One of the benefits Mark Spain, former Keller Williams top team leader, finds in running his own company is he can expand at will. He doesn’t have to have diplomatic talks with other Keller Williams offices to see if they will accommodate his team.
He can choose a market for an office location in his state of choice and set up shop, and there is a real freedom to this, said the business owner who describes himself as an entrepreneur at heart.
Mark Spain Real Estate launched in Atlanta, Georgia, in January 2016. In its first two years, it has grown from one to five offices in Georgia — four in metro Atlanta and one in Athens. And in 2018, the business opened in Charlotte, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Striking out on his own
Spain explains his thinking about leaving Keller Williams in December 2015, a decision he says he agonized over.
“I was at this point in my business life going, ‘am I going to try to buy regions in Keller Williams?’ I can build a big business that has great cash flow, but all I own is an income stream. I can’t go and sell a Keller Williams team. If I ever want an asset that has tangible (value) I have to go independent.”
The expansion team model at Keller Williams didn’t work for Spain’s business. “It didn’t work for me because my model is more like a Costco rather than a Starbucks. I’m not low volume, I’m high volume,” he said.
When Spain and his team come to town, they go big.
“My motto is I don’t go in and do 30 to 40 deals, I tend to do 500 to 1,000, we come in aggressively,” he said.
He would talk to Keller Williams office owners about his plans to come to their market, and they would say things like, “Hey, just make sure you understand you can’t put an office anywhere near here.” He felt like saying: “Really? That’s your ego talking.”
Building up steam
A little over two years into the business, Spain is enjoying expanding his business model on his own terms, and he made his first foray out of state in January this year. After launching in Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, the company is ahead of schedule to open in Nashville, Tennessee, in June. Then, the plan is Tampa within six months and Orlando by the year end.
He has built up a real momentum.
According to the company, in 2017, Mark Spain Real Estate had $550 million gross sales, an increase of $107 million in 2016. That was 2,318 sales, an average of 6.37 closings per day (up from an average of 5.2 closings for 2016). His average home tends to be in the $230,000 or $240,000 market.
And this business is being done with 125 agents and 35 staff, up from the 60 agents he had at Keller Williams.
One of the big things Gary Keller taught Spain was how to leverage, he said.
“There are some who think they are the only one who can do the listing. The reality is there are people who are better than us, you just have to spend time looking for those people,” he said.
Spain believes in controlling his agents who he provides with all their leads and who work on a team model. The company’s business is 80 percent listings. Meanwhile, MSRE came no. 2 in the country for the best team by transaction sides in 2017, according to Real Trends.
Does he miss Keller and other Keller Williams business leaders? Spain, who stressed he is still in touch with Keller, has set out to surround himself with the kinds of leaders he had at the company. He hired a business coach, James Larson, a CEO coach, who has been very good.
“I stayed close with buddies who were independents already. I have a really tight network of people, I’m a very relational guy, I help friends, and they help me out.”
Being based where he is in Atlanta, there is no room for complacency in what Spain calls a “breeding ground of competition.” He goes head-to-head with iBuyers such as Opendoor, OfferPad and Knock.
“We all advertise in the same place so I have to compete alongside them,” he said. “It makes me better, you never go to sleep. You get complacent, and someone will take you down.”