The Southwest of Real Estate

The Southwest of Real Estate – April 2016

We recently took the boyz on a vacation to Disney over spring break.  If you have never been to Disney, I highly recommend taking at least one trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

It really is for kids of ALL ages (adults included), as they have different aspects within each park that cater to everyone.  Yes, it is based around all the Disney characters, but they do an incredible job of having interactive activities for kids of all ages (even adults).

Maybe this is why it is packed every day.  Disney is a destination vacation.  You go to Disney for Disney.  They make it such the experience that you do not have to do anything else while you’re on your vacation.  You can go to the park at 8 or 9 in the morning and not leave until that evening.

We had a great time this year, as the boyz are pretty much at an ideal age for enjoying the experiences, the rides, and the atmosphere.  And unlike last year, Alex was able to walk and keep up most of the time.

The kids’ favorite part of the parks was the interactive experience at Magic Kingdom, where there are different “portals” spread throughout the different sections of Magic Kingdom.  You get these playing cards to take to each portal, where the screen illuminates and you are given a mission and a villain to defeat in that section of the park.  You go from portal to portal and are given assignments, and then you can battle with the villain using the playing cards that let you “Cast a Spell” on the villain.  Each card has a different strength.  Some are good for casting spells, other are stronger in defense.

It’s a fun and interactive game that we played last year as well. The boyz enjoyed the game, but what I think they enjoyed the most was trying to find the “secret” portals with their special map.

For me, my favorite part of Disney is Animal Kingdom and the Safari Tour.  It is truly like you are on a tour in Africa.  They have elephants, giraffes, hippos, lions, zebras, cheetahs, and pretty much any animal you’d find on an actual African Safari tour.  These beautiful animals are even more impressive up close and in person than they are on TV or on in the movies.

I highly recommend a trip to Disney at least once.  You’ve got to experience what it is all about.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, what impresses me is how much of a well-oiled machine Disney really is, even taking into account how much activity is constantly going on at any given moment.  One of the employees told me that she’d been working there for a semester as a college program.  But even though this employee was just there for a semester, she was able to answer any question I had about the park, the location of a ride, or how something worked.

Another gentleman, one of the hundreds of photographers throughout the park who will take your picture and then scan your card or wristband to link it to your account, was talking to us about how it was his last day working there.  He had been down in Florida for the winter, but was going home to Baltimore the next day.  He said he comes down each winter to work.

That got me to thinking.  Most of these employees working at the park are probably seasonal or part-time employees.  Yet they know the park like the back of their hand.  They know the rides, the attractions, anything you need to know.  If you ask them a question, they have the answer.

How does Disney do it?  They have all of these employees, probably thousands in each section of the park working every day, and they all know absolutely everything!

It has to be the training and the culture.

Talking further to the employee who was there for a semester working as part of the college program, I asked her what kind of training she’d had.  How long?  She said they have a 3- to 4-day training/education program about how to act and how to respond to questions (basically, the culture of Disney), but she also mentioned that they have to know the park and where everything is located.  After that, you are sent out to work the park

So Disney screens people well and has an intense training program.  This got me thinking about my business and how I could adapt what Disney does with their screening and training program to ensure that the quality and service is consistent throughout.  As my company grows, I will be adapting what I observed and learned from Disney into my own growth.

From Disney to Southwest…

Knowing that Disney is in the entertainment business but is also all-encompassing, with TV, movies, apparel, licensing, etc, it’s clear that Disney makes money in many, many different ways.  And they do it VERY well, as it is extremely tough to be so great at so many different things.  This is typically the downfall of companies—they try to do a little bit of everything, but end up doing nothing great, just mediocre.  They get away from the core competence, what built the company, as they try to expand. Then, the core of their business ultimately suffers.

So when I was researching options for travel to Disney, Southwest was hands-down the best option for our flight.

I don’t need to give you the story of Southwest.  I’m sure you know how this airline grew when others failed.  How they focused on the customer, becoming a “no frills” airline and one that will get you where you need to go ON TIME.  You book with Southwest, and you know that you will be taken care of on your flight.

A few years ago, when airlines were losing money by the truckload, they decided that since they had a flawed balance sheet, they would start charging the travelers for each bag.  They would nickel-and-dime the clients, thinking this would help their bottom line.  But it didn’t, because their business model was flawed.

In the airport and again on the plane—even on the napkin that we get with our drink—I saw this term:

TransFAREncy.

“Hmmmm.  Interesting,” I think to myself.  Southwest made up a term to show why they are different.  They even made their own definition of that term.

TransFAREncy is defined as the “philosophy created by Southwest Airlines® in which customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low—no unexpected bag fees, change fee, or hidden fees.  Created and practiced exclusively by Southwest Airlines.”

Good for you, Southwest.  Call out those other airlines that nickel-and-dime their passengers.  It’s in Southwest’s moral fiber to put their consumers first.  When flying, what is the #1 goal?  To get to your destination on time.  Southwest does that better than everyone.  The second goal is not to be gouged and nickel-and-dimed for everything.

When flying, there is the Southwest culture, and then there is everyone else.

You know that if you are flying with someone other than Southwest, you’re gonna have to pay $40 for your bag, and then you may or may not have to pay for your drinks.  And you might get there on time.  This is just how it is.

Then there is the Southwest way.

This leads me back to the term “TransFAREncy” and how I see this practice being abused every day in real estate.  Hidden fees. Bait n’ Switch advertising.  Companies and agents nickel-and-diming their clients.  Because, like those big airlines, they have massive overhead and a flawed business structure that just doesn’t allow them to remain profitable on their core revenue generator and commissions alone, so they have to charge the client at every turn.

Southwest charges airfare.  Nothing else.

Maryland Real Estate Group charges commission.  Nothing else.

Other companies have what is called “administration” or “transactional fees” that range from $195 to $495 per sale.  They also might have “marketing fees,” where they make the consumer pay for ancillary services like professional photos and staging.  That’s not to mention that if an agent does anything outside of their specific job description to help their clients, there will be another charge.

There is nothing that gets under my skin in real estate more than THIS: companies and agents that gouge the consumer, and then try to hide behind the “everyone does it, so it must be right” defense.

Well, Southwest doesn’t charge for bags, they don’t have “ticket change” fees, and they don’t nickel-and-dime the customer.  And last I looked, they were turning a profit while other “larger” airlines were receiving government bailouts and going out of business.

So, which really works?

The BIG companies that nickel-and-dime the consumers at every turn?  $10 here, $50 there.  “Oh, you had a family emergency and need to change your flight?  That’ll be another $75.”

Or the Southwest TransFAREncy way?  Charging one fee, where a premium is put on customer satisfaction and doing WHAT’S RIGHT.  “You have an emergency and need to change your flight?  Don’t worry, you have enough stress. If we have available seats on another flight, we’ll change your ticket.”

Maybe, like Southwest, Maryland Real Estate Group should make up a term, because we don’t nickel-and-dime.  We don’t have hidden fees.  There will be no last-minute surprises.  With the other companies…make sure you read the fine print.

Maybe something like: “OneFEEable,” a philosophy by Maryland Real Estate Group in which the client is treated honestly and fairly and will never be charged any administration or transaction fee.  Will never be nickel-and-dimed during their transaction.  Will know the total commissions and fees from start to finish.

Whatcha think?  Am I onto something here?

If you want a real estate company that operates like Southwest, look at MREG.  If you want to be treated like the other airlines treat passengers, look elsewhere.