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Travis Thom

ABC. Always Be Closing.

ABC. Always Be Closing.

“ABC. Always be closing, Travis.” I resented them for saying that phrase every chance they got. I never got off the phone with them without hearing it at least once. As they shook my hand after every meeting it was always the last thing they said before walking out the door. I’m not exaggerating when I say they included that phrase in every email, text message, and voice mail they sent me. It was their mantra – Always be closing. If you’ve never seen the movie Glenngary Glenn Ross, it’s a true story about a real estate development here in New Mexico and where the phrase originates.  Alec Baldwin screams, “ABC! Always Be Closing!”, among other profanities, to his sales team. Inspired by the movie, my clients said this phrase to me as their favorite way of combining motivation with the fear of being fired. They, too, were residential developers so I always imagined part of them felt entitled to use it. Truthfully, though, a raging fire burned inside of me every time I heard it. They used it so often I’m convinced they whispered it in their sleep, although I have no way of verifying that. ABC. ABC. ABC. I sometimes still get this small pang of anger when I hear it because it always meant one thing to me – whatever I was doing, it wasn’t enough.

They were from Chicago but one of them has family roots here and relocated back to Albuquerque.  His partner, who remained in Chicago, would fly back and forth to check on things. Developer partners for years, they decided to take a shot in the Albuquerque market. In fairness, they built a beautiful product. Each unit was “edgy” and different from the boring apartment-grade condos Albuquerque was used to seeing. They were on a mission to change the face of condominiums in the area around our University and popular local shopping neighborhood, which was prime for some urban housing options. I was up for the challenge.

They hired me because I was young, had a team, and was building a name for myself as the “it” firm for boutique real estate.  They weren’t shy about their expectations and even fired some of my own team members off of their developments in the middle of an Open House. They knew, without hesitation, how they wanted their sales team to function and nothing was going to stand in their way of accomplishing sales. They pushed. They pushed hard. We often fought and they were sometimes cruel, irrational, abusive, and completely unprofessional in their ways of motivating me to perform the way they wanted. Their background as stock brokers made high pressure, boiler room style, sales seem normal and often their tactics left us feeling inadequate, though they never fired us. They saw something great in me I didn’t yet know existed, while actively molding me in to their ideal condominium sales leader and, over time, I conformed.

ABC. Always Be Closing.

This meant I had to continuously work harder, be more creative, reconfigure my rock star team, and be a top-notch expert in condominiums. At the end of every week we had an accountability meeting were we presented the marketing we did, what sales calls we made, the showings we scheduled, and contracts we got signed. But no matter what I did, no matter how hard we worked, no matter how many units I sold – “DO MORE.”, they’d say. “ABC, Travis. Always be closing.” So I did. I did more. Even when I thought there was nothing left do be done I worked harder than I’d ever worked before. I learned more every day and, as the result, I grew both as a sales person and leader, but also as a Real Estate marketing innovator.

In their minds, they were molding me to be their perfect team. The team that would never leave them, outgrow them, out shine them. The team that would be solely dependent on them and their developments for commissions. In their minds, I would be young and naive forever and would never seek, or accept, other opportunities to harness my craft. The reality, though, was that I was out-performing every condominium sales team in the city and my team was getting noticed. Because of their molding and training, we were in the papers, on blogs, and being invited to events. Because of my sales success on their developments, and in very short order, I was the exclusive listing Agent for 80% of the condominium developments in my niche area with upwards of $200,000,000 in listings within a 3 year period. Our business was expanding and they absolutely hated it. They hated that my success meant that the competition wanted me. They begrudged that fact that I was no longer dependent on them for business and opportunity. They didn’t appreciate that by becoming known as the condo expert I was doing each and every one of my clients a service because having the listings, and being known as the expert for a niche, also meant I had a line of buyers at every development. I fought harder with my cranky clients and ultimately, we went our separate ways. I never looked back.  My team, and my business, became bigger than them.

10 years later I’m no longer in brokerage, and just recently I ran in to an old Agent of mine. She’s now an Owner and Qualifying Broker of her own firm specializing in, you guess it, multi-family developments. She was one of my rocks stars and as we were catching up on life she interrupted me to say, “Travis, I just want you to know I owe everything I am today to you. You taught me everything I know and I will be forever thankful for my time with you.” Whoah. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts to respond, although I made sure she didn’t notice. I’m deeply humbled and honored by her appreciation. To be told my time as Qualifying Broker made an impact was a hugely validating moment for me. I’ve never felt like I was the leader my Agents deserved so hearing her gratitude for her time with me meant more than she may ever know.

But that moment meant something else to me, too. It was a reminder that every successful person you encounter once had their own leader, teacher, coach, mentor, friend, motivator, or client who pushed them to be a better version of themselves. With luck, each of us have been motivated in some way to go that little extra mile in order to accomplish our goals. We may struggle, we may fight it, resent it, or even diminish the impact it’s having on our lives but as she thanked me I was taken right back to that time I spent working for those tough developers. I wasn’t able appreciate their motivation then and, while I may never feel like they valued the work I did for them, they pushed me to be better. To do more. It’s only in hindsight and love for where my life has taken me that I can now say that everything I know, and everything I learned, was because of them.

ABC. Always be closing.

The above picture is of one of the developments I went on to win, market, and sell the hell out of. The success of that building is something I’m still, to this day, really proud of. 

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