Here's an interesting fact for you: did you know that over 1 million French people were already surfing the net by the year 1981? Seriously – they could buy things, chat with strangers, make bookings, watch the stock market, and more. And it was all thanks to the Minitel.
Before the World Wide Web, this nifty piece of tech was considered the most successful online service. Not only was it a super innovative alternative to phone books, but the business model was way ahead of its time; Minitel terminals were given to phone subscribers for no upfront cost, meaning they were distributed quickly and successfully.
What's my point here? Well, today's newsletter is about the immense value of looking ahead at all times. It's about having the foresight to pick trends before they become trendy – or in some cases, create a completely new trend from an idea in your head.
And that's exactly what the Minitel achieved. By having the foresight to use France's phone lines in a new and useful way, the company had millions of people web surfing before the rest of the world even knew of the possibility. (They made pretty serious bank off of it, too).
What's your Minitel? Is there a potential trend in your industry that no one's taken advantage of yet? Let's talk about it.
Brief topic change here – I want to introduce today's newsletter inspiration who, as always, is someone I interviewed over on my Success Story Podcast.
Alvaro Nunez is the Founder and CEO of Super Luxury Group, an acclaimed luxury real estate media network. Fueled by his passion for real estate, he has been working to enhance people’s lives through homes, real estate and experiences.
He aspires to revolutionize the luxury lifestyle industry by celebritizing and selling multimillion-dollar homes from Miami to other jet-set locations using innovative and disruptive marketing techniques, technology integrations, and influencer collaborations.
Alvaro has sold some of the largest, most luxurious pieces of real estate on the planet. He's also worked with some of the most well-known celebrities and influencers to create the perfect intersection of luxury, lifestyle, and influence. All of that success is no dice roll – he's worked smart and hard to make it happen, as you'll soon see.
The reason I'm talking about Alvaro here is that, on the topic of innovation, he's pretty much an expert. It's been part of his strategy from day dot.
After moving to the US at just 16 years old to live the 'American Dream' and create some professional stability for himself, Alvaro went to school for marketing and eventually found himself moving toward the luxury real estate space. He wanted to break into the industry without the years of experience traditionally needed – but how?
"The idea was, how do I tap into a luxury market without having that much experience? Well, you need to understand luxury," Alvaro explained. "First, you need to understand the lifestyle. You need to brand yourself as somebody that understands it."
As it happened, Alvaro had the opportunity to do just that. His parents were selling a house they'd designed in the Dominican Republic, and the buyer wanted the home to be rented out during the parts of the year when he'd be absent – so he employed Alvaro to market the apartment as a luxury rental.
"They asked me like, 'Look, you are the marketing guy. How would you promote this home to rent for the short term?' So I went check that out," Alvaro explained. What he found was a pattern: there were lots of empty homes in the Dominican Republic. Their wealthy owners were gone for the majority of the year. So what were the houses doing in the meantime?
For Alvaro, this was a big discovery. Lots of wealthy people with vacant homes to rent out meant one thing: if he could pull it off, Alvaro had just found a new market to tap into. This was his ticket into luxury real estate.
He began conversations with homeowners about putting their houses up for rent as luxury holiday experiences.
"I started talking to them. I started to tell them, 'Look, I believe that we can generate some income for your property, while at the same time I could manage it and make sure that it remains in good status. Otherwise the properties may start getting damaged.' And the whole goal was to keep yourself elevating to a higher degree of quality, whether that's through the properties, or through the type of experience that you offer."
Bam; he'd found his doorway into the luxury space. Not only that, but Alvaro now had a means of building a high-end clientele base that would give him the experience of the luxury lifestyle he felt he needed.
"Once you build that infrastructure, and it's working well, you start thinking, 'How do I tap into a higher community? How do I tap into building my community? How do I bring more people on board?' And once you start building relationships with these people and understanding the game, you're like, wow, I want to become that big guy."
It wasn't long before Alvaro expanded his business of luxury property management – but he'd only just begun.
Something I think we're all aware of these days is the incredible power of influence that celebrities have. Whack the face of a celebrity onto a product or service, and watch sales skyrocket. Just look at Fyre Festival – it was a total disaster, but the influencer marketing alone made it one of the most talked about (and expensive) events in recent memory.
As it turns out, this was the next evolution in Alvaro's luxury real estate business: celebrity endorsement.
"That's when the concept of celebrities in homes took place. Because it was the idea of bringing these influencers to the properties, and then create this super sexy content that will make it very appealing for anybody to want to be part of this home."
Alvaro had built a healthy network of brands, influencers, and high-end clients at this point, and he knew that this was something he could use to his advantage.
"The moment you realize that people are lacking in something, and you can provide that value, then you're winning. We started looking at all these top brokers... they don't have that marketing push, they don't have access to the influencers the way we do, they don't have access to the international high net worth."
What Alvaro built was not a brokerage; it was a brand. It was an experience. High-end clients knew they were getting a premium house marketing service that went above and beyond what your average real estate company could offer.
Without telling Alvaro's entire story (you can watch it in full here), what I really wanted to emphasize through his business model is this idea of taking a different approach. He could have gone the traditional route into the real estate industry, yes – but it would have taken far longer, with considerably less impressive results.
I firmly believe there are no shortcuts to success, but that doesn't mean you can't be smart about it. Alvaro tended to agree.
"One of the things that I believe SLG has been really good at is staying ahead of the curve. Yes, some trends might die quick. But some of them will stay, and if you ride that wave from the very beginning, you will win and you'll maximize."
It was pretty impressive to hear about some of these 'waves' Alvaro has been riding, like the movement of real estate into the metaverse. He's passionate about taking the plunge and seeing where you land, regardless of what everyone else in your industry is doing.
You want to stay ahead of the curve. You want to become a pioneer in something, because life is about taking chances. Who knows if something is going to take off or not? But if you believe in it, you go through with it."
Alvaro isn't the only entrepreneur who knows the wisdom of staying ahead of the curve. If you look back at some of the most successful and disruptive companies in history, you'll see that they all had one thing in common: they were constantly evolving.
Apple is almost too obvious an example; those guys totally reinvented what it means to listen to music. Amazon has a long list of innovations to its name – I've even heard they're starting a drone delivery service, if you can believe it. GoPro changed the game for extreme sports enthusiasts everywhere.
And now that I'm on a roll, what about Dyson? I love the way this company took a simple concept – rapidly moving air – and took total ownership of it, from vacuuming to hand-drying to hairstyling. A move of true genius on their part.
But it isn't just the big names that have the resources and options required to stay ahead. Think about Alvaro's story; his goal was to enter luxury real estate, an extremely saturated and competitive space, without the traditional experience of his competitors. And he more than excelled. So what does that mean for you?
It's easy to view innovation as a one-off stroke of genius, or a moment in which the stars align and you happen to stumble onto the next big thing. I've been thinking about it, though, and I wonder – is continual evolution actually a lifestyle, rather than a single event?
In other words, maybe the approach we need to take is not one of finding the next earth-shattering invention, but of making an effort to observe new opportunities every day. It could be an incredibly small innovation that leads to your big break.
In Alvaro's situation, a lot of his success can probably be attributed to the way he observed what was going on around him. It was only because he took the time to investigate the housing situation in the Dominican Republic that he found his business opportunity.
Think about it; he could have gone to the Dominican Republic, marketed the house he was asked to rent out, gone back to the US, and moved on with his life and career. But instead, he took the time to actively seek out a new opportunity – and what he found was nothing short of a goldmine.
Observation is an incredible tool. We're constantly bombarded with new information, but it's up to us to pay attention and find the hidden trails branching off from the main path.
It's also important to be open to new ideas. Too often, we're quick to dismiss concepts that don't fit within our current ideas of practicality. (You can read more about this in one of my more recent posts – check it out here).
If Alvaro's story compels you to try and look for a new angle, I'd encourage you to watch the full podcast episode and hear more about his innovative approach to real estate. I was super impressed by how actively he continues to cover new ground and innovate in a saturated industry.
As always, thanks for reading. Catch you next time!