Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rule #4. Get stuff done.

I've been writing down my rules for success.  You can find the first three here: #1, #2, #3.  Today is about rule #4.  This rule was inspired and crafted by my good friend Bob Lasch who is an excellent software engineer.  Bob is a "doer", and simply put he gets stuff done.  I've called him "Bob the Builder" (after the cartoon) because he has an outstanding attitude and always works to get stuff done.

Many years back Bob and I were working on a software project together and we started discussing the first three rules.   As Bob so eloquently put it after that discussion, those first three rules are important but don't mean anything if you can't get stuff done.  I happened to agree with him and that's where my rule #4 was birthed.  If you are going to have success, you are going to have to get stuff done.  This rule is entirely context specific intentionally using the words "stuff" and "done". Whatever it is you are doing (selling real estate, programming computers, managing a household, etc.) you must get something to a finished state to have real success.  If you're in the business of selling real estate but you never actually get a sale to go all the way through a closing,  can you be successful?   If you develop software but you never actually ship the software, can you be successful? Success is measured by finishes.  Start finishing things in whatever you've chosen to do and you'll be on the road to success.

Stay tuned for rule #5 coming next week.  It's quite possibly my favorite rule of all because of who taught it to me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Rule #3. Remember lots of stuff.

I'm writing down my rules for success so I can share them with my friends and family.  Hopefully they are seeing these blog posts.

This is the third rule you need to follow in order to be successful at anything you're doing. This must be paired with rule #1 and rule #2 to be truly effective.  You can see this skill demonstrated by a good server at your favorite restaurant.  That server will have showed up (rule #1) be paying attention (rule #2) enough to notices that your glass is empty but you know they have rule #3 down when they refill your drink with exactly what you originally ordered without having to ask you.  It seems simple right?   It can be if you're following the rules and actually truly paying attention.   Working as a software developer or real estate agent I have to remember lots of things.  Actually remembering everything is impossible.  This rule is really about remembering the right stuff.  The server in your favorite restaurant doesn't need to remember everything about your order,  just those things that are going to resurface.  You don't need to remember everything about the work you do, just focus on remembering things that will get repeated or replayed.   I've learned that it's best to remember where the answers can be found rather than remember the exact answer.

You now have the first three rules for success.  Some people, like to stop here.  I believe you can probably be really successful by knowing and following but these first three rules.  However,  stay tuned,  the road to success does have a few more rules.  Rules 4, 5, 6, and 7 coming your way shortly. Remember that.  :)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rule #2. Pay attention

I've adopted some life rules.  I've shared many of them with friends and family over the years.   I'm going to be sharing my seven rules to success over the next several weeks.  They've come from many different sources.  My friends Michael F. Johnson and Bob Lasch, my grandfather,  and my own experiences.

If you missed rule #1 you can find that post here.

Today's rule is rule #2 is "Pay Attention".   It is in the top 3 because of its relationship to having success with anything you are doing. You can see this skill demonstrated by a good server at your favorite restaurant.  That person will pay attention to your table and notice things like empty glasses that need refilled. It is a skill that requires effort in our world full of distractions but it is essential if your going to be successful.  If you don't "pay attention" you really can't be successful.  Take a listen to my good friend Michael F. Johnson talk about "Paying Attention" as only he can describe the rule.  -->  I suspect this will be the best three minutes you spend today if you pay attention.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rule #1. Show up everyday.

I've adopted some life rules.  I've shared many of them with friends and family over the years.   I'm going to be sharing my seven rules to success over the next several weeks.  They've come from many different sources.  My friends Michael F. Johnson and Bob Lasch, my grandfather,  and my own experiences.  I have taught all my children these rules and many of their friends.  I follow these rules myself. The first three rules I've adopted from my good friend Michael F. Johnson.  Michael writes about these three rules in his book "Kill the First Tiger" under the chapter "The Three Hard Daily Steps To Success".

The rule for today is "Show up everyday".  This rule might seem simple or even common sense.  It might even seem overly obvious. But I can assure you that many people who are not having success fail to follow this very simple rule. To show up everyday isn't necessarily about being physically in some specific location for work but it does mean you can be reached (phone, computer, email, etc.) and you are mentally available.  It means being emotionally, physically, and mentally ready and prepared for whatever it is you do.  It is rule #1 because if you can't do this you're not likely going to be able to do anything else, let alone follow the other success rules.  Even though this is rule #1 I call this my "finishing rule". I use to coach competitive youth soccer and this rule was important to success on game days. I ran team practices requiring players to "Show up" and to train as hard as though they were playing to win a game.   This required them to be thinking and working together to move the ball around the field.  Did you know you can't win the game if you can't put the ball in the net? That's "finishing" in soccer and it requires that your emotionally, physically, and mentally ready to capitalize on an opportunity to shoot and score.  It doesn't matter if you have just run for 80 minutes and you're tired, worn out and the pressure is intense.  If you don't take that shot and find the net you don't win. In real estate, when you're tired from searching and showing homes to find that perfect place they'll call home,  you still need to "Show up" to write up that offer for them and "finish" the sale.

I'm confident you're already thinking of people you work with that break this rule consistently. Those people are the ones that don't seem to have any success.  Likely even blame others for that lack of success. Don't be that person! Be purposeful about showing up everyday!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Using filters to trigger a text message for important emails

I think it's really important for people to choose the most effective way to communicate messages they send.  In this modern world we probably have way too many options and that often leads to messages not being communicated in a timely and effective manner.  For instance, if I have an urgent need, email is probably not the best way to communicate that need. Vice versa, if the need isn't urgent why would I text (or is it txt?) message someone?   Another issue often complicating communications is that the sender of the message might have a different priority on the message then the receiver.  Untimely communications can lead to other problems so I like to avoid it whenever possible.

This topic of effective communications has recently been on my mind regarding real estate sales.   I've just recently started selling real estate in Virginia and West Virginia and in my current situation I simply don't have very many leads.  Without leads I'm not going to make any sales so it's really important for me to place a priority on receiving these leads and acting quickly.  The best source of leads for me at this time is my broker and so I consider any communication from him as urgent.  Unfortunately, sometimes the communication comes in the form of email.  I do regularly check my email throughout the day but not really at the frequency I need to if the email contains a sales lead from from my broker.   I needed a solution to this problem and I have found one.   I have a way to convert emails to txt messages and I can do it in a selective fashion so that only emails from certain people are converted to a text message.  Since I check txt message relatively quickly throughout the day it will be more effective for me to receive all emails from my broker as text messages.   Using Gmail filters and the text message gateway of my cell phone service I can convert these urgent emails into a text message when the email arrives in my inbox.  How can I do that you ask?   You can follow these general steps to do the same thing:
  • First, determine your phone numbers email address.  This is a good article describing how to send a text message via email.   It also describes some limitations you might encounter and the difference between SMS vs. MMS.   For example, SMS has a 160 character limitation on the message.  MMS doesn't have that limitation by if your plan doesn't include MMS messaging (many / most probably do) then you won't receive the message.
  • After you know your own number try sending yourself an email to that number to confirm it works for you.  You should test out both the SMS and MMS gateways.   Since I'm using AT&T my phone's email addresses were (MYcellNUMBER) (for SMS) and (MYcellNUMBER) where the (MYcellNUMBER) was replaced with my actual cell phone number, only digits and no parens. 
  • Since you're going to forward emails using this cell phone email address you will likely have a more readable text message if you are using your cell phones MMS address.  
NOTE: From here forward assumes you are using Gmail.  If you have a different email application you probably have some filtering and forwarding capability but you'll have to figure out how to set that up. 
  • Now that you have confirmed you received a text message from an email you just sent to your cell phone you can move on to setting up a "filter" to forward specific emails to your phone.  To forward emails with Gmail you need to setup the forwarding address.  Follow these steps:
  1.  Login to your Gmail account
  2. Click on the settings "gear" in the upper right hand corner and choose "Settings" from the drop down menu.
  3. Click the link near the top labeled "Forwarding and POP/IMAP"
  4. The first section on this page "should" be "Forwarding".  Click the button "Add a forwarding address".  Use the SMS or MMS cell phone number email address you determined from above. Click the OK button on the dialog confirming you want to send the confirmation code.
  5. Gmail will require you to confirm the request by sending you the "text" email to your phone.  Somewhere near the top of the text message you'll find the confirmation code.  You can enter this
  6. Find the confirmation code and enter it into the "confirmation code" prompt that appeared below the "Add a forwarding address button, then click the "Verify" button.
  7. After you have saved the forwarding address you can move on to setup a filter to actually forward emails.
  • Now you can setup a filter to forward specific emails.  Click the "Filters and Blocked Addresses" link to the left of the "Fowarding and POP/IMAP" link you previous clicked in the instructions above.
  • Find and click the "Create a new filter" link near the middle of the page.
  • Setup criteria for the specific emails you want to forward.  In the from prompt I used specific email addresses separated by the word "OR" to specifically select emails from my broker. After you enter criteria you think will select just the emails you want to forward then click the "Create filter with this search >>" link near the bottom of the dialog.
  • NOTE: The emails you see behind the dialog, after you click the link, should reflect those you would want to forward in the future.
  • Now click the check box labeled "Forward it to:" and in the drop down labeled "Choose an address" select your newly added cell phone forwarding email you added above.
  • Finally, click the blue "Create filter" button near the left hand bottom of this dialog.
At this point you have now setup a filter that will forward your incoming email to your cell phone.  If you're like me this means you'll be seeing those broker emails as text messages on your phone.

Hope this helps you follow up on your sales leads quickly!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Phone number local to your area seems to matter for selling Real Estate

After spending 22 years in northern Illinois my wife and I decided to move back to the east coast and settle in the general area where a majority of our family lives.  We also decided to keep our cell phone numbers, with the Illinois area code, because we've had them so many years.   While we were settling into the area our "Illinois" phone numbers didn't seem to be an issue.  We'd make phone calls and people would answer.  I suspect this is because we were calling someone we already knew or calling a business who most likely didn't care what the caller ID was showing.

Now that I'm working in real estate calling people who don't know me, I think my Illinois phone number has prevented me from reaching potential customers because of the caller ID showing "Illinois" call.  Since I'm licensed to sell real estate in VA and WV,  this "potential" barrier needs to be eliminated if I'm going to have any success.  I didn't really want a new phone or a new phone number.  What I really wanted was to be able to use my current cell phone, keep my old number, and add a new one.  I looked for a phone that could actually have two SIM cards and therefore two phone numbers.  There are very few options for a device like that and most are in Europe.  I also explored the various "virtual" phone number options.  Unfortunately they all have costs involved and some don't support text messaging.   Just when I was giving up and about to go the dual phone route, I found a solution to the problem.  Google Voice!   It's not perfect, but it's workable.   If you're looking for a "second" phone number to use with your existing phone and you also want to keep your current number you should give Google Voice a try.  It's free,  you can receive and make calls with a new phone number and you can text from that new number too.

The general steps are as follows:

  • Create a Google account if you don't already have one.  If you don't have one, what have you been waiting for?
  • After you've created your Google account then goto and setup a phone number.   I picked a WV area code for my new Google voice phone number.   NOTE:  You "might" be able to setup the new number by installing the app mentioned in this next step.  I did not do that but it "seemed" possible.
  • After you have a Google Voice phone number you can simply download and install the Google Voice App to your phone.  There are apps available or iPhone and Android just like any other app you have downloaded and installed. 
  • When you install the application on the phone pay attention to the questions prompted by the installation.  You'll be asked how you want to use the Google Voice number with your device.  There were 3 options on the Android phone I used.   I could dial out with my devices phone number, the google voice number, OR have the phone prompt me before each call.   I choose the prompt because I am going to selectively call out with this new number.
If you followed those basic steps you have 2 phone lines now on your own device.  You should spend some time reviewing how Google voice can be configured.   I have the Google voice number forwarded automatically to my devices phone number.  Because I'm forwarding the calls my phone see's the incoming call from that new number.  Since I'm using my new number for my real estate work, I've also setup a contact in my phone for that Google Voice number, so I know when someone is calling me about real estate.

If you need another phone number to use with your existing device, and don't want to give up the phone number you already have, a Google Voice number might be the solution for you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Persistence is more important than education, wealth or experience!

Ever make that perfect shot and score a goal?  Have a perfect interview and land that awesome job! My life experiences tell me that more often then not success comes incrementally.  That persistence and determination are often times more important to success than people are willing to allow themselves to believe.  I would propose that persistence is actually more important than wealth, education, or experience.   You can obtain all three of these by persistence but it doesn't work the other way around.

From the time my oldest son was twelve years old he wanted to be a chef.  My numerous attempts to persuade him to reconsider all failed.  Although I was persistent, he was actually determined and persistent on obtaining his goal.  In 2012 he graduated from Robert Morris University in Chicago with a BA in Professional Services with an emphasis in Culinary Arts.  To him that was just the first step on a road to success and his persistence has lead him to working as a chef at the famous Scwha in Chicago.  Sounds like a normal success story doesn't it?   A degree (education) leads to a career.   If that's what you've heard I've done a poor job of making my case.  Let me try again.   He made that decision at twelve years old.   He doesn't like school and has always preferred learning by doing.   He was home educated all the way until college and despite popular opinion that's actually harder then public schools.  In 10th grade he took his first community college course and even though it was difficult for him, he didn't give up.  The college he finally decided to attend uses an accelerated schedule which in theory leads to obtaining your degree sooner.  He did have the option to skip attending school during the summer, instead he choose to be persistent and work through both summers to finish his BA in 3 years.  He disliked college so much that the first summer he actually told me "If I stop for the summer dad, I won't go back".  After college he worked in various kitchens choosing different style restaurants to find his niche.   Unfortunately, he could not seem to break into the "fine" dining restaurants.  Again, his persistence paid off, after two interviews a year apart, he "staged" for the fine dining position he wanted at Schwa.  That's persistence and that's why it's so important. Incremental success is a pathway to larger successes and is obtained by being persistent.

It has taken persistence for me to obtain my real estate licenses and get setup to sell real estate in Virginia and West Virginia.  Almost 1 year ago I started down that path and as of yesterday I'm now licensed in both states, a member of the Blue Ridge Realtor Association Inc. (BRAR), and I have access to the MLS.  I've been persistent, success has been incremental, and I know it will be leading to larger successes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spruce School of Real Estate - A great experience!

I live in West Virginia and I love this state!  It's not the most technology centric place on the planet which can make life difficult at times.  It's particularly challenging to me since I know how much of a benefit technology can be to saving time.  When I decided to get into Real Estate I looked around for schools I could attend to meet the licensing requirements for a WV real estate license.  Since I live in Yellow Spring this meant that if I was going to attend a class, in a physical classroom, I was going to be driving a long distance.  My broker Mike Cooper recommended I look into Spruce School of Real Estate and I couldn't be happier with the outcome.  Yes, here in WV, there are options to take your Real Estate licensing class online!  Spruce School of Real Estate offers an online class that meets all of the West Virginia Real Estate Commissions licensing requirements.  Even better, they actually teach you what you really need to know to pass the licensing exam.  This combined with the "go at your own pace" approach the online class offers, made it an ideal choice for me.  In short, I signed up for the class in late April of 2016, took the class online over May, June, and July, and then sat for the licensing exam on August 5th of 2016.   I passed the exam on the first try but I can honestly say that without using the Spruce School of Real Estate and following their instructions to prepare for the exam I likely would not have passed the first time.   If you're looking for a good online coarse to help you prepare for your WV real estate license exam while meeting your licensing requirements then look no further than Spruce.

Spruce School Blog (the online course instructor posts here often)
Another students experience  (I'm not the only positive experience, by far)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Do it yourself landlord resources

I'm just getting started as a real estate professional.  This past year I obtained my licenses to sell real estate in Virginia and West Virginia.  I have always had an interest in real estate as an investment. Before becoming licensed as a real estate agent I became a landlord managing my own property.  It has been a learning experience to say the least about the situation.  In the course of  this "learning experience" I located some very useful resources that I want to share.  If you have the need or interest to become a landlord and manage your own property you might find these resources very useful.

The most important thing to know about being a landlord and managing your own property is that you don't have to be completely alone in the "adventure".  There are many licensed real estate professionals that can help you be successful.  Before getting my real estate license I used Cornerstone Business Group, Inc. and Mike Cooper to list my property for rent.  On top of being a successful real estate investor and broker, Mike is also a property manager.  His expertise was helpful in making the decision to manage my own property.  Mike found and qualified a renter for my property and although Mike could have also helped by managing the property, I stepped up to do that part myself.  Although I highly recommend using a licensed real estate agent to list your rental property, you can also do that part yourself.  Just be prepared for scheduling and showing your property and become familiar with your rights and the rights of tenants under the law.  Here are some resources that can help you with listing and screening your tenants:
After you've located a tenant for your property you're going to need a good lease.  I believe this is likely the most important tool you have as a landlord.  A good lease answers questions for the tenant before they even ask and protects you as the landlord should you ever have to go to court.  There are some federal laws that govern the landlord tenant relationship and each state also has its own laws. Let me say this upfront, "I'm not an attorney.  My advice should not be construed as legal advice."  (my disclaimer)  You should seek the help of a competent attorney to draft your lease.  However, in my experience you'll likely need to be heavily involved with that process or even draft the original lease yourself before reviewing it with your attorney.  In coming up with the lease for my property I started with several boiler plate leases for the state of West Virginia.  Then using some advice from other property managers I crafted a lease that meets my needs.  Here's some resources you can use:
I hope this post has been useful for those of you considering becoming a landlord.  You can contact me if you have an questions or need help with your rental property.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Back in the area and starting a new career

I've been a professional software developer since 1985 and early in my career I decided to relocated to northern Illinois near Chicago.  The time I spent in the midwest made me realize how much I missed the east coast and northern Virginia.  Since I'm now a free lance software developer working from home. There's never been a better time to make a big change so decided I should move back "home" near family and old friends.

I have recently relocated to the eastern pan handle of West Virginia after spending twenty years in northern Illinois.  I grew up in Virginia and spent my high school years in Frederick County where I graduated from James Wood High School.  Moving back to the area and seeing how much it has changed has been eye opening.  I spent a year looking around Frederick County VA, Clarke County VA, Berkeley Count WV, and Hampshire County WV to find our forever home.  That experience has reacquainted me with the place I use to call home and I decided to start a second career in real estate to begin helping others to find their dream homes.  I'm now licensed to sell real estate in VA and WV.  If you're looking for your dream home let me help you discover it.

The Rampey rules for success!

Here's the summary of the Rampey rules for success! #1 - Show up everyday #2 - Pay attention #3 - Remember lots of stuff #4 - Get s...