Coffee Break with Barb Brown

► Psst... After you enjoy the full interview, be sure to watch Barb answer even more questions in the Xpresso Round Video.

DMAR: How did you get into real estate?

Barb: I was formerly a nurse, technically still am. I did compliance for a wonderful organization, Donor Alliance, which is the organ and tissue recovery organization for the states of Colorado and Wyoming - nonprofit, great mission, great people, great organization - but my particular position was very isolating. I read a lot of charts of potential donors and it was tough to review such sad stories all the time. After a while, I decided I needed something where I would be out and about in the world meeting and interacting with people a little bit more.

I had thought about doing real estate prior. I wanted to start taking the classes and see what I thought. It seemed to jive and then I just kept moving forward. Having been born and raised in Denver, I felt like I knew a lot about the city and the surrounding areas. It’s actually similar to nursing in many ways. You need compassion, you need to work with people during some of their most challenging times and you need to know how to deal with a lot of different kinds of people and be detail-oriented. It was a good fit.

D: That's interesting to make a connection between real estate and nursing.

B: I know, and I know other nurses in real estate who have done well. Even though it doesn't feel like a natural segue, it really is so interesting.

D: Walk us through a day in your life.

B: First thing I do is just check my emails, check texts and just check if anybody needs me. I focus on being responsive and getting back to people as quickly as possible. I gained a lot of clients through referrals because of that. Just reaching out to people if something has transpired in the last day, or there is something that they might not be aware of yet, or whatever it might be. I just make sure to reach out to clients.

I also try and take some time for myself in the mornings - do a video devotional that I really like, get outside and walk my dog or whatever it might be to just re-energize myself. I spend a lot of time in my home-office and working with clients, then going out with clients… all of the ins and outs of the daily business. I'm very much a boots-on-the-ground REALTOR®, doing what my clients need me to do, whether it's taking them out to look at properties, meeting them for inspections, having conversations with other agents and then doing some marketing and communication, too. I try to pack it all in there.

The rest of the day is spent either in meetings or doing work with our local Association. I'm very involved with the new DMAR Douglas Elbert District, which takes quite a bit of my time. A lot of my time is devoted to board meetings, committee meetings or working on issues that may have come up. I hope to also work more with our new district chair to help her get things up and running.

D: Wow, you sound very busy.

B: Some days are much busier than others. I try and take time for myself, when I can, in the midst of all that.

D: Speaking of working as a REALTOR®, congratulations on being named the 2016 DERA REALTOR® of the Year. What does that award mean to you and how did you feel receiving it this year?

B: Thank you. I felt really humbled and excited receiving it. It means a lot to me because the qualifications for DERA's REALTOR® of the Year have a lot to do with giving back and being involved with DERA, as well as being a productive agent and having a certain type of commitment to clients. I treat my clients with respect, honesty and integrity, and I follow the Code of Ethics very closely, so the fact that that was recognized means a lot. Just the fact that it was also awarded because of all my hard work towards the merger, meant a lot.

D: When they read your bio before honoring you for the award, I couldn’t help but notice all the charities that you're involved in. What charities do you currently work with and why do you think it's important to give back?

B: To me, part of my involvement with DERA, and now with DMAR, is about giving back. We're given a lot in this lifetime and I think if we don't share that, we're doing a disservice to who we are intended to be. I would say the one charity that I work with most hands on right now is Wellspring. It's a community here in Castle Rock that works with adults with disabilities and tries to provide them with resources to help them move forward in their future.

[Tweet this] "We're given a lot in this lifetime and I think if we don't share that, we're doing a disservice to who we are intended to be." 

I'm also very connected heart-wise and resource-wise to the Denver Rescue Mission and Compassion International, both of which support individuals struggling with poverty. We also have an “adopted daughter” through another similar ministry, called Hand of God Ministries. We support her and connect with her even though she's in Ethiopia.

D: Being a REALTOR®, a member of the board and a very active volunteer, how do you maintain work–life balance?

B: That's a really good question. Sometimes I don't (laughs). Family is hugely important to me, too. The year I was President of DERA was a particularly challenging year to maintain business as well as family commitments. I tried to step back every time I would say yes to something and think, “How will this work?” Sometimes I just had to take the risk and believe that I could make it work, even if I felt that I might not. Sometimes I just had to say no. I actually stepped back a bit from Wellspring during my presidency year. I know the woman who runs it and she knows what I do for a living and she knows that my heart is still there. Right now I'm doing a little less regular volunteering but I’m still there for them and hope to get back into it as my duties on the board at DMAR kind of settle down.

D: Do you have any tips for time management?

B: I would say planning ahead. I always plan ahead of time even if it's only a day ahead. But having a plan for how your days are going to look is not only a time management technique but a stress management technique as well. The plan could change, but to have it lined out is key.

As an offshoot of that, it’s important to use your time wisely. I think a lot of people, especially people who are newer in the business like myself - I've only been in real estate for four years - should get involved. I got involved really early on with DERA and then in leadership and so forth. It's an incredibly good way to give back but also an incredibly good use of your time because it keeps you in the know, talking with people in the industry and putting you in a great place to gain knowledge. I think one of the best ways to use time in this business is to continue to educate yourself and find opportunities to be involved in the world of real estate even if you're not working on a deal that day.

[Tweet this] "I think one of the best ways to use time in this business is to continue to educate yourself and find opportunities to be involved in the world of real estate even if you're not working on a deal that day." 

D: Education is definitely something the Association focuses on, but we have members, especially newer agents, who perhaps don’t see the value.

B: Whether you get it from your office, the Association, a title company or wherever you get it, I think education is huge. It's interesting when I talk with clients and say, "I won't be able to meet Wednesday at 9:00 AM because I'm actually going to be in a class for four-hours." Sometimes you'll get, "Why are you in a class?" It's almost like, “Shouldn’t you know what we're doing?” (laughs). I try and tell them that it’ll be a part of me in this business as long as I do this business. Really, most of the successful REALTORS® I know have the same philosophy: it's always about getting education.

It's interesting how many agents who I work with on the other side of the transaction haven't kept their education up, and are not aware of changes that have happened and what's current. It can be very hard to be a helpful and cooperative agent in those situations.

One of the reasons I really like the DMAR Douglas Elbert District Marketing Meetings is that we have an industry update every Friday morning. It's a 10 to 15 minute blurb from somebody in the industry. This Friday, it's going to be a local real estate attorney. Not sure what his topic is, but it really doesn't matter. It will be helpful information.

D: Let’s talk about business strategy a bit. What would you say are some of your business strategies for finding new clients and maintaining those relationships?

B: I'm very relational in my business. A lot of my business strategies have been around my sphere of influence, around the people I actually know. I do most of my business by referrals. This year, I was actually looking back over my transactions for the year and I think almost every single one was a referral. I am also a big fan of open houses simply because people get a chance to meet you. It's interesting how many people actually come to open houses to interview an agent or it turns into that when they're there.

It's really about the people I know and then getting to know more people. I'm not a cold caller, that isn't my method of getting clients. I much prefer to get to know somebody or have somebody referred to me and then get to know them and talk to them about how I do business. I mean, I feel very strongly about my ability to handle the details. I'm a detail person, I was in a compliance job prior to this. I take the knowledge very seriously, but the most valuable things that I bring are my integrity, honesty, communication skills and trustworthiness. I have found that for most clients, these are the most important traits they want in their REALTOR®.


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D: Do you have any tips for networking, especially for someone who's newer and doesn't have that sphere yet?

B: One of the tips I would say is use your local Association. I know it goes against what people think is the way they should be networking because it's people who are in the industry already. It's other REALTORS® and industry partners, and sometimes you can get referrals from those, but you can also gain knowledge from them. It's a good starting place. You might meet someone who needs an open house done and then you hold an open house for them but you have already built a relationship.

As far as networking just to make clients, I would say just do the things that matter to you. Be involved in things that you're truly sincere about, whether it's volunteering for organizations you support, at your kids' school or kids' sports, and let it be known what you do. You don't need to be pushy about it, but let people know. Because if they know, trust and like you, and then they find out what you do, then it's a natural segue. That's the way I do business.

D: Can you just talk a little bit more about your experience with DERA, particularly your year of being President, working on the merger and everything that's happened?

B: it's been a really big year. It was an interesting thing to get, for lack of a better word, thrown into. I mean, the initial merger talks had started when I was President-elect, so I was involved in all those initial meetings and conversations. It was a lot of time, a lot more than I anticipated, and I think a lot more than in previous years of leadership - not to take anything away from anyone else who's been in that position - but lots of meetings and lots of just hashing things out. I did not have a vote on the board as President. As someone said to me, "You don't have a vote, but you have a lot of influence." I took that very seriously, not wanting to influence in a way that I didn't truly believe was the best thing for the Association and, in particular, for the membership at-large.

I mean, there are so many things that we gain from being a part of DMAR. A lot of that is really the big picture stuff - the political involvement, being the voice of real estate in the Denver metro area, the resources needed to maintain that REALTOR® brand, helping educate our members about the value of the “R” and then educate the general public about the value of the “R.”

Big picture: it never was a question to me if it made sense. Smaller picture was harder, like how will we look on a day-to-day business going forward for our local members who love having our office here and who love going to marketing meetings and so forth? For a portion of our membership, it was so important to keep that culture going. We still have our building, we're still having our meetings. It's all here for the members who want to stay active and involved.

[Tweet this] "It's all here for the members who want to stay active and involved." 

D: Were there any really tough moments or moments when you maybe had doubts about the merger?

B: I think probably some of the toughest moments involved the other Associations that were initially involved in the merger talks, and trying to figure out if it was going to be an all or nothing move. Our board decided fairly early on that they wanted to move forward with the intent to merge with DMAR regardless of what the other Associations decided. I think probably the hardest thing was thinking, these other Associations has opted out so do we need to learn anything from their decision? And asking, are we making the right decision moving forward? Our board was very involved in every minuscule vote and in every conversation along the way. We had our task force, but our board was very much a part of it.

It is hard when you hear an individual member say, "Well, I feel the growing pains," or, "I feel like this isn't quite what it was," or, "Our events right now are lacking." There's some transition. Anytime you do something like this, there's transition. Just saying, "Hang in there, be a part of it, get involved," and then talking to people at DMAR West and DMAR North who have already gone through this and getting their input and hearing that it all has come together really well.

D: We're really excited about the new Douglas Elbert District. Since each district really does have its own personality and culture, how would you describe the Douglas Elbert culture?

B: I'll say this, but I'm going to guess it's similar to what other districts say because we all take such pride in our own organizations or our own areas. I think the number one thing that we have is the relational piece. We’re all truly friends. We're a very tight group of people and we can count on one another. I think that's a unique piece of our culture.

Also, just where we live and work is unique. We're dealing with very different kinds of properties than, say, Congress Park or downtown Denver or in the mountains, and that breeds its own type of need for education and sticking together to help each other. It's just nice to be able to come together with other people who are in the same community.

D: As a new member of the DMAR board, how would you say it's different from DERA?

B: I think it's very impressive, for one thing. I mean, I love being a part of that group. It feels very validating to be a part of it... and not that we didn’t have a ton of experience on our DERA board also, but DMAR obviously has a much larger membership and such history. And to be a part of an Association that is looked at as the voice of real estate in the Denver metro area is amazing.

Being able to be a part of some of the productions that DMAR does, the Market Trends Report and just everything that the Association offers… it's kind of thrilling. It humbles me a bit because I feel like this little person in this big group, but I am honored to be a part of this outstanding group and to help make a difference for the REALTORS® in the Denver metro area.

D: What are your goals this year as a Director?

B: I guess my biggest goal would be to continue to make my voice heard. I want to provide information and have an impact on the Douglas Elbert district through my voice on the board. If people on the DMAR board didn't already know where I came from, I want them to know. I support the entire board and membership, but I want to make sure that the Douglas Elbert district's voice is heard. I guess my goals are just to continue to be someone who people will respect and listen to, have my voice represent the voice of the membership and be a good communicator back to the district.

D: What do you think is the biggest challenge that we face in the real estate industry right now?

B: This is an easy one to answer. I think the biggest challenge that we face right now is the non-REALTOR®: the licensee who does not believe in becoming a REALTOR®, does not believe in the essence of what the REALTOR® brand stands for, does not understand how that level of professionalism affects our industry and how that affects buyers and sellers because ultimately, I think they're the ones who are hurt by that. The big picture to me isn't how we get hurt by it, but how people who are out there trying to navigate the real estate world as clients may not understand the differences and may not be represented the best way possible.

[Tweet this] "I think the biggest challenge that we face right now is the non-REALTOR®: the licensee who does not believe in becoming a REALTOR®..." 

D: Do you think there's a solution to that?

B: I don't know what the solution is, but I think one of the best things that you can do is educate the public because that’s who ultimately makes the decision. That, and just keep our members and everyone else aware of the value.

D: Do you think that most of your clients understand the difference or do you educate them?

B: I do. I always have. I've used different things in my listing and buying presentations, just to have some sort of visual aid to talk them through it and explain the difference. It's interesting with the new NAR Phil Dunphy campaign. It starts conversations. I even had somebody who is not a client but an acquaintance of mine ask me, "You're a REALTOR®, right? I'm getting that right? You're not just a real estate agent." I thought, "Yes, you're right!" She said, "I'm not even sure what that means." It was very similar to the bit on Modern Family.

Then I just educated her on what it meant. Again, she's not a client right now. Maybe someday she will be but, the fact is that she heard that, it resonated with her and she wanted to understand more. I think just by getting the awareness out there that there's a difference helps us to have a conversation about it

D: Definitely. It is hard but awareness is key.

B: Most people aren't aware of the difference. I think it's up to those of us who are REALTORS® and meeting with clients face-to-face to explain the difference and to explain the positives of going with a REALTOR® and the negatives of not. That's not to say that everyone who hasn't joined an Association is not out for the best interest of their clients. I just think it's a big picture thing. I mean, you wouldn't go to a doctor who didn't belong to the American Medical Association. You wouldn't go to a lawyer who didn't belong to the local bar association. If you want the best, you just wouldn't.

D: What is something that you would like to learn more about in the real estate industry?

B: I don't know if there's anything I really don't want to learn more about in the real estate industry. I mean, I love knowledge and I think it makes us all more effective in what we do, whatever it is. I love learning about neighborhoods in the Denver metro area, especially being down south but wanting to work with people wherever they want me to take them. Learning about the differences between LoHi and LoDo, Congress Park and City Park. Even though I was born and raised in Denver, so much of it has changed. I mean the RiNo area has changed so much recently and I'd love to know more about the changes. I think learning more and more about different neighborhoods is great. Even here in Castle Rock, there are new neighborhoods that are going into place or older neighborhoods that I may not know as much about.

Also learning more about interpersonal relationships and how to manage different personality types and negotiations... I guess all of it! There's so much, and I would not say there is any area that I'm not interested in learning more about.

D: What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?

B: Probably just the fact that you're self-employed. It's also one of the best things about my job, but knowing that you have to be responsible for keeping your business going and take responsibility for that. I would say that's probably the hardest part for me, individually, because I've always worked for someone. That's been my past. For people who've been more entrepreneurial, that's probably not their hardest piece but that's probably the hardest piece for me.

D: What are your favorite activity outside of work?

B: Being with family and friends, I would say, is number one. Being involved in my church is number two and I love to hike. I love to be outside whether it's just a walk, because that's all I can fit in, or a hike. That's one of the things about Castle Rock that I love. We have trails all over the place and, very close to our home, we have trails that go for miles and miles that make you feel like you're in the mountains. They're fabulous and that is really renewing to me, just to get out in the fresh air. I like to do yoga too, and I love to read. All kinds of things that fill my soul a bit.

D: As a Colorado native, what do you love most about our state?

B: I'd have to say the mountains. Again, it just fills my soul when I go to the mountains. It's so renewing. It just feels good. It smells good. That's my favorite thing about the state, definitely, and the climate's pretty awesome. I love having four seasons. I would also say I think it's a very friendly state. People are just really open.

D: How would you describe your relationship with coffee? Do you drink it often? Do you have a favorite drink? Any rituals?

B: Okay, so here's the secret about that....I don't like coffee! I am not a coffee person but I love the ritual of being in a coffee shop. I love coming together with friends. It always feels kind of warm and toasty and the smell is good. I love the smell of coffee, I love the atmosphere of coffee, I love coffee-tasting things. I just don't like coffee. I love chai lattes and I love tea, and so you can still have that ambiance without having to drink any coffee.  

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