I first met Gary Keller at a small mastermind in early 2009. It was the first time I had really been around anyone else who thought like I did. By the end of that year, I had rallied my team, left my current brokerage and opened the first (and still only) Keller Williams Market Center in Vermont.
While the past 12 years or so haven’t always been easy, the company, my team and I continued to grow. At the end of 2021, we made a huge move to further our partnership with Gary and Keller Williams by launching Livian.
In real estate, agents, support staff and brokers have endless options and opportunities. However, I have chosen time and time again to continue down this path with Gary because of his vision, his commitment to his agents and leaders and his relentless drive to evolve the real estate industry.
He has been a pillar of the real estate industry for almost 40 years and his ideas today are just as revolutionary and boundary-pushing as they were in 1983.
Last week, the Swanepoel Power 200 named Gary real estate’s most powerful leader (in fact, he’s been one of the top five most powerful people in residential real estate every year since the SP 200 debuted in 2014).
But it’s not just about the rankings. Gary’s integrity, commitment to disrupting and evolving the real estate industry, and the fact that he always puts the best interest of the agent first is something I can stand behind. I am proud to be in business with Gary and kwx.
I am excited about what the future holds, not just for KWx, but for the entire real estate industry. Gary deserves to be at the top for many reasons. Reasons, we, as leaders and real estate professionals can learn a lot from. Let’s dive in.
1. Focus on one thing
Gary has always been intently focused on one thing — the real estate agent. No one else has cared as deeply as he has, nor have they fought as hard as he has to keep the agent at the center of the transaction.
He is also one of the only CEO owners that went to school for real estate and worked as an agent first. He has seen it all and that experience informs his decision making and the subsequent iteration (and domination) of the company.
We, too, as real estate professionals and leaders can take a page from Gary’s book. Literally. In The One Thing Gary wrote, “Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”
For agents, it might be lead generation. For client support professionals it might be client satisfaction ratings. For leaders, it might be casting the vision and clarifying priorities. Whatever, it is, stay laser focused on it (and help your team do the same) and success will follow.
2. Mentor your agents
Gary invests so much time into mentoring, coaching and helping agents build careers worth having, business worth owning, and lives worth living. He teaches agents how to think like business owners and how to take control of their future.
And even though Gary has developed an entire company around coaching and mentoring, he still shows up and pours into agents regularly. They are the heart beat of the organization. Gary does not take that for granted, and neither should you.
As a team leader, make sure you continue to set aside time to meet with and mentor or coach your agents. It can be easy to leverage that responsibility off to others on your team (and I’m all for leverage!). But it’s important to make sure you have mechanism in place to stay connected with your agents on the ground whether that’s through monthly lunches, weekly team meetings or quarterly coaching events.
You never want to completely lose touch with the heart beat of your business. Mentoring your agents helps you become a better leader, helps your agents grow, and ultimately increases the success of the team.
3. Create or share content that impacts at scale
Gary is a master at creating relevant, yet evergreen, easily consumable and highly impactful content — from books, to podcasts, to training courses, to live events — for individuals both inside and outside of the real estate industry.
The One Thing helped us improve our focus and productivity. The Millionaire Real Estate Agent showed us how to build a team and grow a business. The day-long workshop, Quantum Leap, helped us clarify our purpose and take action. And his podcast, Think Like a CEO, well, helps us think like a CEO!
The bottom line is: Creating content that both teaches and shares the core principles and values of a company is highly impactful for recruiting new agents and staff, retaining current team members, and transforming the lives of the individuals who consume the content.
It is a commitment to create such content — but an investment of time that pays off for years. You can work on creating your own content and sharing that on social media, through a blog or podcast, or even a book.
Positioning yourself as a thought leader is a great way to make an impact at scale. If creating content isn’t your thing, you can still share relevant content with your team and network, adding your own ideas and opinions to the piece.
4. Constantly share the vision
Because Gary continues to spend as much time as he does with top real estate agents and teams, he has deep inside knowledge on what agents want and need now and in the future.
When you couple that with his extensive market and economic research, focus on technology, and always advocating for real estate agents, you have a powerful combination. Gary shares the vision through many of the mediums we mentioned above — podcast, live events, training courses, masterminds, books and strategic interviews.
Gary shares the vision often, and this has contributed to the company’s continued growth. It keeps everyone inspired to do great work and stay clear on the priorities and their individual contributions so that everyone is rowing in the same direction.
As a leader, the most important thing you can do is share your vision — constantly and consistently. It is your job to spread the vision through every conversation, every interaction with the media, through social media, marketing and branding.
Teaching and training online is also a great way to spread your vision to a wide audience. Some people will love it (and you), and some people will hate it. But by sharing the vision you will attract the people that should be in your life, those who are aligned with your culture, and who will help your business grow.
But remember to start small. Your team needs to fully understand your vision and be able to help share it. There is no need for all of Instagram to know your vision, if your team doesn’t actually understand it and buy-in.
5. Invest into others
As we’ve seen over the past year or so, Gary and KWx have brought on top leadership talent (Carl Liebert, CEO; Stacie Shirley, CFO; Chris Cox, CTO; Stacie Herron, chief legal officer; Mark Foley, chief people officer; Dave Smith, president of Keller Home Financial Services; TV Kumaresh, head of strategy; Travis Pearce, head of business development and partnerships; and Julia Lashay Israel, head of inclusion and belonging), as the company prepares for the next iteration of real estate.
Saying that was a large capital investment is an understatement. However, Gary understands that investing into people — the right people — will always give you the biggest return on your investment.
Is it time for you and your team to invest into talent? Perhaps you’re ready to hire your first assistant. Maybe it’s time to leverage some of your sales responsibilities to a listing agent. Or your real estate team is thriving and you need to hire some serious operations leadership talent to take you to the next level.
No matter what phase of business you are in, investing into people (again, the right people) will help your company grow and thrive. It’s not always easy to make the investment (or commitment), but you’ll never truly understand what you are made of as a leader, nor will you ever really have a sustainable business if you don’t commit to leading and succeeding through others.
6. Create opportunities so that anyone who joins your team never has to leave
Gary has constantly worked to grow the organization over the decades to create a company big enough and with enough opportunities so that no one ever has to leave in order to fulfill their goals and find meaning in their work.
From MAPS Coaching to KW University, from Keller Home Financial Services to KW Cares and the new KW Military and KW Sports + Entertainment divisions, KWx is constantly working to provide ways for agents, staff, and team members to learn and grow.
I encourage you to follow this model on your own team. Is it time to start a buyer’s Division? Perhaps there is an opportunity to create a coaching or mentorship program on your team. Would your team benefit from partnering more closely with a mortgage and title company to increase business for everyone?
As a leader, it is your responsibility to stay one step ahead of your team, to understand the goals and motivations of your team members and to help create opportunities (as long as they align with the vision), so that you all continue to grow together.
7. Make it about more than just the money
Gary has clearly been successful. He has more than enough money to retire and live in Tahiti for the rest of his life if he so choices. Yet, he still wakes up every day and fights. He fights for the agent. He fights for the consumer experience. He fights for the real estate industry.
And it isn’t easy. It is challenging, time consuming, and stressful to run a massive business like KWx. If it were just about the money, Gary may have moved on from the business years ago.
It takes a very determined individual to keep fighting and growing and giving every day. But that’s the kind of leader Gary is. It is about something larger than just him and his success. It is about a movement, a mission and vision for us all who have chosen careers in real estate.
Is it just about the money for you? Or is it something more? Let me tell you from personal experience that just chasing the money (which is very easy to do in real estate), will eventually leave you feeling unfulfilled and constantly unsatisfied, always searching for the next thing to give you that high.
Get clear on why you have chosen this path and what the money will do for you and your life. Gary has always taught me that money is only good for the good that money can do.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go after as much of it as you want. I simply encourage you to take a step back and really think about why you want to build a business or build a successful career. The “why” will keep you going when the times get tough (and they will). The why will bring other’s alongside you to help you grow. The why will help you eliminate distractions and make clearer decisions. When you make your business and life about more than just the money, the money always comes.
For all of these reasons, and many more, Gary Keller has earned a well-deserved spot as the No. 1 most powerful leader in real estate. And I know he has much more work to do before he’s done. Onward!
Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies