On Wednesday the Keller Williams headquarters team based in Austin, Texas, supporting over 170,000 KW associates, were surprised with a well-deserved early holiday gift during a corporate meeting — an envelope with a profit share check inside.

Over 240 employees excitedly opened checks (in the video there’s a countdown, followed by cheers) that collectively amounted to $6.3 million given to employees this year, up from $5.6 million in 2016, an increase of 12 percent. For salaried employees, the average profit share check will amount to 38 percent of their base salary, coming out to $18,600-$20,600 (pre-tax) based on the years of service for a salaried employee making $50,000.

Cutting end-of-year profit-share checks at HQ is an annual tradition for the real estate franchisor, which also doles out profit share on the 20th of every month at each of the Keller Williams brokerage offices. The company will cut another check in January that represents the profit shares for November and December 2017.

“As a company, we’re motivated by helping people fund their lives and create opportunities,” said CEO John Davis in a statement. “Giving back is part of our culture. Profit share allows our people to earn passive income for life so they can pay for their kids’ education, take care of their parents, and invest for the future.”

Spokesperson Darryl Frost says this year’s profit-share event happened in the middle of a 2018 corporate goals meeting.

“Everyone came downstairs with the mindset of [talking about goals],” Frost said. “Everyone had their departmental goals with them, and we were prepared to go through those goals and make sure we were in alignment with where our leaders want to take the company.”

After completing the first slide, Davis announced that he’d be presenting this year’s checks and the room was instantly filled with excitement.

“This was a record-breaking year,” Frost said. “And when you look down at a check that is basically 38 percent of your base salary, on average, it’s life-changing stuff.”

According to Frost, many employees plan to take what they’ve learned from Keller Williams real estate investment classes and use their check to make investments for the upcoming year.

KW Co-Founder and Chairman Gary Keller and early company leaders said they created the profit-share program “to ensure the goals of the company’s owners and agents remain permanently aligned.”

Since 1997, Keller Williams has given a little over $1 billion through its U.S.-based profit share and worldwide growth share programs, and since the launch of a company-wide growth initiative in 2011, profit share payouts have grown from $38.3 million to $154.4 million.

Keller Williams has reported a strong year of growth. In the third quarter, the privately held realty company added 6,011 new agents to its roster, lifting its total number of associates to 173,015, according to numbers provided by the company, while sales volume climbed to $91.9 billion. The 34-year-old franchisor has long claimed to be the world’s largest real estate franchisor by agent count.

Email Marian McPherson

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