We hear it all the time. “ Think outside the box.” But what does that really mean? To me it means to think freely, think of things I myself or others don’t already do, finding a new perspective or idea off the beaten path. It’s a phrase that is so underutilized in the appraiser profession today.

What is the BOX? The box is that container in your mind that contains all the things you are comfortable with. The patterns and the mindset you have relied upon for years. The satisfaction of doing the same thing over and over because its easy and comfortable for you. In the appraiser profession its being comfortable doing work strictly for AMCS, Lenders and not expanding your business. It’s doing the same work and forms over and over. It’s offering the same things you have since you have been in business. Its doing things the same way you have year after year. The box contains all of your most prized possessions, your thoughts, your trends, your familiarity and most of all your willingness to be satisfied with all of it. The BOX whether you know it or not is one of the things that is holding you back from being greater or more successful than you already are.

So how do we as appraisers think outside the box?

First, you need to stop aiming at the same targets everyone else is aiming at. As appraisers the main focal point of work is that of the Lender work, refinances and or purchases. With so many appraisers out there in the profession competing for the same work, you shooting at the same target may end up with you being in the same position as everyone else. You may get the job, have to reduce your fee to get it or you just don’t get it at all. Think of it this way. If you are a farmer and plant the same crops as others, use the same amount of water as others, use the same fertilizer as others then you will end up with the same product as the others. What makes your end result different from the others? Nothing. My point is that if you want to be different, if you want to stand out against others then you need to offer something different. You need to add something into your crops that make them different to everyone else’s.

So what is that different something? Honestly that’s up to you to figure out. For me it was bringing in a coach and mentor. It was for me to allow myself to be stripped naked and to start from scratch having myself personally and business wise analyzed. That was step one. The next step was for me to introduce some goals into my thinking and in turn this created some constraints. It allowed me to have a direction to go to and I now have to work for it. It made me now focus my thoughts of these goals and FOCUS on them rather than just items that were already in my box. This in turn had me thinking of creative OUTSIDE THE BOX ways of conducting my business. I now had to think of new ideas, new ways and new practices to generate business and implement them into my daily practices. Successful businesses always bring in outside people to help them with new ideas. These people whose minds aren’t already in your box can help you develop new ideas and new strategies leading to a new way of thinking that you could not do yourself due to your thoughts being packed in that box.

For an appraiser maybe this is offering a different product to your clients. Maybe it’s actually picking up the phone and calling your client to discuss issues. Maybe it’s to stop complaining about every crappy order and actually offering that client something different to set you apart from the others. Hell maybe its just taking a step back, analyzing your business and making a decision to only work with certain clients. Maybe its setting some goals for yourself and your business and following them to the end.

Secondly you need to start looking at things differently. We see so many appraisers that constantly complaining about amcs and fees. They complain how they aren’t respected and not treated fairly. While I will agree with this in many aspects I also say that if you view things as unchangeable, then nothing will ever change. If you keep complaining to your peers and not to the right people then how is it going to change. Now if you start thinking OUTSIDE THE BOX, you will now start thinking how the issues you encounter can be changed, how you alone can improve your relationship with that AMC or Lender. Maybe it’s to start calling them and speaking to the RIGHT people. Maybe its restructuring your business to not include them anymore. Maybe its taking all you have learned from these clients and seek out ones that DO NOT treat you this way.

Third… maybe you need a greater perspective of things. Maybe you need to really sit back and understand where you are and why you haven’t expanded to other areas of the profession. Maybe you tried and it didn’t work out the first time. Maybe you just see it as a set back. Maybe you think it will take too much time and effort and you’re satisfied where you are. This is where expanding your thinking outside the box can lead to bigger an better thing. If you are truly satisfied where you are and who your clients are then that’s absolutely fine. Some people are just built that way. If you are not then ask yourself why? Ask yourself why you aren’t expanding and expand your thinking other than what’s already in your box. For me I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted better work. So I expanded my thinking. The result… I have expanded my business to include more private work and more diverse business. See when you expand your thinking beyond what’s inside your box you can create more opportunities, you’ll be more receptive to other ideas and this will allow you to not be limited to a small view of things. When you are open to new thoughts, ideas, creativity the possibilities are endless.

Lastly when you start to think outside the box and not in it, you start to stand out amongst others. For me it was writing blogs, doing a podcast and creating opportunities for myself. When I say creating opportunities I mean things like calling lenders directly and speaking to the head people, calling amcs and speaking to the right people, creating a social media presence and constantly updating it. I have allowed myself to be open to others thoughts and have discussions that are meaningful instead of just complaining to have myself heard. I have a business and life coach. I have in all aspects done things to better my position.

Thinking outside the box can be scary. It can be hard work. It can be time-consuming. But being different is what’s going to separate you from everyone else and in turn lead to bigger and better things.

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