I worked in the manufacturing side of the housing industry in the 1980’s in Los Angeles, and I had a number of reps working for me. Jim Kimble was my best – a typical Southern Californian who had gone broke at least once before in his 50-years of life, and as a result greeted each day with a smile and a positive disposition that denied the challenges of the day and the gloom that was being promulgated by the media back then. I loved Jim’s attitude. He was always very “loose” and free in his mindset, despite crises – sort of like the Hawaiians who say “shaka” at every opportunity.
When his business as a manufacturer’s rep to the housing industry dropped more than 40% during the recession of 1981, he would just laugh and say “everything goes in cycles.” When we had to cut his commission that year, he simply replied “OK, but when things turn around, you’ll restore it.”
So it was no surprise to me when Jim told me that he was at the bank that day, and had discovered to his dismay that one of his largest clients had just bounced a $5000 check, yet he was smiling through the story. What did surprise me is that at the end of the story, Jim proudly declared that he ‘worked a little magic’ with that rubber check, and that just 2 minutes later, the bank actually cashed his check, and he had his $5000 in hand!
“How do you get a bank to cash a check that bounced?” I asked, “and in less than two minutes? I don’t get it.”
Jim unfolded the story like Mark Twain would tell it, getting to the best part after a few minutes of gleeful details. “So I just decided, I’d ask the teller. ‘How much does he have in his account right now?’ I asked her. ‘Four thousand, eight hundred dollars’ she replied. “And then the lights went on”, Jim said to me.
What Jim so joyfully, victoriously described to me that day was a lesson I knew I’d never forget – that sometimes, we have to invest one dollar to make ten. Here’s what Jim so brilliantly did that day in Security Pacific Bank:
When the teller told Jim that his client had a balance of $4800, Jim knew that wouldn’t cover his $5000 check. Jim also knew that his client was purposely messing with him, by reason of the balance. So Jim asked a simple question of the teller: “Is there any law prohibiting me from making a deposit in someone else’s account?”
And when he heard the answer “Well, no, not really,” Jim knew he had his money. He reached into his wallet, took out $200 bucks, and said “I’d like to deposit this into this account please, and then, I’d like you to cash this check for $5000.”
And that is exactly what the teller did, handing Jim his $5000 in cash less than two minutes later.
During economic and housing times like these, there is a tendency for us as real estate professionals to guard our wallets, hunker down, invest nothing in our business, and simply hope to “wait it out” or “ride it out”. That strategy can be deadly for our businesses, especially now.
I understand having a tight budget. Most real estate companies have already downsized, and extra money for marketing or growing our business is hard to find. But isn’t there something you can do to come up with even a few hundred dollars, to keep the engine running?
In today’s Internet economy, $200 goes a long way. You can literally open up new markets in new cities in your state just by establishing an online presence there. You can rent an “office to go” in any city these days that provides you with an address, mailbox and phone for $200.
You can launch a new website with the word “foreclosed” in it and have it up and running for a full year for less than $200.
Catch my point? Don’t tighten up too much during this crisis, or you’ll cut off the blood flow! Better to be like Jim Kimble- with a smile everyday, with faith that things are turning around, and with the clever, prescient attitude that says, “gee, if I invest $200 in my business today, it very well could pay me $5000 tomorrow!”
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