SAN FRANCISCO — On Aug. 15, 2016, Seattle real estate team leader Vija Williams went to the office like any other day. Except on this day, she lost $10 million in business.

SAN FRANCISCO — On Aug. 15, 2016, Seattle real estate team leader Vija Williams went to the office like any other day. Except on this day, she lost $10 million in business.

This was the story of epic failure that Williams shared with the audience at Inman Connect.

Vija Williams

Almost a year ago, Williams’s team had grown to 17 people and was starting to get attention. She was getting asked to speak at events and share the secrets of her success.

As the team’s growth became public and inspiring to others, the team started to implode.

The Monday after Williams spoke at Inman Connect last year, the team took a heavy blow.

Williams went to the office and sat down for a prescheduled meeting with her listing specialist, and within two minutes, the listing specialist tendered her resignation and slapped down cancellations of every single listing she had — totaling $10 million.

Two weeks later, one of Williams’ top salespeople left for a competing team.

Within four months, four more agents left, and she fired another agent. Then her director of operations left. And three more after that.

Within eight months, her team did an 85 percent total turnover.

After 17 years of building a real estate career and team, it felt like she had lost everything. It was devastating.

But over time, she picked herself up and started rebuilding.

Williams looked out to the audience and said, after this experience, I’m sure of one thing — there are three types of team leaders and brokers out there:

  1. Those who have gone through an implosion and rebuilt
  2. Those who are going through it now
  3. And those who are about to go through one

Your teams implode, you lose key players and that’s how teams are built, she said.

Williams said the no. 1 red flag to look for is engagement.

She said that as her team grew, the growth gave her the ability to step back. She was overwhelmed and burned out after going from $10 million to $70 million in about three years. She scheduled six weeks of vacation last summer.

She began to disengage slowly, and her team reflected it. Now she can say that was her failure. But at the time she didn’t see it.

Look for agents not showing up in the office as much or not returning calls or messages with urgency, she advised.

And when you are faced with a crisis or implosion, do these three things immediately:

1. Face reality quickly

It’s easy to go into victim mode when something bad happens to us, but you need to get out of your fetal position quickly and start looking within.

Ask yourself — “What am I pretending not to see?”

And get back in the game quickly and decisively. Be a leader.

“Decision energy is massive,” she said.

2. Engage, engage, engage

“Pour into your key people,” Williams said.

If you’re building a team of independent contractors, you have to be pretty amazing leaders. They count on your leadership for their livelihood, and it’s a two-way street.

“Our assets are our people, they’re not our houses,” she said.

She also advised taking care of yourself first. It’s that old adage that you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can save others.

“Your self-care is paramount anytime you’re going through a crisis like this,” she said.

3. Create an advisory council

If a crisis hit in your company, who would you call? Seek out people who are great — find mentors to help. Turn to industry pros who have traveled your path.

And in return, mentor others. Give and receive.

After all of this, has Williams backed down? Maybe decided to stick with a smaller team? No.

“My goals are massive. My goals have not wavered at all,” she said.

This year, her team is on track to do $80 million — amid the implosion of this past year.

Keep the grit. Love the struggle. Learn from your failures.

Email Dani Vanderboegh.

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