Tears water his eyes. Sitting at his kitchen table, he reminisces about his wife of 50 years who recently passed away.
He’s in rough shape, his house is in rough shape and Wilmington, North Carolina real estate broker Stephanie Lanier sits across from him. They talk about his time in the Navy, his wife, laugh some.
“Nothing about it is happy,” Lanier said. But it’s real -- where real estate happens. Brokers and agents frequently find themselves in the sacred spaces of people’s lives.
“Human connection is the backbone of the industry and nobody talks about it,” Lanier said.
Lanier, who runs the 13-agent brokerage Lanier Property Group with her husband, does, and it’s personal.
She recently commissioned a branding video she and her agents and four full-time employees send to leads and prospective agents that outlines she and her husband’s why: supporting their medically fragile 7-year-old son, Oliver, who suffers from epilepsy and non-cancerous brain tumors.
Lanier Property Group's branding video.
Lanier’s video is bold, and I wondered why and how she felt comfortable sharing this deepest part of her family with the world and her business.
“Real estate is wonderful and really hard,” Lanier said. She wanted to expose the deepest why behind her firm, which, she felt, would facilitate connection and expose the intimacy that exists in real estate but often remains neglected.
Lanier’s take may inspire brokers and agents to question their own impulses to maintain a sharp line between the business and the personal. Exposing your guts is hard, but it presents a vulnerability where deep connections and meaning lives.
This practice might be particularly relevant in real estate.
Other professionals such as doctors and lawyers have intimate contact with clients, but rarely do they do so to the extent that real estate agents do. Births, deaths, divorces, tricky finances often form the backdrop of agents’ work.
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Baking life into business
People do their most creative, best work when the personal and professional harmonize, Lanier said. She wants her agents and clients to know they have the freedom to be their full selves. When you know everything about your co-workers, compassion magnifies, she said.
This emotionalism could manifest a chaotic work environment.
Lanier emphasizes accountability and encouragement at The Lanier Property Group. Late-night calls about imploding marriages and family member’s cancer diagnosis happen, but everyone knows work has to get done, too, she said.
Increases in per-agent productivity indicate this business philosophy, and Lanier’s implementation of it, works. In the second quarter this year, each of her full-time agents averaged a gross commission of $25,849, a 37 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
Lanier lives this personal-business continuum herself. Oliver’s condition leads to some difficult times. Lanier comes in to the office devastated at times, and sometimes breaks down.
“I’m always a mom,” Lanier said. “You bring your momness into meetings.” Your personal life colors everything you do, she added. Whether stressful or happy, mood-twisting chemicals pulse through your body, and they influence work.
But the messiness and realness of life creates a beautiful bow: frayed, shiny, dirty, clean, perfect.
Life is hard. Life is beautiful.
Lanier’s real estate journey started, abruptly, with Oliver’s first massive seizure.
Two years after Oliver was born, she went in to wake him one morning and found something terribly wrong -- he was breathing but unresponsive. (Lanier has wrote extensively -- and beautifully -- about Oliver in an ongoing blog. Read it here).
Lanier’s husband had worked in real estate and they decided to open Lanier Property Group in 2012.
Five years later, it’s humming on all cylinders. In 2015, the firm did 85 transactions and $18.1 million in sales.
Share your humanity-infused real estate stories on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #humanityRE -- I'll feature them in a future post.