Over the past few months of being a lot more active in writing, I have found unexpected joy in reconnecting with old friends who have reached out to me and made a few new ones who stopped by and gave me an encouraging word or two on how they enjoyed reading my musings about life and property.
You know who you are and thank you very much for the kind words and for reading my blog.
A few kind investment bloggers have also graciously helped me to share my writings with their readers and i would like to say a very big thank you to Derek of TheFinance.sg, Andrew of Propwise.sg, Gerald of SGWealthBuilder.com, Kyle and Ryan of 99.co and Royston Tan of SGInvestbloggers.com and NewAcademyOfFinance.com!
To me, this blog is my attempt at sculpting something that I will be proud of and look back upon someday - kind of like my version of an art piece as I can't draw or paint to save my life.
Hence, I have spent a lot of time editing it, choosing the right images and improving on it from time to time late into the nights.
And I'm pretty glad that since I bought my domain name (Which I resisted for years as it seemed narcissistic but which I eventually overcame) in March 2019, traffic has grown from zero to presently 4,000 visitors a month and growing.
Perhaps someday, i will get paid for ads on my site while lounging and replying to readers' comments while travelling the world! How nice...... the thought. Nothing's impossible.
One of the common questions i have been asked is what exactly i do nowadays?
Am I still brokering deals as a real estate agent or am I purely into training and management now?
Well, the answer is both.
These days, I focus a lot more of my day on management, training and mentoring roles.
Although I still enjoy the occasional brokering of deals, I derive a lot more satisfaction from making the people around me perform and become better (Or what I term as giving them good pressure! = ))
Fortunately, I have capable and reliable right hand women and men who help me with the execution of deals when i consult for clients that I take on.
Truly, thank God for them as I won't be able to juggle as many balls in the air without their help.
So for the record. Yes, I am still able to help you with your housing and investment needs.
This week, instead of investment, I thought I would talk a little bit about life - in particular career fulfilment in what we do. (This was partly due to your kind message Reuben! Just so you know!)
Hence, I'll share my thoughts on why I took on leadership and team building since 2010; instead of a much quicker way to riches by focusing on sales.
In a blink of an eye, it was 10 years ago that I decided to focus on training and mentoring.
I am, by my definition, not a natural leader but a learned one.
How did that decision to embark on management come about and why am I doing what I do today?
Whether you are in real estate sales or not, I hope that this article helps you find a new perspective if you are at a crossroads in your life about taking on a leadership role.
How it all started
In 2006, I was 23 when I walked into a real estate recruitment seminar with my BMT friend, Daovong. (I joined this industry due to family debts that I had to settle but I will leave the story for another day.)
Prior to that, it was never my desire or interest to embark on a sales career.
I was a very shy boy whom even into secondary school, was unable to speak well.
I would stammer, avoid eye contact and freeze up whenever I spoke to girls and especially those whom I liked. My close friends and family will tell you this.
In fact, my salesmanship was so bad during my poly years that while selling HP computers at an IT show, I sold a grand total of 1 computer over three days. And the client who bought from me was none other than my dad. (Thank you dad!)
Notably and for comparison sake, Jason Ang, my close buddy since secondary school days and one of the top agents in our industry now, was also there and managed to sell 7-8 computers.
That was how bad I was in sales.
Anyway, after the recruitment seminar, I joined the agency and got randomly assigned a manager, a good guy with a good heart named Derek Tan.
In my initial 6 months, I struggled with my lack of understanding of people, negotiations and everything related to sales; but fortunately overcame my lack of talent by devouring all the self-enrichment content I could find.
I read and re-read sales and real estate related books multiple times, listened to Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins talks on MP3 on repeat all day long, and took a lot of notes while taking long bus and train rides to viewings.
6 months later, I had my breakthrough, found a system that worked consistently and for the next 4 years up till 2010, became a consistent top agent in my agency.
It was good money and I began investing in real estate and flipping properties in 2009.
In mid 2009, a few of my close friends and sister saw that I was doing well and joined me in real estate. I taught them what little I knew then and they began performing really well in their sales.
Among the first few who joined me in 2009 were Daovong (Yes, he only joined 3 years later), who made more than $700K in his first year, my sister Melissa, who did around $300K and a few of my close friends who made varying degrees of $100-200K in their first year.
I was making a decent average of $30+K per month too, which by a 27 year old and 2010 standards were pretty good. But then I started to lose interest in the chase for money.
It was the same every month end.
Reset to zero, work as hard as i could for the commission, celebrate and back to the hustle again. There was no greater impact that I hoped that I could bring to the world.
In late 2009, I left for a 2 months backpacking trip, going from South to North Vietnam to Phuket, and then down south to different parts of Australia.
It was, for me, an important time that I took to reflect on what I wanted for the next lap of my life.
When I returned in 2010, i decided that I really enjoyed mentoring over sales and would put my heart and soul into teaching whoever was committed and willing.
It was then that I started to hold weekly Monday Group Sessions to train my team in my method and all the aspects that had worked for me.
To hold higher quality trainings, I started reading widely on world affairs, finance, investments and immersed myself in topics from business, design, web building, SEO, psychology, marketing and leadership on top of real estate stuff as I was afraid that my lack of knowledge would impede my team from reaching their fullest potential.
Thankfully, the team grew fast and by year end, I was mentoring 70 agents, many of whom outshone me in their results and gratefully are still with me today.
What exactly did sales not fulfil in my soul that management and team building did?
In sales, all I had to do was to execute deals and find the right buyer or seller for a client. In doing so, I fulfilled a need and earned my keep.
Sometimes, when fate allows, I meet a client whom I get along better and become friends with.
But for me at least, these interactions seldom go deeper than the occasional drink or meal together and a light-hearted catch up. Conversations that were at most, superficial.
I did not feel that I could sufficiently impact their lives in a greater way, other than financially helping them achieve their goals.
What I realised though through mentoring agents, was that I derived a lot more satisfaction from listening to people's challenges and helping them overcome it.
It is very interesting to me how many people, who despite their deep experience, achievements or how strong they looked on the outside, had unjustified insecurities and fears that held them back in many areas of their lives.
We would have long conversations and I would use a certain line of questioning to help them unearth deep-rooted mental baggage that they were carrying.
Other times, I might mentor them on the steps to take, correcting their mindsets and blind spots which perhaps no one has ever pointed out to them, or by encouraging them that they are worthy and good enough.
Overall, the conversations I get to engage in with my agents go a lot deeper and were much more meaningful than the sales conversations which I made more money from but came out less fulfilled.
It is not that I do not value money; the importance of which is obvious.
As a renown jewish rabbi, Daniel Lapin quoted in his talk:
"Money isn't a bad thing. It is a certificate of performance that we get, whenever we perform an act of service for another person. So if you want more of it, serve more people."
The thing is, I discovered that I preferred serving people in a manner that was more meaningful to me - and that is through mentoring and helping a person become better whether in his life or career.
Hence, that is also the reason why, when I get into client consultations, I tend to enjoy finding out about their motivations and their plans and always desire to add more value to every encounter so that it doesn't become just another superficial relationship.
Since then has it been a bed of roses?
I would love to say that it is but the truth is that it isn't.
With mentoring and coaching of people, whether real estate agents or not, there are many frustrations and heartaches.
As leaders, we want the best for them and see the best in them. But for some, their toughest obstacle is in overcoming their internal beliefs about who they are and who they can or cannot be.
Changing is for their good, and they may agree that it is.
But deeply ingrained beliefs and thought habits are hard to change and require skillful and empathetic questioning, reasoning and encouragement to break out of eventually.
Coaching is a Marathon
All these takes varying lengths of time depending on individuals' willingness to change; from as quickly as a few hours to as long as years. And fairly so, as some of them have been living with their beliefs, whether consciously or unconsciously, since young.
It does not matter that what they believe in isn't true, as they have been living within that thought and it keeps them within a comfort zone of having to make little or no change in their life which then keeps them feeling safe - a basic need of humanity.
To summarise and keep this article within reasonable length, these are my parting thoughts:
The mantle of leadership in any organization lies in one being willing to embark on a marathon to help those around him become better than they are and to shine brighter than they ever could have imagined on their own.
And that has been one of the greatest hurdles and achievements for me thus far in my team building journey, not just in mentoring people in the ropes to earn their keep but to empower them to become the best possible version of themselves through this career and hopefully also in other areas of their lives.
Before you decide whether to take on a similar role, perhaps it will be wise to take time out to reflect on where you derive the greatest satisfaction from.
If it’s with making a deeper impact and developing people, then leadership and team building could well be your calling too.
Stuart Chng, Executive Group District Director at Huttons, is a renowned leader and personality in the real estate industry.
He adores music and can play a few instruments decently without upsetting his neighbours. When not doing so, he enjoys pillow fighting with his son and coming up with silly puns which barely amuses his wife.
Professionally, he is a licensed real estate agent, investor, team leader, speaker and columnist for several property newsletters and blogs and is often quoted in media interviews on 938FM, Channel 8, PropertyReport, PropertyGuru and other publications. Throughout his career, he has helped many clients grow their wealth through selecting great property investments and managing their portfolios actively. Read his clients' reviews here.