It’s that time of year again — when agents start taking stock of their business over the past several months and start deciding what next year is going to look like. Some agents thrive on business planning and don’t need to be nudged to work on an outline for their profitability and goals for the year … but others don’t find real estate business planning nearly as fun or enticing, and they need a little kick in the pants to get going.

Don’t wait until December to decide that you’re going to get on board the real estate business planning bus. If you know that it takes you a little bit of time to get yourself moving toward your new goals, start seeking motivation right now. Just think: If you’re actually inspired to do some business planning, maybe you can knock it out early and start the new year prepared and refreshed instead of stressed out and scrambling.


First: Summarize your wins

One reason why business planning feels like such a burden is because we have to think about all the things we wanted to accomplish and didn’t, where our business is falling short — in other words, all of the things that we need to improve if we want to be as good as we can possibly be. 

What if you approached your business planning in a different direction? Instead of focusing on where you fell short this year and why you didn’t reach the goals you set (if that’s the case), start with your successes. What are you proud of this year? Did you land a listing that you never dreamed you’d get — and sell it for over asking price? Did you get that one bought the house? Did you finally start the newsletter or marketing program you’d been intending to establish for years?

Think about the wins you had this year as an agent. Write them all down, no matter how small they are. If possible, keep this list throughout your upcoming year so that you can refer back to it and generate some of the same enthusiasm and motivation that you’re probably feeling now that you’re going over your accomplishments.


Next: List what you like about your job

We’re not quite finished with the positivity spree before we get into some of the nitty-gritty of business planning. Now that you’ve seen what you’ve accomplished this year specifically, ask yourself what generalities attracted you to real estate in the first place. Did you enjoy the flexibility that it offered, giving you the chance to attend all of your kids’ activities? Do you like the opportunities to earn as much income as you’re able?

Think back, if you can, to a good early day you had as an agent. Maybe it was the day you found out you passed your license exam or the day you connected with your brokerage, or when you navigated a particularly tricky issue for one of your clients. Try to put yourself in your shoes and remember how you felt when that happened. What was going through your head? Have you had any experiences like this one recently? If so, what were they? If not — why not?

It’s very possible that by the time you’re finished making these two lists, you’ll have a good sense of what inspires you in your job. And you may also see that you don’t get to do nearly enough of those activities. This is good information because you can use it to decide what you’re going to be prioritizing (or not) in the twelve months starting in 2020.


Then: What would you like to do more of?

This exercise is specifically to identify the activities that you want to increase in 2020, and you should use the previous exercises to support it. But don’t just cut-and-paste your wins from this year and the things you like about real estate into a document and call it a day; you may also have to do some deeper thinking to identify things that you haven’t yet done but that you want to try next year anyway.

For example, maybe one of your big wins was getting a listing in a price range where you’d never sold before, and maybe one of the things that you say you like about your job is the opportunity to meet new people every day. In that case, perhaps one of the things you want to do more of this year is to meet more people who are buying and selling homes in that price range. Or maybe you were really proud of getting your newsletter up and running this year, and you enjoy the fact that your extensive knowledge of home decor and staging is put to good use in the industry. What if you started writing decorating or staging tips once a month and sending them out in your newsletter?

There might not be all that many ways where your wins dovetail with the things you love to do — but we’re betting you’ll be surprised by how often something you love to do is also something you’re pretty good at doing. If you can create more experiences like that in the next year, you’ll be less likely to let the real estate train run away with you entirely.


Next: What would you like to do less of?

At this point, you’ve spent enough time thinking about the positive aspects of your business and the activities you’d like to increase that it’s safe to introduce the other side of business planning — what we want to eliminate from our business. Maybe you got into real estate because you appreciated the flexibility it offered and you wanted to make it to more family events … but in reality, you haven’t put procedures in place or set expectations with clients to actually make this happen. In that case, perhaps you would decide to eliminate after-hours work or working more than a certain number of hours in a week.

Some of the things you want to eliminate from your business life are still things that someone is going to have to do if you want to be successful. In that case, maybe your goal for the year is to earn enough money to be able to outsource some of the parts of your job that you seriously dislike. An assistant can help you with the ins and outs of transaction management, for example.

And if you’re not sure that you have enough work for an assistant, consider sharing one with another agent at your similar level of business. Between two or three of you, you’ve probably got plenty to keep one assistant busy.


And: Thinking ahead

There’s one last brainstorming step before you start to put your business plan into action. You’ve thought about where you’ve been this year, but before you’re really able to nail your plan and make it applicable to your career, you’ll have to consider where you want to be in the future. Would you still like to be in real estate in five years? If so, what kinds of homes would you like to be selling, and where? How many transactions would you like to be making every year? Would you like to have a team or a partnership with another agent?

If you think you might want to exit real estate, then that’s a good future goal to have, too. How much longer will you stay in real estate, and how will you know when you’re ready to go? What steps will you take to find something else to do or create your own job?

These long-term plans will give you direction for the changes you want to make and will also give you the ability to assess which changes you should be making sooner and which ones should wait. If you know that personally dealing with your lead generation activity is one big key to your success, for example, then even if you would prefer not to do it next year, it’s probably still important to keep it on your plate. But you can still make a five-year commitment to outsource your lead generation activities or tweak your current strategy so that it’s not necessary for you to oversee it personally.


Finally: Document and implement

You’ve got all the bones that you need to put together your business plan. Now all you have to do is put them in the right order, add a little bit of connective tissue in the form of some numbers you want to hit and break down exactly how to get there, then breathe life into your creation.

Start with your future goals and work backward to determine how much work you’ll need to do to get there. Then work forward from your current situation, figuring out how to add as many wins and implement as many changes as you can. In an ideal world, you’ll be able to seamlessly match your future goals with your current wants and needs, but in reality, there will probably be a sacrifice or two to make. Although most people will tell you that it’s preferable to eschew your short-term needs to make a long-term goal, sometimes your health and emotional wellbeing are hanging in the balance. Only you know whether a short-term or long-term priority should take precedence, and if you have a framework for making a decision, you can feel confident that you’re making the best choices for you and your career.