Eleanor Thorne, mortgage pro out of Raleigh, N.C., is having an office romance with her business partner. Everybody knows about it, so it’s not like I’m talking out of school, here. Thorne met Steve in high school drivers education class and they’ve been having a love affair/business partnership ever since.
Thorne was destined to go into real estate in one form or another, as her mom was an agent and her dad was a mortgage broker. In fact, Dad helped her get her first job right out of college, at a mortgage company. He also got her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband a job with the same firm.
So, how do they deal with the fact that many employment experts caution against combining marriage and work?
They set clear boundaries, the most significant of which is: “The Bedroom Rule. If one person comes home and runs straight for the bedroom – that’s a “No Business” room – you are not allowed to talk about business there. At some point, you have to be able to cut it off – and it has to be okay to do that.”
Those boundaries are carried over into the work environment as well. “We each have our part of the deal that we are responsible for. It’s kind of like going on a trip with a spouse; one person is usually responsible for packing the car. We both have our jobs, and that helps,” she says.
These jobs are clearly defined. Steve handles the project management aspects of their business and “I do most of the lead generation, and marketing,” Eleanor said. “I added our first staff member in 2008. Our production in the next 12 months increased to over 42 million.”
Marketing comes easy to Eleanor Thorne. She loves working with real estate agents and her philosophy is that if she can help agents grow their business; they’ll help her grow hers. To that end, she teaches agents about technology and how to use it in their real estate businesses.
Since mortgage agents aren’t typically considered technology gurus, I asked Thorne how she learned about it. “I knew nothing about websites, or Internet SEO mumbo jumbo. I heard about this place where you could learn: ActiveRain. The entire ActiveRain community helped teach me, and they have made a huge difference in my life – and in my family’s income.”
How big of a difference? Eleanor claims that the Internet is just one big referral source, organically generating “over 500 Internet leads a month. In fact, we’ve had a 550 percent increase in traffic to our site during the last 12 months,” Eleanor said. She estimates that about 70 percent of their business comes from the Internet. Which, when compared to the typical real estate agent’s web business, is phenomenally high.
What does she know that the average real estate agent can put into practice to boost his or her own online presence? I’m glad you asked – because Eleanor actually teaches agents how to get the same results she and Steve do.
“I’ve done a series of classes for agents that was a total of 10 hours over five weeks. As a boomer, my teaching style is very down to earth, and I try to break it down into little pieces.”
For the past three years Eleanor has also helped organize and execute the Real Estate BarCamps – some which drew over 300 attendees.
What she enjoys most, though, is helping individual agents in their efforts to boost their online presence. “What I’ve discovered from teaching classes on technology to agents is that they would rather have someone do it for them. I’ve already started doing that on a custom basis for agents across the country – and I expect in the coming months, I’ll be doing more of it.”
I’m exhausted just thinking of Eleanor’s schedule, but she finds a way to pack even more into it. In addition to puttering in the garden and raising a teenager, she and Steve work with both the YMCA’s “We Build People Campaign” and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“Steve and I both had family members who died of cancer,” she says, so getting involved with the American Cancer Society was a natural for them. “We grew up here and it’s such an enriching experience to walk the track with past clients, high school friends, and folks we’ve met through church. You have a huge sense of closeness, and it’s very spiritual.”