The Internet bubble burst right after Y2K and the real estate bubble burst after the middle of the decade because people believed that with all the new technology and opportunities the old rules simply didn’t apply anymore. But the history of fads has shown us that even when the tools change drastically the rules remain the same.
That got me wondering what would happen if a business superstar from 50 or 100 years ago — Carnegie or Rockefeller perhaps — looked at today’s business environment. What would they think of the Internet and the new opportunities it has created? Would they do things differently or would they run their business by the same fundamentals that brought them such success before the information age?
While I don’t have access to the wisdom of Carnegie or Rockefeller outside of history books, I was lucky enough to learn about business from two superstars of the previous generation and two men who built their business before digital technology became the ubiquitous norm.
Ted Pappas was a visionary real estate man who built Keyes Realtors, a large and successful business in South Florida. Although his son Mike and I are running buddies— and coincidentally the same age—I actually met Ted long before I met his son.
Ted was fond of telling old jokes and reciting his rules of business. I used to hear both at different networking events at places such as the Miami Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and economic development meetings.
Ted believed that all businesses required the same four Ms — management, methods, manpower, and money. Perhaps you’d argue to add two more Ms — marketing and momentum — but Ted believed those fundamentals would get you pretty far regardless of what business you were in.
Because Ted was in the residential real estate business, he also had a list of why people buy and sell homes, all of which started with the letter D — debt, divorce, death, distress, deployment, dowry (marriage), and downsizing.
My dad was also a visionary businessman and also a contemporary of Ted’s. And he also had a list of rules that he believed were applicable to all businesses. Since my father died, I’ve dubbed his adages Lessons From Lenny and think about them often.
- Revenue hides a lot of mistakes.
- Never run out of money (a rule Ted espoused too).
- Cash is king.
- You don’t make money when you sell; you make money when you buy (a rule Sam Walton built his empire on, by the way).
- Always sell the dream (I wrote about that rule HERE).
But it was my father’s rule of buying property that was the most well known. My dad believed that when you buy real estate or anything negotiable and expensive, you have to offer a price that’s so low it embarrasses you. According to my dad, if you can say your price with a straight face, then you are offering too much. In fact, if you go into the negotiation with your spouse or partner and they don’t walk out of the room because they’re disgusted at how low your offer is then it is too high. Friends and neighbors throughout South Florida still tell me that they were able to buy their homes, cars, boats, or whatever at a great price because of my dad’s rule. (Do me a favor. If you got a great deal using my dad’s rule, please scroll down to the comment section and post the story for everyone to enjoy. I know I’ll enjoy it.)
“But wait,” I hear the rest of you saying, “what about sellers’ markets when buyers are paying more than the asking price just to buy the property of their choice? How does your dad’s rule of offering low prices work then?
For that answer we have to go even one generation further back and ask my grandfather, Poppa Hy.
As I recall, my Poppa Hy only had one rule of business — “Buy low, sell high.” Poppa Hy believed that that simple bit of advice could heal all business ills.
“But Poppa,” I’d naively ask, “What if I buy low but the price still goes down?”
He’d stare at me knowingly for an agonizing 30 seconds before answering.
“Then don’t buy it.”
Elite Branding Intensive Filling Up Fast.
When it comes to fundamentals, there are some very specific rules to building a powerful brand. Because I’m fed up with watching people throw good their time and money at hapless marketing programs, we’re hosting our first Elite Branding Intensive in Miami this month where we’ll show you EXACTLY how to build you brand.
I don’t want to use up the time you generously share with me to read this blog so if you want to know more, click HERE. The workshop is planned for the end of this month and is filling up quickly. We’re limiting attendance because we want everyone to have a hands-on experience so if you’re interested, NOW is the time to act. Click HERE for more information.