How Successful People Stand Out in a Crowd And Disrupt Their Own Status Quo (Yellow Pants and Pirates)

Written By: Matthew Ferrara

Matthew Ferrara

Matthew Ferrara

It’s a sea of sameness out there. Whatever business you’re in, most likely you have a lot in common with your competitors. Perhaps, too much in common.

Pull up your website or personal credentials. Compare them to the “next choice” a consumer might find in your business: If you aren’t different enough, it leaves very little for customers to base their selection upon.

Other than the worst criteria: Price.

Put On Your Yellow Pants

Yellow Pants

Successful people stand out in a crowd. Not in some sort of “marketing gimmick” or crude attempt to “go viral.” Rather, they’re authentically unique when compared to their competition. Beyond what they possess in common with everyone else in their business – training, knowledge, technology – great performers show consumers they offer something uniquely different. When everyone promises to deliver platitudes – service, quality, blah, blah, blah – market leaders don’t need to make promises at all. They stand out by virtue of something only they possess.

What are yellow pants? They are the set of unique qualifications, skills or experiences that only you possess. They are the bizarre deals, particular business practices or idiosyncratic efforts you use to get the job done for your clients. They’re your personal super powers that you bring to your career, by integrating your favorite hobby or special skill into the way you conduct your business and deliver outcomes.

Yellow pants are what set you apart from everyone else, because only you possess them.

Try a simple exercise: Look at your professional biography with a critical eye. Now, cross off anything that anyone else can possess. Be honest: If anyone else can be in the business as long as you, have the same certifications as you, do as many deals as you, and use the same software as you, cross them off. Now, what are you left with? Maybe not too much. So dig deep into your personality, traits, and unique experiences. Start talking about those noteworthy traits and skills that are wholly yours: Do you leverage your love of poetry to write marketing copy? Does your passion for cooking play a role in your work? Does your special photography skill give you an eye for putting together deals?

Those are your yellow pants: Nobody else can wear them except you. Start wearing them in your presentation of value to customers, to give them a real choice.

Let Out Your Inner Pirate


Highly successful people practice being good pirates. They aren’t afraid to cause a little chaos, especially in the sacred spaces that everyone else fears to tread. Like pirates, they throw out the rules and make a mess of things – starting in their own lives and careers. While others stay in safe waters, pirates head into any port and brave the biggest storms.

Leveraging your inner pirate can energize your career and personal life. It’s not about disrupting other people’s lives or careers. It’s about disrupting yours. Start with things you’d like to do, but haven’t yet begun. Maybe you want to try a new business practice or new career entirely. Perhaps you want to throw some customers overboard, to make room for new ones. Are there rules or customs have find frustrating, yet haven’t broken because it would be too chaotic?

Here’s where your inner pirate comes into play. Gather a crew around you, a few people to support you when you start disrupting normal patterns. Then, draw a treasure map, placing a big X on one end of a piece of paper, representing the treasure. Add islands and dragons, representing the stops along the way and potential risks on the journey. Add a legend at the bottom, listing the tools or techniques or customers you’ll need to learn to complete your adventure.

Acting like a pirate can be scary and energizing. On one hand, you’ll feel excited as you break rules: You’ll experience new things, as you work differently, charge different prices, or meet with new people. On the other hand, you’ll be scary – to yourself – as you leave safe patterns: Some of your efforts will backfire, when you take on new jobs or sell different products. A few deals may blow up, or you might work longer or harder for a while. Maybe you’ll just feel uncomfortable for some time – and you’ll make others uncomfortable, too, as you disrupt your normal.

Swashbuckling Style

Learning to be comfortable in your yellow pants takes time. Purposefully pirating your practices takes courage. But I never expected to see a small crew of pirates rowing their way down the Hudson River, causing bigger and fancier boats to make way for the unexpected. Likewise, when the man in yellow pants walked into Piazza San Marco in Venice, he stood out against the graying walls and grayer people dressed in look-alike fashion. He made the shot; with everyone else as faded background.

Now it’s your turn.

Realtor Blog Post: Getting Ready for Your Final Walkthrough?

Contributor: Allyson Hoffman

Allyson Hoffman

Allyson Hoffman

For many homebuyers, the last step prior to sitting down at the closing table is the final walkthrough inspection. This last-chance-to-view-the-home-before-it-officially-becomes-yours is the time to make sure that everything is as anticipated.

Typically, a final walkthrough should preferably be scheduled within 24 hours of closing. If major repairs are expected, some experts advise scheduling two walkthrough visits. The first, ideally about a week prior to closing, should establish that required repairs are completed or nearing completion. The second, within 24 hours of closing, should ensure that the home is essentially in the same condition as when purchased and that all items to remain are present and in good working order.

Things to Do on Your Final Walkthrough:

  • Bring your home inspection report, a copy of contract and seller’s disclosure form so you know what items were to be repaired and what items are to remain with the home.
  • Check for all items (window treatments, appliances, pieces of furniture and fixtures) that should remain to make certain those are present in the home. If not, have your agent contact the seller’s agent immediately.
  • Check that no unwanted items are left behind. It’s the sellers’ responsibility, not yours, to remove their unwanted belongings.
  • Check all appliances to ensure they are in working order.
  • Check the HVAC unit to make sure it is still heating and cooling properly (weather permitting).

What If You Find a Problem?

First, it is important to understand that contracts typically stipulate that a home be left “broom” or “vacuum” clean … neat, but not immaculate. So, unless the house is very dirty, making a fuss over the cleanliness of a home is likely not worth the effort.

Second, minor imperfections like blown light bulbs or light damage/marks on the walls or doorframe are also probably are not worth a delay of closing. In the long run, it’s generally cheaper and easier to just fix these minor problems yourself.

However, if you find a major issue such as a missing appliance, fixture etc., a leak or defect that will negatively affect the value of the home, contact your real estate agent immediately to begin the process of reaching an agreement that resolves the concern. The sooner you make that call, the better.

In the end, what is important enough to delay a closing and what is not remains the choice of the buyer. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to go over this information. I am happy to discuss any questions you may have regarding the home buying process.

Realtor Blog Post: On Being A (Real Estate) Household Name (or Not)

Phil Faranda

Phil Faranda

Contributor: J. Philip Faranda

Name recognition is something all business enterprises aspire to have. A good reputation, a book of business, “getting your name out,” is the goal of every company. In a brand conscious place like Westchester County, it is the holy grail.

That being said, industry specific circumstances often make that aspiration a constantly moving target. For example:

  • Name a great proctologist you would swear by in Armonk.
  • Who is the best architect in Dobbs Ferry? Or the top 3?
  • Off the top of your head, who is the “go to” interior decorator in Harrison?
  • If your car were totaled, who would you call to buy a new vehicle that you absolutely know would be honest to a fault and take awesome care of you?
  • You need a wedding planner. Who do you know would make the magic day magic?
  • You need a child psychologist. Who do you entrust your son or daughter to?

The chances are that you’d ask your sphere of influence for input. And the chances are high that the names of the proctologist, decorator or wedding planner are names you have never heard before. And I’ll bet that doesn’t factor in, because these are things that you don’t do every day.

SoldNow let me ask you this: How often do you buy or sell a home? Once in your life? Three times? Five? For most people, the answer is “not often.” And many times, when I am referred to someone who wants to buy or sell property, the person referring me tells me that their friend/relative/co worker said they never heard of me. Now, this doesn’t bother me. There is no J. Philip Blimp (yet). But it bothers the associate or past client who is recommending me. I have to laugh, because as well as they may know me from past dealings, unless a person is connected to real estate, they have no reason to know me or any other agent for that matter.

Real estate is a specialized field in that it is a transaction that seldom occurs. It is no sin to not have the same name recognition in real estate as a soft drink, automobile maker or chain restaurant. As a matter of fact, real estate is the one field where being a big box name, for some people has the exact opposite meaning to the public as other industries.

Here’s what I mean – take a wedding for example:

  • Would you want your wedding catered by a well known hamburger franchise?
  • Would you buy a wedding dress at a department store with an automotive department a few aisles down?
  • What about the photos? After the ceremony would you head down to the strip mall and have your wedding portrait taken at the photography kiosk next to the half-off DVD bin?
  • What about the flowers? Wouldn’t the supermarket be more cost effective than a florist?

Most would agree that it would be absurd to have any mass produced servicer for something as special and rare as a wedding. Yet I speak with literally hundreds of people a year who entrusted the rare, special and largest financial event of their life to someone because they saw their company’s signs all over the place or their ads in the margins of their online newspaper. And they regretted it.

  • There is no Proctologist Hut.
  • I know of no Child Psychologists- R- Us
  • Architect-Mart wouldn’t catch on.

Name recognition is equally dubious in real estate in most cases. The idea that if a company or agent spends a ton of money on marketing then they must be good is fallacious in my 17 years of experience. National brands are meaningless in something as expensive, rare and high stakes as real estate. Buyers don’t care who a house is listed with, they care if it suits their needs. And as far as big box firms having more “tools” and exposure than smaller independents, why is my little firm outperforming the market by well over 50%? Why are over half of my sold listings the ex clients of franchises and “market leaders?” Consumers learn fast to do more due diligence on their broker than buy the marketing pitches.

Here is what I tell my frustrated friends and colleagues to say when they are told by a prospective referral that they never heard of me or my firm:

Now you have.

Realtor Blog Post: With Real Estate Offers, Who Says That Life is Fair?

Contributor: Malcolm Carter

Malcolm Carter

Malcolm Carter

Sadly, homebuyers are finding that sellers are in the driver’s seat once again.

And they don’t always play fair.

As lawyer Adam Stone points out in a column, not only do many sellers entertain multiple offers. They also may work with multiple contracts. Stone asks a pertinent question:

For buyers in a multiple contract situation, it’s a race to the finish line—one they’re sometimes not even aware they are in. Many are upset when they find out. But do they have a right to be?

The short answer is that they have every right from a moral standpoint. Legally, though, too bad.

What particularly galls buyers is that they may not even know that the seller has accepted more than one offer, let alone sent out multiple contracts. Says Stone:

It’s not only an issue of trust and fair play, it’s one of finances.

Indeed, the buyer may have committed funds to an attorney or a home inspector. The buyer may have acted honorably by foregoing another offer for the one that faces undisclosed competition. A mortgage commitment at a low interest rate may be at risk as well.

It is easy to imagine the extra costs and anguish that burden a buyer whose contract becomes one of several for the same residence in the week or two before the document is fully executed. By comparison, a simple bidding war looks like child’s play.

As a seller myself, I fully appreciate the seller’s dilemma, which turns on whether a single contract will lead ultimately to a closing. But I don’t imagine a persuasive argument that a seller’s self-interest should trump basic fairness or a high moral standard.

Do unto others. . . Makes sense to me.

About Malcolm Carter:

Malcolm’s background has prepared him perfectly for a successful career in real estate since 2002. It has equipped him to provide expert advice–from recommending a sales price to making a purchase offer and onward. And it has proved to him the necessity of providing a level of service that clients can trust implicitly. What is important to them is important to him.

Among highlights of Malcolm’s past experience are speech writer for the Secretary of the Navy; award-winning journalist, including Money magazine; communications executive for an investment bank and various non-profits; founder of the Office of Public Education in the U.S. Treasury Department; president of a $1 million condominium association; and president of a $1.4 million co-operative.

After creating and overseeing a $26 million international public education campaign for the Treasury, he started a thriving real estate business in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Malcolm is now based in New York City–where he had spent more than 28 years reveling in its diversity, energy and cultural opportunities. His business there is expanding apace.

While in the D.C. area, he was licensed as an Associate Broker or sales associate in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. He was credentialed as Certified Residential Specialist and Graduate of the Realtor Institute. An Associate Broker in New York City, he now is certified as an e-Pro by having completed a course approved by the National Association of Realtors to provide real estate professionals with the technology tools needed to assist consumers in the purchase or sale of a home.

Malcolm, who has been quoted in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other publications, writes a highly respected blog. In addition he has been cited online frequently by the Wall Street Journal, Curbed, the Real Deal, BrickUnderground, the New York Post, WOR-TV,, and Crain’s New York.

Realtor Blog Post: My Cell Phone is (914) 450-8883

Contributor: J. Philip Faranda

This is one of those posts that I write for strictly therapeutic purposes, so please indulge me. Unlike some agents who keep their cell phones a state secret, mine is not. As a matter of fact, when I hear a licensee talk about how they “value their privacy” and prefer that their mobile number not be public, I have to wonder why they are in the business. If you want a career with privacy, try calligraphy. In real estate, fortune does not favor those in hiding. We have to be reachable in real time.

I’ll take it a step further: when I tell someone that I am out and about all day and that the best way to reach me by far is my mobile number, it feels almost passive aggressive when they leave a message at my office, especially if it is accompanied by frustration that they can’t reach me. Baloney! Text me. Lower your eye an eighth of a millimeter on my card and there’s my cell number. Use it. You might get voicemail, true (I have been known to use the bathroom or attend the odd meeting), but I do return calls and texts.

Real estate is not a private career pursuit, nor it is one that is conducive to bankers hours. I’ll be the first to admit that many in our life take it too far and sacrifice too much of ourselves at the expense of family time, rest, and perhaps even sanity at times. That is curable. State secrets aren’t. Being reachable, communicative, and accessible are part of our value propositions to our clientele and public (you didn’t think it was access to listing data, did you?), and if it is more important to you to have time to yourself instead of answering my call to let you know that the key is no longer in your lockbox, you are pretty much obstructing me, my client, and your client from getting things done.

Faranda PhonesI have stood in the rain or snow with a client staring at a combination lock box when we were told to expect an electronic device. I have witnessed burst pipes, exploding toilets, freshly vandalized property, squatters, home inspections on a home we were told had no offers, and dozens of other scenarios where speaking with the listing agent was not just desired, it was urgent. This business requires agility and access. It would be nice if we could unplug more often, but that’s the job. Weekends are prime time, evenings are when clients are free, and we’ll never be Ward Cleaver. Moreover, Westchester and suburban NYC clientele can be demanding, and rightly so. They deserve fast answers in 2013. If I am trying to reach you, I am trying to help you earn money.

I will readily admit to being more hardcore than most, with a man purse containing two cell phones, a portable charger, spare batteries, an iPad mini and enough wires to jump start a Prius.

Unfortunately, as the market gains health and more properties will sell as a matter of course, more agents will start being secret agents because that’s what they are being told by their life coaches or business gurus. “Start running your business like a business” is one of those abused anthems we hear, justifying non real estate paradigms on a business that has some pretty immutable (ironic term huh?) principles of its own.

I run a company. I have 40+ listings of my own, 30 agents with the firm and growing, and more than my own share of pipe dreams about a day with no calls where it doesn’t cost me. I still have my mobile number out there so I can serve my clients and cooperate with my colleagues. If I can do it, you can do it. I just hope this doesn’t fall on too many deaf ears.

Realtor Blog Post: What You Need to Know About NAR, the MLS, and Public Facing Websites

Contributor: Bill Lublin

Being part of the volunteer leadership at the National Association of REALTORS is a rewarding if strenuous job. It is sometimes complicated by the reactions of people who are impacted by the changes implemented by the association, and sometimes its complicated by people who are observers of the process. That happened this week.


The Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee worked diligently and efficiently at the Mid-Year meetings on recommendations made by the MLS Technology & Emerging Issues Advisory Board, who had in turn been working since last November on a revision to the categorization of services provided by Multiple Listing Services. The modification to the categorization was needed to define the three classes of services offered by Multiple Listing Services in a manner that was both compliant with the law and reflective of the way business is done in the industry. The categories are :

  • 1. Core – Those services which are integral to every MLS
  • 2. Basic – Those services which an MLS can include as part of the bundle of services all members receive as part of the dues and fees paid by everyone
  • 3. Optional – Any other services which that MLS wishes to offer on a discretionary basis.

As part of the categorization, the issue of Public Facing Websites came up. These are sites operated by an MLS which are a topic of substantial debate. Many large Brokers feel that the MLS public facing web sites are competition for consumer eyes and are not beneficial to their business models. MLSs that provide them feel that they are a wonderful service for the members and a substantial part of their value proposition.

Sounds dry and uninteresting huh? Hard to believe that this topic was the source of sensational headlines and a storm of indignant tweets and accusations of mopery and dopery.

Within a period of three days there were three articles published by Inman news with decent information but inaccurate and sensational headlines.

“NAR committee endorses public-facing MLS sites as ‘basic’ service”

“NAR may delay action on public-facing MLS sites”

“NAR will allow MLSs to charge members for public-facing websites”

As a participant in the process, it seemed measured, thoughtful , open, and transparent. An example of the democratic process at work in a large association and a shining example of how NAR, through its organization, allowed its diverse membership to have their voices heard.

For a casual observer, the headlines painted a far different picture.

If someone were to just review the headlines they might believe that NAR made an implicit endorsement of public facing websites. In fact, the policy merely acknowledged and clarified the operation of those sites to make sure that they did not run afoul of any anti-trust laws. The second headline looked as if the organization was schizophrenic, reversing the position that they had taken with such vigor just a day before.The truth is that a recommendation from the committee had been neither denied nor defeated, but modified for further review. And the third headline might make one think that NAR had handed a mandate to MLSs everywhere to increase their fees, when there is in reality, no increase in fees mandated by NAR’s action, and no “national” impact on the fees charged by local MLSs.

Here’s what actually happened;

  • In November 2012 the MLS Issues & Policy Committee determined the need for the review of the three categories I mentioned above.
  • The MLS Technology & Emerging Issues Advisory Board met briefly and informally after that meeting to discuss how and when the conversation about categorization would be carried forward.
  • A meeting was scheduled and held in Chicago where the Advisory Board and members of staff including Laurie Janik , General Counsel for NAR (and Chief Dragon Slayer for the real estate industry), discussed changes to recommend to the larger committee. A formal recommendation was drawn up to be presented at the Mid-Year meetings in May.
  • Over the next several months, numerous interested groups including brokers, brokerage organizations, MLSs, and organizations of MLS corresponded with the staff. Copies of all of that correspondence was sent to the advisory board and the committee leadership for their review.
  • The leadership of the Advisory Board, MLS Issues and Policy committee and the appropriate staff members attended several meetings at Mid-Year including a meeting of the Cove Group (the largest MLSs in the country) and the MLS Association Executives meeting to hear from them.
  • It was determined that the information received required another meeting of the Advisory Board to discuss the additional input, so at 8:15 in the morning, prior to the meeting of the Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee, the Advisory Board held another meeting to vote on slightly modified wording to the recommended changes to be presented to that committee.
  • During the committee meeting the recommendation and the reasons for the modification were discussed. There was substantial conversation from the floor about the recommendation and the changes, and the recommended changes were approved by an overwhelming majority of the committee.
  • As part of the committee reporting process, all committees with recommended changes to policy report first to the Executive Committee. So the Chair of MLS I&P, the Vice Chair of MLS I&P (yours truly) and the Chair of the Advisory Board presented the recommendation.
  • The Executive Committee sent the recommendation to the Board of Directors suggesting that a sentence regarding public facing websites be sent back to the Advisory Board for further review and revision. This would not have prohibited any MLS from operating a Public Facing Website, but would have merely continued keeping policy silent on that matter.
  • The Executive Committee’s action on the reports was presented to the NAR board of directors at the time the committee chairman reported to the directors.
  • The directors discussed and debated the MLS Committee’s recommendation as well as the amendment and then they voted to pass the original recommendation, defeating the amendment proposed by the Executive Committee.

So, you can see that what was communicated by the headlines as an agenda on the part of the organization itself was actually an open and transparent process in which volunteer leadership worked with staff and received input from a wide variety of stakeholders to develop policy applicable to hundreds of multiple listing services, each of which wants to be allowed to make as many decisions as possible on a local level .

The Web has only one currency, and you can use any word you want for it valence,extremes,arousal,powerfullness,excitement- but it adds up to false perception – Ryan Holiday – “Trust Me; Confessions of a Media Manipulator“

I don’t fault publishers for wanting headlines that grab the attention of their audience. They are the life blood of internet publishing. But we as readers, professionals, and especially as members of a large national organization, need to delve beneath the headlines. I read Inman news frequently, I have spoken for Inman several times, and I am friends with a number of their writers and staff. I like Inman news as a source in most cases.

The articles under the headlines really got it “mostly right” – and certainly the writer was diligent about updating them as she got more information. In fact, though there were a few points I disagreed with, I think that a reader who was not biased would have certainly had some idea of what was going on at the meetings, but the headlines make being unbiased difficult.

The ability to avoid false perception is completely in your hands – if you choose to read below the headlines – to reach out to those who might have the information you seek – your association staff, volunteer leadership, or even the writer of that article – you can gain the understanding that you deserve and you need.

And if I can help – I’m easy to find.