Alicia Messa is a local real estate expert in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll hear about her neighborhood and where she’s from real soon. She’s one of the authors in the new real estate business book, Becoming A Local Leader.
This book features stories from 22 Top Producing Local Agents, who through their stories, share their strategies and their tactics on how to grow one’s business through relationships and referrals instead of advertising and all this lead buying stuff.
Two of the themes I see a lot in this book is community service or being of service to the community, the people who live and work there, and one’s self development as they become a better agent and become a business owner and reconcile some of the things that they have in themselves that they need to improve upon in order to be great about real estate and life.
Alicia’s story really goes into both those two things really well. She has five really great nuggets in there. We’re going to go into who she is and her journey in real estate.
Every agent had their own message they wanted to share with agents when they wrote their chapter of the book. What was yours? When you wrote your story, you were thinking about the agents that you were talking to? What is the main message you’re trying to get across to them?
I’ve been a RealtorⓇ for a lot of years but I moved from California, where I started, to Washington. I was new to the community here in Snoqualmie Valley. It’s a very tight knit community. As I started to get to know people, and started to think, “Okay, I’m going to get my real estate licence and get going.” I started interviewing with different offices and seeing where I was going to feel comfortable.
It became very clear very quickly that everyone had really tight circles. Everybody knew each other. They felt that everybody had been there forever. It didn’t really feel like I wasn’t welcomed but I was very nervous. I lost confidence in myself after going out a little bit. And so, I actually ran and went somewhere else with my business, rather than in my own local community. I kind of went up about a half hour 45 minutes away.
I guess my message is after doing that for a very short period of time, I realized, “What am I doing? This is silly. I can get a network of people I know. I just have to work at it.” I think that’s my big message is you have to work in this industry to be successful, and that’s okay. I mean, any successful person is going to tell you, you have to work, it’s not going to come easy, it’s not going to just be a walk in the park. You’re going to have to work and try. You’re going to have some failures, and that’s okay because you’ll learn from those.
One of my first failures was not having confidence in myself. I want everybody to know to just go do it. If you really want to get into the business, go do it. You’re going to learn as you go. This business is one where we take a test and take all those classes, and those really don’t help too much in how to become a successful agent, you have to go and do it. That’s really the big message is just have confidence in yourself, rely on yourself, and to just go out there.
What are some of the things that you did to break into a tight knit community?
One of the things that I’ve always loved is giving back to any community I’ve been involved in. It’s just a big part of who I am. When I had young kids, it was a little bit easier to figure out what to do because you can get really involved in the community through the schools and all of that kind of thing. So, I was very heavily involved in PTA. But when you don’t have that, it’s like, what can you do? That was really what I did. When I realized I wanted to work in my own community, I started thinking about what I was passionate about, and then researching what in my community I could get involved in to enjoy and also hopefully network and you know, get to know people.
I have a real passion against bullying. I knew quite a few people that had been bullied as kids. I watched my own kids go through some. So, I got involved with community non-profits that were about that and got on their board. That’s been an amazing way to get to know people and also really immersed myself into the community.
I also joined the Chamber of Commerce and became a board member there. Let me tell you, that’s amazing and definitely fits into what we’re doing here at Parkbench. And so, just immersing myself in the community was a big part of it.
And then, I also wanted to join a group like BNI, that was something that a lot of people said, “Join a networking group.” Well, BNI was available in our area, believe it or not, because we’re such a small community, no one had one. All the other BNIs that were close to me, already had a RealtorⓇ. It’s the number one person they’re going to have.
Long story short, I started our own group and six to eight of us are still in the group to this day. This was back in 2016. We’ve been doing this for about five years now. But just started our own BNI type group, and we called it Keep it Local Snoqualmie Valley. We started out with about eight, like I said. We grew to about 12 for a few years and now we’re up to 33 people.
It was a great way to get to know other small businesses, give back to them, and help them network with people. It’s amazing how many small businesses don’t have a support system. So, this group has become like a small little family.
It is a really valuable thing to have these powerful groups of people. What professionals do you find in your group that you’ve been able to be super helpful for them and they’ve been super helpful for you? What have been some of the lessons learned and best practices that you would share with agents who want to create their own BNI type referral-oriented group?
I’ll tell you it was funny because when BNI realized we were not going to do BNI, they actually told us we’ll never last because we didn’t have a national organization over us. They said tons of people start small little groups and it just doesn’t work, which is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Just do it. Just try it.
The first thing is it has to be a weekly meeting. One of the things I learned really quickly is that a lot of people were like, “Well, if we don’t do BNI, we can do it every other week or every month or whatever.” And very quickly it was very clear we did need to do it every week because there’s got to be that commitment. But as far as the people involved, it’s really anybody. Anybody that has a business. From someone that’s trying to start baking cakes to your normal ones, like your mortgage and your financial advisors.
What I find most successful is when you get a humongous mix. I mean, we have a local beekeeper in ours that does a lot of classes in the summer. But then during the winter, she’s got great products. And so, anybody can be successful. She’s done really well in the group. We have an insurance agent and a house cleaner. It’s really anybody that has a business that can be successful.
I definitely have people that have dropped the group or have discussed possibly dropping it because they didn’t feel they were getting enough out of it. The big thing with it is you’re going to get out of it as much as you put into it. When they say I’m not getting any referrals, I’m like, “Well, how many referrals have you given?” Because really, one of the things that we talked about in the group is you’ve got to give in this whole thing. You have to be a giver. And then as you give, you’re going to get back eventually. You can’t expect it right away but it will come back to you if you put enough into it.
We encourage the one on ones, having people get to know each other. It is very relationship based. It’s like, the more you invest in building those relationships with these business owners, the more you are going to get out of it. Like for me, I actually go and I’m doing it again, because I’ve already done it once. I’m going through and marketing them on Facebook. I’m going and visiting where they live or where they’re working, taking a picture and throwing it on Facebook and promoting it. You got to give value. You need to give and show them that you care about their business, and then they’re going to care about yours.
What are some things that you do to help you actually find a person that then needs the products and services of the people in your group so you can make those connections? Describe the difference in the actions and behaviors outside of the group meeting that allow people to find and give the referrals?
Well, engaging with people and having conversations and asking questions is definitely important. I have neighbours that call me up all the time and say, “Hey, we know you know everybody in the community and always have great referrals. Who do you know, that does eyebrows?” I mean, I may not know someone that does eyebrows. I do but it’s one of those things where I’m kind of known as the local connector. I’m known as the person that has good referrals and knows the people.
Just getting that out to people and as you’re talking to people, let them know, “If you ever need anything, I’m not just your real estate source. I am your source for anything you need in the community. Call me and I’m going to help you get connected to some great people and whatever you’re needing, and if I don’t know, I have people that do. So, you can always just call me.”
I’m kind of that person where people rely on me for their resources. I mean, do I refer to everybody in my group? I’m hoping I’ll probably refer to them all at least once or twice or whatever, but there’s definitely a core group of people that I refer to more. We have pockets of those.
Our general contractor works with our tile person and our countertop person and our handyman a little bit and our painter. There are definitely ones that click and refer to each other more but we all talk about being local connectors so that people come to us and ask us. What’s interesting about that is people will come to us and ask. “You know what, we don’t have anyone in the group like that, but we need to find someone.” So, it also helps us figure out who might be a good fit for the group. It’s just talking to people and letting them know that you enjoy connecting. It’s really where I get such enjoyment from is helping people connect. It’s also why I love the chamber and other things as well as helping people get connected.
What would you say to the agent who loves the ideas that you’re talking about? But then they have these fears, doubts, and worries of the finances. How do you align the two?
To build a business on relationships takes a little bit of time, right? I was not nearly as successful six years ago as I am today. But I will tell you that when I look every year at what has brought me most of my business, it’s always my ‘Keep it Local Group’. They are my number one resource, as well as just being out in the community. My rotary group that I belong to is another thing that I would say would be a good one for people.
But anyways, just getting out there and being involved and trusting the fact that the more connections you make, the more relationships you build on. I’m blown away at how many people know me, and I don’t even know them. That’s a great thing as a RealtorⓇ to have that knowledge in your community. And it’s because I’m involved in different things. And yes, it takes time, and I’ve definitely overcommitted. I’m definitely one of those that has to every once in a while, go, “I need to start saying no, because I’m saying yes too much and getting too involved.” I just am passionate about it, being involved in the community.
It’s one of those things where you have to trust. You have to just do it. And really, building relationships doesn’t have to cost you any money. Really. I mean, joining a group of some sort will cost you something. We’ve set our dues really low enough to get commitment but not too much. Besides that, building relationships within a community, joining the chamber and doing those don’t cost too much. They’re going to pay off in the end.
I have started a firm and it will be one of the things that I tell my agents as I start bringing them on, that they need to join the Chamber and they need to get involved in those things because it may not pay off today or tomorrow or even in six months, but it will eventually pay off huge if you just trust that and work at it. You can’t just join and expect it. You’ve got to be creating the connections. And I’ll tell you, it’s taken me maybe three to four years to be where I am now but I was successful enough even two years into building relationships and getting involved in the community.
You worked with your mother for many years successfully. I’m sure you learned a lot along the way of how to work with family – lessons learned, best practices. I’d love for you to touch on that. For people who are reading the book in that position like you, what advice do you have? Because it’s obviously different when you’re working with family versus working on your own versus working with just partners and friends that you brought together?
Yeah. Well, I think any partner, whether it’s family or not, is challenging. There’s a lot to that. But with my mom and me, it was not always great. I mean, there were times when I thought she was slacking and there were times when she thought I was slacking. Probably that more than the other.
It’s respecting each other and respecting each other what we brought to the table and making sure that we express that. When we remembered that we weren’t doing that and that we needed to do more of that, when we started showing appreciation for what each other brought to the table, that’s when we were at our best. When I was like, “Wow mom, you are the best with people and with buyers.” She was like, “Yeah, I am. And you’re really great over here doing the paperwork and the listings.”
Sometimes we were having buyers, so she’d feel like I wasn’t doing enough because I was doing more listings and vice versa. It’s remembering to appreciate each other, and also praising each other. That’s the one crazy thing. It’s kind of like a marriage. Well, I said I love you back in 2000. Do I really have to keep saying it? Yeah! Yeah! You have to keep saying that you appreciate me and you see my value. That’s really, I think the big thing is, making them feel like you appreciate them, you see them, and that they’re a value and that you’re excited to be working alongside them.
It’s really similar to what I have going on now. I have a new partner in crime. I’m sure she feels like sometimes I take advantage. I have to back off and remember to praise her and tell her, “Oh, my gosh, Kris, I would have never remembered to do that. Thank you so much for taking care of this and not even bugging me with it, just doing it.” But she does that so often, I forget that I need to thank her for those things every once in a while, so she feels appreciated and so forth. So, it’s stuff like that. You just have to be mindful of what each other brings to the table.
My husband and I are working on trying to do these little grateful notes to each other. Just what we’re grateful for. I mean, I’ve been married for 35 years. It just happened on August 10th. It’s funny because it’s kind of like the I love you thing. We just don’t say it enough. We don’t say that we’re grateful for each other enough. And so, it really is just like having a partner in a business. You’ve got to let them know that you care and appreciate them.
Now, one of the things you talked about in your chapter is your own journey of self development, your own learning or self awareness around the things you’re good or bad at or have some tendencies towards. Because there are lots of people who have been labelled officially or unofficially with things like DD, ADHD, OCD, bipolar, manic, etc.
To me, it’s just part of your personality. You should harness the strengths that come with these things and learn to overcome the weaknesses, or hide it, or find someone else to compliment to take over those things. Usually, that involves a little self awareness, involves developing new habits and new routines. So, if you were to give some advice to people who can relate to this situation, who were in that situation, who were trying to overcome it, what would be some of your advice for them?
You’ll read it in the chapter but I’m ADD. It makes so much sense now. And so, that’s the first thing is if you feel there’s something, go figure it out. It’s okay. There are millions of us out there that deal with this. It doesn’t mean anything. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure I was going to put this in the book but I wanted people to understand. And this is kind of the big part of it, is that it doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside. We’re all dealing with our own things, our own insecurities, our own issues. We can still be successful. And it’s okay to have these issues. The first thing is to just be okay with it and to be able to own it.
I know, for many years, when I was younger, it was much harder and I didn’t talk to anybody about it. I didn’t want to. I felt flawed. It was embarrassing. I was worried about what people were going to think. I still don’t talk about it a ton but I think it’s important because I want people to understand, who do doubt themselves because of their different things, that you can still be successful. For me, it’s about getting into good habits.
When I start having a ton of sticky notes all over my desk, I know I’m having some issues and just kind of roll back and take some deep breaths and do some things I know I need to do to kind of recenter myself and calm my brain down because it can go pretty fast, which is why I just pull up the sticky notes and start writing a ton of stuff. It’s just acknowledging when you’re having whatever it is you’re having, and being okay with it and realizing you’re going to get through it. You can manage it and it’s okay. It’s been hard for me to do that, but I’m finally at a point where it is what it is and I’m not going to let it stop me. I’m going to make it work the best I can. My sticky notes, I used to think were my friend, but now they’re just an indication that I need to be paying attention to it and realize I need to slow my brain down.
And that’s the important thing. We need to acknowledge the fact it actually gives us strengths. I actually love challenges. I mean, my business partner always laughs about that fact. Kris will go, “When there is a problem, you are at your best.” Because my mind’s going a mile a minute trying to figure out how to get through it. It’s a total challenge to me when there’s something going on in an escrow or something. It’s like a fire is lit and I’m just ready to go.
If you’re an agent wanting to find a partner who can complement your strengths and weaknesses, what would be some advice to help them find the right partner?
That’s a good question. My partner and I were actually introduced by a mutual gal that we know in another networking group. She said, “Oh, my gosh, you guys live in the same town. You don’t know each other. That’s crazy. You guys need to because you’re almost identical.” Personality wise, we’re very identical. But how we work is so very different. That’s definitely created its challenges too, but it’s also been important that we are different.
I’ve actually had one other business partner. It didn’t go well at all. One of the biggest things with this business is when I got back into the business here in Washington, I needed to find a brokerage that’s going to give me some leads or help me because I was telling myself I can’t generate my own. I don’t have anyone here that I know so I need leads. And so, the first partner that I went with, was someone that had more connections in the community than I. I thought that was a huge value. But it ended up that it’s so much more than that. You definitely need to be connected to the community. But more than that, it goes back to what I feel makes a successful partnership. You have to be able to work with each other and trust each other. And know that you appreciate your differences, as well as your strengths.
When you think about things that you lack, you have to think, “Is this a resource?” Lack of resources like money or connections, you can get that. What you can’t get is values. What you can’t get is philosophies of how to grow a business. What you can’t get is personalities that gel and those that don’t. And so, it’s like looking for a partner who has shared values, shared goals, and a good personality for a working relationship. And then, whatever you need, you’ll figure out how to get and just work at it. That’s what I’m kind of hearing from you.
It’s so true. The values and everything are so much more important. The other stuff you can figure out, you can do. But what we so often do is we don’t trust ourselves to be able to do it. I was in constant self doubt about everything. Once I got over that and realized I can do this, then it was much easier. I found her after I had already kind of gotten to that point. That’s important, too. I think you don’t want to get into a partnership when you’re in a place of self doubt. I think that might not be the best time to grab a person to come alongside you. I think you already have to have your own self confidence and everything before you get involved or you’re going to be too reliant on them. That’s not a good thing either, which is why I was relying on my first partner to give me all those leads. It just didn’t work.
That’s really good advice. There’s a lot more in your chapter that I recommend people get as well as all the other chapters. So, I want you to imagine you talking to yourself when you first joined real estate. And here’s this book called Becoming a Local LeaderⓇ with your advice in it and all these other agents’ stories, their strategies and advice. What would you say to the agent, “Hey, here’s why you should get this book. Here’s how it’s going to help you with your career.”?
I read everything. I’m a sponge with that kind of stuff. One of the things I think this book brings to you is just a ton of ideas. We’re all different. How I got here may not resonate. I mean, if you’re not really into putting yourself out there to the community and doing all that, my chapter may not resonate. But there’s 19 other chapters to read. There might be one or two that are going to resonate with you.
It’s the same with self help. It doesn’t all resonate, but you can take bits and pieces of everything, and really make something powerful. You probably know the number more than I, but not many RealtorsⓇ last that long in this business. We have a ton of them out there, but a lot of them don’t make it very long. I mean, I think the average amount of transactions is like four or five. It’s a fairly low amount. So, it’s not an easy business to be successful in. So, to be able to buy a book that gives you a lot of great tips on how to be successful in this business, to me, it’s huge.
You can’t get this kind of training from your brokers. Brokers are going to give you a lot of training on how to write an offer and some general ideas of how to be successful, but this book is going to be able to really help people in the trenches that have made it happen, how they make it happen. You can’t get that anywhere else. So, I think the book is going to be huge for agents!
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