I used to sell Real Estate. Back then the internet was just starting to be available to the general public.
In the Real Estate office I worked, I was fortunate to find an opportunity to work with some of the most talented most experienced Real Estate people in the area. I was the youngest person in the office. Like all Real Estate salespeople we all worked with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and all the salespeople had a subscription to the MLS.
Back then, the MLS service was a subscription to a publication, and the publication was a weekly book, actually, 2 books and these books were very thick and heavy. Some of the agents in the office would not throw out the books and their office cubicles were filled with the books from several weeks or even months in the past.
The MLS was also just becoming available on the internet at the time. Back then all internet connections were dial-up connections that required a telephone modem, very slow by modern day standards. As a new agent, I needed an MLS subscription, but the book subscription was very expensive and as a new agent who had not even made my first sale, I did not want to take on the expense of the book subscription. The online MLS subscription was much less expensive and to me seemed much better than the books. Most of the people in the office did not want to bother with the online MLS and just wanted to do things the old way and keep using the books for as long as they could. Only the office manager and I were interested in the internet system, we both knew that the online MLS would soon replace the books and soon all Real Estate agents would have to use the online system.
I loved selling Real Estate. My greatest pleasure in business was helping a young family buy their first home, I was helping the buyer get a good deal on a home and also helping the seller get a good price for the home that they were selling. It was a win-win for all. I liked, being a part of a business transaction where all parties benefited. I liked using my knowledge and skill to help others. I wanted to use my computer knowledge and the internet to do more of that.
Very quickly, within a matter of months, the MLS books would be discontinued and I was teaching all of the salespeople in the office how the use the computers and the online MLS system. Now all of the salespeople in the office had to use the one computer that was available to all of us in the office.
I had to have my own computer and internet connection, and I needed to have it in my own home office. I wanted to be independent, I wanted to have access to the MLS and all of the information that was becoming available to anyone who had access to the world wide web and could get their very own email address.
First I needed a personal computer. Computers were very expensive back then and a friend of mine knew a guy who had a computer business and got me a good deal on a computer and a monitor.
I still remember the day I want to pick up my first computer, I watched as the computer guy set-up my machine and as images quickly flashed across the monitor, the thought struck me of how much information was inside that machine. I had to know what was there and I had to learn how to use what was in there! This was important to my business and my future.
Eagerly, I brought the computer home, I arranged my desk, I plugged everything in, I was ready to go, I turned it on and then….
Nothing, just an empty blue screen? How can this be? I watched the guy set up my machine I saw all that information flash across the screen. I know there is something inside that box, where did it all go?
This is when I realized that the empty blue screen was a gateway to everything, there was infinite potential here. Everything was inside that empty blue screen. I could take my business anywhere I wanted!
How could I do this? How could I learn the technology, the software? I wanted to grow my Real Estate business and have an affiliate marketing business selling software and information products online. How could I do all this and still make a living, pay all my bills, and not lose everything? I was afraid.
I did learn how to use the technology and the software. Most importantly I learned that the internet is media, the most important and most powerful of all media. This is where I can have the biggest impact and this is where I can take a small business and make it a big business, a really big business.
I have learned how to learn and how to teach myself the skills that I need to have an online business. Every day I have to continue to learn.
This is a constant struggle, there is so much information, how do I find want I need and not get lost? There are so many voices, so many shiny objects, so many distractions. How do I focus and continue to move forward and reach my goals?
I am no longer in the Real Estate business and now my business is fully online. I still have to avoid the shiny objects that cross my path every day. I have learned that doing business online is in many ways like a traditional business. The same principles of sales and marketing apply, whether it is a brick and mortar business or an online business, the rules of sales and marketing are still important, ignoring those rules will lead to failure.
I will always need good business practices, I will need to work with others and to understand traditional business methods and practices.
I know now that to build my business online, I need to consistently create content and publish that content. I need to create and put in place business systems. I must use evergreen sales and marketing methods, and I can no longer chase the shiny object.
Now, whenever I am searching for a solution to a problem, I think back to that moment of inspiration and the empty blue screen.