Courtney Chakarun has her work cut out for her.
Chakarun serves as the chief marketing officer for eXp Realty, one of the buzziest and fastest-growing brokerages out there. It’s a company that has seen rapid growth by, among other things, attracting teams, and that has numerous tech-focused differentiating features.
But the same could be said of many companies in real estate right now. Compass is growing quickly. Keller Williams — an old rival of eXp’s — has invested in teams and tech. Realogy is huge. The list could go on, and the point is that there are a lot of headline-grabbing companies in real estate right now.
Chakarun’s job, then, is to make sure eXp’s message and identity cut through the noise. And given the firm’s continue growth, it appears to be working.
This week, Chakarun will be attending EXPCON, her company’s first big gathering since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The event will run for three days and is expected to draw thousands of eXp agents. In the lead up to the event, Inman spoke with Chakarun about her job, her company’s growth and what makes eXp unique.
What follows is a version of that conversation that has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve reported on a lot of agents and teams who are migrating to eXp from other companies. It makes me wonder what you’re doing to spread the eXp gospel. I see on the other end that the message is getting out, but talk to me about how you’re communicating it.
What’s been most important for the agents I’ve talked to recently are three things. One is that their brand remains, for lack of a better word, intact. I think there’s something very important about a person’s name.
When a lot of our agents come over, they’re well established. Their name means something to them. So we try to make sure that whatever we’re doing from a brand perspective is enhancing that. It’s about enabling them to tell a story. And they’re the best brand advocates that we have.
Part of this growth your seeing is this collaboration when we build the brand with our agent. We know that their brand is important. Our brand is important as well, but it’s about finding those common themes or threads to ensure that they’re coexisting. That they’re actually connected in the right way.
Another big piece of the value proposition is the fact that we do everything we can to feature our agents in social media, to put them on stage. So at EXPCON, we have Venus Williams who is going to be on stage. Now, you could have picked several people to interview Venus. But my thought is, which agent would be the most excited? Who would have the most in common with Venus Williams? And we thought of Veronica Figueroa.
So the second piece is we highlight our agents. And a lot of it is a network effect. It’s when you enable an agent, when you care about and agent, when they have your cell phone. My number is published to 68,000 real estate agents.
And that’s kind of the third piece: We’re very very accessible all the time. Whether it be [eXp World Holdings CEO Glenn Sanford] or [eXp Realty CEO Jason Gesing].
You’re talking about how you balance the identity of the agent and the brokerage. There are brands like Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams where it can be a big part of an agent’s brand identity, and then there are startups like Side where it’s totally in the background. Where do you think the sweet spot is?
I would say that there’s more of a range for us. We tend to be very flexible. I don’t treat everybody the same.
Every conversation I’m having is different. There are some agents who come in and say, “I’m just starting out, I haven’t built my brand yet. I want all the eXp shirts and swag and the marketing center.” We’ll say, “Great, we’ll help you in any way we possibly can.”
Then there are other agents. Like Renee Funk. Or Elizabeth Riley. They have a brand.
It’s kind of hard to say where we are. It’s a continuum. I’ll do whatever we need to do to serve that agent. If they need more of our brand, or if they need help building their own brand.
I just interviewed a team leader a few weeks ago who made the jump to eXp. He talked about how one of the things that pushed him over the edge was going down to Mexico with a bunch of eXp leaders and collaborating. How has eXp cultivated a culture that prioritizes collaboration so much?
Having Glenn as the founder and CEO, it starts with him. His care for the agents. This concept of being a group of people with a collective vision to help people, to be in service. When you feel it and when you talk to one of our agents you get it.
I’ve yet to meet an agent who didn’t want to pay it forward or share it. In general, they just want to make for a better company. And it starts with Glenn. You can see when you meet him that he is a visionary. There’s something of a network effect. And it’s the laws of attraction. Good people attract good people.
Talk to me about EXPCON. What are you looking forward to?
For me it was important to not leave anyone out. That is a part of our culture, being really inclusive.
We made sure that it was something for everybody. We’ve got over 5,000 people registered to go to the event. What was important to us is obviously keeping people safe. We want to make sure we give people options. As excited as I am to see people, I have a tremendous amount of respect for boundaries.
And the vision for this particular event is all about the agent.
When we started to do the agenda, we asked the agents who they wanted to speak. And they were voting up some of their peers. So we built the agenda around what the agents wanted to hear. With EXPCON, you’re going to see a lot fewer corporate people on stage and a lot more agents. That’s a little different compared to a lot of other companies.
I feel really confident that the reason people are showing up for this is because we put up great protocols, because the state of Nevada requires them, and because we built the agenda with our agents.
Finally, what’s the next frontier for you in your role?
We will continue to evolve the value prop for our agents.
What I mean by that is there’s not a week that goes by that Glenn, Jason, myself, and [eXp Global President Michale Valdez] aren’t talking about what more can we give our agents.
You can assume every program we have, we’re trying to figure out how we make it better. Every ancillary service we have, we want to make sure agents like it and that we’re improving on it. That goes with compensation. We’ll be working on different versions of our virtual world, asking how do we continue developing this platform.
Every single thing we’re doing right now, we’re saying, how do we plus it up? How do we do it better? How do we do more, more, more?