Bubba Mills, CEO and owner of Corcoran Coaching, talks to Inman about why it’s more difficult to double production once an agent hits 100 sales in a year.

Bubba Mills, the CEO and owner of Corcoran Coaching, likes to make an important distinction — he’s a business coach and not just a real estate coach. It’s that principle that guides his individualized approach to each client, whether it’s a team, a small indie brokerage, or an indie brokerage with a dozen offices, which makes up approximately 90 percent of his clients.

In an interview with Inman for Coaching + Training Month, Mills, a business coach since the 1980s, discussed his specific style of coaching and why it’s more difficult for agents to double their sales numbers once they cross the 100-sale threshold.

You call yourself a business coach and not a real estate coach. Why do you believe it’s important to make that distinction?

Here’s the reason why we call ourselves business coaches. I’ve been around real estate for almost 30 years now. I’ve learned a long time ago that real estate agents don’t treat their business like a business. They are a real estate sales professional. They go out and they count what their gross commission income (GCI) is.

The typical Realtor says, ‘Hey I sold 10 houses last year, and my GCI was $120,000.’ And I say, ‘that’s great, but how much money did you make?’ And they say, ‘I made $120,000.’ No, you didn’t. That’s not what you put in your bank, it’s not what you make it what’s you keep.

When you look at real estate as a business itself, it’s about leveraging several pillars, of business between traditional, between working with investors, between REITS, short sales, REOs, property management.

You’re a ‘solopreneur’ is what I call most independent agents. We take ‘solopreneurs’ and teach them how to be entrepreneurs, how to run a business, how to leverage their skills, how to put in the right operations system.

About 70 percent of the clients who come to us for coaching don’t even have Quickbooks. We’ve gotten to the point where we have an uploadable Quickbooks/Excel program. We have built all of Quickbooks with all of your classifications, all your headers, your expenses, your profits, your bank accounts, your costs, everything into an Excel spreadsheet, you click upload on Quickbooks and in less than 45 seconds you have 295 line items.

How would describe your specific style of coaching?

We work on five major departments of every single client. We work on the financials, we work on the operations, we work on the sales, we work on marketing and advertising basically as one and we work on hiring.

I think we’re the only company that actually interviews for our clients. We provide our clients with an application that they rip our information and put their information on so they take an application, a resume, and we give them a free Innermetrix link. They do a 10-minute interview to see if it’s worth them coming in. And then they send it in to their coach and we do an hour interview on behalf of our clients for those people that are getting hired.

We interview for buyers agents, client partners, administrators. I hired three general managers last year. It doesn’t matter what the position is, we focus on those five things. Having the right people in the right place, where we’re spending our marketing and advertising dollars, what our sales associates are doing on the buyer side, the list side and the invest side, what’s our operational oversight and basically the bottom line — what’s you financials?

How do you individualize a strategy for each client you meet?

We get clients who come over from other coaching companies and the first thing we do is a profit and loss statement (P&L) review. We do an hour call on nothing but financials. So we look at their P&L, we look at their balance sheet and we look at their two-year trends along with year to date. Most of the time we can save them about 10-12 percent of their costs on our first call because they have duplicate programs.

We also provide them with the technology to track their return on investment (ROI) and return on time invested. We have a media summary board where they plug in how much they spend a month, how many leads are coming in, how many of those are being converted to appointments, how many appointments are being converted into sales. And then we back the sales numbers into what our budget was on each type of marketing and determine where ROI is so we can then shift money from Zillow to a Facebook ad, or a Sierra Interactive pay-per-click or whatever and we help them make more money.

As someone who has been doing this for a long time, how do you think business coaching has evolved over the years as technology and strategies have changed?

Teams have gotten a lot bigger. We’ve been doing this since 1989. We coached teams, independents and franchises — that’s probably 90 percent of our business. Ten percent are single agents that want to build a team.

We’re the coaching company that focuses more on the teams — the businesses — and if you look at the Tom and Mike Ferry, you look at Brian Buffini, you look at Craig Proctor, they focus more on the single agents. In [2015], The [National Association of Realtors and T3 Sixty] published the danger report. In the danger report, they’re like, ‘You have to stay away from teams, teams are going to be the demise of real estate.’

We were like, ‘We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, we’re going to just keep doing what we’re doing.’ Now Mike Ferry, Tom Ferry, Proctor and Buffini all have team coaching programs, which they didn’t. We haven’t changed, we’ve just gotten more recognizable in the industry.

We coach large independents that have 10-15 office to small local independents, we coach three out of the top 10 Gary Keller clients. We don’t go and tout who our clients are versus the Ferry, Proctor of Buffini’s who are pushing out all this marketing and advertising. We’re at probably 65 percent past client referrals is how we pick up our clients. But we also don’t coach 30,000 people like Tom Ferry does, it’s a lot different.

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about what a business coach does?

The biggest concern of all coaching clients is, ‘If I coach with you and I sell 20 houses, this year, I want to sell 40.’ That’s the easiest thing to do, taking somebody under the 100s. It’s a little bit harder going from 100 to 250 and it’s a lot harder to go over 250. The reason why is, under 100, a single agent with an admin or an assistant, can do that. You have to be business-minded over 100. You have to have a team. You have to leverage operations, you have to have systems. It’s a true business mentality versus a single-agent-selling-as-many-houses-as-they-can mentality.

The biggest misconception of all is, ‘what can you get me to?’ It’s not only growth. We might be only able to increase your production 30 percent but we can have you work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of seven days a week, 10 hours a day. We can help you take vacations. We can help you invest into your future instead of living paycheck to paycheck.

There’s a lot more of the scrutiny on the business side of it. Taking somebody who does 250 transactions, it’s not that easy to double their production in a year, versus somebody who’s at 50. Most people don’t know this, but 80 percent of Forbes 100 have coaches. And they all say they would not be where they are at without having a coach. Tiger Woods has five coaches.

Here’s the way I see it. You can have a coach to help you be a better buyer’s agent. You can have a coach to be a better listing agent. You can have a coach to help you with lead generation. If you compare it to football you can have a quarterback coach, a defensive coordinator, an offensive coordinator, a special teams coach. We are head coaches. Our job is to coach you on the entire team, the entire company. We’re responsible on the buy side, on the list side, on the sell side, the operations, the financials, we’re head coaches, that’s the difference.

Did you see an increased interest in coaching and outreach from the industry during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic? And do you think this sort of life-altering event underscores the importance of coaching?

So 95 percent yes, 5 percent no. We lost a couple of large clients. We have clients in Mexico that sell 300 to 400 houses a year in Mexico. We lost those clients because there’s no international travel. In Mexico, 90 percent of all sales are investments. A couple of them put on hold for coaching.

We saw, in the last 45 days, a huge peak of people contacting us for coaching because they haven’t sold anything for the last 2-3 months. They have to get back into the business model. They have to put money into marketing. They kind of took their time off and took the CARES Act money. A lot of agents made more money on unemployment than they did selling real estate with the $600-a-week stipend. In California, you’re making $2,000 a month, now add $2,400 on top of that for the CARES Act. You’re making $4,400 a month, that’s pretty decent money. A lot of people didn’t sell real estate.

Our clients are seeing a huge uptick in applications to join teams now. Before, agents were selling one or two houses and could live off it. If you ever drive cross country in an RV, you learn the true definition of momentum. If you’re getting ready to climb a hill, you better be doing 70 before the hill to be doing 30 at the top of the hill to do 70 down the hill. If you take your foot off the gas, in sales industry, you’re not building a pipeline. A lot of people took their foot off the gas and, on top of that, a lot of agents are now teachers because their kids aren’t going to school.

So they have not been able to focus on their companies or their lead generation, so joining a team, a team provides leads, it provides systems, it provides coaching, it provides marketing. You have zero out-of-pocket expenses. We’re seeing a huge demand for real estate agents coming back in to join teams.

Email Patrick Kearns

productivity | teams
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