To make it through tough times, Texas practitioner Buddy Almy encourages professional development, diversification, and having relationships with wealthy clients and investors.

A former, self-described cha cha king of Fort Worth, Texas, Earle V. Buddy Almy Jr., 79, refuses to slow down even as his closed transactions have come to a virtual standstill this year.  As a farm and ranch specialist in Granbury, Texas, his biggest challenge: Not enough inventory. There just aren't enough properties suitable for deer and turkey hunting on the market to meet demand, says Almy, broker-owner of Almy & Co., who recently notched 50 years in the real estate business.

width=125What has been your most difficult period in business?

ALMY: Ever since 2007, the whole ball game has changed in many ways. I used to have 15 to 20 ranches for sale at one time. And now I'm doing well if I have two or three. In Hood County, where I live and work, there have only been three ranches sold this whole year and just two in all of last year.

People aren't interested in selling. They get good income from the gas wells on their properties. We haven't had to deal with the impact of the recession like in other places, but business is still very slow.

What's your approach for managing through this slow period?

ALMY: In our area, I'm looking to sell properties on big lakes because this is what people are looking for. With ranches, it's also important to try to sell the mineral rights with the land. I'm trying to convince investors to get off the fence. But it's important to cultivate rich ranchers and rich buyers over a lifetime. It's not something that happens right away.

But for real estate pros with different specialties, how can they stand out from the crowd?

ALMY: You should become as educated as possible about the business. That why I earned so many designations: ALC, GRI, CREA, and CRB. I did all the coursework for CCIM, but I couldn't get to New Orleans for the test.

I really believe that the most educated person comes out on top. It was tough for me when I was young. God didn't give me the brains to compete with the geniuses out there. I had to have something to offset that.

I needed to know more than my competition. I have a degree in animal husbandry from Texas Tech, but I wasn't Phi Beta Kappa. When I got into real estate in 1959, I wanted to know what I was talking about, so I got a lot of designations over the years. And becoming an appraiser also helped during slow times. The more talents you have, the better.

How do you handle diminished cash flow?

ALMY: You need to find someone who is very rich who can support you during tough times. Find millionaires and billionaires in your area and get them to back you financially. The banks won't do that for you.

You had as many as 14 sales associates working in your brokerage in 1970s. Why did you decide to scale back your office?

ALMY: During the downturn of 1976, they left. But I realized that having so many people in the office had turned me into an administrator and I didn't like that. I was putting out fires all day. I love selling, and I wasn't doing that when I was managing all those people.

So I never brought any people back in. I didn't like worrying about whether one of my associates was telling the truth.

And I've been more successful personally since then. I don't like trying to do 50 things at once. All the distractions in the office made it hard to concentrate. I believe you can have too many irons in the fire.

Why did you close your office eight years ago?

ALMY: I had been working out of an office in a mobile home since 1979. The owner kept raising the rent. So when I moved into my current home in 2001, I realized there was enough room for my business and all my records going back to 1959. I use one of the bedrooms and the dining room for business. And I love working out of my house. I have about one acre on a 5,800-acre ranch and it's set amidst a pecan orchard. I see deer and doves and other animals every day. It's the most refreshing place.

Do you have any retirement plans?

ALMY: I'm not ready to die. That's what happens when you retire. I don't want to sit in a rocking chair. I do like to hunt and fish and play golf. If I sell a ranch or two this year, maybe I'll spend time playing a little more golf.