Whether you’re just starting off in real estate or have several years of experience under your belt, one of the most daunting aspects of building and maintaining your business can be the real estate business plan.
You wouldn’t try to build a house without blueprints, so how can you expect to build a successful real estate business without a business plan? After years of helping agents build successful businesses, we’ve determined that every good business plan contains seven key elements and we want to share them with you. Click any of the links below to jump to a specific section:
- Scheduling and time blocking
- Lead generation
- Budgeting and expenses
- Marketing plans
- Database management
- Systems and tools
- Continuous learning
Read on to find out how you can start mapping out a better business plan that will help you reach your goals in real estate.
Start Your Real Estate Business Plan with a SWOT Analysis
When we work on business planning with our agents, we always start with a SWOT analysis. This exercise allows you to assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, both for you as an agent and your business overall. You’ve probably done a SWOT analysis at least once before but this time we want you to do this with two questions in mind:
Who are you?
Where do you want to go with your business?
As you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as an agent, think about these key areas:
- Industry knowledge
- Technical skills
- Interpersonal strengths
- Financial status
- Local network
Once you have a list of your strengths and weaknesses, evaluate where your competitive edge lies. What skills will help you build a successful real estate business?
When you think about opportunities and threats, evaluate them within the context of your local market. Think about:
- Market trends
- New developments in your area
- Economic events that could impact your local market
- Marketing ideas and opportunities.
Once you have a list of opportunities and threats, evaluate where you want to take your business. What pitfalls should you avoid? What opportunities can you take advantage of?
Click the button below to download a printable SWOT analysis that you can use to lay the groundwork for your business plan.
The 7 Essential Elements of a Real Estate Business Plan
Once you’ve completed a SWOT analysis, you’re ready to write a business plan. A business plan is your roadmap to success. It outlines your vision, goals, how you plan to achieve your goals and what your business needs to succeed. Every business plan should include your vision, mission statement, goals for the year, goals for the next three to five years and goals for the next 10 years.
After years of coaching agents, we’ve determined there are seven key components of a real estate business plan that you might not learn about in a simple Google search. Stating your vision, mission and goals is important but how much more could you achieve if you go deeper with your business planning?
These are the seven essential elements of a real estate business plan that every agent should map out and include in their business plans.
1. Scheduling and Time Blocking for Lead Generation
This might not seem like something you’d include in a business plan, but we coach all our agents to map out a weekly and daily schedule with time blocking for lead generation activities. Why? It keeps you accountable and helps you track everything you’re doing to generate leads. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day activities of running a real estate business, but your lead generation can’t suffer as a result.
Key Tip: We also recommend including a list of non-negotiable activities in this section.
This will differ from agent to agent but if that means holding yourself to the promise of making 10 cold calls a day, going live on Facebook once a week, or reaching out to all of the FSBOs in your area every month, then write it down! We’ve found that agents who include this section in their business plans are more likely to commit to and maintain the lead generation strategies that require a daily or weekly investment of time.
Looking for expert advice on making lead generation a priority in your business? Click the button below to learn more about how to make lead generation your focus and how it can change your business when you do.
2. Lead Generation
While we’re on the topic of lead generation, it’s important to note that your lead sources and strategy should be incorporated into your business plan. Lead generation is the lifeblood of your real estate business – you don’t have a business without it! Part of our coaching and training includes working with agents to find lead generation strategies that suit each individual agent’s personality, skills, and working styles. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to lead generation which is why we encourage agents to find out what works for them and then build their business around it.
Not sure which lead generation tactics should be included in your business plan? Or wondering if what you’re doing now is right for your business? Click the button below to find out which agent archetype you are and which lead generation tactics might suit your personality and skills best.
Key Tip: Once you know which lead generation tactics work for you, diversify your leads among five main sources.
Diversifying lead sources ensures stability in your business if leads decrease in a certain area. But exactly how many lead sources should you be pursuing? We advise our agents to choose five main areas of lead sources on which to focus their time, attention and energy. For some agents, this could be direct mail, FSBOs, geo-farming, Zillow leads and open houses. It just depends on which lead sources work best for you!
Use this worksheet to map out the five main lead sources that suit your working style and skills. Write them down and then outline your tactics for finding leads in these areas. Download the sheet by clicking the button below.
In your business plan, include a section for your five main lead sources and list them out along with a plan for pursuing them throughout the year. We also advise our agents to track which transactions can be attributed to certain sources so that you can see exactly where most of your business is coming from. This will also help you evaluate how effective your lead sources and tactics are at the end of every year.
3. Budgeting & Expenses
It’s a no-brainer that your business plan should include a section for budgeting and expenses. A working budget requires accountability and transparency so you know at all times where your business stands financially.
Key Tip: We take financial planning a step further and ask our agents to create and maintain a budget broken out in three ways.
Your expenses should include these three sections:
- Business budget
- Personal budget
- Monthly expenses
Your business budget is a general overview of what you spend per month and annually on essential business expenses. We encourage our agents to break out expenses into main categories, such as administration, lead generation, education, marketing and general expenses (think accounting, travel, etc.). List these out by line item with the dollar amount you spend every month, then calculate your overall total for the year. This will also help you estimate how much you can expect to spend next year so there should be few surprises.
A business budget will help you see at a glance what your monthly and annual expenses are so you can stay on top of your finances.
It may seem odd to include your personal finances in your real estate business plan. However, one of the biggest financial mistakes an agent can make is not tracking both their personal and business expenses – after all, you’re living off the income from your business! That doesn’t mean you should keep everything in the same bank account. In fact, we recommend keeping personal and business accounts separate. However, you should be tracking everything in your business plan in order to keep your finances organized.
Your personal budget should also include major categories, such as transportation, housing, utilities, food, lifestyle, childcare, debt and investments, to name just a few. Just like your business budget, list out each expense by line with the dollar amount you spend every month, then calculate your overall total for the year.
A monthly expenses sheet is the combination of your business and personal budgets. This sheet is broken out by month and lists out every one of your business and personal expenses line by line. In this same sheet, you should include your active income each month and include any other sources of income. The purpose of this sheet is to help you calculate and estimate your net income within the complete framework of your business.
For more insight on budgeting, separating business and personal finances, and avoiding common financial missteps, click the button below.
4. Marketing Plan
Why do we recommend our agents include a comprehensive marketing plan in their business plan? It’s essential for growing your business! It’s how you build a brand, market yourself to your network, showcase your listings and build relationships. A marketing plan is a key part of your real estate business plan.
Every agent’s marketing plan is going to look a little different, depending on their archetype and lead generation strategies. We usually recommend having two marketing planning sheets, one for monthly plans and an annual marketing plan.
Monthly Marketing Plan
This will be your in-depth analysis of your marketing tactics, whether it’s client events, social media ads, content creation, billboards, direct mailers or anything else you choose to do. For each month of the year, list exactly what you do, who your audience or recipients are, how much it costs you, what you hope to achieve and what your actual results are.
This is a great way to map out what you hope to achieve with your marketing efforts and evaluate the ROI of everything you do.
Annual Marketing Plan
Your annual marketing plan is a high-level snapshot of your marketing campaigns throughout the year. List out the campaigns, goals and budgets you have planned for each month (and add on any spur-of-the-moment projects afterward). You can use this at the end of the year to review everything you did and take note of what worked, what didn’t work, what needs improvement and add any new ideas you might have.
Key Tip: Check out our free guide to real estate marketing. You’ll learn how to build your brand and effectively market it to the right people so you can start building better relationships with clients you enjoy working with.
5. Database Management
Managing your database of people (i.e. your sphere of influence) is essential to keeping your lead generation sources fresh and effective. A section of your business plan should outline exactly where your lists of connections live, whether that be a CRM, spreadsheet or other tools. If you’re not already using a CRM, this would be a good time to evaluate your need for one.
We coach our agents to evaluate their databases of connections quarterly and annually. Take a page from Brian Buffini’s book and audit who your people are and how they relate to your business. Buffini coaches agents to assign a letter grade to people in your database to better help you qualify people (think A+, A, B, C, etc.) Ask yourself:
- How valuable are these people to my business?
- Who are my A+ and A people? How often do they send me business?
- Who does not get a rating above B? Should they be removed?
- Have I added in all of my new contacts from this year?
- Am I using the right CRM to track my sphere of influence?
Key Tip: Keeping your database updated and sorted will not only help you generate better leads, but it will also help you better target your marketing efforts to the right audiences and build a more effective marketing plan for the year.
For more on auditing your database for your real estate business plan, check out this blog from Buffini and Company.
6. Systems and Tools
Agents use a suite of tools and systems to help them run successful businesses. This can include a CRM, marketing tools, data reports, apps and more, many of which require an annual or monthly subscription. Are you actually using everything you’re paying for? In our financial planning meetings with agents, we advise them to audit their monthly statements so they know exactly how much they’re paying for programs they may not be using.
A section of your business plan should outline every system and tool you use and what part of your business you use them for. The purpose here is to figure out what your ROI is for every paid tool you use. In other words, what is it worth to your business?
By the end of the year, you should be able to determine what systems are working, what isn’t working and what tools you’re possibly missing. Do you need a new CRM with more capabilities now that your database is growing? Are you missing a marketing app that could help automate your campaigns? What parts of your business could you outsource so you can focus on more valuable activities?
Key Tip: Evaluate the tools you’re using, how they fit into your business budget and how they impact your lead generation.
7. Continuous Learning
Continuous education and personal growth are a key part of our culture. It’s also something we encourage all agents to pursue throughout their careers.
You should always include continuing education (CE) courses in your annual schedule and budget. In Iowa, real estate agents must renew their licenses every three years and earn 36 CE credits. If your brokerage offers CE courses in-house, add them to your annual calendar. Otherwise, you’ll have to include the cost of these courses in your business budget.
Key Tip: Expand your industry knowledge and grow your business by taking advantage of conferences, workshops, real estate coaches, books and podcasts.
We’re not just talking about real estate learning, although that is essential for becoming a savvy, knowledgeable agent. We also recommend resources for personal growth. Agents who learn more about leadership, work-life balance, marketing, time management, psychology and finance have an advantage when it comes to building a balanced real estate business.
Make it a priority in your schedule and budget to pursue personal growth opportunities. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make myself a better agent and a better person?’ If you’re looking for a place to start, check out our list of the top 29 books, podcasts, coaches and resources we recommend for real estate agents to better your business.
Creating a comprehensive real estate business plan is the first step to building a successful business. It can be overwhelming to try to sit down and map out where you think your business will need for the next year. At the end of the day, the best way to get it done is just to start at the beginning. The SWOT analysis we provided is a great place to start so you can start thinking about who you are as an agent and where you want your business to go. Then you can start with the seven essential sections we’ve outlined above.
If you have questions about business planning or any of the topics we’ve addressed above, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our Agent Success Coach would be happy to meet with you, just click here to schedule a time.