Thoughts on Leadership: Omotenashi

This week, I also came across an inspiring article shared by my friend and esteemed colleague, Rishi Bakshi, Broker & General Manager at Intero Real Estate Services, East Bay. Authored by Matthew Ferrara, the piece explores the elegant Japanese concept of omotenashi, which represents the heart of hospitality, focusing on hosts dedicating themselves to ensure the happiness and success of their guests.

I’m thrilled to credit Matthew for sparking the idea behind this week’s blog. I’m excited to share his insights with you and hope you find them as valuable as I did. Dive in and let the spirit of omotenashi enrich your day as it has mine. Enjoy!

It’s time to excel

This summer is your big opportunity to get out in front, and stay there!

As the summer approaches, changes to business, technology, even politics promise to alter the landscape forever. But for most people, the real opportunity isn’t reacting to what’s new: It’s learning to do things at an unparalleled level of excellence that will set them apart. Here’s how.


Let me introduce you to my favorite Japanese concept: omotenashi. Simply put, it’s the mindset of a host who is fully committed to the hospitality and success of their guest. Or in our case, the client. It’s a cultural phenomenon in Japan, and something anyone can learn with practice. A way of thinking about clients that redefines contractual relationships entirely. And by approaching our work where guests are cared for so deeply, we anticipate their satisfaction, not their service requirements.

It would be a fresh take on what’s happening in real estate, where everyone is much too worried about contracts and not focused enough on our contacts.

You never forget this kind of experience

A few years ago, I was in Tokyo fulfilling a lifelong bucket-list trip. While Japanese politeness and manners are legendary – and sometimes awkward for Westerners—I was definitely enjoying the attention-to-detail. Cab doors that open themselves. Checking into my room from the lounge, not a line at the desk. The cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen—in the subway station!

At one point, I was so overwhelmed with the feeling of being cared for that I wondered if I was being watched.

One morning, I tossed an empty toothpaste tube in the trash; After lunch, I found two fresh tubes left by housekeeping on the sink. Grabbing my camera, I asked the concierge for directions to the subway; by the time he explained, a nearby colleague had printed a map with the route from the lobby, and reminders about buying passes.

She even wrote her name and phone number on the paper in case I got lost walking around by myself!

Later that evening, I returned to find an envelope on my desk. Inside, a pamphlet of photography spots around Tokyo had been highlighted, with a special star next to a night tour, courtesy of the Concierge. For a moment, I thought about checking my room for hidden cameras: Then, I laughed out loud. Imagine taking your guest’s experience in your country so seriously, that you anticipated what they would enjoy—not just what you were obligated to serve—and then offered it wholeheartedly!

Beyond par

For the past few months, real estate has been talking about articulating value propositions. Smart, since the press has deeply tarnished the industry’s image. I’ve written recommendations, including going all-in, and hosting a webinar on articulating invaluable propositions, plus an ebook on Ten Things Buyer’s Agent Should Do Today.

So you should have plenty of great ideas to get prepared.

But to be honest, getting ready is just par for the course. You’ll easily do what you’ve always done: adapt, adjust and accelerate your approach to new conditions. But here’s the catch:

So will 1.5 million other real estate agents!

By the end of the summer, you’ll be doing new things, back on an even playing field with everyone else.

Act (excellently) while others are distracted

Which is why you might want to practice your Japanese this summer.

I believe there’s a historic opportunity for our industry this summer. While many people remain distracted by the noisy parts of the post-settlement world, you could be working on something even better. Forget about disruption, replacing NAR, or something-something-artificial-intelligence (today’s Chia pet). None of that creates anything close to the one thing serious sales professionals can do that will resonate for years:

Get excellent at delivering excellence

Think about my experience in Tokyo: It was a level of excellence that’s unforgettable. More importantly, it’s rare in too many areas of the modern world. In places where great service once excelled—five-star hotels, first-class seats, top-notch universities, platinum/black/premier everything have been cutting corners and hedging bets for the past couple of years. And it shows; you’ve felt it:

They just don’t take your coat and hat like they used to anymore.

And yet, an opportunity exists this summer to change all of that, if only for yourself and your career. The time is now, because by November, it will be too late. Everyone else will have caught up on the changes, and ready to put energy back into competitive advantages.

So act, now.

Practice omotenashi: Excel at three things

It’s a rare moment, where excellence instead of tools or technology or price can set you apart in such a lasting way. If you decide to capture the moment and make excellence your partner in success, you can start by developing a wholehearted client experience in three ways:

  1. Focus on being present. Let empathy, not systems guide your manner of increasing value with clients. Your attention is the rarest commodity today.
  2. Develop a habit of thinking ahead. Practice chess not tennis, where your actions are focused on the end goal, not merely a compensated service request.
  3. Act with heartfelt intention, such that the time together with clients becomes unforgettable, more than delivering the goods specified in a contract.

Delivering excellence like this means developing a way of acting and being with others that cannot be copied, and therefore cannot be commoditized by others.

Just as your invaluable proposition by your personality and core values, your excellence can only be experienced at the moment, heart-to-heart, in flow with someone who matters.

Excellence becomes priceless

Mastering the minor changes to business practices and contracts will be the easy part. Using the moment to raise the excellence of care will insulate your success against future consumer skepticism. Clients won’t compare it to anything else, past or present, because it’s not delivered by an artificial formula, only a human interaction. Competitors can’t copycat it either, because excellence must be experienced, not packaged or price-reduced.

Best of all, your personal care will rise as well: Any lingering doubts about your worth, especially in novel buyer conversations, will fade as you become so focused on delivering unparalleled excellence that there’s no time for anxiety. As your excellence rises, it will become a magnet for something just as valuable:

Excellent clients—who wouldn’t dream of asking for more for less.

Let’s get excellent this summer!

—Matthew Ferrara

This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.

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