As part of his Snapshot series, Brandon Doyle peers into the mind of a distinguished leader who’s helped shape the real estate landscape on a global scale: Adam Contos, the former CEO of RE/MAX.

Inman contributor Brandon Doyle made it his goal to interview 100 real estate professionals. Here’s a Snapshot of those conversations.

This is a unique opportunity to peer into the mind of a distinguished leader who’s helped shape the real estate landscape on a global scale: Adam Contos, the former CEO of RE/MAX. Contos stepped down in March 2022 to be replaced by interim CEO and board member Stephen Joyce. Just this week, RE/MAX announced that former CEO of the DISH Network Corporation Erik Carlson would take the helm.

As a titan in the real estate industry who served 19 years at RE/MAX, Contos’s insights and experiences shed light on the interplay between leadership, technology, market resilience, housing affordability and the lifelong pursuit of learning. Find out what he’s up to since leaving, how he envisions the future for both Realtors and legacy brokerages, what books he reads and how he maintains continuous personal growth. 

Leadership and life after

Leadership is a multifaceted journey, and Contos’s experience as CEO of RE/MAX attests to this. When asked about his most challenging decision, his response illuminates the intersection of business and empathy, “Business is people, and people matter,” he says, emphasizing the heart-wrenching decisions of ending relationships with employees or franchises. He stresses that dignity, kindness and effective communication are key pillars that shape successful leadership in any industry.

Contos has since transitioned from RE/MAX to Area 15 Ventures, an investment group focused on growing businesses in the franchise space. He partners with Dave and Gail Liniger, co-founders of RE/MAX; the team currently owns Port of Subs and Daddy’s Chicken Shack. In addition, Contos shares his leadership expertise through executive leadership courses and his podcast, “Start With a Win.”

The philosophy “start with a win,” which is also the title of Contos’ book, permeates his approach to business. He believes in owning outcomes, maintaining a strong locus of control and rejecting a culture of blame. This principle not only aids personal growth but also sets a positive precedent for the wider organization.

Legacy brokerages have a role to play

The recent surge in tech innovation opens up new avenues for growth and customer experience in the real estate industry. Contos advocated for the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into RE/MAX years before it gained industrywide recognition, especially with the acquisition of, an AI tool that predicts when contacts are likely to sell a home. He urges his peers to harness powerful language models like ChatGPT to improve efficiency in the real estate space.

Regarding blockchain, Contos acknowledges the technology’s potential but emphasizes the need for trust and security before it’s broadly adopted, particularly given the volatility of the cryptocurrency market.

Understanding the cyclical nature of the housing market is crucial to navigating potential downturns. Contos attributes RE/MAX’s resilience to its business model, focusing on top producers and maintaining a high level of expertise and experience. It’s about adjusting your sails in the wind, and RE/MAX does just that by investing in regular training and education for its agents and brokers.

Constant personal and professional development

As housing affordability becomes a pressing issue globally, Contos emphasizes the crucial role companies like RE/MAX play in facilitating community growth and financial education. The impact of large corporations is in shaping policies and promoting local efforts to improve living conditions, and he envisions Realtors playing an active role in this process.

Lifelong learning is a mantra Contos adheres to strictly. He underscores the value of personal growth, the importance of being a part of mastermind groups, and the benefits of reading, all crucial components of successful leadership. Contos believes in constantly seeking knowledge, embracing diverse perspectives, and fostering a culture of growth within an organization.

His reading list spans diverse genres, with favorites such as The Fifth Discipline, Atomic Habits and Extreme Ownership. He listens to a plethora of podcasts, with a current interest in AI and language models for lead generation and small business leadership.

Wrapping up, Contos shared his recent wins, celebrating the acquisition of Port of Subs and the buyout of the minority owner of Daddy’s Chicken Shack. He expressed excitement about the growth trajectory of these companies, underpinned by customer engagement and localized marketing.

Contos underscored that the real victories are not just in acquisition and growth, but in creating opportunities for individuals to thrive within these organizations. With a team full of potential and passion, and a leadership philosophy rooted in empathy, lifelong learning and embracing technology, the future is undoubtedly promising for Contos and his ventures.

Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.

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