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How to Succeed Against All Odds

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By Marylyn B. Schwartz

RISMEDIA, Oct. 11, 2007-Timing is everything in life. Imagine entering real estate as a brand-new agent in early 2005. The glory years were soon to come to an end, and the tide would turn. Many who joined the industry at that time soon found themselves struggling to earn a living. However, there are always those who exemplify the adage, “if the game is scheduled and you are playing, you may as well win!”

Steven Rovithis, broker/owner and active sales professional with Century 21 A-1 Nolan Realty, West Springfield, Massachusetts, is just such a person. If anyone can rightly be called a real estate superstar, Rovithis fits the moniker. However, real estate was not his first career choice. Rovithis joined a high-tech IT consulting firm soon after graduating college. His chosen career took off quickly, and his dedication and commitment were apparent in his work ethic and success.

Yet, Rovithis had a passion for real estate from a very early age. As a high school student, he helped to build two houses, from the ground up, for Habitat For Humanity®. He caught the “bug” and never lost it even though his career path initially took him in a different direction.

MBS: How did you merge your love of real estate with your career in IT consulting?

SR: I wanted to build a nest egg early in life. It seemed clear to me that buying properties as an investment, rehabbing them and turning them around for profit made perfect sense as I was able to do much of the work myself.

MBS: Then what was it that got you into your real estate career?

SR: A friend of mine in real estate suggested to me that I should get a real estate license in order to retain some of the money when the investment properties closed. That made perfect sense to me. At that time, I had no thought of entering into the field as a full-time career.

MBS: Something must have happened to radically change your mind….

SR: I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I went on vacation with my significant other and while sitting on the beach, I read the “Little Red Book of Selling,” by Jeffrey Gitomer, and it changed my life. Although I had never worked in the field of sales, I was convinced that I could do it and do it well. I went to my now broker partner and told him of my desire to quit my job and enter real estate full time.

MBS: Knowing how challenging it is to attract the right people into real estate, your broker must have been delighted to hear of your decision.

SR: Actually, he did everything in his power to talk me out of it. It is one of the many reasons I admire him so much and ended up partnering with him in the company. He made it clear to me that leaving a successful job to launch a real estate career was probably going to be a big mistake. I don’t know if I was blinded by ego, but I was undaunted by his admonitions, quit my job and was in real estate, right or wrong.

MBS: What accounted for your meteoric rise?

SR: My broker was a great mentor. There is no way that I could/can imagine any agent working in a company where the principal broker is not mentoring his/her team. As a very successful agent himself, I was able to shadow him and learned the right way to do things rather than learning the wrong way only to have to back track and get it right the second time. Unfortunately, that seems to be the modus operandi throughout the industry.

In addition, I read and listened to every speaker, trainer, sales professional, etc. If it was on tape, I listened to it. If there was a book or seminar, I read it or attended it. To me, if you are not sharpening your ax daily, it is time to quit. Another key issue for me was to ensure that I had systems in place. I invested in technology immediately. You must invest in any career and not after the fact. Other agents wait for success in order to spend money to build their businesses. Yet, they never reach success because they create a ‘catch 22.’ You can’t be successful without systems, skill and staying sharp. I worried about competition, yet I quickly realized that there was very little competition. Frankly, I was appalled by the lack of standards by which others ran their businesses.

MBS: You successfully closed more transactions in the first two years of your real estate career than the vast majority of agents do in a 20 year career. That level of success must come along with inherent challenges. What were yours?

SR: This is going to sound perhaps a bit silly, but my biggest challenge growing my business quickly was balancing my personal life with my career. I had to devote a great deal of time to networking, and I joined every organization I could to get my name and face out there. I wanted to develop a sphere of influence quickly and did not want to reinvent the wheel to do so. That required many nights away from home. Fortunately, my fiancé and I have worked it out, and she is my biggest cheerleader.

MBS: Balance in one’s career between family and work is an ongoing challenge for many an agent. Without standards and the willingness to plan, schedule and work with real buyers and sellers, balance will always allude. What are you doing now to maintain the momentum?

SR: I have amazing relationships with vendors. It is crucial to me to be a resource for my clients and customers. In order to do that, I pride myself on keeping in touch. I am the ‘go-to guy’ for my clients and customers. By having developed relationships with people in and outside of the real estate transaction, I am a valuable resource within the communities in which I do business. At closing I provide all my clients with an informational closing package. I also send out monthly newsletters, greeting cards and make sure I contact them personally several times yearly. If the contact is just to communicate that I am thinking about them, I do it.

MBS: If you could change a few things about the way real estate is done today, what would they be?

SR: I would go to a paperless closing process. We simply have too much paperwork to deal with. Let’s get to the point where we’re doing closings online. We have the technology to make it happen, now. In addition, I’d insist on agents becoming skilled in all areas of real estate so that when the hard times come, and one end of the market becomes slow, the agent can shift to another. No point in only working with sellers or buyers. It is best to understand and be adept at the whole transaction to ensure ongoing liquidity.

MBS: Those are wonderful initiatives. We would all benefit from adapting that wisdom. What did I fail to ask you that you would like to share?

SR: I am concerned about the lack of truthfulness and integrity that I have experienced working with some other agents. It appears to me that too many people are not holding themselves accountable to doing things by the book every time, all the time. There is never a reason to bend the ethics rules. Yet, it is done. I have had to ‘clean up’ many situations that could have been avoided were the agents involved in the transaction unwilling to so much as ‘bend a sentence’ that placed them outside of the Realtor® Code of Ethics. One must be willing to walk away from even a penny rather than contribute to an ethics violation. It is just about having the highest standards possible. If you love your profession, and I do, then all breaches of ethics ultimately end up reflecting upon you as much as they do the offender. It is simple; we are all thrown ‘under the bus’ for the few offenders who should get out of the business!

MBS: Well, that says it all!

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