Starting from scratch in a new industry means earning everything—from opportunities, to meetings with investors, to your clients’ trust.
When you’re in an industry that’s especially traditional, like law, accounting, or real estate, for example, it can be even more challenging to land those first few clients. You’re not only competing with other professionals—you’re also pushing your way into your area’s entrenched hierarchy, whether you’re in a small town in the Midwest or a city like LA or Chicago.
Yet there’s a lot to be learned about building trust from those who’ve managed to succeed as newcomers in a heavily tradition-bound field. One of those people is Adam Olsen, a real estate agent in Houston who entered the field when he was just 18, and built up a successful agency by the time he was in his early 20s.
I spoke with him to get his insights into how he was able to earn his clients’ trust as not just as a newcomer to the field, but a very young agent in a competitive market.
Shama Hyder: Entering the real estate industry as a teenager must have been challenging. What were some of your first meetings with clients like? What were some of the initial challenges?
Adam Olsen: Some of my first meetings were a bit tense or awkward. Buying or selling a home is a serious endeavor, and it made some clients a little uneasy to trust somebody who was perhaps the age of their own children with this important part of their future. This scenario was a challenge, but the hesitancy and mistrust dissipated when clients would see that I was indeed capable of holding my own with seasoned industry professionals. I’ll always be grateful to the clients whose opinion of me was formulated solely on my ability to get them the best deal for any transaction, buying or selling.
Having aesthetically pleasing marketing materials conveying the company’s strengths is critical. The Adam Olsen Team Facebook page reaches about one million users per month, which is far more than any of our local competitors. Showing potential clients that we are the only team who can get their property mass amounts of internet exposure has been an extremely reliable strategy. We’ve leaned heavily on digital marketing and it has really paid off.
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Hyder: How were or are people’s expectations about you—whether those people are clients or colleagues—impacted by your age?
Olsen: It’s pretty common in my line of work for older realtors or brokers to write off young ambitious agents as in over their heads, or foolish. When I started the company and my publicity was still low, people saw a fresh-faced realtor at the head of a team, and their expectations fell into line with what they saw. The difference between now and when I started is my credentials. At the beginning people were hesitant to work with a young guy with few achievements. Now people hire me because I’ve proven myself
Hyder: What are some advantages of being a newcomer to an industry?
Olsen: For a while, having no reputation is better. As a newcomer, nobody has many expectations before meeting you, so every interaction with a client or a colleague is a chance to shine.
Hyder: What would you say to other young entrepreneurs who are trying to make their way in highly traditional fields, where age and experience are often tied together?
Olsen: Keep being loud! They can’t ignore you forever. Tying age and experience together is not intrinsically wrong, but in real estate and similar industries it’ is meant to intimidate. Stay focused on your goal, and mute the critics whose only critique is your age or newcomer status.