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Does the film Dirty Dancing hold a Lesson for Traditional Estate Agency?

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Patrick Swaze Dirty Dancing

Okay, yes, it’s a stretch. But I believe this iconic film has an important lesson for estate agents. Hear me out!

For those that haven’t seen the film, where have you been?! In summary, it’s a rite of passage story set in the rapidly evolving 1950’s America. Within the film, this evolution is communicated through changes in music and dance. It all starts when the nephew of the dance studio owner, Neil, tells the dance instructor, Jonny, that he wants to end this seasons’ dance routine differently. Jonny on hearing this gets excited and starts to tell Neil that he’s been working on his new Latin moves! Neil resists, “You are getting a bit ahead of yourself, I was thinking of the Pechanga, or we could do the same old tired number as last year.” This little scene illustrated developmental change, moving from the Mambo to the Pechanga. This opposes the more drastic transitional change expressed by Jonny’s ideas of moving from ballroom to freestyle Latin.

From this point in the film onwards it looks as though the ‘same old tired’ development regime would win the day, and Jonny and his ideas would be sent packing. However, in the final scenes, we see Max, the owner of the studio, bemoaning to his bandleader how the world has changed and how kids are wanting something more, something different. He worries his business won’t be able to keep up. With the final scenes looming we get to see the triumph of Jonny’s return and his revolutionary ideas played out. Jonny takes control of the stage and gets to show off his new Latin moves. The audience begins to lap it up and in that moment, Max has an epiphany: ‘New-fangled ideas’ are the future!!

So, how does this relate to estate agencies you may ask?

You see, Neil presented a minor improvement, or a developmental change, by ending the season with a different but existing ballroom dance, Pechanga rather than last year’s Mambo. I can liken this to those in traditional agencies who think only in terms of a change of branding, colours, adding a tv screen to the office window, or an auto valuation tool to the website. The problem with these changes is that they are merely a development of a past idea! The changes make a small difference, but they don’t fundamentally change anything. They don’t create new possibilities.

Jonny stands for those early adopters in traditional agencies – those who recognise a need for a new course of action and are keen to test those actions out. They search for those more fundamental changes, in Dirty Dancing these fundamental changes are expressed as the new ‘Latin dancing.’ A dance that proposes new possibilities, new moves, new music, new attitude, and a completely new energy. If it weren’t for Jonny’s enthusiastic view of change, and willingness to be different, Max would had never been able to see a future for his dance studio.

The lesson for estate agencies? Don’t be a Neil! Be a Jonny. The Neils of the business world inevitably end up extinct. The Johnnys of the world embrace transitional change and with it latch onto new opportunities.

Just like the America of the 1950’s, the estate agency industry is changing. Being open to the new Latin moves could make all the difference between evolution and extinction!