.
    Sharon

  6. Ah Sharon,

    Thanks for an insightful post. Although I’m still in the beginning stages of trying to “strut”, I definitely appreciate your warnings.

    Nothing like making sure you have the goods before elevating yourself/business.

    Your advice is timeless. Thanks

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Hey Al –

      It’s good to hear from you. I think you have to get started working on your “expert status” way before you are really comfortable even thinking that way. It’s really important that you have the proper systems as you grow so you can manage everything when it finally happens. I guess what I am saying is that you really do have to have “a plan for success”.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Hi Leo-

      It’s true. We just aren’t perfect no matter how hard we try. Mistakes will be made from time to time. Just saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way to fix things. People really hate it when you don’t say those words no matter what your business is.

      Thanks for your comments Leo.

      Sharon

  7. As I started reading I thought, Hmm I wonder if this is one of the Self Directed IRA companies. – Just a wild guess.

    One thing I find frustrating is dealing with people who assume they know more than me just because they are in the business. I’ve had several recent dealing with title companies where I knew much more the specific deal and the applicable law than they did. Yet they still moved ahead in their mindless clueless way.

  8. Sharon Vornholt

    Hi Ned-

    No it wasn’t, but it probably could have been. I find that situation so terribly frustrating! So frustrating in fact, that I no longer do business with them.

    Entrepreneurs that succeed have certain common traits, and one of them is that they tend to have a burning desire to get things right; to get results. And they keep trying and doing it over again and again until that happens.

    Now many people (certainly not all of them) that have an “employee mindset” just want to “get by” and get through the day with as little effort as possible. This mindset is what usually spills over into their results for the client or customer.

    Years ago when I worked in the medical profession it would just make me crazy when certain people went to great lengths to get out of doing any real work. These were the same folks that didn’t want to learn the new computer system, go to the required training etc.

    One day when I was completely overwhelmed and frustrated I said to one of the doctors, “I just don’t get it; why are they so completely devoid of ambition? Why don’t they just do the job? I don’t understand why they don’t want to step outside of their tiny little comfort zone”.

    He said to me, “Sharon, we need those people. If we didn’t have those folks to do those types of boring, repetitive jobs (that we don’t want to do), and those folks that didn’t want to grow or advance, the office couldn’t function.” And he was right. We need people that are completely happy in their little slice of the world that aren’t always looking at how they are going to move out of that position. I finally got that, But in my book, that isn’t a reason to consistently do a “crappy job” at whatever your job is.

    Thanks for your comments Ned.
    Sharon

  9. Great post as usual Sharon
    Im going to apply these “words of wisdom” to my plumbing business as well as my real estate business,,,
    Obviously letting the world know you are an “expert” is just as important as letting the world know “you’re in business”
    My best regards and keep up the great content
    Dave Doyle
    Monrovia Calif

  10. Sharon Vornholt

    Dave – Whatever your business, your goal should be to be know as the go to expert in your field. Creating your “expert status” is a process, and it really grows when you help other folks to grow. It’s kind of an organic process. Thanks for reading.

    Sharon

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