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The View From The Top

Last year Sold Magazine featured a story on Stephen Bock, a Sydney real estate agent who was in training to achieve one of his personal goals – to climb Mount Everest and raise money for Bowel Cancer Australia. After a successful expedition Stephen shares his experience and draws parallels between reaching a perilous summit and running a thriving business.

The expedition taught me that the same approach to climb a big mountain is exactly the same as we need to build a successful real estate business

It was two o’clock in the morning, I was at 27,000 feet and still going up. The wind was threatening to blow me off the mountain and the temperature was minus 50 degrees Celsius. My toes were starting to freeze and I had a hard decision to make: Do I turn or continue climbing and risk losing my toes? Rightly or wrongly I decided to continue – the personal investment was simply too high.

That morning was 23rd May 2010 and six hours later I arrived at the summit of Mount Everest. Sitting down, I could see for hundreds of miles in all directions. Today was the culmination of a 25 year journey. I started to cry but caught myself as I knew my eyelids would freeze shut. I rested and enjoyed the moment but quickly remembered that one in 15 people do not make it back alive from the summit – so after a few minutes I slowly and methodically made my way gently down her slopes towards life.

It seems almost surreal to me now that I was there. I have re-immersed back into society now but have come back a very different person from when I left. Many people have congratulated me on “conquering” the mountain but on each occasion I have reminded them that no-one “conquers” Mount Everest – she decides if she will let you up her flanks for a few precious minutes on the top and she decides if she will let you come back alive.

The most important thing for me now is to take the lessons she has shared with me and implement them into my life. I realise it was an incredible privilege to stand at the top. The qualities of leadership, courage and self belief become paramount when your life is continually at risk. I am a normal guy. I am not a full time professional climber nor am I a super athlete – I am a real estate agent. The expedition taught me that the same approach to climb a big mountain is exactly the same as we need to build a successful real estate business.

This goal was set when I was in school – I have had it on my goals list since my teenage years. I documented that I would climb her by the age of 40 (I turn 40 in December this year). I am amazed today by the number of agents who don’t have a business plan. I have a one page business plan but it tells me exactly what I need to achieve each day to achieve my annual targets.

Once the vision is set you must lead from the front. There were many times I thought I was going to die during my climb but on each occasion I looked inwardly and stayed the course. Running a team is the same – teams need leaders that will stay the course. Success is often a few steps after most people turn back.

The climb pushed me well beyond any limits I had. What we are capable of is truly amazing but you need to be prepared to push your boundaries. I ran out of oxygen on our 36 hour summit “bid” but I knew that if I sat down and went to sleep I would die and so I gained a new understanding of the term “energy levels”. I believe it’s obligatory for leaders to set these “energy levels” for their teams. How can we expect a team to perform at their best if we are not doing the same?

Incredibly our team was the largest successful Australian team ever to reach the summit. All five of us made it and yet 75% of people today who go to the mountain won’t last long enough to even attempt the summit. We saw climbers leaving teams daily during the 60 day expedition but our team were as solid as a rock. We understood each other and trusted our lives to each other. We had trained together for a year and that paid off.

We trained daily for the expedition. I can remember vividly doing our 50km to 60km training sessions with a 25kg pack on our back in the rain. There were many times I questioned my sanity – but I have no doubt that we trained appropriately. I believe that training in our real estate business should be intense. If we aspire to be great in real estate we must train accordingly. We cannot expect success in our businesses unless we are committed to training towards becoming the best. The highest performers in real estate train daily – the lowest performers don’t train!

Everything about our expedition was systematic. We controlled everything we could control – to the last detail. I believe real estate is the same. Why would we have a different customer service standard on different transactions? The way to truly build goodwill and a great brand name in the market is to have consistency of delivery on everything you do. Train your team daily on these systems and you build a force to be reckoned with.

Creative thinking
The climb threw me many challenges. Many times I could rely on my training and energy reserves but sometimes I had to think on my feet. It’s amazing how quickly you can think when faced with life and death decisions. I believe we should try to become good thinkers in our businesses. Do you embrace new technology? We had a vision to “take” people to the mountain. We used facebook to do just that and as a result we were able to share the experience real-time with over 1200 people. We responded to over 1000 messages during our expedition. These new tools can have a massive impact on our businesses – we just need to think about it.

Self belief

This to me is most important. Two days before the summit bid the helicopters were flying out over base camp with dead bodies hanging below them, ferrying the dead from Camp 2. I knew I couldn’t doubt myself – I had to climb with a pure heart. Self belief is equally important in business. Set the vision, set the plan, throw massive energy at it and believe in yourself.

The climb has given me a new reference point in my life and most importantly has renewed my business and life passion. I believe as we each tackle our own “Everest” these qualities can aid us significantly. As I retreated away from Mount Everest the words of Nick Heil, mountaineer and author, were etched in my mind forever: What folly to think that anyone climbs Everest for the views, or the thrills, or the bragging rights or, vaguest of all, because it’s there. What’s there is this: the chance to be worthy of your dreams.

Stephen Bock, Partner at Ray White busquets + bock in Seaforth NSW has been placed in the Ray White ‘Elite Performer’s Group’ (top five per cent nationally) for the past three years. His sporting achievements include being the 61st Australian to summit Mount Everest and flying at both the State and National Aerobatic Championships.

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