How to be the Pilot in Command in your Real Estate Business


How to be the Pilot in Command in your Real Estate business

how to run your business like an airline captain

What do realtors (real estate agents) and airline pilots have in common…?

A lot more than you’d think!

In this article I’m going to ask you to consider applying some of the methodologies and strategies airline pilots use to achieve successful outcomes (their only objective is a safe landing) inside your real estate business.

A pilot’s safe landing is a realtor’s successful sale

There are many steps that need to take place before the safe landing occurs. Just like there are many steps to achieving a successful sale.

For example, you – the realtor – has to achieve a confirmed, exclusive contract to list and sell.

Let’s work smarter rather than harder

What’s the big deal about working the longest hours in your office…?

I get a bit hot under the collar when I hear other real estate agent coaches telling their clients they’ve gotta work harder … they’ve:

  • gotta be the last one in the office at night …
  • gotta work the longest hours …
  • gotta be the first one in the office in the morning …
  • gotta hustle, hustle, hustle…!

What’s the point…?


Think about it.

Doesn’t it make more sense to work smarter rather than harder?

Doesn’t it make more sense to be more effective with your time rather than work harder?

Airline pilots and realtors both have limited resources

As soon as the pilot in command (usually the captain) issues the command to take off, the clock has started ticking. For pilots the crucial element measured is fuel in their tanks.

Pilots have many sayings – here are a few:

You can never have too much air below you or too much fuel in the tanks

The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire!

Never let an airplane take you somewhere your brain didn’t get to five minutes earlier

The limited resource you have in your realtor business is time (the same as everyone else).

When you squanders time and/or uses it ineffectively, you compromise the following in your business:

  • making a great first impression (because you forgot something)
  • ensuring all eyes are dotted and tees are crossed
  • making the most of every opportunity (because you’re always in catch-up mode)
  • compromised focus (worrying about something you’ve forgotten or a ball that’s about to come crashing down)

It’s never too late to start getting smart(er) in your real estate business

Working smarter makes things a lot (a lot!) easier

Weekly (almost) I’m gobsmacked when another agent tells me they don’t have systems, procedures and/or checklists in their business.

  • And then they wonder why they’re burnt out…
  • Disgruntled…
  • Working crazy hours…
  • Why their PAs don’t hang around for long…
  • Get sick every time they take a holiday…

… they hope no one realises that inside they think of themselves as a fraud – what if someone found out they lay awake at night worrying about everything that could go wrong because they’re struggling…

… they hope they get it together before all the balls they’ve got in the air come crashing down…

What a horrible, stressful way to live and work!

The simple way to work smarter

And no, I’m not talking about getting the latest app or gadget or toy or…???

All I’m talking about is checklists!

Airline Pilots use checklists

There’s a reason airline pilots use checklists. Because it saves them stuffing up in the biggest way possible and because they work!

And yes – you’re right – there’s nothing sexy about checklists!

I know quite a few airline pilots. Those who have great instructors from the very beginning drum into them the importance of checklists.

This even includes saying things in a certain order… (An airline pilot mantra is aviate, navigate, communicate)

After they’ve got their private pilots license and are studying and training for their commercial pilots license (and all the other “ratings” they need to be considered for an airline) they’re anal about checklists.

Airline pilots use checklists every time they fly. They have them for every different aspect of a flight:

  • route planning and pre-flight – they check that
    • the weather at their destination is suitable for their arrival,
      • if there’s any possibility of it changing then they have an alternate airfield that’s capable of taking their aircraft and they have enough fuel on board to reach that airfield;
      • they have a Plan B up their sleeve
    • they physically check the aircraft – inside, outside and underneath
  • engine start up
    • before they fire up the first engine they’ve done an exterior and interior pre-flight.
    • all their equipment works and reads as it should read: fuel and oil, tyres, hatches, oxygen, electrical systems, lights, etc, etc, etc.
  • pre take off
    • once the engines are fired up they check that all gauges are reading as they should be and everything is working correctly;
      • they also run through (out loud) what their Plan B is going to be in the event of an engine failure on takeoff.
  • as they take off – they’re checking everything in the cockpit and outside is as it should be as they climb through various altitudes
  • at the top of the climb – that
    • all equipment is working as it should be
    • they’ve made contact with all the personnel who need to know where they are
    • what’s happening
    • they’re also checking to see if anything has changed at their final destination – visibility, wind, NOTAMs (notices to airmen)
    • they’re making sure that everything is ready for their descent and landing
  • starting the descent
    • again they re-check all equipment and gauges
    • they keep in touch with their passengers – advising them of arrival, weather, etc at their destination
  • approaching an airfield in order to land
    • they recheck everything that should work is working – eg, under-carriage is down and locked
    • seat belt signs are on
    • that cabin crew have received the cue to check that all seat trays are folded back to their original positions, seat backs are upright and window shades are open
    • receiving advice from the tower as to which runway exit to use and reconfirmation of this
  • engine shutdown
    • that everything is done in the correct order
    • and that end-of-day final shutdown checks have been made and logged

Even though each pilot doesn’t “need” the checklist (because they know what they’re doing) they still use them anyway because it ensures:

  • nothing gets forgotten
  • everything that needs to be done gets done
  • breakages and failures can be managed without interruption to normal service because they have a Plan B ready to run

Interrupted? Start again from the top

One Air New Zealand captain told me that sometimes he and his first officer could end up going through one checklist multiple times. This is because they’d get interrupted by the tower (Air Traffic Control).

Whenever he got interrupted (which was often) he would always ensure he and his first officer started again at the top with their checklists. It wasn’t something he had to do. After all, there were always two pilots in the cockpit so surely one would notice if something was awry, right?

But he always started again. Regardless of whether it was necessary.

He wanted to know that in the event of something going wrong he could work through the important process of flying the aircraft. He wanted to know the space in his head wasn’t filled up with unnecessary self-doubt and questions like “did I remember to do that…?”

He always wanted to know that he always set himself up for success ahead of time and that there would be no (head-space) distractions when he needed to focus most.

Top real estate performers have systems, procedures and checklists in their businesses

What would it take to regard yourself as being the pilot in command when it comes to managing your vendors’ properties?

You are their captain. They are relying on you for your expertise to bring about a fantastic end-result for them.

You owe it to them to be effective, cool, calm, collected and professional.

When you can go to sleep at night knowing you have everything under control, not only will you sleep better but (as if by magic) you’ll have a much more profitable business.

Simulators & Check Flights

Airline pilots are required to have regular competency check flights. Depending on which airline they work for, these take place every couple of months, quarterly or six-monthly.

Most of these take at least a full day, sometimes two full days.

Airline pilots have to pass these competency check flights 100% otherwise they’re out of a job!

All airline pilots regard these competency check flights as the real deal because they have to pass with full marks (in certain aspects) otherwise they’re grounded.

Failing a check flight is not something any pilot wants to experience. Most airlines frown when a pilot fails a check flight and usually only allows one second attempt to pass. After that, the pilot is given the opportunity to seek another career.

Role Plays & Training

A parallel in real estate is to always be training and doing role plays.

{Yes! I know role playing sucks! But if airline pilots have to do it to keep their jobs and stay at the top of their game, why won’t you?}

When was the last time you committed any serious time to role-playing and mastering your craft?

Many pilot check flights include worst-case scenarios:

  • engine failures on takeoff,
  • fires in two (or more) engines,
  • full electrical failure,
  • an incapacitated co-pilot

They practise these scenarios over and over again until they get them right so that when “it” happens they know what to do.

How sharp are your worst-case scenario skills?

Lots of moving parts

there are lots of moving parts in a real estate business - like flying an aircraft

Running a real estate business is similar to flying an aircraft: there are lots of moving parts!

When you think about all the different parts of your business you’ll appreciate just how many moving parts you manage on a day to day basis.

Creating checklists for each major function will make your professional (and hence personal) life much easier.

It will mean you’re able to use your time more effectively which in turn means you’ll achieve more.

Real Estate Checklists

Here are some examples of the different types of checklists you can start creating for your real estate business.

  • Pre-Appraisal / Pre- Listing Presentation
  • The Listing Presentation
  • The Listing (ie, the listing agreement has been signed – you’ve got the listing)
    • inhouse documentation
    • marketing
    • advertising
    • photography / videography / drone photography
    • open home dates
    • staging
    • online documentation
  • The Auction
  • The Open Home
    • keys / codes
    • signs
    • marketing material
    • visitor register / log book
    • ‘favours’
    • flags / banners
    • expected visitor list
    • follow up action
  • Contract Extension
  • The Sale
  • Keeping in touch 
  • Door Knocking
  • “Magic” Marketing

Role Playing

How often do you plan your “competency check flights”?

What’s your Achilles Heel?

Which questions do you most dread being asked?

Which part of your business do you get tripped up on?

  • Will you discount your fee?
  • Will you throw in the advertising?
  • Why do we have to pay for advertising?
  • Why is your fee so high?
  • Door knocking?
  • Cold calling?
  • Open Home follow up?
  • Negotiating higher prices?
  • Believing in yourself

Schedule some time with your sales manager (that’s what s/he is there for) and ask for some role playing time and coaching.

Master something new each week or month.

Action Steps

#1 – what keeps you awake the most at nights…?

Think about your business – which part of it causes you the most stress? Is there one part you absolutely dread because you always seem to muck it up?

Spent time detailing all the different components that make up that one “bit” of your business.

List them in an order that makes the most sense to work through.

Realise you won’t get it perfect the first time. All checklists are organic documents. Legislation and other things necessitate new steps or fewer steps.

Put the file label at the bottom of each checklist so you know where to find it when you need to update it.

Create a file of “masters” so you can always easily find them to copy and/or print more of.

#2 – what is your Achilles Heel…?

What is your weakest link? As above – which part of your business do you most dread?

Book regular time with your sales manager to master this weakness so you can continue to move from strength to strength.

Are you ready to become the Pilot in Command in your real estate business?

Building checklists and role playing are some of the things I help my clients with every week.

Sometimes I help them get their head screwed on right

When a listing presentation doesn’t go quite as planned and they start to question and doubt themselves, I help them get back onto the horse fast.

Competency Check Flights

We role play and go through different scripts.  It’s easy and doesn’t feel like role playing. In fact, they don’t even realise we’ve role-played most of the time!

If you’re ready to be the Pilot in Command in your real estate business then please reach out and let’s have a chat. All my details are on the Contact Page. Our chat will be in the absolute strictest confidence!

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