Episode 043 with Jeff Cohn, Owner of kwELITE

Brian Charlesworth
November 3, 2020

Jeff began his career in real estate in 2006. Since then, Jeff and his team has closed over 5,000 in sales, totaling over $1 billion in volume.  As founder of Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group, he led his team from 70 to 700 transactions in 6 just years.  In 2019, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services awarded him the #1 team in unit sales in the world.

Today, Jeff is the CEO of a tech-powered Keller Williams market center in Omaha, NE.  His objective is to offer the consumer a one-stop-shop customized experience that will provide access to the agent and all ancillary businesses, virtually and in-person.

Let’s join Jeff as he talks about his vision of 2021, what he is most excited about and his new tech-powered hybrid office of the future.

In this episode, we talked about:

(01:52) Why Jeff moved from Berkshire Hathaway to KW Elite 

(05:00) What’s the one thing that everyone should be focusing on for the next five years that’ll help their business for the good?

(05:41) How to strategically market properties virtually to keep your clients safe

(09:26) What should be the agent’s role in the future?

(09:55) Why should agents be worried if their roles are replaced with digital technology?

(10.30) What does a 100% virtual transaction look like?

(12:06) What is the 6-Degree of Freedom Tech? 

(17:27) What strategies did Jeff implement to scale his business?

(21:41) How can agents ensure that they stay in business for the next 2 years?


Brian Charlesworth  0:36  

Oh, Mr. Jeff Cohn in the house. Look at that.

Jeff Cohn  0:39  

What's up, Brian?

Brian Charlesworth  0:41  

How are you doing, Jeff? 

Jeff Cohn  0:42  

Good, man. How are you today?

Brian Charlesworth  0:44  

I'm doing great. It's a man. It's been too long. I used to get to talk to you like every week, and now you're like, I don't know you're famous or something? 

Jeff Cohn  0:51  

And I don't think so. 

Brian Charlesworth  0:53  

I just can't get that much of your time anymore,

Jeff Cohn  0:55  

man. Well, I miss you, Brian. I would love to be up in Park City with you again sometime soon.

Brian Charlesworth  1:00  

Yeah, let's make that happen. Let me know when we'll get it scheduled that winter is coming. So might as well enjoy some time on the snow. Right. 

Jeff Cohn  1:07  

And it's coming. That's true. I know. You guys have a lot of fun. I've seen some really cool pictures on bike trips. bicycling.

Brian Charlesworth  1:15  

Yes, we love the mountains. We love mountain biking. And Utah is a great place to do that. So today we’re jumping right in Jeff, we have half an hour to hear your vision of 2021 and what you're excited about. And I'm super pumped to hear what you have to say today. So

Jeff Cohn  1:35  

yeah, absolutely. I'm looking forward to chatting with you and talking about our new tech-powered hybrid office of the future and what that actually means and I didn't really Brian, I know from honors Damn.

Brian Charlesworth  1:51  

So yeah, Jeff, I know you made the move over to kW this year, a big, big move, there were a lot of announcements and press and a lot of fun stuff going on there. But how is that working out for? What is your vision of the future? I know you strategically made that move, because of where you wanted to take your business. And I don't think that's everybody's move for their business. It depends on what you want to accomplish in your business. But Jeff has some certain things he wants to accomplish where that made sense. So Jeff, um, I think I you know, I know some of the things that you have in your plans, but I know you have some new things to share. And I've gotten a little bit of that VR, but I haven't seen it in detail. So hopefully, we get to see some of that today.

Jeff Cohn  2:35  

We had actually switched brokerages from Berkshire Hathaway, Home Services, which is literally across the street to launch kW League, Keller Williams and the intent was building an office that was tech-powered, which we just experienced tech getting in the way to some extent, which I apologize for that. But really, it was to house, our digital marketing hub, which is what we call a studio. And so inside the room that I'm actually in right now, we can create some different podcasts of seven from businesses that are all that all reside inside of our new space. So our new office has obviously the AWS element where you have agents and you know, the broker here, but then we have all of the ancillary businesses that run parallel. So we've launched mortgage company, title, company, insurance company, and investment arm of course, we have our elite real estate systems coaching arm that is located here as well. And so the idea was, instead of going having to go out to a third party for all of our digital marketing needs, we'd be able to do a handful of things from here. So if you have a podcast, which I know Brian, you have a very successful podcast, as do a lot of the presenters today and tomorrow on the summit. I know from a podcast standpoint, you have a lot of creative elements that you can then take and place on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn YouTube channel, and instead of having to create new content, you can literally just derive that content from the influencers and top producers that you're talking to on a daily and or weekly basis. So the hub serves as our marketing arm to try to get our message across both locally for all the local businesses. And nationally, we also have tech powered conference rooms and training rooms. We have six conference rooms that all have massive technology in them, which is Bring Your Own Device tech, which means you can screencasts like you would on an iPhone to an Apple TV, you're able to screencast in the exact same way from any device. So your phone, your tablet, your laptop, and it can be an iOS Samsung droid, it doesn't matter what it is. And you can screencasts you can have up to four devices at the same time as well in that cast. So if you bring in builders and designers or you just have a buyer and their significant other and the agent, all three of you or four of you can be sharing information at the same time. And our belief was and I was actually asked the question at family reunion in February. This is pre-COVID obviously hitting the United States. Gary had me on stage in front of 20,000 people along with two or three other agents He asked, What's the one thing in our opinion, we thought everyone in the audience should be focusing on over the next five years that will impact help impact their business for the good. And my response was that I believe that anyone that offered a physical space should give that same offering virtually. So for your agents and the clients that you serve, they should have the option of coming in virtually. And up to that point, there really wasn't a strong solution for that. And then we saw that as COVID hit and everybody, you know, was either quarantined or there were people on and off a quarantine and real estate in some areas got completely shut down. You started seeing people have webinars, I think you and I probably even had an interview or two, talking about digital open houses, you know, virtual open houses, FaceTime had me on their podcast twice, talking about how to strategically market our properties virtually to keep our clients safe. Well, since 2017, we had actually been using a company called Verly, who we've now recently partnered with, and really standing for virtual reality. And that's the studio that we're in today. Verly’s main focus was on creating matterport videos and making them look cool.

Brian Charlesworth  6:03  

So how do you spell that, Jeff?

Jeff Cohn  6:05  

 It's getverly.com. And what they've done, Brian, I don't know if the chat works for the national audience. But I can throw some links in here, what they did really well was take a listing, and be able to provide a matterport tour on that listing, which for anyone that doesn't know that yet, that's just a 3d tour that you can tour and really fancy goggles, like the ones I have, or something as simple as a computer monitor or a phone. But it's a 3d tour where it gives you a 3d aspect of ever sorry, 360 aspect of every location candid, it's thin. And they did really well as they were able to get the list and beyond the matterport just provides the link to go look at homes, it doesn't market that link there as well. And so a lot of agents would use the virtual tour button would be matterport, which doesn't advertise the agent. So Verly solution was, you know, what we can take matterport make it look a lot better. So they started doing drone fly over gimbal fly through, of course, the matterport product HD pictures with DSLR cameras, custom landing pages, their Zillow optimized are one of like, premier purchasers they form videos on Brazil, one from the MLS, one for the agent, and then even for think for Instagram igtv. And all of that is $250 everywhere in the United States. As long as you have a shooter and you have your own equipment, you can get that all the editing and all the back thing for 250. So my point being is we started this in 17. So when the pandemic in February 2020, and everyone was saying, you know, we don't know what to do, it's not safe to look at houses, we need virtual reality, we need virtual open houses. We already had all of it and we required it at Omaha's elite. So our flagship team that went from 70 to 700 sales in six years, was requiring and starting in 2017 that every agent on our team made this available to the public because I believed that the public was going to demand a virtual option. And lo and behold, three years later, and of course, I would have never wished it upon anyone a pandemic hits, which truly requires a digital option. Literally a month after Gary Keller asked that question, pandemic hits, which truly requires the digital option. And now we can let the consumer vote. I just heard a study today I was on a phone call with rogue fitness ordering some equipment for my outbuilding, they said 50% of consumers that were going to a gym based on some survey, I don't know what survey it was. So don't fact check me 50% of people that belong to a gym said they will no longer belong to a gym and never plan on joining a gym again. Because they've replaced the equipment that they use to the gym, which most people have their one thing, the stair-step or the elliptical the weights, they've replaced that now, robe fitness hired 600 people in the last six months, the replace all the different demand for that equipment. And so it's just very telling that people are for you know, they would have been forced to go digital. And now they're going to have the option to go digital. And so my belief was that every real estate office, every office period should have that option. And now you see all the big fortune 500 companies going hybrid, we have a few people that are reporting to work, but most people are working virtual as well. So that's us in a nutshell, I did a lot of talking around it. But I wanted to kind of create the foundation for our conversation just to talk about the hybrid element is giving someone the option of going virtual or physical. And then the One-Stop Shop solution that we talked about is putting all the ancillaries under one umbrella, which a lot of people say that they do that. I've heard a lot of brokers say well, we have those things, too. That's wonderful if you have them, but do your agents know how to have conversations around them? My belief, Brian is that the agent of the future is not an agent but an advisor, that the agent role is going to be more of an advisory role in addition to buying and selling a home. It's also going to be talking about making sure they have the best mortgage product in place, making sure they have less insurance quote, making sure that they have financial products like term life insurance to cover the cost of a replacement of the home should the high-income earner pass away or disability insurance to cover the cost of the mortgage should the high-income earner get disabled and to me, agents right now should be very worried. thought leaders industry leaders, owners of brokerages should be very worried that the agent role is going to get replaced with digital technology the same way blockbuster was replaced by Amazon. And so if we want to continue to matter in the transaction, we have to do more than just help in that transaction. We have to be a life long Client Services representative that helps with more than just the buy and the sell.

Brian Charlesworth  10:22  

Okay, so a couple of things. One, you talked about this virtual and how, you know, it's one thing to have a virtual office, but when you talk about showings going virtual, possibly closings being virtual, it's possible that everything could happen without actually getting in a home. Do you do believe that?

Jeff Cohn  10:42  


Brian Charlesworth  10:44  

Okay, so what does that look like? In that case? How does the whole transaction happen?

Jeff Cohn  10:49  

Yeah. So it could happen. And I have sold 10 years ago, I sold houses, walking people through and creating recordings of homes. It could happen, but I don't think that it's going to become the norm. Take a car, for example, can you go online and buy a Tesla today? Yes. Would somebody go online and buy a vehicle they've never written? They've never stepped foot in? Probably not most people, I don't think would if you took a survey, would you just go online and buy it without ever stepping foot in it? What I think the virtual application is for is to weed out all the homes that took take eight hours or eight days of going all around town looking at all these different properties, you can weed them out so that you can narrow it down to two or three, by using the virtual option. That's where I see people doing it for the most part. As far as the virtual transaction. I once you've seen the physical home, I think everything else I know everything else can be done virtually because that's how we do it.

Brian Charlesworth  11:42  

Yeah. Okay. Is there anything you want to show us on the technology side of that on this or

Jeff Cohn  11:48  

Yeah, I mean, I can share, I can share a link with you. I don't know if that can just get included after the fact. Or if I can put it in chat and have people be able to go access it. So like what I just dropped in the chat right there. That's our six degree of freedom tech, that's actually a 3d render, which offers six D application if you have an Oculus quest goggle, or HTC Vive pro goggle, you can actually walk that space physically. If you have a cardboard or Oculus go goggles are Samsung virtual reality headsets, you can tour that property the same way you tour a matterport, except you'd have a remote that lets you drive through it. Think of a video game if someone's not going to take the time to click on this, before you ever build a home before your client ever builds a home, our company virtually for 20 $500. In normal costume, this is five x 2500. We'll build a 3d rather than incorporate all the digital or sorry, created assets. So it includes all the finishes, fixtures, equipment. So if you hit play, this is something else that's unique. And everyone can look at the URL, if you want to go check that out on your own. If you hit a we have this video in a cloud, so imagine sending your client this video so that they can go and have access to it on their own. So when the builder gives them the floor plan, it's not just a 2d blueprint, which is what we've been doing for thousands of years, we now can create a virtual render that lets them not only have pictures of the 3d render, but can actually explore that 3d world. From any vantage point. You can literally fly up down like a video game and move around throughout the space. Brian, are you able to click play on that or not? I just figured we can show it instead of talking about it. I also was just on the new station and Omar just came in did a whole story about it. So if someone wants to see an example of the VR room, you can just search Jeff Cohn six D, channel three. So Jeff Cohen, 16. Channel three, there's a ton of videos online about the VR room, but ultimately you

Brian Charlesworth  13:54  

Is this your new office, Jeff?

Jeff Cohn  13:57  

Yeah. Okay, yep. And there's pictures on our Instagram. If you want to go out and check out professional pictures, just follow me @JeffMCohn. So imagine you've got these goggles on, you put them onto your head. And now Brian, you can just drive around with your up down, left, right arrows. Once it loads, and he's driving that right now he's not hitting play, he can go anywhere he wants. So imagine if you're a consumer and you're spending half a million dollars on your dream home and your builder comes to you and gives you your CAD blueprint says What do you think? Good luck trying to figure out your sight lines from a CAD blueprint. Look at that sight line. I could literally walk you out there right now I'm next door to that I'm in the office right next to it. I'd go down that hallway. That's where I am right now to the right down there to the right.

Brian Charlesworth  14:44  

We see if we can see Jeff

Jeff Cohn  14:46  

there I am. So that is literally the room I'm sitting in right now inside my office. So this is the future and a lot of people say well can you do this with existing homes and yet, the camera the best camera I've seen is the map for camera and get them out. $3,000 and it just is a 360 camera that spins every location, you set the camera, the difference between six and three is the STI lets you have every vantage point you can go up and down. And so if you put the goggles on, you could literally look under cabinets, look under countertops, you could stand on your tippy toes, it gives you perfect frames of reference dependent upon where you are inside the space. Whereas in 3d, you're forced to only have the vantage point of where the camera was when it was taking the 3d render. So 3d is used for existing spaces. 60 is used for non existing spaces. But where we differentiate ourselves is we actually own the proprietary technology that builds the 60 render. So my company early actually built this 60 render at about a 10th of the cost of what you're going to pay if you try to do this locally. Have you ever seen anything like this right? for new construction applications where someone can actually drive through the house? No. So what you'll see as some developers will have, like chief is a program a lot of developers used to create their 3d images of the elevations. And they have VR goggles or 1000 bucks that they can buy, but they still have to bring the consumer into their office to use the goggles, the consumer doesn't want to come to your office, ladies and gentlemen, they want to be able to do it from their bedroom, they want to be able to do it from their kitchen, their office at home or office at work, they want to have all of the access that they have in a physical space in a virtual space. So imagine if you're building a home and can send someone a link of the home that's getting created. And we even include a contract where they can come into our VR room twice and make changes. So if the significant other comes in, they're like I hate that black countertop, I want to see what that looks like green, we can actually give them a toggle button. And the builder can incorporate maybe their top 10 finishes, fixtures and or equipment. And it can change real-time just pushing a button. So where we see the future of this is every builder in America that builds out model homes, instead of building seven models, you can just build one. And then you can build into that model, literally a virtual tour. So someone's standing inside the room toggling with a button. So you're able to literally go through and toggle inside of that room, all the different options for finishes, fixtures and equipment. So Jeff,

Brian Charlesworth  17:07  

What is your timing look like on this to expand? So that this is something that's available for everyone on this call done?

Jeff Cohn  17:17  

So I wouldn't bring it up unless it was available. Get early calm. So no more about 60?

Brian Charlesworth  17:23  

All right. So Ben, I guess that answers your question. So Jeff, you also talked about the real estate agent becoming an advisor for mortgage title insurance, and you name it. Tell us more about that. Because I think that's such an important piece of the business that if you are ignoring it right now, you really need to start paying attention. And not only start paying attention, but start preparing for and building businesses in those areas. If you're a real estate agent is at the front of the transaction, as the real estate company. That's the beautiful thing about being in real estate, you may not make as much as some of these other industries. But you control pretty much where that client goes the whole way through and beyond. So let's talk about that a little bit.

Jeff Cohn  18:08  

Yeah, hundred percent. Thank you. So if you get my business plan shameless plug. If you go out to GrowwithERS.com, we'll give you a free copy of Jeff's business plan. You can go to Jeff's business plan calm as well. And in the business plan, it talks about the step by step progress that we followed to go from 70 to 700 sales in six years, we were the fastest-growing real estate team in history. To my knowledge, we also were the fastest growing real estate team on the Boomtown platform we launched in 2011, and just grew exponentially. If you look down that list, you'll see Jeff's business plan right in the middle, you can also download our keynote, we have all of our upcoming events that are listed on there, we actually have a workshop in two weeks here in Omaha, I would love to invite anyone out to check that out. We have 50% off discount right now that we're running for that. So GrowwithERS.com. And you're going to find once you register here for access to the business plan, it's going to share with you the strategies that we implement it to scale our business. And the first strategy was creating a vendor list. And we didn't charge anything for the vendor list. We just wanted to give our clients really good recommendations when it came to mortgage title insurance, home inspection, home warranty, and the list goes on. There's about 200 vendors we work with. The second step is once you have tracked every single referral you've given to a vendor partner, you can start to surmise how much money you're creating for that entity. And it's my belief that a strong business should take 10 to 20% of their revenue and put it towards marketing. And so when I saw that I could bring more business than a billboard, I would reach out to these vendors that we were already supporting and invite them to partner with us in a strategic marketing service agreement. respa certified, and I was able to partner with a lot of businesses very early on up to the tune of around 12,000 to $15,000 a month we had coming in and MSA contributions. Well, most teams end up there, they don't go any further. And what I saw was that the challenge of MSA contribution or sorry of that partners and creating those MSA is I had people spread all over the city. And even though I'm in Omaha, there are a million people here, and it's about a 30 to 45 minute geographical footprint. So I didn't want my client to have to go all the way across town to meet with the mortgage lender, somewhere else to go to the title company somewhere else to go to the financial planner somewhere else to go to the insurance company. I wanted it all in one place. And I wanted to control that experience better. And so I took it a step further. So once you have the MSA created, you show that you can bring value, the next step and the highest level that I see some brokerages getting into today. And Brian, I know, we've talked OFF AIR a little bit about this. And I know Gary Keller has launched his mortgage company and his insurance company, and so have other people that are following suit. And so we launched our own zarbin, mortgage, zarbin, insurance, platinum, title and escrow. And we partnered strategically with the financial wealth company collaborative planning. And we did this because we wanted the consumer to have access to all of these ancillary businesses in one place. And so you might be thinking, Well, what do you do when your agent has their own MSA is with somebody else, or the clients already working with somebody else? Great. Our goal as an agent is to advise meaning we should always be giving everyone that works with us options, we should make sure that their State Farm Insurance policy is better than one of the independent contracts that I'd be able to get a quote for. And so what we train our agents on when it comes to dialogue is that we're not here to replace the relationships that people already have. We're literally here to support those relationships by giving the consumer a second option to ensure that they have the best coverage at the best rate, that they have the best mortgage rate that they refinance their mortgage. And if I've lost you up to this point, the challenge question I give an agent is this. How many times in this year rates are at a 50 year low? For everyone watching that has sold a house, your client probably got a mortgage on that home? Have you reached out to your client this year, to let them know that rates are low and suggest that they either when somebody purchases a house, do you recommend to them that they should consider taking out a term life insurance policy to cover the replacement cost of that house because that loan essentially is going to come due when somebody passes away and a term life policy that might be $20 a month to cover the cost of that most agents aren't having these conversations because their focus is a big dollar sign. Right? They're focused primarily on taking care of the client, putting him under contract moving on to the next deal. But that's not going to survive. agents that work that way aren't going to be in the business in the next two years. agency to move more into that advisory role and brokerages that want to survive, in my opinion, are going to need to teach their agents how to serve in that advisory role as well.

Brian Charlesworth  22:37  

Okay, Jeff, thank you so much for joining us today. I know there's a lot of people that want to learn more about this stuff. So maybe you can hang out in the chat for a bit and answer any questions that come in around that. And it's always great to catch up. Let me know when you're going to be out here and we'll get a ski trip ski weekend.

Jeff Cohn  22:56  

That sounds like a plan. Appreciate it. Brian. I love your background. By the way. That's a really cool green screen. 

Brian Charlesworth  23:02  

Yeah, thank you. It's a live green screen. 

Jeff Cohn  23:04  

It's real life. Looks awesome, man. Appreciate it, Brian. Have a good one. 

Brian Charlesworth  23:08  

You too. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Cohn  23:09  

 All right. See ya.

About the Author

Brian Charlesworth
Chairman and CEO

Brian is an entrepreneur and business builder. He has built and sold companies in the software, telecommunications, and franchise space. He’s passionate about technology and focused on changing lives through driving technology forward.