Mark Choey

Meet Mark, the founder, and CEO of Highnote, a presentation and proposal platform designed specifically for service providers. With a background as a top-producing salesperson, team and brokerage leader, computer engineer, and product designer, Mark has a unique insight into what it takes to create great software for service providers who don’t have time to design.


‘A Great Feature That I Love About HighNote is the Analytics’ – Philadelphia Agent Lansana Sylla


Lansana Sylla’s path to selling Philadelphia real estate wasn’t straightforward. He took many detours along the way, both professionally and geographically. But once he was introduced to the real estate industry, he was sold (pun intended). He sat down with us to talk about his extensive travels and the wide range of jobs that he worked before becoming a REALTOR®.

Hi, Lansana! Thanks so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into real estate?

I’m originally from Philadelphia, but I’ve moved around a lot! I lived overseas with my parents because my Dad worked for the State Department, but my first trip alone was to Brazil. I loved traveling so much that I decided I wanted to keep doing it. I didn’t want anything to tie me down, so I began working as a contractor for a couple of years. That gave me flexibility. 

“I love real estate because every day is different. I can’t sit behind a desk every day!”

I also joined the Peace Corps, not really because I aspired to do it, but because I was bored. I wanted to find something more interesting to do. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the fall of 2002, and I went to the Peace Corps website. I was familiar with it, because I lived in West Africa where my Dad was stationed with the State Department and there were a lot of Peace Corps volunteers there. By August 2003, I was on my way to St. Lucia, and from there I was sent to Antigua. 

During that time, I also wanted to learn Spanish, so I traveled to a lot of Latin American countries. Then I got a job at Vanguard as a bilingual mutual fund specialist. I loved that job, but I didn’t love sitting in a cubicle, so I went to work for an institutional broker dealer for a little while. 

Then I worked as an ad hoc employee with IBM and also as a high school counselor! The counselor position lost its funding so I ended up becoming a middle school teacher, teaching science and math. 

You could say that the theme of my working career is that I can’t sit down! I can’t be at a desk. I’ve passed that trait along to my daughter, too. It can be below zero temperatures outside, and she still has to go out there to play! 

Wow, that’s an amazing backstory! When did you catch the real estate bug?

I got into real estate by accident. I met a buddy of mine almost 20 years ago, when I was in Cuba. He lived in Florida, and I was living in Pennsylvania. We would go long periods of time without speaking to each other, but one day I called his phone and it forwarded to another number. Turns out he was living in Honduras, building condos. He invited me down and I started going there every three months or so, just to hang out with him. I was able to do that because I was working as a contractor at the time.

We would go sit at a cafe and he’d describe every aspect of development. It was a foreign language to me at that time, but it was still captivating. About six or seven years later, I actually signed up for an aspiring developers program, and I wanted to do what he did – start off on a small scale and grow bigger from there. I still haven’t done any development projects, but I did become a real estate agent. Real estate is something I’ve been really interested in since I used to make those trips to Honduras. 

Why do you love real estate? 

It allows me to be creative, and each day is different. My Monday can look very different to my Tuesday, and so on. It’s also a business, I get to treat it as a business, which means it’s only going to be as good as the effort I put into it. I love working with people, I love interacting with people. I’m not the most analytical person, but real estate does allow me to be analytical. I wouldn’t consider myself a “numbers person,” but I do like numbers. I also get to still be a teacher in this role, I’m just teaching adults now. Real estate lends itself to a lot of educating. 

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So you feel like your foundation as a teacher has made you a better real estate agent?

Without question! Sometimes I have to take a complex situation and put it into layman’s terms so the person can understand it. So it’s no different than me taking the quadratic formula and explaining it to a bunch of sixth graders who have never heard of it. So I break down the real estate process, and I listen. Because I don’t want to sit there and inundate someone with a bunch of information they already know. I have to meet them where they are at that moment.

“I use HighNote like a college professor uses a syllabus.”

I agree that being a good listener is vital to being a good real estate agent. What would you say are some other necessary attributes for agents to have?

Well, I want to make people feel comfortable working with me. And at the same time, I want to be comfortable working with that person. As an agent, I can look at a person as a number, even though I don’t want to, but it’s more important for them to be comfortable with me because they’re getting ready to involve themselves in a major transaction. 

What’s the market like in Philadelphia right now?

Philadelphia is like a smorgasbord, a city of neighborhoods. So you have some areas that are not the most desirable and some that are highly desirable. I’ve been fortunate enough to interact in all of these markets. I’m also licensed in Delaware, and things are going really fast there. They’ll stop taking offers the day after a house is listed, and it’ll go for over the asking price.

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Let’s talk about HighNote now! I’d love to hear how you’re using it in your day-to-day business. 

Sure! When I first heard a presentation about HighNote, I was sold immediately. I was waiting for the person to tell me that it was going to be super expensive. But when he told me the actual price, I felt like I was the one robbing HighNote! 

“When I found out how cheap HighNote was, I felt like I was robbing them!” 

I use it for first-time homebuyers. I use it in the same way that a professor in college would use a syllabus. I explain about myself and the transaction process. I use visuals from Canva, and I get to use my teacher’s senses when I do this, creating something that will appeal to different learning styles. So I have images and I also have short texts and bullet points. This way, before we meet for the buyer’s consultation they already have an idea of what the process will be like, just like students know what to expect as they progress through the semester. Now I’m starting to use it for sellers, describing what the process is for them. Some people I’ve spoken to haven’t bought a house in decades, so they need a refresher. 

I’m also planning to make some YouTube videos and incorporate those into my HighNote presentations so that clients can get an idea of what my personality is like. 

Another great feature that I love about HighNote is the analytics, I can see how much time people spend on each section and make sure they’ve seen important parts of the presentation.

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That’s great. What are some other things you do to stand out in a sea of real estate agents?

First of all, I make sure that I’m not looking at the person as a dollar sign. I try to treat everyone as a friend. I’m currently working with a seller who is an older lady. She can be difficult at times, insulting me in one sentence and making me laugh in the next! We had a snowstorm about a week ago and I offered to come and shovel her sidewalk and salt it. So I look at it as, yes, I’m facilitating a real estate transaction for you, but you need help getting groceries and I happen to be going that way? I don’t mind. I try to do things outside the scope of being a real estate agent because to me, that’s what friends do. People remember what you do, not what you say. I have a mother and father and I would hope that someone would reach out and help them if they needed it. 

What would your advice be for someone who is just starting out in real estate?

I would say that if you don’t have patience, you have to get it quickly! This game will force you to learn it. I’d also say that you’re only going to get out what you put into it. And even though I’m not a numbers guy, it’s important to understand trends and know how to do your research, because real estate is dynamic. What’s relevant today might not be relevant tomorrow. So you should just try to be knowledgeable about as much as you can.

Communication is also key. Never keep people in limbo. That’s one thing that I brought with me from teaching. Even if I’m asked a question that I don’t know the answer to, I make sure I look it up. Agents should never leave anyone hanging. We’re there to be resources for our clients. 

Are you looking to buy or sell a home in Philadelphia? Be sure to contact Lansana Sylla!

…And if you’re a real estate agent looking to take your business to the next level, click here to get started with HighNote!