The Business of Business

The Business of Business

Not In Service SM

At a recent gathering with a successful group of real estate agents, I noticed something about the conversation path of these functions. It started with the usual small talk about kids, small talk about small talk, and then, invariably, someone asked that wonderful icebreaker: “How’s business?”

Maybe “icebreaker” is wishful thinking. Really, if you aren’t prepared, the question can hit you like a run-in with Otto Preminger toting a freeze gun. No good can come from dropping your part of the conversation by failing to answer such a predictable question from business acquaintances (because, let’s face it, close friends don’t have to ask). Good thing I was prepared. In fact, my recent debut has awakened me to the language of business assembly. I have learned to answer apolitically about politics (no small feat in our polarized times), and I can sound upbeat about sports teams I, frankly, do not like (and in that, I might be hitting below the thumb).

A recent business blog I read found this entire “how’s business?” topic to be unseemly, as if asking someone about their business was tantamount to inquiring about the virtue of their sister. That is nonsense. You are in a business setting; you need to talk about business. I actually like to answer this question because I can do it in a way that conveys the message, “Business is really good, but it can always be better.”

Let’s jump back into the real estate agent gathering.

Realtor: “Dan, nice to meet you. How’s business?”

Dan: I am really excited by how the purchase market has heated up. With so many properties going so quickly and so many multiple offers, I have been busy pre-approving buyers to get them ready to buy.

Realtor: That’s great to hear. I won’t take a buyer out in my car if she isn’t pre-approved. My time is too valuable to waste if someone isn’t ready.

Let’s wrap up this little role play with a couple questions. What just happened there? Did I answer the realtor’s question? Trick question, right? Yes, I answered. But what I really did was encourage my new realtor friend to talk to me about how important what I do is to what he does. I value that interplay more than any recitation of my current numbers. My answer to “how’s business?” addressed something I consider to be important and – as it turned out – something that was equally important to the realtor. If it hadn’t been, that fact would have been revelatory, too. That is to say, if the realtor didn’t value what I do, or hadn’t thought about it, I could view that discovery as a chance to help educate him on the merits of pre-approval as a part of the mortgage process.

If you are a realtor, and believe you could benefit from having your buyers pre-approved, please call me at 312-342-9555 or email me at If you aren’t a realtor, but are a consumer who is considering a new home purchase, I want to stress the importance of pre-approval. In areas where home prices are rising and inventories are low (pretty much everywhere in greater Chicago right now), you will improve your chances of having your offer accepted (i.e. you get the house) if you have been pre-approved for a mortgage. And if you are ready to get pre-approved or are just curious about how much home you can afford given current low rates and (ever-expanding) lender guidelines, please call or email me at the number/address above. I look forward to working with you.

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