Technology 102!

As the second part in this series about technology and how you can use it to market your business as a real estate professional, I would like to talk about 2 more of my favorite social media websites/apps, Pinterest and Instagram!
Obviously, these two are both photo based and that can visually help you with your business of selling homes.  That is a given, but let’s take a look at some other uses that might tie in prospective clients ideas and interests to attract attention to your websites.

Let’s start with Instagram, it’s the main picture taking app available on all OS platforms.  The neat thing about Instagram is that it allows you to augment your pics with effects that can provide different looks for your photos.  Once you take a picture, you can change it, then add a caption and post it on your timeline, for others to view and critique.  It also can be posted on your Facebook wall.  This gives you plenty of overlap, as far as getting your pics out there for consumption.  They are also now available to post on your Pinterest boards. There are some other products that you can use to utilize to your Instagram pictures, like Prinstagram!  This company will create posters, photos, books and other similar products, which you can use for promotion, records, gifts, whatever you may need it for. You have your friends “following” you and that statistic is prominent at the top and it attests to your range of influence.  It’s good to follow people as well as be followed.  Mixing in promotional pics with your personal pics makes following you more palatable if your idea is to advertise on the app.  Too much advertising, and you will lose people that may not be interested in what you are trying to sell.  However, they may stick around if you keep them interested, just ask my wife!

Pinterest is the new darling of the social universe!  It arranges pictures onto “boards”  of your choice and allows you to create a photo album of who you are.  There are almost an infinite amount of picture offerings available for you to peruse as you scroll through the main page.  The search field at the top allows you access to countless different categories of pics.  However, you are not allowed to upload certain content onto the site.  This is a good thing because it doesn’t allow for inappropriate photos and it creates a kind of shopping mall/catalog effect, which allows the user to wander without any kind of forced agenda by the website.  The great thing about Pinterest is how random everything is, but it also adapts to your preferences based on pictures you have chosen.  Suddenly, hours have gone by and you don’t realize it, but you have over 50 pictures “re-pinned” onto various boards and the pics just keep on coming as you scroll down.

But, how does this work for you, the real estate agent that is looking to market?  Well, as I say in our little info class here at Spencer, you can create boards that are useful to prospective clients and that can garner traffic to all of your websites.  There are icons at the top to put in your website, and they only need to click on the icon to go straight to your website.  There is another for your Facebook page, which you can spider off to your fan page or you Instagram pics or any other media you have tied to your wall.  Also, there is a spot for your phone # and a bio.  What gets people to your website?  Well, let’s think about what people that are looking for a house or looking to sell a house are looking at.  First, home improvement ideas, looking to fix things in order to get the most out of their home.  Second, furnishings or staging ideas, either furnishings for their new house or staging ideas for the open houses during the sales process.  Third, pictures or photos, to blow up , print , and frame to decorate their home.  Those are the easy ones.  What else?  I tell most students to put recipes on there!  The fact that people go to Pinterest to see pics of successful recipes and then take that task on themselves, is what is interesting about this website!  Use that to drive traffic to your boards and your website and YOUR BUSINESS!  If your collection is good enough, you might get enough followers to reach the ultimate point of having an audience so big, that companies will PAY you to pin photos of their products onto you board!!!  But also, there is almost a guarantee that this will drive more traffic to your business website, and create a buzz about your business.  You can utilize Pinterest to aid in the staging of your own properties and then turn around and show your successes on this site, Facebook, and Instagram! Think of a wonderful place where you can market your properties, market the items you use to market your properties, market your business, and make money off of all the different streams.  The best part is, this only drives your business and your following further!!!!!!!!!

If you are interested in learning more about how these sites can work for you, please call Spencer School of Real Estate today to see when the next round of social media mini-class lunch & learn sessions are!  Check us out on the web too,

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Technology 101!

Wow!  Time sure flies quickly when you are revamping and revitalizing a real estate school!  However, in the past few months, I have grown from a complete novice in the technology department, into someone that actually sounds like they know what they are talking about!  I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the wonderful discoveries I have made, that have helped Spencer School of Real Estate to expand its social coverage.

First, obviously Facebook is a given, but what you do on your page and how you manage the information is huge!  On our fan page, SpencerTraining, we have utilized the offers and the charting of hits, users, likes, unlikes, etc, to gain an understanding of who and where we are gaining traction.  I would like to apologize to my friends on Facebook, because for a while, they were bombarded by posts, offers, updates, invites etc.  However, their support and the ability to share information with people on their “friend” list, has allowed us to grow! The neat thing about your fan page is that it gives you instant stats about how many people are reading your posts and how many people are virally receiving your posts.  Also, you are able to tailor your messages to a captive (hopefully) audience.  Facebook is also a bridging point for all of the other apps or social websites and you can post on Facebook, but have it travel throughout the ripples of the others sites.

Next up, Twitter, the 140 character glimpse inside your brain at the moment!  Tweeting can give people a glimpse into what you are doing, what you are thinking, what you are looking at, etc…  Your Facebook posts can automatically be sent as a tweet, if you set it up as so.  THe more interesting you are on Twitter, the more followers you will receive.  So, try to be interesting!  Pics, scenarios, and other ideas that may be entertaining or controversial will get you followers, but make sure that it is the type of audience you seek.  You only get 140 characters to type, so no soliloquies or tangents are allowed.  It’s better to show pics, but once again, make sure its appropriate.  You can see what is trending and then try to make your messages show up by hashtagging (# in front of word) to make it show up under that trend.  Then, your message gets in front of that audience.  Make sure it matches up otherwise people will block you for being out of line with the conversation.

These are the two main topics of this post, I will keep going with the others in separate posts, to make sure that you continue to follow.  Just and FYI, but we also have classes about this, as well as tutorials and walk-throughs at Spencer School of Real Estate on Fridays.  Call today 713-334-1900 or check out our website:

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Marketing is a mother father!

I was sitting at lunch today with a friend.  He knew the gentleman that was sitting at a table across from ours. He asked me who I was and I told him that I was the director of a real estate school, just a block away, Spencer School of Real Estate.  He asked, “(Competitor’s school name)?”  I replied, “No, I’m with Spencer, we’ve been in business since before I was born. ”  He told me that he had qualified for a special program, and that was why he went to (competitor’s school).  I said that we had that program as well.  It was at this very moment that I felt like any small business owner that hasn’t been marketing, I was embarassed and angry and motivated.  I took his name and number and told him that I would be contacting him for his continuing education.  Right there, I had lost the marketing battle.  We have been in business since 1975 and we might as well have opened up yesterday!

I inherited the lack of promotion here at Spencer, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse.(Sorry, Barack) I can’t be mad that this individual didn’t know we existed, we hadn’t presented the option.  My question is this:  How can I get my marketing goals accomplished, while only having a small business budget, which is volatile compared to sales?  

Or, to put it bluntly, : How the hell do I do this on a shoestring budget?!!

Social media is the buzz amongst many of the industry’s top producers.  That would be nice, but I’m new and no one cares what I have to say yet.  I have a contemporary who has an ample following on social media, but even he has the same issue, no one actually gives him the business. 

My biggest problem is not support, it’s getting people to DO, instead of allowing them to just say that they will!  In my short tenure here at Spencer, I have already encountered numerous people that are of the all-talk, no-action variety.  I’m more of a taller version of Tom Cruise, “show me the money!”

I need help, comments, input from everyone that will read this, please.  What works best?  I don’t have the time or the patience to waste our precious revenue on crazy ideas (someone told me to have pigeons drop leaflets..)!  We are one of 3 real estate schools in Houston, the 4th largest city in America, and we might as well be in New London, MO (sorry, Chris). 

This school has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis, we’ve upgraded instructors, materials, our website, our image, we even have great educational value!  However, we might as well be selling tickets to a Justin Beiber concert at a retirment home!

Hello world wide web, what have you got for me?  I’m very interested in what you have to say.

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The day your career became just a job.

Fresh out of school, ready to be an adult, armed with that piece of paper that tells others I am certified, and excited to start my career!  I’ve been told that I am not entirely prepared, but that I will learn as I go.

Then, I start working.  I labor daily to understand and educate myself and perfect my craft because, this is what I really want to do!  Long hours, low pay, but I’m progressing towards that goal, I will be the boss someday and then all of this will have been worth it! I am the newest here and at the exact bottom of the totem pole, but this is how every career starts, right?!

One year later, I’m known for getting things done, I have a reputation; I have even received a 3% raise.  There is talk that I might be promoted, but it didn’t happen last time.  I am no longer the newest face in the crowd, and there have been a few others that have moved up faster, but that’s normal right?!

Two years later, I have been here long enough for people to realize that I am good at what I do, almost too good.  In fact, that is why I wasn’t promoted, because I was too valuable in my current position, that it might hurt the team. I interview around, only to see that I would wind up in the same position at other companies.  I have been working at a large company, so I don’t have too much cross-training because my degree and my position are specialized. 

Five years out, now I have a wife and kids, I stay because I have obligations and responsibilities.  We get a 3% raise every year, but that doesn’t keep up with the cost of benefits.  The economy is rough and many are scared to try anything too different.  It’s better to just stay safe and keep doing this because it’s predictable.  We have regular income, but it’s almost not enough to keep up with the outflow of our expenses.  We might be able to go on a vacation this year, better yet; we should just choose a stay-cation, just in case.  Daycare is more than the mortgage and our emergency fund of cash savings is way not where it needs to be. Retirement account is minimal, kid’s college funds are non-existent.

I guess, I had come to this realization awhile ago, probably about a year and a half in, but this isn’t where I wanted to be and not what I want to do.  My career is no different from the job I had in college, the pay is better, but not by much. I thought by now, I would have either achieved more or had more of an opportunity.  At this exact moment, the romance has worn off, my “career” is just a job, and I am stuck!

Pretty depressing story, but it is all too common. People frequently surrender opportunity or fail to even look for something else because they play it safe.  What’s you non-career escape plan?  There are several options available, but we are creatures of convenience, and fear can paralyze our ingenuity.  I don’t want to give you a Tony Robbins-esque “you can do it” kind of dissertation here, but I do want you to know that there are ways to cover your bets. 

First, are you investing in YOUR future?  By that I mean, that as both monetary investments, i.e.: stocks, 401(k), mutual funds, savings, 529 accts, etc; but also with your education?  Do you make it a point to understand something outside of your normal scope?  Do you read or study information that is relevant to your current career, as well as to your future road map? Do you even have a road map?  Do you have a plan and does it have contingency plans or fail safes?  What makes you dynamic enough to NOT be pigeon-holed into a single track, thus making you stuck?

There are several retraining options available.  One of which is Spencer School of Real Estate.  Obviously, I would be partial to this one because I run the school, but let me elaborate.  This school is cost effective; consider the difference in price between our school and college.  The other up side is that our coursework can be completed in 2-3 weeks, not 4-5 years!  Our school provides an opportunity for a fruitful and potentially lucrative career, EVEN ON THE SIDE!  With the extra income, possibly even while you are still working your other “job”, you could build your investments up and create a better situation for you and your family.  With all of this, it allows individuals to have the potential to realize the American Dream, where many claim that opportunity doesn’t exist. You will be able to build true, lasting wealth.  The best part of all, it’s all up to you!  The harder you work, the more you can make!  That is definitely not the case for several other career paths.  Finally, you have the opportunity to be your own boss and run your corporation how you see fit!  Personally, I find that most appealing!  I’m not just saying it, I’m doing it myself!

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Education, what’s it worth?

I’m going to start this off by apologizing, because I know that I’m going to upset some people with this post. As I continue my journey through the growing of Spencer School of Real Estate, I have had to deal with some glaring truths in the world.  One of those being, what do you really get out of your education? 

After being in public education for the over 10 years, there have been some contradictions and some misinformation that I have had to deal with. First, I have heard that “those who can’t do, teach”. That was very condiscending to those that have decided to make education a career and sincerely care about growing future generations. 

The other is that every student  leaving high school should be college ready.  That is simply not the case, if you ask most grads, they are not.  Some aren’t even prepared for college.  I think that students leaving high school should be “life” ready, but due to the “No Child Left Behind” law, there has been tremendous underfunding of vocational subjects and programs in schools, leading to a severe lack of “life” ready individuals.  Also, the students that do go onto college, are graduating with nice pieces of paper, but not much else.  The job market is bad, the debt load is frequently alot to bear for recent grads, and many employers are looking for something more from grads, experience-wise, not just classroom reading and textbook answers.

So, here I sit, thinking, “Had i been selling my students short all this time?”  What I mean is that, I had been telling them, “go to school”, “get good grades” and the regular things, but my focus was on knowledge, not so much grades.  All along, I had been advocating that the diploma was good and a degree was better.  I had been focusing on the wrong thing!  It was the value of the education and the motivation of the learner, but more importantly, what are you going to do with this education?

Most people go to college with an idea of what they would like to do after college, but several times they change their minds. I, myself, was like that.  I wound up getting a degree in education, eventhough I wanted to pursue international business.  However, what something is worth, is a matter of what actual value you receive from it.  Several of my friends pursued degrees in business, only to find underpaying jobs or no jobs at all after graduation.  And that was even during the “good” times!

Now comes the part where I feel like I contradicted myself for all those years.  I felt like I had always done a great job of conveying the material to the students and preparing them for the real world.  Being that I taught Spanish and this is a state that borders Mexico, and every other sign is in Spanish, AND Houston is the largest American city with a minority majority….I thought it would be obvious, as well as necessary to know the language.  I had always felt that those factors would sell my students and make their education relevant.  However, it frequently did not!

Along that same vein of thought, I look at college the same way.  Students are spending years and dollars to get something that may or may not give them what they expect.  This is where a little real estate school comes along and completely shakes up my mental process!

Here we have a career training center, extremely low in cost, especially compared with college, where the instruction provides you with an option to have an extremely lucrative career, in a very short amount of time!  Also, the best thing about this industry is that you are rewarded for the work you put into it and that you have the capacity, based on your hard work, to make much more than you would in most careers, with most degrees. 

So, I had to be honest with myself and think, “Was I preparing these students for the right future, or was I part  of the reason why the majority could not attain success?”

This troubled me because I really believed that I was doing the right thing for so long.  Now, here is this alternative path, which completely makes sense, and can better provide what most are seeking to attain.   Hmmmm, now what?

The funny thing, as a nation, is that this real estate school and several other re-training programs are exactly what many unemployed people need.  But, our school is not included in the funding initiatives the government sees as viable for most.  However, this school is exactly what a motivated high school or college grad could utilize, whether part-time or full, to keep their debt load low, while increasing their potential income tremendously. 

Realistically, the high school grad could get their license during the summer after graduation, then spend the next four+ years, attaining a college degree or more, while systematically getting paid to obtain the leases for their peers, or buying rental properties to rent out to coeds, paying cash for their education. 

I wish I had the saavy when I was that age to think that big, but I had just followed the script and proceeded down the path or normalcy.  Now, I’ve spent years playing catch up and paying on my own college debt. 

So I think now, what is the real value of your education?  What is it that you really seek to benefit by educating yourself?  At the end of the day, we all need to scrutinize the path we are on and ask ” Is this the best and most effective use of my resources?” 

If not, then change paths!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Paying Homage to the Matriarch

Normally, this blog is about real estate in Texas and the daily insight into Spencer School of Real Estate.  However, today, I wanted to talk about a different kind of real estate, the most precious of all, the places in our hearts and minds.  This past Sunday, my grandma Mary passed at the age of 97.  While she wasn’t famous to the rest of the world,  she was our family’s matriarch.  Now, as we face a new day without her here on Earth, I would like to share a couple of stories and an apology. 

Granny was the most devout of Catholics in the world.  I almost believe that I might not have to go to church anymore, because she has myself and the whole family covered.  That is why I know that yesterday, as we were en route to her funeral, there appeared a rainbow in the sky as a message.  It was an indicator, to me, that she had arrived and everything was fine.  I had actually started writing this post a couple of days ago, and was about ready to finish, when lightning struck and the power went out, erasing the whole thing.  It was her way of saying, “not yet, wait a little longer before you do that”.

So here is my attempt to honor her with some humor and some repose.

The history books probably will not take note of her extraordinary life because she was not someone of prominence or title.  However, from an almost Norman Rockwell perspective, she was the ideal of the American Dream.  Born in Kentucky in 1914, she was used to a rough existence because things were tougher in general back then for most Americans.  However, I believe that a lot of the same “tough-as-nails” characteristics that I have today have transcended from her upbringing back then.  Grandma worked hard everyday to provide a better life for herself and eventually her family.  Today, we are exponentially better off as the generations have progressed, which is precisely what all of her and my grandpa’s hard work  had intended.  For that, I will eternally be grateful and hopefully, I can do them proud, as they watch down from above.

First, I will start with a serious story and then move towards the more comedic side later.  When I had first moved to Houston in 2001, I had a deep sense that I was going to connect with my family in a way that I wasn’t able to previously.  I had grown up in Denver and we could only visit for short periods of time, but now I was going to be living in Houston with them.  My first week here, I went and visited Granny at her apartment.  I was blown away by some of the stories she would talk about in passing as almost “no big deal”, which were significant in the course of human existence.  She spoke about Prohibition, the Great Depression, WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis, American’s reaction to communism, the Civil Rights Movement, and I just sat there, absorbing it all.  I was shocked, yet pleased, because I knew I was getting an education that wasn’t available in a history book.  I asked her if one day, we could sit down and write-up a memoir or something.  I never looked at her the same again.  She was a bard of the past and a voice of a time that built who we are, but sadly, to which we could never return.  For that, I thank her, immensely.

Now, I would like to share a lighter moment in my memories of her.  We had been living in Albuquerque in the mid 80′s.  Granny came to visit us in her awesome 1984 Ford Tempo.  I was young, but this was a day which I will never forget.  We were heading to the mall that day and then later to the Old Town part of the city.  I liked going to Old Town because it was full of tourists and indians and neat cultural things.  Granny was going to take us that day in her awesome Tempo.  I hadn’t really been able to ride with Granny in her car before, so I was excited at first.  Then, we left and my emotion quickly changed to fear.  Granny’s driving style was a bit different from what I had been used to.  She never exceeded 35 mph and she had a unique tactic of using her right foot on the gas and her left foot on the brake intermitently, sometimes even at the same time.  I quickly learned what whiplash was; I also realized that my grandma might have forged her drivers license.  I remember the trip was only supposed to be about 10-15 minutes, but that day it was about 35-40 minutes and felt like eternity.  From that day forward, we took the trolley to wherever we went and the Tempo stayed parked!

My other memory of Granny is that she was always frugal. Not cheap, she was just very good with her money. Now, frugality is en vogue, so I guess she was a trendsetter.  She was also very direct, not rude, but very straightforward.  I was in high school and had just gotten my first job.  I was working at Burger King, so I could pay for shoes, basketball camps and Starter jackets.  I had been working awhile to save up because I wanted to get everyone Christmas presents.  Mind you, the minimum wage back then was $3.85 (yes, I’m dating myself), so it took awhile to save up.  I was excited because Granny was going to be in Denver for Christmas that year!  I put in the extra time, during basketball season, to work to get her a present.  I had no idea what grandmas wanted, so I enlisted the help of my mother.  She told me to get Granny a purse, purses are nice!  I looked and found one that was moderately priced, but still very nice.  Christmas Day arrived.  I was so excited to actually give gifts that had been purchased with my own money.  I handed them out to everybody all at once and then sat back to watch the joy and wonderment.  Everyone opened theirs, but I wanted to impress Granny the most.  So I asked her, “Granny, what do you think?”    She replied, “It’s lovely, do you have the reciept?”    Now, most people would be deflated at this point, but I just realized, that’s just Granny and I laughed. Years later, I was able to “Wow” her with a great gift, but we talked about that Christmas and she told that she never returned the purse because she was proud of what I had done. 

Finally, I wanted to include an apology to Granny.  I didn’t realize until last night, when we were all watching the photos of her life on the screen at her funeral, how much I didn’t know and how much I had missed out on.  I suppose that I was naive and thought that she was going to live forever and that I would always have the chance to get the whole story, write those memoirs, or just sit and listen more, some other day.  That opportunity has run out and it will be one of my life’s regrets.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to do that.  I just hope that I can make you proud with my own family.  I will see you again.

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I want to help!!!!

Today is definitely a time-stamped entry, however, if anyone is reading it, they need to take note!  I left the classroom as a public school teacher because of several reasons, but one of the underlying drawbacks was $$!  I was stuck in the world of just getting by and decided that I needed to take action to better provide for me and my family.   I have always been into real estate, in some fashion, ever since my college years, way back in the 90′s!  So, for me, this was a natural progression and a common sense way for me to accomplish that goal.

For those of you that have been on the fence about getting a real estate license AND you have college experience or a degree, time is running out.  I am a frugal person, which is suddenly en vogue again, and I want to maximize on every transaction.  The price at Spencer is one of the lowest in the state of Texas, but also, the requirements to obtain a license are less right now.  Come September 1st, everybody will be required to take 9 classes and the cost will increase accordingly.  I am knowledgeable of what teachers don’t make, but I’m pretty sure there are several other professions that are equally underfunded for the work that YOU do.  Give yourself the opportunity to elevate not only your pay, but also your expectations of what life can offer you.  GET YOUR REAL ESTATE LICENSE TODAY!  I understand that Americans are out of work, I understand we need jobs, I even understand that the money might not be there right now, but i believe that if you are sincerely ready to change, you have what you need inside to get it done.  The only thing you might be lacking is the push or the motivation.  I would like to be that agent of change!

This is part plea, part commercial, but 100% sincere.  I have always been a person that has sought to elevate not only my friends, but everybody around me.  I enjoy helping others, even if there is no gain for myself.  It’s simply the right thing to do!  Now, I have the vehicle to do just that.  I get inspired by the words of people at a macro level, even though I am just a micro right now!  I will evoke change in the world, whether it be helping veterans get back to work, retraining unemployed to rejoin the workforce, helping teachers get what they deserve to be paid, allowing people the chance to improve their situation, so that the next generation isn’t mired in debt, like politicians would have us believe or that America’s best days are behind it.  Eventhough this school is just a little spot on the map, I would like for the effects of what we do to resonate well beyond our sphere of supposed influence!

A little off track there, but dream and speak big, who know’s who might be listening!  However, don’t let this opportunity pass without you seizing it to help yourself.

Thanks for reading!

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Wow! This is a fun challenge!

Thank you for taking the time to look at this humble attempt at writing to be read!  My first day at Spencer School of Real Estate, kind of like starting a new year of school, but also similar to no other experience in my life!  Knowledge of nothing, except the confidence in myself to get things done.  Being on the edge of a great opportunity, that nobody seems to know exists.  Spencer has been in business for over 35 years, but the marketing side has not been there for enough amount of time for people to forget that we are one of only THREE real estate schools in Houston.  “Mike, it’s your job to rebuild!”


I learned as a teacher, that if there are good ideas, you can “borrow” them and make them your own!  I must give respect to my two mentors of sorts, Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs.  After reading the books about these two mens’ lives, I knew that I had to incorporate aspects of their successes into our school, in order to make the ship change direction.  First, we had to re-tool the curriculum of the school, done!  Second, we had to get our networking/technology components up to par, work in progress still….  FInally, we had to focus on the students and make them aware that they are the gem which they truly are!  The focus on them had to be sincere and impactful.  Dedication to the students was paramount, because everyone of them represented how we are to be judged by society/real estate professionals/in our education provider circle.  We are, what we produce!

The focus had to be directed solely at making sure the experience for the students was exceptional (thanks Mr. Schultz), and making sure they had as much support to not only pass the test, but to become top producers.  THAT will be the validation of our course correction.

I do not compare us to the other competitors in our industry, only to where we were vs. where we need to be. There have been several little cleanups that have taken place, but ideas are rolling and we are innovating.  I am excited about the future and the path we are on, I just wish we could hurry up and get there!

If you are reading this, THANK YOU!  This is just the first installment of many.  I will update as we proceed through the journey, for it will be inspirational, entertaining, but mostly, 100% real!

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