The first few times a potential newbie asked for an informational interview, I was so shallow that the buttons on my shirt popped off from pride. Now it is a routine part of being a veteran who thrived through four recessions. I know less than the rookies think, and it cost more than they want to know to acquire the wisdom they seek.

They all want to know the secret to success and the faster the better. But every newbie is different and so every interview is different. Here’s a recent example from my interview with a young man just starting in the business.

Tactical Questions

The young man asked a lot of tactical questions. Two examples are “What are the risks of multifamily brokerage compared to office, industrial, or retail?” and “Which submarket is best to begin?” Tactical questions are important, but only after you’ve dealt with other issues.

What do you know and not know?

Like an A student in a high school class, the young man told me he understood some fundamentals like supply and demand matter and that buying low and selling high was important.

He didn’t know how to measure supply or demand and had no clue what was low or high. He couldn’t correctly predict a turn in the market, and he didn’t know how to help his clients get into or out of changing market. My young friend needs to absorb the observation of Michael Polanyi that “We only truly know a thing when we can apply it to get results.”

What do you assume?

The young man assumed that if he called thousands of owners, he would find some who would sell and that his energy would enable him to win enough assignments at saleable prices. He had not considered why a wealthy stranger would select him instead of a seasoned competitor who had 10 – 250 times the success that he brought.

His Mom probably told him he was special and that he could do anything. That’s great for confidence, but not very helpful. You need to think through your assumptions so you can make informed choices that will help you succeed.

Facing some harsh realities

My young friend will likely spend more than six months trying to dial 100-200 rich strangers, rental property owners, a day. He hopes to obtain a few listing appointments. Probably he will fail more than 90% of the time to obtain a listing at a realistic price. Maybe he will keep dialing. He didn’t seem to care that 95% of the other rookies would give up within 18 months.

He lacked an idea of how much time he would spend away from family to be among the few who, survive one economic cycle. Commercial brokerage has a long, hard start-up phase, but he only knew the success stories.

Great success is rare in any field. Many high school kids aspire to a career as professional players. The odds are against them. There are over a million high school football players. Only 6.5% get to play in NCAA college football. Far less than 1% will play in the NFL.

Will my young friend succeed?

Jesus told would-be followers they need to count the cost before they tried to follow him. He was eager to have earnest followers, but he always told people about the doubt, pain, abuse, misunderstanding, and discouragement that came with being a disciple.

My young friend claims to have more of the right attitude and relevant skills than most hopefuls who contact me. I like him and my sincere hope is that he makes a wise choice. Based on what he did and did not ask, what topics he thought important and what he seemed to ignore, my speculation about his success chances is dramatically different from his.


How do you advise naive people about extremely difficult pursuits?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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