Trains, Planes & Automobiles: How Should A Broker Travel?
J.D. Parker May 21, 2013, 6 a.m.
As the old adage goes, time is money.
When I first started in the investment sales brokerage business, my mentor told me I needed to get a car so that I could get to meetings faster and stay above ground to make phone calls.
I wasn’t sure I should buy a car, as I had only a few thousand dollars and student loan debt up to my eyeballs, but who was I to question my mentor? I had just moved to New York City, I was living on a friend’s couch, and my knowledge of the real estate world was limited. With the small loan I had secured from my grandmother to float me for my first year in the business, I bought a silver 1995 Nissan Altima for $3,500. It had three hubcaps, and the air-conditioning stopped working after the first week. It was May 2004 and the heat was just arriving for what was to be my first sticky summer in NYC. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I now had wheels and I was in the game.
I figured out the subway system pretty quickly, and I noticed a lot of fellow sales agents back then took the train to their meetings. The subway was fast, but with most of my meetings at that time being in Brooklyn, I quickly realized that it was designed to move people from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back, not to move people around the various neighborhoods within Brooklyn. Even more importantly, I quickly came to the conclusion that the subway was not the optimum mode of transportation to and from meetings because when I did take it, I would spend 30 to 45 minutes completely offline, without my email and phone.
Although the car was more expensive to maintain and park, I calculated the additional time on a monthly and quarterly basis I would have to conduct more business, and it was a no-brainer: the car is the only way to travel for most client meetings in the five boroughs.
My car became my mobile office. I started having ideas about putting a computer, a printer and a fax machine in my front seat so I could do business faster. Although I never got that far, as I transitioned a few years later into my management career, I have seen several variations of the mobile office that exist, and I highly encourage all my agents to have some form of car and mobile office.
Now that I am based in Midtown and the majority of my meetings are within 20 blocks of my office, the game has changed. My preferred mode of transportation these days: my legs. If I’m able, I’ll walk to meetings. I prefer the exercise and I always see something funny in the streets to put me in a good mood. I love walking the streets in NYC. If I’m in a rush, like most people I try to grab a cab. However, if you’re in the dreaded hours of 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., when most of the cab drivers change shifts, good luck trying to hail one—nothing is more frustrating.
That’s when I usually default to taking the bus. I hadn’t taken a bus in my first seven years of living in New York; I’m not sure why, it just seemed like something of an inconvenience. Once I discovered the buses that run north and south on Fifth and Madison Avenues, I was sold. I actually prefer them to the subway, because I can make calls and check email. Recently services such as Uber and Halo Taxi have revolutionized the way I go on my meetings. No longer do I have to play Frogger in the middle of Madison Avenue trying to hail a cab, fighting off other would-be cab passengers. I know several agents in the marketplace who have drivers, which, if affordable, is by far the most effective way to travel and work. Your hands are free, and you can be completely connected to your clients. Although it’s a significant investment, it all comes down to how much more you could make if you had the extra time to conduct more business.
The business of sales, especially large-item sales, is mostly based on your relationship with the client. That is why face-to-face meetings are so important. If you don’t have a relationship, it’s very difficult for someone to trust you and, therefore, they tend not to do business with you. I learned two things right at the beginning of my career. Firstly, if there is a deal to be made, I have to go and see the client face to face, even if it means jumping on a plane and flying across the country or the world. Last week one team based in my Manhattan office flew to Europe for 24 hours and one meeting just to present a proposal. Secondly, the time to and from the appointment is almost as important as the meeting itself. If you calculate how much time you spend traveling to and from client appointments, you better make sure that time is well spent. That’s why I’ve always tried to stay above ground, so I can continue to communicate with my team and our clients to better serve their needs. In the end, it doesn’t matter what mode of transportation you take to get to the meeting—just make sure you’re being productive with your time en route, and that will give you a leg up on competitors.