In October, the eXp World Holdings founder and CEO’s health journey took center stage at EXPCON. Three months later, Sanford shares updates on how health is a cornerstone of his brokerage’s strategy.

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In October, eXp World Holdings founder and CEO Glenn Sanford used his brokerage’s conference to spark a health revolution among his agents — mostly informed by an unnamed health scare that pushed Sanford, 56, to overhaul his eating and exercise habits and change his view on what it takes to be successful in real estate.

“Success, for me, is the choice you make the moment you wake up in the morning. I think about successes as somewhat of a mindset piece, rather than something that’s sort of outwardly,” he said at EXPCON in October. “We think about success as being a large amount of wealth and conspicuous consumption. I think success [is about] do you feel good about what you’re bringing forth in the world, and if you do, then you’re successful.”

Although new-age health claims about biohacking — a general term used to encompass an emerging and controversial field of healthcare focused on using genetic testing to eliminate diseases and optimize brain health — the ability to reverse your biological age and Sanford’s struggle with inflammation caused by an underlying allergy to blueberries that he mistakenly called a “blueberry virus,” caused a little confusion, the CEO said his goal is plain as day: To help his agents live happier, healthier and wealthier lives.

“I’m 56 [and] I think about the fact that in 30 years, I’m going to be 86, which is crazy,” he said. “I’ve been in business 20 years, and this whole lifecycle is getting a lot shorter. And now I’m going, ‘Man, I want to be around here for my grandkids and my grandkids’ kids, and so what do I need to do?'”

“When you think about the age demographic of real estate agents, I guarantee that it’s a huge demographic where health and wellness is actually a big part of every decision they make,” he added. “But they don’t have the information or the peer group in order to pull from, and that’s where I think building that information [pipeline] and peer group inside of the brokerage really does create differentiation. Health is wealth.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Inman: I’ve covered quite a few conferences this year, and most CEOs use their stage time to talk about company stats, how they will beat the competition, etc. So, it really stood out to me that you used your time at eXpCON to talk about your health journey and how it changed you. What was your thought process behind that?

Sanford: I tend to think of myself as a focus group of one. We’ve got 1.5 million Realtors in the industry [and] we’ve got 86,000 agents [at] eXp [Realty]. What I’ve sort of determined over time is that if I’m struggling with something, then there’s a whole bunch of other people who are struggling with exactly the same thing, whether it be how to build my real estate practice, lead generate for a brokerage [or] solve for the challenges of retirement in an industry where there’s no real retirement program.

We’ve solved a lot of things already, but one of the things I struggled with was health. It became pretty obvious there are a lot of people who struggle with health, and when we look at the stats of just how many people are taking a proton pump inhibitor, it’s billions of dollars a year that people spend to control their indigestion.

If you think about the stress real estate agents are under — putting deals together, holding them together, prospecting, trying to figure out all this stuff — and all that causes all kinds of downstream effects, like not getting enough sleep or not focusing on nutrition. Also, there’s a lot of alcohol consumed in the real estate industry. So you know, it was just about recognizing all of those things.

And as you noted and as we pointed out in EXPCON, [health and wellness] is an under-recognized, hugely impactful part of one’s journey in terms of actually listing and selling real estate. If you don’t focus on your health…eventually, there are a lot of heart attacks in this industry. A lot of things take place with real estate professionals, some stress-related, some diet-related and some sleep-related.

If we can actually focus on that then we can help agents just live more productive lives and sell more at the same time.

I can definitely see that connection. Health and wellness have become a more popular topic over the past couple of years, but I think hustle culture — the idea that you need to grind it out 24/7 — is still more prevalent when people talk about what it takes to succeed in real estate. What shift needs to happen to help people realize it’s OK and even necessary to strike a balance between work and health?

All these things are interrelated. Health is one thing that gets sacrificed in the pursuit of building your real estate business. In the early stages of my career, I had to hustle. I was working 14 to 16-plus hours a day. I was getting five hours of sleep a night.

In some respects, some of that is necessary to create the momentum needed to actually get to balance. So when agents come [into the industry], assuming they’re not independently wealthy, they have bills to pay. They’ve got mortgages, they’ve got rent, they’ve got car payments, they’ve got kids to put through school, and it takes a fair degree of momentum to get to the point where you’re earning enough income to pay for sort of the lifestyle that you so desperately are trying to strive for.

So, almost everybody is going to sacrifice their health at the beginning of their career. Then the next stage is, ‘Do you own a business? Or do you have a business that owns you?’

If the business owns you, meaning that if your phone is sitting on the nightstand and you’re answering it at 10:30 or 11 at night after you’ve normally gone to sleep, and you’re answering stuff at 5:30 in the morning because that’s when you get up and you ‘missed’ that client that might have reached out over overnight. That can be a fairly unhealthy lifestyle.

When I think about this idea, most real estate agents’ businesses own them. There’s always a give and take. Right now, I’ve shifted more to the health side than being in the business doing everything that comes my way. I was able to do that because I built a big enough business that I can start to focus on that. And that’s the idea real estate agents need to focus on — making sure their business actually is sustainable in some capacity so when they’re working on their health, when they do go to the gym, when they do take off a little bit earlier in the day and put their phone on silent, they’ve got the systems and other things in place, so things don’t fall through the cracks.

So health and wealth are actually very interrelated. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. So then the question comes, ‘What are you doing? What is your diet? Are you hitting the fast-food line to get a quick meal between showings or are you being more proactive?’

What we found was even at EXPCON is that we have thousands of agents [where health] is their biggest driver. When you think about real estate agents, the average agent, is about 54 to 56 years old. In their 40s they think they’re aging, but in their 50s they know they’re aging. I’m 56, and I think about the fact that in 30 years, I’m going to be 86. I want to be around here for my grandkids and my grandkids’ kids, so what do I need to do?

When you think about the age demographic of real estate agents, I guarantee that it’s a huge demographic where health and wellness is actually a big part of every decision they make. But they don’t have the information or the peer group in order to pull from, and that’s where I think building that information [pipeline] and peer group inside of the brokerage really does create differentiation.

Let’s focus on how you’re introducing this to the EXP business model. During October’s conference, there was a huge focus on SUCCESS Health, health-related tech tools, etc. What has the feedback been? How do you see it being a greater part of EXP’s growth strategy

Among large brands, I think they’re going to focus on more health-related topics because they’ve got such a large demographic of people that are concerned about their own personal health. But for us, again it comes back to this idea that if I’m struggling with it, then there are other people struggling with it. There are other people struggling with it, then why not make that a mission?

Since EXPCON, we’ve formed some different groups. We’ve got a Discord server for SUCCESS Health, [and] we’ve got a SUCCESS Health and Viome group on Facebook. It’s really interesting to see the number of people who are engaging there and say, ‘This is the No. 1 one thing that I love about eXp right now is our focus on health and wellness.’

I don’t know what the total number is, but it’s certainly over 1,000 people who have really jumped on the health bandwagon. It’s a pretty small percentage of our overall agent count, but it’s enough that there’s a ripple effect that takes place. I think about the idea that you are the people you hang around, and if more people are talking about health and wellness topics, then you will naturally start to think about health and wellness topics more often.

So we want to grow that ecosystem because of the ripple effect. People are going to have healthier and happier lives, which translates financially to more real estate getting sold, which means that we do better as a brokerage.

I think of it as a leading indicator of future business activity. The more we focus on health and wellness, we’re going to have more agents, because there’s a certain percentage of agents that are going to come to a company that has a focus on health and wellness. Then by extension we’re going to sell more real estate, because we have fewer agents that are sick — it may only be two or three percent less, but that means we’re selling two to three percent more real estate than our competitors, everything else being equal.

It translates into real dollars at the end of the day.

So, beyond eXp, how do you see the focus on health and wellness impacting other brokerages’ strategies? The coronavirus pandemic has already pushed a number of companies to start offering health insurance options. What would be the next step in getting companies to invest in their agents, brokers and staff members’ health?

I certainly hope what we’re doing at eXp does have that ripple effect. And by the way, I don’t even think we were the first. It’s just we made more of a focus on it this year than then we have in past years.

I love the industry, and we’re fighting an uphill battle when we start to think about health. Look at advertising and the amount of unhealthy crap that’s being served to us. We’ve got to be a beacon for other messages, so when you go through that decision-making matrix, you’re less likely to choose something unhealthy.

The more I get healthy, the more I want to be around healthier individuals. So again, I hope [our focus on health] will have a  ripple effect that will eventually play out in other companies, if it’s not already.

What about mental health? 2022 has been incredibly difficult for many real estate professionals — what is eXp doing to address that part of health and wellness?

If you get better sleep, you get better mental health. If you eat better, you get better mental health. If you meditate, you get better mental health. If you can bring all of these modalities together, every one of them interfaces with the other. It’s important to figure out what is important to you, what’s your big why? Figuring out why you want to do what it is that you do can ultimately change your perspective. It helps you shift from it being a chore to being an opportunity, and that, mentally, can make a big difference.

So, we only have a few more moments to talk. Let’s fast forward to next year — what progress would you like to see from eXp and its agents in regard to health and wellness?

For all of our major events we do things like 5K [races], and I would like to see more people out there walking or running. I’d like to do more agent-led sessions that are around health and wellness, because I’m just one guy in the company. I’m the founder and CEO, but outside of that, I’m certainly not the expert on any of this. I’m playing with it just like everybody else.

There are a lot of people who have way more expertise, and we’d love to see more of our agents sharing what’s working for them. And we’d like to bring more people into the ecosystem that have true expertise in the health and wellness domain. I fully expect that we will have more people attending and presenting health-focused breakouts at EXPCON and even at our upcoming shareholder summit next year.

Email Marian McPherson

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