Keller Williams (KW) founder Gary Keller casts a big shadow in the company that he founded 34 years ago.
Soft-spoken KW Co-CEO Chris Heller represents the steady hand steering the ship forward.
So, who is driving the Texas-based company’s hypergrowth?
Along with its recruiting engine, the secret sauce is, in large part, the affable and excitable executive John Davis, who now shares the CEO hot seat with Heller. He keeps a low profile outside the gates of the Austin-based firm, but inside the KW compound, he has emerged as the guy credited with the company’s staggering growth.
With sweat on his brow, he is a passionate speaker who loves KW, its superlatives and its many acronyms.
Davis exudes confidence with his enthusiastic and gracious style, and like most KW executives, he waves the pompoms for Keller Williams.
His style is not corporate; he is more like a charismatic winning college football coach. His favorite word may be “growth,” but “competitive” also figures in there.
Reluctant to share anything about this private life, Davis is “focused on expanding market share and helping agents boost their production to fund their lives and create opportunities,” according to a company description.
A 20-year KW vet, Davis has methodically moved up the ranks from agent to team leader, to operating partner to regional leader. He is now as close the top as you can get, when you consider Gary Keller seems unlikely to exit the company anytime soon.
A downtown Austin resident, Davis was named vice president of growth in 2011, president in 2015, and co-CEO in 2017.
He earned his KW chops almost 10 years ago when he turned around a debt-laden Dallas-area market center into one of the most profitable offices in the Keller Williams system.
Since 2011, Davis has led the Keller Williams Growth Initiative, which accounts for the firm’s agent count, production and profitability gains.
Last year, he launched the KW Career Growth Initiative (CGI) to help individual agents boost their production. While touting huge agent numbers, KW is often criticized for having poor agent productivity.
Competitors used to dismiss the KW phenomenon, but not any longer as its numbers are hard to argue with, and Davis gets much of the credit. The company has:
- Doubled its agent count to more than 150,000 associates
- Increased closed units by 113 percent (from 458,000 to 977,000)
- Boosted closed volume by 183 percent (from $96 billion to $273 billion)
- Enhanced agents’ GCI by 176 percent (from $2.6 billion to $7.2 billion)
- Boosted Profit Share by 337 percent (from $34.5 million to $154.4 million)
Here is my interview with Davis.
Who is John Davis?
First, I’m a builder. I love systems and models that make people’s lives more productive and profitable. Second, I’m a teacher. I love to lift people up and help them discover new opportunities. Third, I’m a coach.
I don’t like the status quo at all, and I want to help people set big goals and hold them accountable so they can build a bigger life for their families.
And finally, I love to work hard and play hard!
Connect the dots from where you came from to where you are today, leading growth at the largest real estate company in the world.
I was very fortunate to be hired and trained by Gary Keller for a mortgage company he owned. A few years later, I moved into real estate sales. And then I was given the opportunity to be the team leader of one of our struggling market centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that was about $5.5 million in debt.
Being a regional director really helped me think “3-dimensionally.” You have a model. You have systems. You have performance. And the most important part of it all is people.
These were not only great leadership opportunities, but they provided me with the “labs” to fine-tune and scale what became the Keller Williams Growth Initiative.
This past July, we launched the Career Growth Initiative — which is based on the same models and systems and language of the Growth Initiative — to help individual agents boost their production.
More than 118,000 agents have set their CGI goals. And so far, we’ve hit all-time monthly records every single month in every major production category we track.
What might trip KW up?
Anything that causes fear or doubt, like terrorism, military action or a market collapse.
The thing we spend the most time thinking about — because it’s entirely within our control — is complacency.
That’s why I love working with the field. You feel the change rather than look at the change from a spreadsheet. And it’s where leadership shows up to build confidence by helping people focus on the right activities at the right time.
Do you fear disruption?
Let’s be real. You’d be crazy not to with the amount of money being poured into our industry. You can’t ignore it.
And that’s why I love working with Gary Keller. He’s a visionary. He understands this. And that’s why we are making the investments we’re making in technology and transitioning into being a technology company.
Right now, my “ONE Thing,” to use Gary’s phrase, is to expand market share to fund our technology growth.
How do you upgrade the quality of your agents?
We’ve always been a training company. In fact, a few months ago Training Magazine once again named us the no. 1 training organization across all industries.
So we’re constantly providing training and developing new training to help our people. The Career Growth Initiative is a perfect example.
We’re providing agents with tools to grow their production. And by providing value, we’re attracting top producers. We’re getting into relationship with “head-turners” who bring market share and market influence.
How do you avoid churn — KW trains them and then they move on?
When you have the type of growth we have, what you’re doing is putting the infrastructure in place. Let me explain.
The CGI is all about production. And our local market center leadership teams are laser-focused on leading our people to achieve the production they want.
For example, our market center administrators, or MCAs, are especially focused on helping associates understand the levers in their business, while our productivity coaches, or PCs, help agents adopt the systems and habits they need to take their business to the next level.
And what’s happening now, with programs like the CGI, is our offices’ production growth is actually outpacing our agent growth. We’ve doubled in size and increased production by 113 percent. And when you help people get what they want, they have no reason to leave.
Explain how expansion teams will change real estate?
We believe there’s a group of producers out there who are capable of building businesses on a much bigger scale than we’ve ever experienced. They’re already doing it. This week, in fact, we’re having our 2017 Expansion Summit in Arizona.
Participants get to learn from true business leaders like Bob Lucido (who sold $632 million last year!) and Brian Gubernick and Ben Kinney and Adam Hergenrother. All of these people who are blazing the trail for expansion into additional markets.
What scares you?
I’m human. The dark scares me! Changes in my family scare me! But in business, it’s all about studying the market and not letting fear come into your decision-making.
When you go back and look at the numbers and take the emotion out of it, it allows you to move with certainty. It allows you to move with speed.
What’s next for John Davis?
In the short term, growth. In the medium term, more growth. And longer than that, I really haven’t looked because I’m having a blast!
And as long as this great company and its people will have me, they’ve got me!