In our previous blogs we have looked at the challenge of close-to-Zero economic growth and raised the following actions for consideration in your business, whether you are a one-person business or a more corporate entity:

Zero Part 1:

1. Complacency

2. Costs

3. Cash.


Zero Part 2:

1. Income

2. Facilities

3. Staff Morale.

These elements of business always bear relevance. Fact is, when things are going well and economic growth is flying, we all lose sight of them. That’s why I chose to discuss Complacency first – it is our fat-and-happy state where nothing can go wrong, … go wrong. Beware and avoid the hardship of missing the chance to streamline your business. Apart from Complacency, practically everything else works in combination rather than in any order. The same goes for this blog’s elements.


In Part 3 I would like to suggest some actions around three final issues: Hard Work, New Opportunities and Relationships.


1. Hard Work:

I must admit, I am old school. Many years ago in Nedfin Bank, our MD introduced the “next big thing” idea – Work Smarter Not Harder. We had post-its [they’re not that old, you know!], personal note pads, diaries and notice board posters. We all had to work smarter, not harder. It was a bit like losing weight; I tried and tried to work smarter but hard work just kept on coming back. I went home earlier to force smarter work and then came in early to catch up on yesterday. I thought smart, acted smart, threw out lots of questions and had lots of answers but, alas, smarter eluded me. Hard Work won most of the small successes and in between, a little Smart helped.

Identify with me? If not, count your lucky stars! I have seen young men in the sub-Prime days begin to hold onto their business. When it was quiet, they did other things, lived in different places, bought motorbikes to save fuel and basically hussled while they waited. No other smart idea could keep their businesses alive and survival brought out the best in them under the worst of situations. But survive they did. Hard work did that and if there was a modicum of Smart work, that just helped. I know I’m being simplistic and that many great Smart ideas have made people fabulously rich. But, my sense is why we know them so well is that there are so few of them. The rest have worked their guts out to get where they are today.  You make your call, never denigrating Smart if you can possibly think of it, but Hard will probably be the way through to better economic times.


By the way, two of the smartest things you will ever do is Delegate – well-explained tasks to people you know can do them [or be supervised to learn to do them] –  and, Develop a Succession Plan. The former we will take as understood, but the latter is like getting excited about doing your Last Will and Testament. But, who will run your business if you’re incapacitated? Do you have Income Protection insurance for long-term illnesses? What would happen if you never come back to work – who would keep the business going? What does your Will say about your shares and to whom do they devolve? Knowing that “it happens to the other guys”, many of us sadly leave these questions unanswered and cause much family strife and employee harm when something “happens to us”. Think about it and DO something about it.


2. Opportunities:

Mom always said, “Opportunity only knocks once.” I loved her dearly but, coming through the Second World War it must have felt like that for her generation. But we know that it is simply not true. Indeed, we live in an age of multiple opportunities – which to choose and expend our energy on, is our dilemma. We have opportunities coming out of our ears and need to remember a few [I’m sure you can think of more] basic guidelines to avoid mistakes:

  • Focus is the opposite of Diversion. A simple Resource Set will categorise an opportunity as one you can take and one you should leave. If you don’t have the resources, “stretch” may just prove too thin.
  • Good strategies comprise of what you decline and what you accept. Saying “No”, is also good strategy. Saying “Yes” to everything is bad strategy.
  • Stay within your core skills or be very careful. Origination was my core when I ventured there. RMD Meats was non-core and therefore a high risk for me. You can only justify the latter if you have demonstrated that you know how to run a business in spite of the product. Know when you are out of core and learn quickly about the product, and its industry.
  • Know adjacent businesses and pursue them if you seek more opportunity. Bond origination and Insurance are adjacent. In theory, so is Estate Agency but estate agents will tell you very different so listen to their advice.
  • Take your team with you. The old analogy of riding into the sunset whilst the posse breathes in your dust, is true. Don’t go it alone; you might end up there.


3. Relationships:

I wrote a blog called Relational Affinity so I don’t really want to repeat myself. However, most business depends on relationships. They mean the difference between transactional business – doing many deals with different people –  and, relational business – doing many deals with the same people [in a spirit of mutual respect and trust].

When Zero is your reality, the good news about relationships is that they become a higher barrier to entry. Think of it this way: It is really hard to break into origination when you have to develop new relationships rather than enjoying doing the business with long-standing relationships. On the other hand, holding onto long-standing relationships is even more important when Zero is your reality than in the “good times” when “everyone” is buying and selling.

Cherish your relationships is all I’m saying. Keep them strong, loyal and resilient as they are a very source of your success.

That’s All Folks! is the famous ending of Walt Disney cartoons. Some of you will say: Thank Goodness!

But “positive” is not just the opposite of “negative”.  It is also the advice that comes from experience; the advice we sometimes know but just need reminding of. Nothing is new in the last three blogs but, I can tell you, failure to heed some of these elements of business, have taught many businesses very harsh lessons. On the other hand, heeding some or all of them, has kept many a business alive and enabled it to prosper and even take emerging Opportunities, when times were less than favourable.

Homeloan Junction cannot promise you good news all the time. Personally, I find these blogs daunting when politicians and the like are stealing or talking rubbish to adherents, and we’re on the cusp [25th] of a Rating review. It is tough to be positive and I won’t be simply do it to sound like I am. But, sound advice, in the face of very low economic growth, is also positive and even, caring. We care about the businesses that associate with us and we care about the decade-and-longer relationships that we have nurtured over the years. Our success is linked to your success and that commercial umbilical cord means far more to us than you imagine. In that spirit of inter-dependency we write; hoping that something of value is imparted to you in your personal and business capacities.

Yours in Property.


The news of Pravin, made me think that it’s time to write about something different.

The other day, we walked past our neighbour who had just pulled into her driveway. She had a passenger [Sue, for sake of this blog] with her who climbed out the car and proceeded to greet us, “Hello, I know your Aunt Joan [for sake of this blog] who lived in Barberton.” We chatted, got friendly, proceeded to go out on the Friday night Art Walk – we do this on the first Friday of every month in Hermanus J – , enjoyed a super supper afterwards and then visited twice in the remaining long weekend. And now, we’re well acquainted and my wife stays in touch with Sue.

What happened? A casual encounter with a stranger turns into multiple visits and maybe a good friendship. Why would a stranger become such a quick, close acquaintance?

Sue happens to have a great personality so that could explain something. Joan happens to be a favourite Aunt of mine. My father spent a lot of time in Barberton in his youth so I’ve heard lots of stories and been there often. So could it be that a relationship triangle was forged and forged immediately. Given that it was weekend, we had the time to further the link and from that came a pleasant interaction and friendship.

Interesting that you could probably think of many similar examples in your own experience. So let’s have a look at the subject of this blog: Relational Affinity. Affinity simply means “a natural liking for someone or something”. Relational means “the way in which two or more people or things are connected”. So Relational Affinity means “a natural liking for someone with whom you are connected”. Sounds so simple that it begs a, “So what”!

But let’s dig a little deeper………

When last did you do a deal with someone and the deal just seemed to flow? Was this perhaps a combination of obvious things like Cash, Intent etc or, could it also have been that you liked the person and they liked you. Every day we meet with people but don’t actually sense Relational Affinity so what is different or, how do we bring it about? Here are some pointers:

BE YOURSELF: There is nothing more false than a false person. Glamour, chic, and accentuation, whatever – if it’s false, it’s recognised almost immediately. You have been born and, like the rest of us, you have become a product of Nature and Nurture. Nature, the DNA of your parents. Sorry for you, you gain weight like your Mom and have your Dad’s eyes. If not, you have your Aunt Agatha’s hair. You simply can’t ignore your genes in who you are. Nurture is different. It is the foundation of what you have been shown, taught and have experienced over the years. Even to the point, that the way you have thought about yourself has moulded you into what you are. Some would say you are the sum total of the all the thoughts you have had and all the choices you have made. So being “Yourself” is quite a complex thing to be. But without it, falsehood can creep into the way you relate. Think about it, reflect and then, almost on a daily basis, decide to be self-aware (and include the impact you have on others), as you step out into the day.

SEEK COMMONALITY: Did you know that finger prints are copied exactly but compared using spot checks? When finger prints are taken, your digit is pressed into ink and then pressed carefully onto paper from which a digital record is taken, a foto or a scan. However, when someone is trying to identify you, they don’t scan every crevasse and ridge of your finger print, but rather seek about 60 points from the fingerprint you have and the one they seek. The same happens in your brain when you recognise someone’s face. You do not memorise every feature and, in any case, features change over time so remembering all of them would be futile. All your memory does is remember key points (dots in the “fingerprint”) and then join the dots. That’s why you will say, “She looks like so and so”. Some of the dots align but it’s not the same person.

So what are the dots you can join for Relational Affinity to occur? Dots of age, profession, family, sports, friendships – all of these to find the affinity between you and another person which is common and which could spark a relationship to mutual benefit. We talk about the “common touch” when we refer to someone who relates well to people. For instance, Teddy Roosevelt, the US President during WW2, knew the names and family details of every 168 staffers in the White House. Indeed, like common sense, “common touch” may not be so common. But it can be acquired.

ASK QUESTIONS, THEN LISTEN: If you read the famous book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he writes about the power of questions. In all the types of Coaching, powerful questions come to the fore. The effort is not to know it all and tell the client your best advice, but rather to allow them to think through the issues under discussion. Open and closed questions, probing and clarifying questions and the great one, reflective questions, are all powerful means to unlock possibility thinking, problem-solving creativity and solution-orientated action in and for a client. Carnegie’s aspersion is that questions show interest and spark conversation. Ever sat and listened to someone tell you about themselves the whole night? Have you “done it” to someone? – I have, unfortunately! The antidote for self-absorption is questions. “How are you?”, “Where did you go to school?”, “What are you looking for in a house?” and FNB”s “How may we help you?” are all probing questions that can unlock the client’s meaning and needs and create Relational Affinity. Answered as “That’s a good idea”, “I like that as well”, “Oh, I also went to school in the Eastern Cape” are the kinds of responses that create Commonality.

Ah, then the power of LISTENING! Your Mom tell you that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you want to create Relational Affinity as opposed to a Sounding Board (which we all need at times), then listen. Not just with your ears but with your whole body and especially your head, your eyes, your torso, and your hands. Your head nods in affirmation, your eyes are the windows to your soul, your torso (read: “upper body”) moves forward when interested and sits back when you’re reflecting and, finally, your hands embrace, agree, and even reject. Together with your ears, the rest of your body language, as we like to call it, listens more than any attention you can ever pay. Make them all come together to mirror powerful Relational Affinity with your client.

INTERPERSONAL SKILL: How often do you reflect on your impact on other people? I’m selling a flat at the moment and I deal with a number of estate agents. Two come to mind. The one is a person I have known since 2002 and he is really a great guy – mannerly, knowledgeable, professional, and polite. I would love him to sell the unit. The other, I don’t know from a bar of soap. She works for a major group, she has the OTP but she’s direct, abrasive, officious and abrupt. She annoys me when I speak to her. She has never asked me one Relational Affinity question. Her conversation is about my flat and the OTP I have to sign. She’s in it for the money and from her own mouth “Will you sign this today. You know I’m relying on this sale this month.” What is my stance? – With an attitude like that, I’m hopeful the cash sale will go through quickly so that only the conveyancers need exchange communications as soon as possible. So, you say,”Who cares, she’s got the sale hasn’t she?”. “Sure”, is my answer, “But what happens when I want to invest again; would call her or the other guy?” And what about what we all know about, the cost of acquiring new business versus repeat business from existing clients? It’s really hard to be in the property business no matter what your discipline – selling, bonds, renting, maintenance – and always have to prospect new clients because your sales are transactional and not relational. And, finally, what would my lasting impression be of the major brand? Has she been an ambassador or a destroyer of value?

As sales people, our interpersonal skills are vital to our long-term success. Many of you reading this blog have built relationships over decades and they are flippin’ hard to break if I’m a new entrant. Think of this, the value of your personal brand, You Inc, is probably the sum total of your revenue generating capacity over the next 5 years. That’s right! – it’s measurable; all you need to decide on is what period you can still be economically active. And more importantly, you leave a mark on people. Your integrity, your smile, touch and gestures all add to your value of personal goodwill – not as a bank account, but as a person. I meet old Nedbankers in the Hermanus market that have added value to my life over many years and when I see them, I recognise that immediately. Another example, I’ve just had a dear friend stay with us for a break, and he reminded me of all the good times we have spent together in the trenches of Sales. That’s Relational Affinity of a very high order.

Reflect upon your impact on others. Practice your inter-personal skills.

There is so much more to say and I know the bookshelves are full of appropriate self-help books on similar topics. But think about it, recognise the way you build relationships that last and grow.

In closing, Relational Affinity means “a natural liking for someone with whom you are connected”. Just to say this, Homeloan Junctionappreciates you and holds your business close to its heart. That’s why we keep coming back with a smile and a desire to make your property experiences enjoyable.


Yours in Property