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Adam Contos shook the industry in January with the surprising announcement that he’d be saying goodbye to RE/MAX after 19 years with the Denver-based franchisor. Although the RE/MAX Holdings CEO said the departure was amicable, some people doubted his version of events and said it didn’t make sense to leave during a hot streak.
“I know there’s a little speculation out there about it,” Contos said during a Connect Now session with Inman’s Clelia Peters on Thursday. “[People asked], ‘Why is he leaving?’ You know, that type of thing. But the reality is you do things when they feel right.”
Contos said professional and personal changes, including pursuing other entrepreneurial endeavors and spending more time with his family, sparked his decision to leave. In 2019, Contos estimated he spent more than 200 days on the road, and the pandemic pushed him to rethink how he wanted to schedule his life.
“I’m the CEO of a public company, so there’s all sorts of timing factors that you look at when you are in this position,” he said. “Stock vesting and bonuses impact when you’re leaving, you know, are you leaving things on the table or are you not? [You think about] what’s best for the company when it comes to communication and how it impacts the shareholders.”
“The other part, obviously, is the personal part,” he added. “I spent over 200 days on the road in 2019, and I want to spend a little more time with my parents — my dad turns 80 in a couple of months — and my family. My kids are off to college, and I’ll get to go see them more.”
Even though he will no longer be front and center as the face of RE/MAX Holdings, Contos said he plans to keep influencing a new generation of real estate leaders who’ll need to put the same premium on emotional intelligence as they do on their business acumen.
“This industry, regardless of where you sit in it — the real estate transaction, title or mortgage, inspections or appraisals or closing services, any of that — there are [two things] that we all have to think about here,” he said. “How are we building our relationships in this industry, and how are we treating each other in order to accomplish these things?”
“Ultimately, there’s nothing worse than getting a phone call from an agent, regardless of company, saying ‘I’m struggling with this relationship with this other agent because they’re being a jerk, they’re being very difficult or their ego is way bigger than the ability and things of that nature,” he added.
Taking a point from his debut book Start with a Win, Contos said the main thing agents, brokers and executives must focus on is leading with kindness in interactions inside and outside of the office. Intentional kindness, he said, is what transforms homebuying and homeselling from a financial transaction to a special experience consumers want to share.
“I want to be remembered for delivering kindness to leadership in this industry, and I think that’s really important for us to think about because we can accomplish things together if we’re in alignment with our goals and our values,” he said. “What we’re all striving to accomplish here is delivering happiness to the consumer.”
“We’re helping them buy or sell a place to live or maybe it’s an investment property, but the reality is we’re fulfilling dreams,” he added. “We need to take a deep breath and say, ‘How can we do this in a win-win situation?’ That’s what we need to think about because that gets us to reflect on how do I want to be treated in this, and how do we treat the consumer?
“Let’s create people who endorse us, instead of don’t want to do business with us again.”
Part of creating a win-win situation, Contos said, is learning to wield the platforms and tools needed to deliver an innovative experience.
“We have to learn to adopt the things that create evolution in our industry, and we have to learn how to leverage those things in order to better serve the customer and better leverage our time so we’re not focused on doing the little mechanical things that ultimately we’re not being paid to do,” he explained. “We’re being paid to work with the customer.”
“Regardless of what the technology piece is, maybe it’s [artificial intelligence], maybe it’s data, maybe it’s a new [customer relationship management tool], or maybe it’s a new marketing platform … Those are designed for one thing, and that’s to make the agent’s job easier, more streamlined and help the consumer through this process by involving them a little bit more, making the awareness of something better or perhaps just saving time,” he added. “Ultimately, it boils down to continue to evolve. Don’t dig your heels in. Don’t think that you’re going to do things yesterday, over and over again and still have a business tomorrow.”
Contos said his advice applies to those in the c-suite as well, as they make decisions that dramatically shift the experiences of thousands of brokers, agents and staff who decide to align themselves with their brand. And those decisions, he said, ultimately impact a consumer’s ability to meet their real estate goals.
“Take a step back and say, ‘Why is a brokerage in existence? Why does an agent join a brokerage in order to operate their business?'” he said. “A brokerage is a lever, it’s a lever that helps you overcome and save time and money when it comes to your marketing, your technology and tools and resources, the leadership, the decision making, as well as the trust in the community around you.”
“You can either try and build those levers yourself, or you can join a brokerage that contains those levers,” he added. “That’s what really a brokerage is for. It’s that lever and in that containment of resources so the agent can do their job. It’s all to help the consumer.”
As he transitions to a new chapter in his career, Contos reminded the Connect Now crowd that he’ll still be around to give advice and support the creation of an industry that is kinder and more committed to helping everyone get ahead.
“We all have to look at how do we make this industry better holistically for all of us, and when I say all of us, I mean the consumer as well. But if we’re fighting ourselves the whole time, we’re not going to accomplish that,” he said. “We can’t spend our time degrading and deprecating ourselves and others in order to try and prove a point that may have to do with ego or an ‘I told you so.'”
“Our industry is trying to serve the consumer at the highest level possible to help them with their real estate needs,” he added. “Simply put, let’s all work on that.”