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RISMEDIA, June 3, 2009-It wasn’t so long ago that we were setting sales volume and price records, and the ranks of our industry swelled with bright-eyed newcomers eager to “do real estate.”

Now? Not so much.

I’m sure that the sheen of prosperity still glimmers somewhere. And, certain individuals, teams, offices, and organizations will have record breaking years. But, for most, there will be the challenge of dealing with a significant gap between expectations and results. For leaders, these are stressful, demanding and disheartening times.

People look to us for strength and direction, and we are being tested. Winning is easy; losing is hard. You can’t run from it, deny it, or conceal the effects. Look at the scoreboard. It’s the 800-hundred-pound Gorilla that no one wants to talk about. Times are hard. More people have been touched by this than any prior economic crisis.

Economists and politicians can debate the difference between a recession and a depression, but given the record number of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and people who are destitute, it’s a moot point. It doesn’t appear that anyone is beyond reach of this downturn. It’s global, indiscriminate, and seems to have a viral component. And, if that weren’t bad enough, there are still months, if not years, of uncertainty as attempts are made to stabilize the economy.

So, what is a leader to do? When comrades are falling by the wayside, offices are closing, and the media screams: global meltdown, economic collapse, toxic assets…huh? Toxic assets?

Real estate is great. Just because it was made the centerpiece of a gigantic government assisted swindle doesn’t make real estate bad. But, this is the climate in which we must recruit train and motivate. What is a leader to do?

1. Welcome the challenge

Take it in and make one last run at mega stardom. Both success and failure are imposters. Who were we to have stopped at success when it is our duty as leaders to push on without regard to victory or defeat, praise or criticism, what was or what might have been?

These are difficult times for all of us. Some within our ranks have never known tough times and may never have failed at anything. When success comes easily, the development of real foundational skills is often incomplete. When their results begin to slip, they also lose confidence. The uncertainty can be paralyzing. The leader must find a way to keep up morale and generate meaningful results. (See the movie, “Bridge on the River Kwai”)

One thing to keep in mind is that challenge is an opportunity for personal growth. Every tennis player will tell you that they play their best tennis against the best competition, even when they lose. In so much as the key element of what we do is to coach peak performance from our team mates, we must be on a path to grow faster than they.

2. Keep the faith

See the faith. Feel the faith. Be the faith. Having doubt is normal. It is our way of reminding ourselves to be prepared for what lies ahead. But, to persevere in difficult times, we must believe in our own ability to chart rough waters, and we must be able to emit that confidence to those who rely on us.

We must believe in our product. Despite the advocates of rental housing, homeownership is still the ultimate goal. What else is there?

The peddlers of paper and promises (stocks and bonds), want us to believe that real estate is a bad investment. How can that be? We are a growing country that will soon overwhelm the existing supply of available houses, and you can now buy them for less than the cost to build them.

Generation X isn’t done and generation Y is ready now. Families are doubling up out of necessity but, when the economy shows signs of improvement, that trend will reverse

3. Expect a return to prosperity

Our economy tends to produce wide swings between oversupply and undersupply, particularly in housing, and often because of the lead time necessary to develop raw land. The population didn’t stop growing and some regional planners are calculating serious shortfalls in all property categories.

It may be difficult to look at For Sale signs and whitewashed windows and see better days, but remember, every need not met during a contracting economy will create pent-up demand for everything from swing sets to new sofas.

4. Seize the moment

Money is tight, but there are qualified buyers looking for a deal. At this moment, many markets are selling at per-square-foot prices that are substantially under their replacement value, or less than the cost to construct them. While this keeps builders from building, savvy buyers are snapping up bargains for well under cost.

Waiting for bottom now seems irrelevant. Recognizing value in a less competitive market is the strategy that separates investors from the uninformed. Who doesn’t want to buy something for less than the cost to make it?

5. Get fit

If you are going to go out and climb a mountain, you’d better be in shape. The daily disappointments of seeing those around us struggle through what might prove to be an historic period can be exhausting. You’ll want to have extra energy when you need it, and you don’t have the luxury of being sick or injured.

6. Nurture your sense of humor

From the e-mail I’ve been getting lately, it seems a lot of people are pretty angry. So, I’m sure just saying that is going to make somebody mad, but it sure seems that one of the best tools we have for dealing with fear, anxiety, and helplessness is laughter. Generations of Americans are just now coming to the realization that life may not turn out the way we had hoped. Maybe we shouldn’t take it all too seriously.

For decades, I’ve been getting into hot water for making fun of things. It’s been worth it just to have the stress release. A hundred years from now, no one will remember, so why not have some fun? When the final accounting is done, no one can repossess the good times you already had.

George W. Mantor is known as “The Real Estate Professor” for his wealth building formula, Lx2+(U²)xTFP=$? and consumer education efforts. During a career that has spanned more than three decades, he has amassed experience in new home and resale residential real estate, resort marketing, and commercial and investment property. He is currently the founder and president of The Associates Financial Group, a real estate consulting firm. Mantor can be reached at