Feel Like You Belong – Features Real Estate Broker, Lola Audu ‘A New Way to Sell Real Estate’

Lola Audu is used to creating firsts in her adopted U.S. home. As an international student in college, she had to teach white administrators about unintended racism. As a real estate professional, she became the first black president in the 117-year history of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors. As a graduate of the Cultural Intelligence Center, she is now bringing cultural intelligence (CQ) to the real estate industry. Join Alan as he interviews the Nigerian native who has become a West Michigan force to be reckoned with.

Spreading a little ‘sunshine’ at Sunnyslope Floral in Grandville, MI!

Sunnyslope CaptureSunnyslope Floral has been my florist of choice for over twenty five years!  When I first started working as a marketing specialist, a colleague sent over an arrangement from Sunnyslope.  It was a floral arrangement in a mug and it brightened up my day.

That one thoughtful gift from a friend has inspired me to want to share the beauty of the gift of flowers with hundereds of friends and clients through the years.

When I started my real estate business, I decided to use Sunnyslope to send out Thank You gifts for individuals who referred clients to me.  Over the years, they have worked with me to design unique and beautiful gifts for my family, friends and clients. They have also designed some unique Closing gifts.

Their customer service is excellent.  They will customize your order with a personal message and even include your business card.  I have only had a problem once and when I notified them of the issue, they took care of it immediately.  Working with a florist like Sunnyslope is easy…no hassle, simply great, friendly, timely service.  Highly recommended!  Visit the Sunnyslope Floral website and when you order, tell them Lola sent you! 🙂

*image courtesy of Sunnyslope floral website featuring a special value of a dozen European roses.

On Paradigms, Power and Perceptions…

Paradigms power perceptions and perceptions power emotions.”

Quote from Sarayu to Mackenzie in the book, “The Shack.”

What’s the color of anger when you’re color blind and can’t see red? When it comes to emotional heat, each of us experiences the full spectrum of color in a myriad of different ways.
Emotions arise out of our pre-disposed patterns of thinking and perceiving an event, person or situation. Often these perceptions are so deeply held that we are startled by the response they generate when they emerge in living color.

A few weeks ago, there was a knock on my door. When I opened the door, two young men stared at me…then burst out laughing. I stared at them quizzically, although I had a fair estimate of why they were giggling uncontrollably. Finally, one of them was able to collect himself and extend his hand. He said, “Excuse me m’am, we didn’t expect…”

I understood what he was trying to blurt out between giggles. He, a young African American man, knocking on doors in my neighborhood had not expected to see a face that looked like his own answering the door bell. The emotional rush created by his paradigm about ‘who should live where’ literally overwhelmed him when his perceptions of the reality facing him proved to be false!

Paradigms and perceptions are not regular topics of discussion in most real estate circles, but in many ways, they are a huge dynamic within our engagement in the profession of buying and selling property. They impact how we handle transactions, respond to stress and treat other people.

I’ll never forget a story I heard during a class on Fair Housing about a farmer who walked into a real estate office, with his farm clothes on, and requested the assistance of a real estate professional. Because he was in dirty clothes, most of the agents in the office didn’t want to help him. Well, the one who did ended up making a hefty commission. The farmer with the dirty clothes turned out to be a wealthy business man who bought a pretty good sized piece of property!

Well, what is a paradigm exactly? According to Wikepedia, a ‘paradigm is a philosophic or theoretical framework of any kind.’ We all operate within paradigms. These are the under-girders which support how we look at the world and frame our judgments. Paradigms support our worldviews and provide the context in which we make our decisions. They help us to discern what we think ‘belongs’ in any given space.

But, hidden within the familiar confines of a paradigm is an incipient danger. It is the danger of misperception. You see, paradigms are simply philosophies and theories…they’re not necessarily true or correct. Yet, they can control how we think and are pre-disposed to respond even when the facts don’t necessarily add up.

Paradigms are costly because they influence who we are and how we react in ways that may not be obvious to the uninformed observer. They also serve as the base foundation for just about every negative ‘ism’ you can think of…racism, sexism, communism etc.

Our emotional responses can reveal a goldmine of information if we’re willing to be honest. When we respond to someone or something, it’s helpful to take a moment to reflect on what perception colored the exchange and what the underlying paradigm which supports a potential misperception might be. The power to change lies within unleashing the hidden charges which underlie negative paradigms so our perceptions become aids to our progress rather than hindering it.

Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

Picture courtesy of brani’s photostream on flickr

Fair Weather Friends and Bell Bottoms… Real Estate Lessons from the Economic Crisis

bell bottoms

Editorial Note:  This blog post was first published in 2009 at a time when the real estate industry was facing the worst market that most current practioners had ever witnessed.  Looking back at the sentiments expressed in this blog post brings to mind some of the important lessons that period of challenge created.


I remember the early 70’s when bell bottom pants were all the rage.  The bigger the flare the better.   Everything was just a tad ‘puffed’ up and that included ‘big hair’ like the Afro. Sometimes, it was difficult to have a sense of how tall a person really was.  Several young men I knew used the cover of bell bottoms to add several inches of height with platform shoes!

Bell bottom pants were also handy for ‘sweeping streets’ clean.  Many kids wore their bell bottoms so long, that the bottoms actually frayed from dragging across the street. But this was deemed better than revealing that you had spindly legs and a short torso. But really…who were you fooling?

Today, that excess almost seems nostalgic.  In fact, bell bottoms are considered vintage wear in some circles. And as for the mile high Afro…well, that was OK until it rained.  If you were unlucky enough to not have a head covering, your Afro disappeared like a poof of smoke!  Now, come to think of it, both bell bottoms and the Afro relied on the cover of ‘fair weather’ conditions.

But like all things in life, change happens.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the shift to skin tight stove pipe jeans created unforgiving revelations for everyone apart from those who had almost perfect figures.  It was as though, we had entered into fashions’ version of a period of reckoning.

You see, fair weather has a way of making many things seem alright. Over the past decade, the real estate industry has enjoyed a good deal of it. During the fair weather period, just about anyone was able to get a license and sell at least a couple homes a year… During the fair weather period, real estate brokers and associations welcomed everyone in with open arms; it didn’t matter if you could sell as long as you paid your fees on time. During the fair weather period, just about anyone with breath could get a loan…

But like all things which depend on the unpredictability of fair weather, the day of reckoning has arrived. Short Sales have now replaced the Sure Sale.  A lack of training has revealed an industry that is significantly short on training and follow-through at a time when the market is dictating increased scrutiny and consumers want to look to see what’s underneath your bell bottoms in a manner of speaking.  

And in truth, Bell Bottoms never really covered anything. It was all just temporary.  In the end when you took off your pants and platform shoes, you returned to the real you. Even if that was just at bedtime.

This is the sort of re-adjustment which I think is taking place in the real estate industry today.  We’re being forced to look at ourselves and take stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Stormy conditions are forcing us to take a good hard look at who we’re connected to. Have you found yourself surrounded by fair weather friends? Folks who are all too happy to enjoy the good times with you but are unwilling to buckle down to support the load?  

Or, has your experience been more about the bell bottom covering up stuff that really needs to be dealt with? Things like the fact that you’re not meeting your goals and don’t have a plan in place to make them happen.  This is an opportunity to take stock of what’s really going on professionally and to assess what skills we need to become competent to meet today’s challenges.  Without this sort of honest assessment, all the marketing in the world is doomed for eventual failure in this new era of transparency.

You know, times of challenge are kinda like stove pipe pants that have a way of revealing things that were less noticeable during a more forgiving period.  It’s up to each of us to get in shape!

T’was the day before Christmas…

894870_10152485469733642_788643754_oIt’s Christmas eve.  One thing is clear…we are definitely having a very white Christmas in Grand Rapids, MI.  It’s beautiful to look at.  The pristine snow is unsullied and sparkles in the sunlight.  Very nice, in my opinion if you’re inside!

My doorbell has already rung once this morning with a Fedex delivery man dropping off a package.  As I watch him trudge back to his truck, I am reminded of the fact that so many folks are working today, some in very challenging and difficult environments to make a Merry Christmas a reality for others.

I think of our military service personnel, many of whom are separated from family and friends in service to our country.  The stores will be jam packed today as last minute shoppers spend some credit before the stroke of midnight and increasingly in many locales even on Christmas day.  Images of the frenzied shopping that took place on Thanksgiving day when some stores decided to open ‘early’ come to mind.  It makes me shudder…and that’s not because I’m cold.

I’m also reflecting on the irony of the situation with the compromised credit cards at Target which has caused a major bank to drastically curtail the spending of many in an effort to protect the consumer.  Perhaps, this is a wake-up call to all of us to think about what this should really be all about.  Yes, presents are nice…I like them too.  But, when the busyness of this season causes us to become so frazzled that we loose sight of what’s really important, it may be time to do a little cutting back of our own so we can have space in our hearts and lives to live in the true spirit of the Christmas day.

Hoping that you experience the blessing of Christmas and the joy that is celebrated in the birth of the Savior in new and meaningful ways this year.

In Between the Cracks…

A burst of fresh green against the dilapidated fence

In starker contrast to the carefully manicured lawns and hedges,

this fence was clearly in need of attention.

Yet, despite the obvious decay, life was peeking in between the cracks.

Vigorous life, unrelenting in its ability to create vitality in spite of challenge.

Unwilling to yield to sordid staleness

Reaching out to delight the gaze

Of  anyone willing to notice.

On Life…

Over the past few days, I’ve had a few thought provoking conversations with colleagues.    The tumult that engulfed the real estate industry has had a profound impact in the lives of many of us…personally and professionally.  Everyone handles crisis in different ways.  And this was most clearly demonstrated by two conversations in two days.

As we exchange minor pleasantries during my first conversation, my colleague asked me how I was faring.  That’s a question fraught with a certain amount of angst for many in the real estate community due to the realities of distress sales and the frustration of dealing with increased levels of stress and incompetence.  I remarked that I was hoping that if I treated ‘Life’ kindly, she would respond in kind.  My colleague remarked on the fact that the advice he gave was, ‘treat ‘Life’ harshly and she will treat you kindly.  Very different philosophies…

The second conversation was with a colleague who I knew to have taken ‘Life’ by the bull horns.  A spirited soul who always sparked response and even sometimes a little controversy mixed in.  We hadn’t talked in awhile and I was glad to catch up.  As we talked, it became clear that this individual has gone through the crisis in a different way.  Gone is the anxious spirit and intense drive.  It has been replaced by a graciousness that allows life and its circumstances to move through without disrupting the internal peace.  The drive to succeed has been replaced with compassion and a desire to care for the family.  Definitely has me re-thinking