As most of you already know, I was recently nominated for an award for innovation. I mention this, not to toot my own horn or to get a bunch of emails congratulating me. I mention it because it got me thinking about innovation, my contribution in that category, what it means for our industry, and what it means for our company.
The word innovate literally means to “introduce as new” and , as with most words, it’s origins are traced back to a Latin word – innovare. Innovare in Latin means to renew, restore, and to change. I personally love this definition, because innovation, in it’s present form, really is about taking current processes, procedures, and ideas, and renewing them through change.
Innovation has always been present, without it the world wouldn’t advance; however, in the mid-to-late 90’s it became ‘sexy’. Since then the word has been used mostly to define advances and enhancements in the technology sector. The way in which, and the speed at which, technology was changing was beyond belief. Companies began to hire CIO’s (Chief Innovation Officers) whose sole job was to continue pushing the envelope with new ideas and new iterations of current ideas. The concept was, and still is, exciting, revolutionary, and futuristic. It’s the idea that by the time something is even implemented, it’s already outdated and can be improved upon. Which really means that at its core, innovation is a concept that needs to sit out there in front of you, something that is always chased but never obtained. On the surface it seems simple, but as with most concepts it’s quite layered and quite complex.
After running a dozen different businesses over the past couple decades, I’ve found that innovation is integral to any company’s success; however, I don’t agree with the notion that one person should be solely responsible for it. The problem with the CIO model is that one person can’t always be the wave of the future, coming up with all the revolutionary new ideas and applications for an industry. Innovation isn’t one person’s job, we all have innovative thoughts and contributions to offer. Most ideas and improvements are derived from a combination of imagination and experience, and if you limit the experience part of that equation to one person you’re eliminating a lot of possibilities. The idea that we are all equally capable, that our innovations are sourced from everyone, and that we are all equally responsible for being part of the creative process, makes our company a more exciting place to be.
JohnHart is designed to encourage and promote innovative thinking in all of us. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about in innovation in terms of customer care. People are drawn to humanity, more so than technology, and focusing on interpersonal relationships is something that not enough agents are doing currently. The concept is simple, but the effects are business-changing: Meet your client where they are. People in this industry are constantly trying to draw their clients’ attention to what THEY’RE doing, or what they’re promoting vs. meeting their clients where they are. The model, for some reason, has become about disturbing peoples’ lives to capture business, instead of adding value and being awarded business.
Talk to your clients about things that interest them. Talk about them, their family, their kids, their pets. Ask questions that show that you are interested and care about them, beyond simply what they can offer you and your business. Here’s an example: I might contact 50 connections today. Maybe more. Perhaps a few, if any, will get back to me. But if I know that your daughter loves “The Cat in the Hat” and I went and bought her a Dr. Seuss book and tucked in a note saying, “I remembered you mentioned Jenny loves The Cat in the Hat. I saw this other Dr. Seuss book and thought she might enjoy it,” wouldn’t it prompt the recipient to pick up the phone and call you? Even if only to say thank you for the thoughtful gift, they’re going to call. This is an example of the human innovation I’m talking about! It’s attention to detail. It’s knowing your client. It’s sending dog treats to Fluffy, or offering a gift certificate to a client that you know loves a spa experience if she writes you a review or refers a friend. It’s engaging with your clients even when they have nothing to offer you right now, because staying interested in them means a lot. It means that you’re in it for the long haul.
When I shifted my perspective from thinking about innovation as a tech only concept to something that can also be applied to human interactions, a world of possibilities opened up. Renewing, restoring, and changing solutions, to meet new requirements and address the unarticulated needs of your clients should be priority of yours. Real estate has forEVER been done a certain way. Effective for a few, but ineffective, monotonous, lonely, and overwhelming for most. JohnHart was created to accommodate more than just a few agents and clients. We wanted to build comradery amongst agents and foster meaningful relationships between agents and clients. In short we wanted to provide a unique and premium experience. We don’t just talk about a 10-Star experience, we want our clients and agents to actually live it and feel it. How were we able to do that? By creating a company full of CIOs, including you, who are obsessed. Obsessed with care. Obsessed with value. Obsessed with success. Obsessed with improvement. Obsessed with excellence. Obsessed with the experience, and obsessed with innovation.
Whether or not I win an award for innovation, this is who I am and who we all are. We’re here for the clients, not for the praise. That being said I truly, and honestly, could not have done it without you. I couldn’t do it without your trust, without what you deliver every day, and without your care and attention to detail. I have high hopes and big dreams for JohnHart, and for all of you, and I share this title of ‘innovator’ with all of you too. Thank you for believing in JohnHart and making it the success it is today. Thank you all for being innovators, and always sharing your ideas and feedback. Keep thinking ahead. Keep shattering the ceiling on the traditional ideas of what this business and this industry have to offer. Keep your goals in front of you and keep pushing to be better everyday. Thank you for giving me some of your time today,and promise me one thing: Start thinking about how you can innovate when it comes to your interpersonal relationships, because that is the next frontier! I hope this blog spoke to you, and if it did, show me by redoubling your efforts and sharing your successes with your peers.
We are all in this together!