Episode 46: AMA with Cliff

Episode 46: AMA with Cliff
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Connie

Hello, and welcome to The Thoughtful Realtor podcast. I'm Connie Chung.

Cliff

I'm Cliff Tsang.

Kenny

And I'm Kenny Gong. We are the founders and partners of Willowmar Real Estate.

Connie

This is a real estate podcast where we get real personal.

Cliff

Every episode, we sit down for insights, stories, and conversations about all things in the market today, running a real estate team in California, and finding our way as leaders and business partners.

Kenny

And today, we have another exciting episode for you. We're not doing one, not two, but three episodes of AMA: Ask Me Anything. And the twist here is that each partner will be in the hot seat.

Connie

Yup, we weren't kidding when we said we get real personal. And today is the third and final part of our AMA series.

Kenny

That's right.

Connie

If you haven't already, make sure to give the first two a listen because they're super juicy.

Kenny

And those episodes featured Connie and me. So now, that leaves you, Cliff.

Cliff

Oh, no suspense.

Kenny

No, it's just … So, why don't we jump into our AMA? So, for our first question for you, Cliff, is that having worked in a number of different real estate-related positions, from doing biz dev for a real estate brokerage to owning your own real estate investment properties, how has running a real estate company been different from your expectations?

Cliff

Hmm, these are juicy questions.

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

I would say the main thing that's been different has actually been the way that I would have envisioned it, however many years ago. It's different because of YouTube and that's because when visioning out how someone could run a company, I don't think they maybe initially seek out that it'd be a trio running it.

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

And, I'm sure I've said it before, but it's just been a wonderful, wonderful thing because, well, I think, I'm very different than you two. And I think that has been, very complementary. But also, I think I've learned a lot about myself through that. You know, the way I describe it to other people is: I think you two lead with heart and I think I'm much more lead with head and trying to be analytical and try to plan things. And I used to think that that was a better way, but I think what I've learned is that the best way is actually a melding of both of those two. You have to have emotion, you have to have inspiration and energy, and that comes from heart. And then, the planning is helpful too.

This kind of goes back to Kenny's episode about just going with the flow and letting life happen and unfold the way it should. Well, it was a question about what's been the biggest surprise or what's been unexpected. Yeah. So that's just been so different is letting things unfold as they should and being okay with that—not even okay with it, being excited about it, because maybe that's the way that it should have been all along.

Connie

Yeah, it's so fun to work with you, Cliff. And like just how you said you lead with the head and with the heart: I thought about that at our lunch today when we were talking about social media strategy. My natural inclination has always been the focus on the story. We want to tell what it looks like. And then right away you were like, “Oh, but what about the metrics?” And it's something I would've never thought to measure.

Cliff

Let me show you the sample metrics dashboard that I have ready.

Connie

Exactly, yeah! Like how perfect to put this together! Why didn't we have this a while ago?

Kenny

Yeah, it is true. It's that. I can't imagine Willowmar without either, right? I can't imagine it without the head, the analytics, the planning, the strategy, that really, really wonderful data-driven component of our work is so crucial to how we serve and how we provide value.

And I also can't think of it without heart and without all of the stories and all of the care and thoughtfulness that we bring to it. So, it is really true.

Cliff

It's the best of both worlds.

Connie

It's like Cinderella, the shoe fits so perfectly on both feet, and you need both to …

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

You need both. It's a yin and yang balance thing, yeah.

Kenny

You need both, and they have to be in balance. You can't overextend on either side.

Cliff

Yeah, yeah. True.

Connie

Okay, next question. So you've been super busy out in the field. It's been a really, gratefully so, busy market. Tell us, can you share any juicy stories or one story of an escrow or client experience?

Cliff

Ooh. I'm trying to think “juicy escrow,” but yeah, it has been a busy year—I think, busier than maybe a lot of people expected especially since February of this year. The juicy escrow experience that comes to mind is just a few weeks ago. We had a listing in Oakland in the Laurel Upper Dimond area, and this listing was very interesting because the agent on the other side that we were working with was very particular and maybe a little bit tougher to work with. What made the escrow process tricky was having to navigate that a little bit. And then, in terms of activity on the home, there's a lot of activity, but what ended up happening was in terms of offers that came in, it was a little bit lighter than what we expected.

So having to navigate that and really try to come to a good outcome for our sellers—I think they were really, really happy with the final outcome in terms of price and all of that. It was still a win, but it was just a little bit tougher to navigate than expected.

Connie

Okay. Follow-up question to that one. This is a question we get asked quite a bit: advice for dealing with tougher agents or tough agents in that—and, when we talk about tough, it's in the realm of “challenging to work with.”

Cliff

Yeah. Well, it's funny because a lot of that—when I get into those tricky situations, I'm reminded by what Kenny said early on when I was still getting trained and coming to both of you to vent effectively. And, I think I asked you something like, “Do I take the high road?” And you said, “Always take the high road.” And I still remember that because I think my natural inclination is sometimes to count the offenses that you've had and be like at some point, well, you’ve got to respond back. Sometimes, I think maybe we're a little bit too accommodating and maybe there's a better balance.

But, generally, it's to take the high road and to realize that this industry—there's a whole other dynamic, not only client relationships, but then there's a whole side of agent relationships. And I think that's something that I've learned seeing you two work: that it's just as important as the client side. So, always take the high road. And just remember that at some point, it's a small community, that that person will come back at some point. So burning the bridge can be disastrous.

Connie

Ooh, to add a little juice to that, I know that agent and actually, one really great stager we work with all the time just posted a throwback to one of that agent's listings—

Cliff

No kidding.

Connie

And how wonderful it was to work with that agent and I just thought, Did she really have a great time? Or is she just saying that? But anyhow.

Kenny

Yeah, I mean, it's also so interesting because these transactions, whenever we're working with any other side, right, if we're representing sellers or working with other buyers’ agents or vice versa, this is what's so wonderful about this industry is you never know what other people are holding when you're in an interaction with them.

Right? Not only, of course, they could be having a bad day, but they could be having a bad day for all sorts of different reasons that are completely not in our control that are not actually even influenced by us. It's completely what they're dealing with. It could be their client, you know, they've got another transaction, or of course, personal life.

And unfortunately, one bad interaction can create a lifelong reputation. But that's why I always—it is always trying to take the high road because we have such few interactions, and in such small agent communities, that can be really detrimental.

Cliff

Yeah, that does bring up a good point. Because, yeah, maybe I was judging too quickly with that other agent because maybe they're dealing with a lot of tough stuff. But I think that is one thing that's interesting about our job is we have to absorb all the stuff that is happening with our clients and all the emotions and even personally. And then, we have this phone call with the other side, and you can't let that show, right? That is what makes us the professional in that conversation. It requires training, it requires—I don't want to say thicker skin—but it does require a level of controlling your emotions to a certain degree.

Kenny

Mm hmm. Something that you, Cliff, control really, really well is your calendar. And …

Cliff

My crazy calendar?

Kenny

So the amazing thing is, of course, we get to see all of each other's calendars, and Cliff's calendar is a sight—

Connie

To be seen!

Kenny

To be seen.

Cliff

I do wonder sometimes because I'm like, I do know that the team can see it, but I'm just going to use it the way that I use it.

Kenny

Yeah, so tell us about that. Tell us about the process. Tell us about the mindset, tell us more about that because I think it actually is very instructive. And yeah, I don't know. It's revealing, of course. If nothing else, it's revealing.

Cliff

Now I'm trying to think about what's on there. Yeah, for context I use my calendar to plan for everything in my day. So, at any time, you should know where I am based on my calendar, and I think the general thought process is: if it's on my calendar, then I can just follow my calendar.

There's fewer decisions that need to be made, so I don't have decision fatigue. And you know—not know where I am—but I also know that I've had created the time to get certain things done. To me, it's even more powerful than a to-do list because the to-do list doesn't have any time capacity associated with it versus if I book out thirty minutes to do X, then I have that time to do it. So, I know it's a sight to behold. I know it's a crazy thing because sometimes I can see some person looking at it and feeling stressed from it. But ironically, I get a lot of relief from how the calendar is set up.

Kenny

Has it always been—how long have you been doing this?

Cliff

Crazy, haha? “How long have you been a crazy person?” I don't … I don't know. I think it's evolved over time because I'm trying to think what my calendar was like ten years ago. It’s definitely not as maniacal as it is now, even five years ago. I think I've just started to use it more and more as a tool and found it helpful, so then I've just been putting more on it.

Kenny

Yeah.

Connie

And do you add things as you go on your phone and your desktop or just as you go as you book things?

Cliff

I do, yeah. It's just like muscle memory. It's like someone's like, “Hey, can you meet at this time?” Boom, I just put it on the calendar. I put everything there, even when I get a car wash, haircut, all the things, because sometimes I'm like, “Oh, well, when was the last time I got a haircut?” You know, I want it to be about three weeks or so, I want to have mental budget for haircut and that kind of stuff.

Kenny

Yeah. So then it becomes almost like a journal.

Cliff

Yeah, I guess so.

Kenny

Gmail, the app? No, the Google, G—

Cliff

Google Calendar app.

Kenny

Google Calendar app.

Cliff

I'm feeling like I'm a crazy person interview.

Connie

No, I think it's—

Kenny

It's great.

Connie

Yeah, it's made me think about calendaring differently too. Because I tend to just calendar mostly appointments or when I have an active engagement. It's a good reminder to calendar in certain projects I want to get done to ensure I dedicate time to them. And I remember seeing your calendaring, like “Drop off Bruno at his daycare.” And it's like, yeah, that is your time. That is a time commitment that is occupied. So it's important to put that in there.

Cliff

I mean, it takes thirty minutes. Ten, fifteen to drive there; ten, fifteen to drive back. So, yeah, I do need that kind of time blocked off. Yeah, funny enough, Mee-Sun and I started doing a weekly time blocking together a little bit. So, like Monday or Sunday night, we'll talk about Bruno's drop-off and pick-up schedule.

So then, it'll be on one of our calendars, and then we started doing a whiteboarding session together. So that's been really, really cool, too. And having that time. Yeah, it's just time set up for …

Kenny

I think it's really necessary, actually, to think the way that you're thinking. Because especially these days, there's so much thrown at us. And we're contending with so much. There's so many things that we, not only as business owners, but as agents and as people with social lives and family lives and friends—there's just so much that you have to manage that it's almost like you have to have some kind of regimen.

And secretly, because the team—everything is on one calendar, so all team members can see that one calendar—but secretly, I'm also the same way, but I only share one calendar.

Cliff

Oh!

Kenny

If you toggle all of my calendars, it looks like Cliff’s, but the team doesn't know.

Cliff

Yeah. That's, I think, a smarter way to do it because yeah, you don't need to share everything with everyone.

Kenny

I think it works both ways, right? I just like it my way because I've been doing it that way, but there's totally value in just being able to say, if I need to know where Cliff is, I will know.  

Connie

I appreciate it. Oh, this is a good question. One thing I appreciate about you so much is your commitment and curiosity to continually grow personally and professionally. And you've hired a few different coaches: business, personal coach, relationship coach, and a communications coach. Can you share what your experiences have been like and what you've learned from those experiences?

Cliff

Yeah, coaching to me has been such a game changer over the last couple of years, and it's an investment, you know, it's not cheap to hire a coach. And I think also, sometimes people fall in this loop where maybe they kind of get addicted to coaching too. They need to make sure that they're getting the outcome or they're growing from it, similar to going to Tony Robbins. People can just get addicted to all of that stuff and, you know, it's questionable how much progress they're making, so it's important to be reflective about that.

But I've had a really good experience with coaching. I'll give a shout-out to Brody Whitney, who's my life personal coach, and then Liz Coleman, who's been my communications coach. And I think the short of it has just been: it's been more about learning about yourself, learning about your blind spots, learning about your weaknesses.

Yeah, but areas for growth because I think I've learned everyone in life is operating, thinking that their way is a rational way. No one's operating, thinking that they're trying to hurt people. Maybe some people, but most people are just operating how they think they should operate in life, but there's, I think, ways to do it better.

And a coach, once you build that connection with them, are you able to call out those blind spots? Yeah, for example, with Liz, really cool exercise. And I think you guys both filled out the form, right? Yeah. So that was cool, but it was all anonymous. So she sent out a survey to closest friends, colleagues, business partners, college friends, and it was a really raw, it was a long form that you've pretty much filled out. Like, what are my strengths as a communicator? What are my weaknesses? What are blind spots and all that? And the intent of that was to just get really raw feedback.

And I remember getting that. I think I got it right before we went on our Thailand trip. But you know, I got really emotional reading all of it because it hit hard. And I think at first, you get really, you're really defensive about it. You're like, “Oh, what, what? Connie sees that about me because I'm always stressed about this.” “Oh yeah, my sister would write that because of this,” right? And then after you unpack it with a coach who walks you through it, you realize there's things that you need to work on.

Kenny

Yeah, it's also been so amazing to … I feel like we started working with you right before the apex of your coaching engagements. So it's been such a wonderful look to see your progress because it's been real, tangible progress, you know. And when you think about like …

Cliff

Thanks. Thank you for saying that, I appreciate it.

Kenny

It's like I'm talking to a different person in so many ways. And it's funny too, because I remember, of course, the core of you is the same and the core goodness has always been there, but now, your effectiveness as a leader and your effectiveness as a communicator and as a person—really, all of that self-growth has been very, very evident. So, it's just awesome to see that in real time. In real time.

Cliff

Thanks, Kenny.

Kenny

Okay, so I've got my next question is: do you have a favorite memory of an embarrassing situation?

Cliff

Two come to mind.

Kenny

Oh, okay.

Cliff

One I think is kind of a silly one. The one that comes to mind is: I feel like I shouldn't share this on a podcast like this, but I think I was in kindergarten. I went to a camp, and I had to poop really, really badly.

Kenny

Okay.

Cliff

And I remember, so the way the camp—at least this is my memory of it—is you have just a bag of your laundry from the whole week and I …

Kenny

And you pooped in your pants.

Cliff

Pooped my pants day five or day seven. And then, I remember having to put all my—I didn't know what to do with it. I think I was like five or six, so I put all my dirty laundry including the poopy pants into this laundry bag. I remember on day six or day seven, the lady that was in charge of our cabin came by, and it was like, “Oh, let me go through your laundry bag to …" I can't remember why. It was just like, “Oh, let me sort something out.” And I was like, “Nooo!” And then she knew that I pooped.

Kenny

She knew

Cliff

I remember just being morbidly embarrassed as a little kid.

Connie

That's a vivid memory.

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

And then the other one is related to high school speech and debate. I remember my freshman year, we were at a tournament. We all have, you know, our ten-minute speeches that we have to memorize. And I was up there, and I completely froze five minutes in.

Kenny

Oh!

Cliff

And then I just completely froze.

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

And, I don't know if you've ever been in a spot like that where, as each second passes, it just gets more awkward because you're like, “Okay, how do I save this?” And then you can't save it and it just gets—it just gets worse.

Connie

So, what'd you do?

Cliff

It doesn't—I can't remember. I think I made something up and then just finished, and, you know, walked off really ashamed. Or maybe I just sat down. It was quite embarrassing.

Connie

Do you remember what tournament or …?

Cliff

I remember it was an OA, Original Advocacy, freshman year, and it was at Alhambra High School. One of those. It was fall, it was the fall tournament, yeah.

Kenny

Wow, it's interesting to think about both of these individual scenarios. They just stick, right? They're just in there. And do you now—thirty years have passed and twenty years have passed—do you relate to those memories in a different way?

Cliff

I mean, I'm not embarrassed by it anymore. I guess my one reflection is the embarrassment that you feel is nowhere near like what you should, if that makes sense. Because it's really not that big of a deal. Like, I wonder if anyone who was in that room when I gave that speech, if they even remember that moment at all. I don't know. Well, maybe that lady remembers grabbing the poopy pants, but I don't know.

Kenny

Little did you know, that's not the first poopy pants that she has …

Connie

Yeah, that's true.

Cliff

She's like, “Oh there's a third one.”

Connie

She’s probably seen all sorts of things. Next question. You've been pretty open about your fertility journey with highs and lows and, I really appreciate that, especially because we don't hear it very often. You know, it's not talked about much in society. What's one thing you've learned about yourself in your fertility journey with Mee-Sun?

Cliff

Yeah, for context, we're in the middle of the IVF journey right now. This is our second time going through. First time was a couple years ago, just to go through it to store an embryo. Now this time, we're planning to—I always forget the term. Not the insertion, not the trans … the trans … No, no, it's the transfer. We're planning to do the transfer this time.

Kenny

That's what it's called. The transfer.

Cliff

That's what it's called, yeah. It's been really good for me. I think the one thing that I've learned about myself is: I think I've just had a lot more appreciation for the woman. I don't even know how to describe it because the list of things that Mee-Sun has to do versus what I have to do as part of the IVF process—and every guy that I've talked to it that has been part of it, they know what's coming when I start to say it's really nothing.

There's a list of twenty things that she needs to do, including getting jabbed with hormones three times, you know, three different needles every single night for a few weeks. And then even going under anesthesia to remove the eggs, and all of that stuff, and just being bloated and all the uncomfortableness.

And then the guy’s list is literally: drink less, don't smoke weed, and go give your sample two days before.

Kenny

Yeah.

Cliff

It's like one thing that I have to do versus the twenty, and it's just opened my eyes up as a guy. I think it's just made me mature as a man and appreciation for the female, the woman.

Kenny

It's an amazing journey and also truly, truly, I think I want to echo just what Connie was saying that: what a gift you are giving everyone that listens to this because it's not something that is talked about. I highly doubt that it's talked about on real estate podcasts.

Connie

That's true.

Kenny

Particularly from a man's perspective, right? And I think that's something that's really special, and something that I hope more and more people get to be more open about and talk about because knowing now how many other of your friends have gone through it, it's not an uncommon thing, right? It's actually something that a lot of couples have to manage and navigate.

And hopefully, they have people that they can talk to, to feel supported by, but a lot of times people don't.

Cliff

Yeah, it's been one of those really cool things where, like when you start sharing, then other people open up and they start talking about it, and it's a way for you to connect with people. I still don't know why people, I mean, I guess I know why people don't really talk about it openly and share about it because it's a very personal thing.

And generally, it's come with some trauma of like, “Hey, it hasn't worked out for so long.” So you don't want to talk, I guess, generally about failures or things that haven't worked in life. But I don't know, I feel surprisingly very open to talk about it. And it's been nice to connect with other people about it.

Kenny

So then, our last question is :what is giving you the most joy right now these days?

Cliff

I would just have to say Bruno.

Kenny

Aw, haha.

Connie

Tell who Bruno is.

Cliff

Bruno is our three-year-old puppy dog. He's a COVID pup, and man, for the dog owners out there. They'll know what I'm talking about having a dog, and maybe this is a testament to just being in your mid-thirties, where you don't really want to go out as much and be as social.

It is just so nice having a dog at home. And what's so special about Bruno is he kind of zigs and zags the way that we need. Some days, Mee-Sun will just be on the couch, just resting all day and watching TV, and he's content doing that. And then the next day we'll go on a hike. We'll go to Berkeley campus to walk around, and he's just running and running and running and high energy.

He's just a nice, nice little guy. Mee-Sun and I, at least once a week, talk about like, “Man, we got pretty lucky with this guy.” And he's the right energy. And also, in the thick of COVID—I think it’s hard for people to remember how in late 2020, the isolation and just all the stuff that we were going through—Bruno helped us get through all that. He gave us a rea—I don't want to say to give us a reason to live, but like, he gave us a reason to walk. He gave us a reason to go do things, and it was …

Connie

He gave you a lot of joy during such tough times, uncertain times. Oh, and he was just so cute.

Kenny

He's so cute and he's also been on such a journey himself.

Cliff

Yeah. Yes, he's matured and he's blossomed as a little doggy.

Kenny

Right, because I remember when I first met Bruno. Both Cliff and Mee-Sun would be like, “Oh, hold on. Hold on just as you …”

Cliff

“Wait, yeah, look, give him these treats. Hold on.”

Kenny

And then, you know, the last time I saw him, he was social not only with people but with other dogs, and you could just feel the joy and happiness exuding from him. So, to see that is … it's a lot of growth for that one little pup. One little pup!

Connie

Okay, before we wrap up, we've got our series, this or that. So, we'll give you questions and you choose one or the other. First one: coffee or boba?

Cliff

Ah, coffee. I actually don't drink much boba. Yeah, I know. I was like, “I'm afraid to admit that.”

Kenny

I know. Exactly.

Cliff

I was like, “I don't need to admit it. I think you know.”

Kenny

Summer or winter?

Cliff

Summer.

Connie

Sweet or savory?

Cliff

I used to say savory for sure, but now I think I'm a little bit more sweet.

Kenny

Hmm. Texting or FaceTime? Do you FaceTime?

Cliff

Occasionally, but I think I prefer text.

Connie

Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?

Cliff

I can't remember the last time I didn't fall asleep through a movie. And actually, I can't remember the last time I read a book from it either. But if we do audiobook, then I finished quite a bit of those.

Kenny

Ooh. And the next one is pizza or pasta?

Cliff

Pasta.

Connie

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Cliff

Ah, early bird.

Kenny

Rainy day or sunny day?

Cliff

Sunny day. I like the sun a lot more.

Connie

Netflix or YouTube?

Cliff

I would say … Black Mirror just popped in my head. So we're working through that new season. So I'm going to say Netflix. I think it's a seasonal thing. Sometimes I'm more Netflix, sometimes I'm more YouTube. Right now I'm in a Netflix mood.

Kenny

Yeah. Hmm. So interesting. Indoor or outdoor?

Cliff

I think outdoor.

Kenny

Outdoor. You think outdoor.

Cliff

I actually feel like … it's weird; I feel like I don't have that strong of a preference for that one. I'm good with either. It can be pleasant indoor and pleasant outdoor.

Connie

Would you rather travel by car or plane?

Cliff

Plane, because that seems more exciting and means you might be going somewhere far and exciting

Kenny

Ooh, but like, a road trip is not …?

Cliff

I prefer to fly.

Kenny

To the destination. Oh, that's interesting. Yeah fiction or nonfiction?

Cliff

Nonfiction.

Connie

Cake or ice cream?

Cliff

Ice cream. Cookies and Cream ice cream, specifically.

Connie

A particular brand?

Cliff

What's that blue one? That … not Blue Bell. It's …

Kenny

Oh, Humphrey? Humphrey Slocombe?

Cliff

No, not Humphrey.

Kenny

Light blue?

Cliff

Darn, I know what it looks like exactly. There's a cow on it.

Connie

Is it Strauss? Strauss? Strauss Creamery?

Cliff

Yes!

Kenny

Oh, that one is really good.

Cliff

It's really good.

Kenny

Yeah. That one is really good. Music or podcasts?

Cliff

It's podcasts, but I am trying to listen to more music in my life, yeah.

Connie

Lastly, would you rather shop online or in store?

Cliff

I am an online shopper.

Connie

Where are you shopping online these days?

Cliff

I've been doing some Nordstrom browsing because the anniversary sale starts today. Apparently I'm always a sales—it's got to be on sale.

Connie

What's in your shopping cart?

Kenny

Oh, anniversary! Is that like a …?

Connie

You get double points or there's more sales.

Cliff

It's like their catalog that they've kind of curated. A lot of those items get on sale for a one-week period.

Kenny

Oh, okay.

Cliff

And it's supposed to be the newer, I don't know, newer fashion. And then Amazon. Those are the two.

Kenny

Oh, Amazon. Alrighty. Well, there are so many juicy questions that we got answers to from Cliff in this episode, and really appreciate your responses. They were just so open and felt very much like you. And it felt very much like where you're at right now in life. And so we thank you so much for sharing. And, we also thank you for concluding this three-part series of The Thoughtful Realtor podcast.

Connie

If you haven't listened to the first two where Kenny and I were in the hot seat, give those a listen. And if you like content like this or have more burning questions for us, we'd love to hear from you. You can find us at willowmar.com or on Instagram at @willowmar__. And if you haven't already, please hit that subscribe button and leave us a review. We read each one of your reviews and we appreciate when y'all share the love. So until next time …

All

Bye!


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