When Branden Williams started out in real estate he had no money, a single suit, and no experience. He decided to get into the business after seeing a friend’s check for $70,000, which was “the most money I had ever seen on a check,” but otherwise thought “my life was over and I was going to be terrible at this job.”
But today, Williams and his wife Rayni Williams are the co-founders of Williams & Williams Estates Group and work in the highly exclusive Trousdale Estates area of Beverly Hills. In short, they’ve made it.
At Inman Luxury Connect Thursday the power couple explained that one of the keys to their success was consistently investing in their own business.
Branden recalled, for example, a time when they were eating at the Beverly Hills Hotel just months after beginning their real estate careers. They were seated in the “cheap seats,” he said, where they sell “hot dogs and hamburgers.” But while they were eating, they heard a man at a table nearby complaining that he had just lost a bid on a house.
Branden, who had been visiting as many houses as he could while trying to understand the market, was familiar with the home and struck up a conversation with the man. Soon, they were talking about another house that was coming on the market, and Branden offered to show it to him.
“I didn’t even know his name,” Branden said of the sudden potential client.
But the man ultimately took the couple up on their offer and, Branden said, “all of a sudden we did a $6 million sale.”
The episode highlights the importance of playing on the field where you want to work. Branden said (with a laugh) that he wasn’t too happy at the time about paying $15 for a hamburger at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But Rayni said it was important for them to be in a place where luxury clients might eat, adding that if you want to do luxury real estate you have to spend the money to be in the right places at the right times.
“If you want to be in the luxury market you have to be in the luxurious world,” she explained.
This has been a pattern throughout the Williams’ careers. Early on, for example, Rayni bought a used Range Rover because, she said, projecting the right image matters.
“Sellers really want to work with successful people,” she argued.
Later, the couple opted to take out an ad in the Los Angeles Times, which cost $2,000 at the time. The cost was a hard pill to swallow and represented a significant percentage of the couple’s most recent commission, but they pressed forward on the assumption that spending some money in the short term would lead to greater rewards down the road.
“We just kept believing in ourselves,” Branden said.
“You’ve got to spend money on things that enhance your business,” Rayni added.
There are, of course, other keys to the Williams’ success. Rayni said that they focused on a specific geographic area because agents need to be experts, and “it’s very hard to do that if you cover a vast area.”
And she said that its vital that agents are passionate about what they’re doing.
“If you’re not obsessed with what you do,” she said, “you’ll be average.”