Lesson learned: Empower your real estate agents

North Carolina broker David Keener found that the way to build a successful brokerage is by giving agents the tools to build their own successful businesses

David Keener

In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

How do you turn a background in military service and high-tech startups into success in a traditional, brick-and-mortar business like real estate?

If you’re David Keener, you apply the lessons of a lifetime in business while also learning from in-field experience to create a blend that works for the broker, the agents and the clients they serve.

How long have you been in the business?

I started in real estate privately in 2006. I’ve been an investor in residential and commercial properties since then. It wasn’t until I’d sold my second company and took a couple of years off that I realized I wanted to get out of technology-exclusive startups and get into something more tangible. I’ve always loved real estate — something you can touch, see, feel and insure.

It wasn’t until 2016 that I decided to become a broker and leverage my past 25 years in technology and military operational training to build out the world’s greatest brokerage.

When I first entertained the idea of building Premiere Homes Group (PHG), one of the most important things to me was leveraging technology. It didn’t take long to realize that there are no silver bullet solutions in the industry to accelerate an agent’s success.

That’s when I knew there was a major opportunity here with my background and organization-building ability.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

At a minimum, we will be a national organization, (hopefully international) with agents in every major metro market and all 50 states. I would like to become the first exclusively agent-owned entity, not beholden to shareholders but to the leaders that create and build this firm.

I want true profit sharing where every single office and agent knows what we’re spending as an organization and what the profit is on a quarterly basis, with distributions back to the agents that helped create it and are responsible for its success. We’re not there yet, but that’s where I hope to be in five years.

What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?

The organization is only as good as its people.

I’ve never had independent contractors as almost my exclusive workforce. It requires you to act differently and always be creating an environment that truly embraces their personal success.

My customer is no longer the person who’s buying a product — my customer is the agent.

If you have employees, you can operate differently because employees won’t walk out in most cases. With independent contractors, you have to make sure the environment truly delivers on what you’re promising because the opportunity has to accelerate their growth, not mine.

How did you learn it?

I overspent on leads and incentives the first year in business. I found out that if agents don’t have a personal, vested interest in their own success, all the leads in the world won’t make them successful.

After that first year, I started providing more favorable splits and training agents on marketing and operations. That gave agents their own capital to invest in additional lead generation, marketing, promotion, etc.

By working with us, agents are giving themselves a raise. That is an investment in their first assistant, better work-life balance, a family vacation or a down payment on their own new house.

It’s the contrast between doing too much and creating dependence versus providing more capital to create independence. It’s the perfect blend of support and assistance, giving each agent the ability to be independent and become the mega-agent that they want to become.

In addition, because we are a virtual brokerage with virtual meetings and virtual offices, we create a platform for our agents to run their business on their terms and in the way that works for them, their team and their clients.

What advice would you give to new agents?

At PHG, we help people get in production quickly so that they accelerate the time frame for success and gain experience faster than with other brokerages.

We provide an in-the-field support mentor, internal support and transaction management to help guide them through the process so that they get up and running sooner. It’s essential that you look for that kind of support when you’re starting out and building your business.

Be selective about what brokerage you partner with. In a business with already tight margins, it’s critical that you understand their commission structure. Many brokerages take a lion’s share of your hard-earned money. It isn’t until you’re very successful that you begin to get the benefit.

Here, we believe that you should benefit from your hard work from the beginning. At PHG, we believe that agents know what to do with their money. We want to ensure that agents have the capital they need to invest in themselves first, rather than investing in the brokerage up-front.

Are you an agent with a story everyone can learn something from? Reach out to us (contributors@Inman.com). We look forward to featuring more of our best agents and brokers in a future edition of “Lesson learned.”

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook or Twitter