On the last day of the Compass REtreat, Compass President of Customer Success Danielle Wilkie sat down with Inman to talk about how a strong culture is key to the company’s 2023 strategy.

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Compass cemented its tenth year in the industry with the Compass REtreat, a three-day annual conference for brokerage leaders and agents.

Unlike most brokerages, Compass’ conference schedule left plenty of room for socializing and exploring Atlanta — something that Compass President of Customer Success Danielle Wilkie says is no mistake.

“Compass is often known as a technology-driven business. But the root of it for us is culture and having REtreat as a place where we can bring all these incredible agents and talent from across the country together,” she said. “It’s a real taste of what Compass culture is.”

Wilkie sat down with Inman for a brief Q&A between Thursday’s sessions to talk about company culture, agent training and to give a small peek into what Compass has planned for 2023.

Here’s what she had to say:

Inman: I looked at the Compass REtreat agenda, and the first thing that stood out was the streamlined session agenda. Moreso than other real estate conferences, it seems like Compass sees the REtreat more as an opportunity to socialize than train all day.

Wilkie: That’s right. That’s exactly right. I’ve talked to several agents over the last few days and what they all say to me is, ‘This is something very special, very different and very unique.’ They’ve never been in a place where you show up at a conference like this and everybody wants to hear from you. They want to hear your story. They want to hear about your business. They want to hear about how they can take what you’ve done and make it you know, make it better.

The connective tissue is alive and well at a retreat like this. That is so important.

I would imagine that focusing on company culture is more important than ever, especially in light of the challenges Compass has faced over the past 18 months or so. Can you speak to how culture helps companies navigate through fraught times?

Absolutely. Agents always say that when markets get tough that’s where all the opportunity is.  It’s time to gain market share. It’s time to go on offense. And so this moment, being able to be together with all of these other agents who are thinking the same way, is a great moment to share best practices. And how am I going to turn what may feel like an uncertain moment into a moment of opportunity?

The secrets and tips that they’re all sharing with each other are really incredible and then filling their buckets up and going home and using that to crush the end of the year and set themselves up well for 2023.

You’ve spoken about how the REtreat benefits agents, but how does it benefit you as a leader? What do you get from having time to interact with agents and your fellow executives?

When we’re at an event like this, it’s such an incredible opportunity to be with [agents], to hear from them and get their feedback on how they think we can improve or be better.

Robert [Compass CEO Robert Reffkin] is always obsessing about opportunities. So from sunup to sundown, we’re with our customers [i.e. agents] learning everything we can about how we can create better and better experiences for them. It’s fabulous. It’s such a gift. Truly.

I can tell Robert takes connecting with agents and getting their feedback seriously. When I looked back at the transcript of his keynote on Wednesday, I almost made the mistake of including his mobile number in a quote. I’ve covered quite a few conferences, and I can’t remember another CEO giving their number to a crowd of agents.

Yeah, I’m sure he wouldn’t want that in Inman (laughs). But that’s a perfect example of Robert as a leader.

So, what’s the feedback that Compass’ leadership has heard over the past three days? What has time with Compass’ agents illuminated for you?

I just watched a panel where we were talking about the habits of our top producers, and we had three top producers from across the country — East, West and Central — talking about the ways they orchestrate their days and how they’ve achieved success. That [session] was standing room only. It was incredible.

They were up onstage just sharing [with] so much transparency, which I thought captured the essence of Compass. Collaborating without ego is one of our key entrepreneurship principles. We’re all in this together. Let’s all help each other be better.

Some things I’m hearing from agents is they want more [opportunities to connect] like this. The power of our national network and being the largest independent brokerage in the country; it’s becoming so clear what a distinct competitive advantage that is.

Our network [and] our culture is the advantage, right? It is the value, and we are very excited to think about how we are going to bring the essence of REtreat and the excitement, the learning and the connectivity to our agents’ lives more frequently in 2023.

I remember you talking about that being a goal at last year’s REtreat in Austin. So I went back to the comments section of Robert’s keynote, and someone noted how his speech was highly biographical and inspiring but didn’t reveal any specific strategy. Of course, Compass agents came to Robert’s defense and said they understood the vision.

So, with all of that said, what’s in store for Compass for 2023? I think a lot of people are curious about how Compass plans to rebound from some of the issues it has faced post-IPO.

Well, you know, I’ll tell you the area that I can comment on, which is customer success, right? It is just the driver behind everything we do, and so what you’re gonna see in 2023 is more of this type of programming. You’re gonna see more events where agents are connecting, you’re going to see us continue to develop new coaching programs, both virtual and in person.

We know Compass agents come here because they all have this growth mindset. They all want to be better. They want to be surrounded by the best. We’ve worked so hard to bring the best here, and now that they’re here, we need to make sure that we’re highlighting them more and more.

We’ve got the best sales leaders in the country, and they will be out there delivering more and more coaching opportunities for our agents. We have the top agents in the country who, just like on the panel this morning, want to give back to this community and share and help others see the kind of success that they have.

Thanks for that answer. I always have to ask that kind of question, although I know leaders like to keep their plans under wraps. So, I’ll just have to keep my eyes and ears open like everyone else. With that said, do you have any parting thoughts? What are you excited about moving forward?

It’s such a moment for the business right? Ten years. Look how much we have accomplished in just 10 years. I would say you know the energy of these last few days, the excitement, the support, the connectivity, it all just shows me that we are just getting started.

It’s been a wonderful 10 years, and we’re just beginning all that we have ahead of us.

Email Marian McPherson

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