How to Find Your Specialty by Answering 3 Questions

At the end of this post, I will share with you how to download a free worksheet of the exercise I describe in this post. It will allow you to visually see where your sweet spot lies.

I am continually surprised by Commercial Real Estate brokers who lack a specialty.  All top performers in CRE have a specialty.  Yet, those mired in mediocrity refuse to hone in on what they can be awesome at doing.  In fact, business owners of all kinds often have this problem.

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

I had a call last week with one of our advisors on the East Coast.  He was traditionally a specialist in hospitality.  Because of some changes in his life, he needed to shift his specialty to something he could practice locally.  His question was what should he specialize in.  What would you tell him?

Many of my coaching clients face this question as well.  It doesn’t matter if you are new to the business or you are mid-career.  Making this decision correctly will have a profound impact on your career.  Not only can it determine the amount of income you can make, but it can determine if you will like going to work every morning.

A CRE broker, or any business owner or salesperson, can find his/her sweet spot by answering 3 questions.

Three Questions to Find Your Specialty/Sweet Spot

1.  What do you like?

You should always start here.  What product type do you like?  What would you own if you could?  For me, I love multi-family.  I love to broker these deals.  I own this property type.  I understand it.  I don’t like industrial properties.  They don’t fit my eye.  I don’t enjoy being in industrial parks.  It just isn’t my thing.

You need to answer for yourself – what are my favorite 3 product types?  Write them down.

2.  What are you good at?

This is completely different than what you like.  Consider what you are good at.  Do you enjoy intense underwriting and analysis?  If so, multi-family might be your thing?  Do you enjoy fast paced prospecting and deal making?  If so, then maybe Single Tenant Net Lease (STNL) is your thing?  Maybe you love evaluating how the business aspect of hospitality properties and convenient stores impact value?

Again, list what product types fit your skill set.  Write them down.

3.  Where is the market velocity?

I did this exercise in 2009.  The market had dried up everywhere.  My business was suffering.  I looked around and saw that Dollar Stores were still trading at a rapid rate.  That was the only market velocity I saw anywhere in Kentucky.

Now I already told you that I love multi-family and it fits my skill set.  But no apartments were selling.  If I would have chosen apartments as the object of my prospecting campaign, I would have failed.  Instead, I began focusing on Dollar Stores.  It was a great move, and I learned to love that product type.

Look around your market.  Where is the transactional velocity?  Write those down as well.

Now look at your lists.  Where the answers to the three questions overlap is where you should specialize.  This is your sweet spot.

I ask that you to do two things:

  1. Regardless of what industry you are in, what benefits would you realize by finding your sweet spot and being known as the expert in your specialty? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  2. You have a friend that needs to find their sweet spot. I challenge you to email this post to them so they can do this simple exercise. It could change the trajectory of their career.

To download a free worksheet that will allow you to work this exercise and visually find your sweet spot, click the button below.

Download Your Free Worksheet

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Carlton Dean

    great post Bo, so true regarding specialty and product focus. Thanks for putting this into a concise write up, will definitely share!

    • Thanks Carlton – I appreciate it, and you are a great example of someone who knows their sweet spot!

  • Bo,

    I just posted this YouTube video this weekend and when I saw this post I could not believe the amazing similarity in concept to this video. Basically we are trying to get the word out to our members to stop clicking every button under all of the categories of their profile. It is damaging because when people do a search for a specific broker concentration area, they are coming up with 30 categories and it is not effective. It is those that have a tighter focus that get the attention. Now, do not get me wrong, it is important to know many things and be flexible, which is great, but change up your profile if you decide to change focus, instead of saying you handle every geography, property type and area of expertise. Thank you so much for writing this blog post as it helps our members so very much. If possible, we would love to run this blog post on our blog some time in the future to reinforce this message we are trying to send!

    Thank you so much!

    Linda

    Click here for video: http://youtu.be/WwbXxkBrCwQ

    • Linda – we are definitely thinking along the same lines. I didn’t cover dilution in this post, but that is the down side of not knowing your specialty. Brokers must keep in mind that clients want to work with specialists – experts in their product specialties. Consider who earns more: the general practitioner or the brain surgeon? We need to be brain surgeons!

      • I think the geography of a small market is suited to generalist and must be, but if you say you cover 50 geographies, again, it dilutes your geography focus. What I wish is that our members would explain that more clearly as it is impossible for us to know if they are not clearly articulating that point. Small town people are vital to those in big markets who want to make referrals. Please stand up and be counting!! I am saying this from actual experience on our site. I get brokers from large firms looking for experts and because of the way people fill out their profiles, they are impossible to find! Thanks Bo!

        • We are on the same page, Linda. Many brokers from large markets are geographical experts. The number one broker from the number one firm in NYC works a geography of just a few blocks. But no one knows those blocks better than him.

  • Mark Karten

    Bo, thank you for the great article and validation that specializing is the key to success. When I identified myself as as a CRE broker, I was told “Oh yeah, I have a lot of friends/contacts who are brokers.” Because I specialize in office space, only in Manhattan with a focus on tech startups and small businesses, I get referrals on a daily basis. When I’m asked to find a retail space or restaurant, I refer to someone else who can best assist them. I am unwavering in my focus.

    • So not only do you hyper-focus on your specialty, but you get paid to say no and refer to someone else. Always nice to get paid when you say no!

  • abuchanan

    OK, Bo, as requested. I went a step further and built your post into a post of my (our) own. I emailed this to all the guys in my office. Maybe you’ll get a gig, who knows:)

    http://allencbuchanan.blogspot.com/2013/11/get-more-cre-referralsfive-great-sources.html

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