In each newsletter, we will feature a North Star Board Member. This quarter we’re talking with Eric Bjorklund, MAI, owner of Bjorklund Appraisals in Bloomington, MN.
North Star (NS): How did you get into the appraisal industry?
Eric Bjorklund (EB): My father was an appraiser. After my first year of college, and in need of summertime employment, he and another of his partners at BCL Appraisals determined they were in need of help. So, they offered me an opportunity to work for them. I worked for them each summer between my years at St. Olaf. Upon graduation, I weighed my prospects of other employment opportunities against a standing opportunity to come back to BCL Appraisals. I chose BCL Appraisals and then dug in hard with the specialized education requirements, licensing, and, of course, improving and expanding my actual experiences with various types of work assignments.
NS: How did Bjorklund Appraisals come to be?
EB: Really, it began as a matter of necessity during and after the Great Recession. I worked for Colliers at the start of the recession, but was laid off because of declining production and internal changes within the company. Finding that nobody was hiring appraisers at the time, even experienced ones such as myself, I founded Bjorklund Appraisals and have stayed that course ever since.
NS: In what areas of service does your company specialize?
EB: I specialize in doing top quality work, more so than on property types and location. I am more comfortable with myself when I approach doing my best and learn something, rather than to just doing an average job, learning very little, and just getting the job out the door. Early on in my career at BCL Appraisals, I was exposed to assignments that covered a lot of different property types. I generally liked them all and did quite well on most, but found that what best matched my interests were the more complicated assignments. I have always been a very hard worker with above average intelligence, motivation, and drive. I am driven by intellectual challenges and figuring things out for people that actually mean something more to them than a number or purpose. It is the client’s function of the assignment that intrigues me, again, more so than property types and location.
But with that said, I do prefer to have assignment locations here in the Twin Cities, an area that I am very familiar with, rather than in more distant locations where the sky is of a different color.
To further label some of my personal characteristics that drive what I specialize in, per the Myers-Briggs personality inventory test, I am an extrovert, sensing, thinking, and judging sort of guy. I guess I like to specialize in assignments that an “average” quality appraiser would generally turn down, or might accept and do a less than stellar job in completing.
NS: What do you think are the most important factors to being successful in the appraisal industry?
EB: When “success” is understood to be making a lot of money, I can’t say that there is one most important factor. Rather, I think that the successful appraiser is very approachable, people friendly, outgoing, and well networked. They are good sales persons. Behind that, they are good listeners to their client’s wants and needs, they respond quickly, meet deadlines and deliver to the client what the client wants, probably more so than what the appraiser thinks they actually need, and/or produce independently with or without less inclination of meeting that exact want. Also, the successful appraiser is one who writes a clean report, free of errors, and is readily understood (and even “fun” to read) by the client or non-appraisers.
Outside of the success of making money, a successful appraiser is one who is willing to work some long hours at times, is good with numbers, and likes to work at a desk with computers. The successful appraiser is also someone who keeps themselves as informed as they can as to what is going on in the market, and they are flexible and comfortable with things like change in general, different opinions, and criticism. And finally, a person who is successful in the appraisal industry is also a person who gives something back to the industry through involvement in appraisal chapters and national boards, serving the public through other volunteer type work, and is a well-balanced, happy person in all or most other aspects of their life.
NS: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
BT: My personal accomplishments as they relate to being an appraiser include taking pride and ownership of all the education I have taken and plan to take. Life and employment in general is dynamic, and I feel that to be happy and successful, one must not only need to learn, but want to learn through educational opportunities. While the opportunities are mostly “classes and seminars”, one can learn in many different ways too. I find that I do accomplish a lot of learning by taking that extra step, or digging a bit deep on something interesting in an appraisal assignment. I also try to take or get more than the required educational hours needed to sustain my license and other credentials. I sometimes choose the “less than obvious” or “this could be interesting” types of offerings or learning opportunities, thinking that I might learn something new and/or not be as potentially bored having chosen the alternatives.
Beyond being proud of my educational accomplishments, I am truly proud of getting through the MAI designation path and achieving the MAI designation. And in an odd sort of way, I am sort of happy that I failed some of the designation tasks because some failures are the best learning opportunities. I don’t like failure, and with a determination to learn more and to succeed in most things, I used the failures to my advantage, worked hard to improve, change, and get the designation. Also, while I may have had some different choices to satisfy the “Demonstration of Knowledge” task for the MAI designation, I wanted only to write the demonstration appraisal report. So I poured what I had into that task, and accomplished it with wondrous success.
Lastly, from the standpoint of what types of awards, certifications, and accomplishments my business has earned, most basically, I can say that that since I started my company 10 years ago, it is still going, and production has usually gone up. Also, my company has secured contracts for work with several different entities after going through long and arduous applications, and Bjorklund Appraisals is a Certified Small Business Enterprise through the City of St. Paul, and Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.
NS: What is the best advice you have ever received?
EB: Well, I have received a lot of good advice over the years. But I would have to say that some advice I gave myself one time was pretty good! It goes something like this: “Don’t worry about how difficult, troublesome, and stressful your life is right now. You will get through this. Tomorrow will most certainly come and the here and now will be gone. The sun always rises. Tomorrow will be the new today. The past will be gone. Finished. Over. Nobody can stop tomorrow from coming, so know it. Accept it. Feel it. What is now, will be done because you know that there will be a tomorrow, or a next day. And it will be different.” Also, I don’t know who said it, but “Time heals all wounds” is some pretty good advice.
NS: What tips do you have for new appraisers?
EB: Work hard. Stay on task. Want it. Better yourself. Serve your boss and the client to the best of your ability. Expect failure, and when it happens, grab yourself by your bootstraps and pull yourself up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And when working towards a designation, don’t try to do everything at once. Instead, chip away at it, and make sure you accomplish little things all the time. Before not too long, all these little things add up and big things will be completed.
NS: And what about for experienced appraisers?
EB: Step outside your comfort zone once in a while. Challenge yourself. Help somebody younger and less experienced to better themselves, take over, if not for you, than for somebody else and the industry in general. Try giving the client more of what you think they need, rather than what they want. Sure, there is the point of view that the client may always be right, but sometimes that is not true. They may not know that what they want and need can be different. Also, stand strong in your opinions and don’t be afraid to say no. You are your master. You are not a puppet. Be continually ethical and professionally responsible.
NS: What is your most memorable moment on the job?
EB: I appraised a rendering plant in New Brighton. The scene was rather obnoxious, to say the least. While the plant was not in operation on the date of my inspection, it was still quite memorable. When I finished the inspection, I ate lunch at McDonalds. What a bad idea. The smell of the grease and the taste of the food made for terrible connections to the plant. It was a long time before I ever ate fast food again.
NS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about AI or the appraisal industry?
EB: I am concerned about the rising age of designated appraisers. To me, this indicates that the fundamentals of our industry are changing in some undesirable way. The industry is not attracting enough new workers and something needs to change to make this happen. Employers perhaps need to change the environment of their office, and bosses need to recognize that different generations (and really, every new person) need different things because they are different people. New and less experienced workers need to be told way more often that they are valued. Points and time should be made to tell people that they are doing well or what they are doing right.
To all users of appraisal services, I say to you this: When you have a choice, try to pick a designated appraiser from the Appraisal Institute to do the job for you. The designation really means a lot to our industry, and by picking a designated appraiser, you are picking from a pool of the very best. We all worked very hard to earn the designation and we should have above average intellect and experience in the field to get the job done right and probably better than most. If fees are higher for the assignment when they are completed by a designated appraiser, know that you get [the quality] you pay for.