Eric Forney, Broker/Owner at The Forney Group, Keller Williams - Our 36 Month Immersion Training Program & Backfilling Leadership Roles From Within

Brian Charlesworth
October 8, 2020

[00:00:00] All right, Eric.

[00:00:01] Well, I was glad to see Scott got out of bed and shower today. We even have quite a bit of time today.

[00:00:13] You probably never seen that before.

[00:00:16] We were just talking yesterday. We just just actually downloaded the email tool that he was just talking about for for our team. So I'm excited to be able to use that.

[00:00:27] So very cool. Good. Well, Eric, I'm excited to have you on the show.

[00:00:32] I believe you are actually or at the summit, you are actually part of Gary's mastermind KW. You have been for quite some time now, your maps coach as well, is that right?

[00:00:44] I actually am not a Mavs coach, but have been working. I've had maps, coaches. Yeah, we do some coaching internally and with some agents here locally as well.

[00:00:52] Ok, just to give us a background on today, maybe you could share with us a little bit more about the size of your team, where you guys are based, that kind of stuff.

[00:01:00] Yeah, so we're based out of Indianapolis. So I've been in real estate since two thousand and thirteen, worked full time selling paint until I decided to upgrade to a real estate in twenty fifteen, became the number one agent in the Ohio Valley region with Keller Williams and twenty seventeen started a team. The next year, our first year as a team, we closed two hundred and forty units and then last year about two hundred and ninety and four right around the same number this year.

[00:01:35] One of the things we've had a lot of success with is because, because my career trajectory was, was pretty quick as an individual agent and then starting the team. One of the things we've had a lot of success with is taking brand new agents with no experience and teaching them how to excel in real estate and become effective in their first 12 months and then multiplying that. So that's been our strategy in the past and really where we're doubling down for future.

[00:02:04] Yeah, I think it's a great strategy, there are many that I know that prefer brand new agents that they can mold and shape over experienced agents that are set in their ways and don't want to be a part of the culture that you are setting as a leader.

[00:02:18] So, yeah, that's one of the challenges. The downside to to new agencies is that one of the things is when when you have a pattern of of having success in building new agents from zero to, say, 40, 50 units, their first 12 months, there can become a sense of ego that builds with that because they don't realize that 40 and 50 closings in your first year is not a normal career trajectory for a real estate agent. And so so we try to figure out how to how to battle through that. And we think we're excited about a new program that we just started to try to overcome that.

[00:02:57] Yeah, OK, that's that's awesome, I love what you guys are doing as far as. You've got this immersion program where you're training them and then you're you're basically giving them, it sounds like a career path into building them to backfill your business. And so you're not only training agents, you're training them to become leaders, is that right?

[00:03:20] Yeah, absolutely. So I run a I want to Keller Williams Market Center as well. And when I look at the data around new agents when getting into real estate, you know, the average agent is making like nine thousand dollars in their first two years and eight out of ten of them fail. And oftentimes we blame the agent for those numbers. And the reality is, in my opinion, the industry has a systemic failure around training and making agents successful when they get licensed. And so really, we've set out a mission that says, OK, we think we have the tools, the resources, the training to solve this problem and now let's prove it in mass quantities. So we've we've worked 18 agents through our program that's been more accelerated and a little bit more of a high level content. And then in the last 12 months, we've been working on a thirty six month commitment where the first 12 months is all an educational curriculum, where they're working with generation half a day education the other half of the day. It's modeled a lot after a what a resident would be doing while shadowing physicians as they work through that fellowship towards specialization. And so we've been trying to do a specialized career path for agents the next two years. Then of that thirty six month commitment, they work with the team as a as a traditional agent and then at the end of their thirty six month immersion program, they then can determine their career path, whether they stay on and then mentor agents who are backfilling the program to give them some leadership training and practice. They join the single agents to the KW Market Center or stay as a team major.

[00:05:08] Ok, so I think it's a genius. Tell me about the the first 12 months you said half of the day, they're they're really learning. They're they're basically in their internship, if you will. Yeah. And then the other half the day they're in production.

[00:05:25] Yeah. So the so we've we've broken it up as one of the one of the problems that I have with our industry is that there are so many ways that you can do lead generation. If you if you Google there's probably one hundred and twenty hundred and thirty sources for ideas on where you can generate leads. And the problem is, is that I find the agents have no clear blueprint and therefore they try as many things as they can until they eventually fail out. So we've we've determined a clear path through curriculum and through weekly testing, daily reporting, monthly modules that they have to complete. And so like month one, for instance, on the lead generation portion would be circle prospecting. So the only thing we're going to do for the first 30 days of their training program would be to train on the tools they need and the conversations and fundamentals of lead generation, and then the lowest converting lead generation portion of the industry as circle prospecting. So we want to take them as as newbies and put them out on the circle prospecting rather than pairing them with the expensive leads. And then they're going to kind of work themselves up through that conversion rate as they go throughout the 12 month cycle. So and the second half of the first year, they're working with real estate tax strategies or wealth building strategies through investing in real estate or how to work with a downsizing buyer while also working with a seller on a price reduction. Some of the more challenging aspects of the business that some agents never learn. And yet we believe that if we can teach them to be well-rounded, well-educated agents, that they'll have a long term career in the industry.

[00:07:13] Yeah, I I totally agree with everything you're saying as far as. Getting agents to be successful, if they join, in my opinion, if they join the right team, they will become successful. Absolutely. So there's almost not an option. If they're not going to be, they'll weed themselves out very, very quickly.

[00:07:38] Yeah, absolutely. And that's what we found. We of of the 18 that we've put through, we've we've we've attempted with 19. So we've had one that we selected to get out of business with. Otherwise our agents averaged thirty eight transactions. Those 18 agents that have been through the program average thirty eight transactions and their first full 12 months of operating in the industry. And so the data says that if you do the right activities, enough time with the right people, the right accountability and the right team, it really is a no fail proposition.

[00:08:14] Yeah, so they're doing thirty eight transactions. Are you saying in the first 12 months, are you saying in the 12 to twenty four month period.

[00:08:20] So it would be the twelve to twenty four because in this full year program they're not actually working with clients on their own, they're setting appointments, handing them off and serving as light and turn capacity. Now in the past we've done it in a six month roll and then so the first 12 months they've been out in the field with customers. That's their average.

[00:08:40] Ok, then those are phenomenal numbers. I mean, to have a team, any team producing at thirty eight agents, thirty eight transactions per agent. Yeah.

[00:08:50] Is incredible. So you said if as long as they do the activities they're going to be successful.

[00:08:54] How do you get them to do the activities, psychological warfare. I think that's one of the challenges is is truly it is it's understanding every person and then realizing that what works last month to get your agents motivated and excited to go out and do the daily activities may not work this month, which means we may need a different approach. And that's where I heard your wife talk yesterday about having the benefit of a lot of the mindset training. So we do a lot of mindset training and coaching. We have one on ones with all of our agents each week around. They're thinking around what their limitations are as far as self-imposed limitations and then what their activities look like. So as long as as long as we're staying close and in dialog with our with our agents and knowing what may be going on in their personal life and in their professional life, we can usually help them maintain that focus.

[00:09:59] And then sometimes I'll I'll poke them and annoy them to do the activities. And then sometimes I'll give them space. We may run contests. We we may do partnerships. It's throw the book at them and try to understand who they are and what motivates them.

[00:10:17] I wish everyone every month you feel the same way as most. It sounds like every month you're starting over having to get creative.

[00:10:27] On how to how to motivate, and that's really where that's where this is really the basis of where we we started the program was is that what keeps me up at night is not the challenge of selling real estate is the challenge of not wanting my job back, of going out and selling real estate. And so I realized that in our industry, when the average agent stays with the team two and a half years that I'm really a college recruiter, I might as well be Coach K or John Calipari, because every three years I have an entirely new roster based on the data and our industry. And so I realized that my job is actually just recruiting and multiplication of of agents. And so I've made peace with that and realized that then the core competency is going to find agents. And every week it is it is really motivating and engaging them.

[00:11:22] Yeah. So your job is number one, recruiting number two, motivating your agents.

[00:11:28] Yeah. Yeah. And of course training them and getting them to. Yeah. So share with us some of the ideas that you found to be effective ways to motivate agents.

[00:11:40] Well, one of the things that I like to do personally is I like to teach a lot of thinking strategies. So what I'm looking for personality traits or what a what an agent who succeeds in our system looks like or sounds like? One of the things I really look for is problem solving. So how well is someone able to strategically think through a unique situation and are they willing to look at something in a totally different way? And that's because right now real estate is moving at this rapid rate where 20, 20 is who knows what's tomorrow. And that requires agents who are willing to let go of everything that used to work for them in order to adopt something new that works this week for that market of the moment. And so knowing that I like problem solving agents, I usually will give them problems to solve as a way of motivating them. So some of those problems might be, hey, I noticed that your team mate was was not motivated this week. One of the two of you pair up and you teach John Doe about your open house strategy and go work in open house with him this weekend.

[00:12:50] Or why don't you partner with another agent who may not be hitting the numbers? And your challenge this week is to get results out of our underperforming agent. And so knowing how are the ways that we can both simultaneously build culture and give our agents the ability to display some early signs of leadership is kind of one of the things that we try to do on a regular basis. And then a lot of it is unpacking what holds people back. We all have we all have our own head trash. And the more that I can help them unwind their head trash, the more effective they are. And that usually leads to motivation, because when they realize how much I care, the pressure of them not showing up and doing the job means they're letting me down. And most of the time all of us will do a lot more for other people than we'll do for ourselves. And so we have we have that culture internally, significantly with the team.

[00:13:47] Yeah, that's that's the one on one training that I think is probably something that.

[00:13:56] Every team could do more of and it's such a great idea to have, it gives you leverage as well as well at the same time, you're teaching them to become leaders.

[00:14:06] Yeah, I mean, listen, it takes a lot of time. That's the reason why when I started and I'm building a team, we didn't have regular meetings. We didn't run a regular schedule with one on one coaching appointments. I'm not even sure if we met as an operations team on a regular basis to talk about where we were going as a company. And so arguably, one of the most effective things that we've done is have meetings. And that's where Sisu comes into play. Right, is because every week, every week at our at our team meeting where we're putting up the dashboard of where we are, that agent accountability report shows up that says, hey, Jane, you may you love three days last week. Everybody else log five. Where were you on vacation the other two days, your wife got in the way, did your phone break down? Do we need to start to go fund me to help you get a new smartphone's? You log your activities, what was it? And and so reminding them that what we give energy to our agents also give energy to and so I give energy to showing those numbers on a weekly basis. So we haven't prepared publicly and then privately, of course.

[00:15:16] Yes. So you meet the team once a week and then you meet individually with one on ones once a week. Is that how you do that?

[00:15:23] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Monday mornings we meet as a team and that's really a kind of a market update thinking less sales lesson for the entire company, including our admin.

[00:15:33] Ok. And then are you doing all of the one on ones or do you have agents who are moving into leadership roles, assist with that, or how do you do that?

[00:15:42] So our operations director takes a portion of them and then I take a portion of them. So some of our higher producers are the ones that have the leadership capabilities or the. Well, it looks like we'll move into that position from a results standpoint. I'll take their one on ones, OK?

[00:16:03] Let's talk about recruiting for a minute because. It seems to me, well, number one, you've done a phenomenal job of it. Number two, though, seems to me it would be really difficult to recruit agents and talent when you're saying you're not selling real estate for the first year. I mean, I think this program you're doing, it sounds amazing. However, it sounds to me like that's a that's a real challenge to recruit into that. And I could be wrong.

[00:16:33] So just for people out there looking at how are you doing this? Number one, how do you recruit into that? But number two, what is your recruiting strategy with that being such an important part of the business? As you said, you are a college coach recruiting constantly. So what's your strategy around that?

[00:16:53] Well, I think what's a couple of things. One, you have to be non-negotiable on who you will and will not be in business with. And so because we're clear on who we won't be in business with, if we're clear on who we will be in business with pretty easily. So one of our hard, fast rules is we don't negotiate commission, period. And if if commission is a reason and by commission means splitting internally as a team is a non-negotiable conversation, if that's what limits us or we spend a lot of time and energy on, we know we're just not a good fit because I need people who understand the difference between value and price. If if we can get you to 40 plus units every year, we'll likely never talk about what a splitting and Kappy policy looks like. So we're really clear that when that when when I meet with someone, they need to be abundant. Thank you. They need to understand that they're investing in themselves when they join the company to be a part of a program in which as long as they follow the blueprint and the model, that they'll find success that they desire. And so what we're looking for is agents who understand that it's one it's really a one year commitment. And all things considered, what we've kind of had this limiting belief concept of what people will and won't do for a short period of time. And and a lot of that depends on how big of a picture you paint for them and how much of a vision have you delivered to them that makes it worth them committing to 12 months.

[00:18:26] And it's only 12 months. If we can make it through twenty twenty, anyone can make it through whatever that 12 month period is. Right. And so we're just we look at like doctors do this right. And the reason why physicians agree to do this grueling residency period or Navy SEALs agree to do a grueling training period is because of the payoff. I pledged in the fraternity and it sucked, and I knew that when that semester was over. So with everything that came with leadership and so I could grind it out through long enough to the end date. And so knowing that we want to be in business with people who think big enough to understand the value proposition helps, how do we recruit them? Well, that's that's a totally different thing, because for us, what we've done is really try to be public about what our our culture and values look like so that people know going in. Here's who I'm meeting with. Here's how they think, how they act, how they talk and what they expect of me. And we're just not even going to sit down together if if that message doesn't resonate, so I'm doing a podcast, doing video, social media posts, almost all of our media focuses on our culture and our way of thinking and acting.

[00:19:46] Ok? So it sounds to me like you're not one that goes to schools to recruit.

[00:19:54] You're basically putting it out there on podcast. You're adding value to the community and you're attracting. My guess is these people are just attracting and they're coming to you rather than you going to them. Is that is that a fair statement?

[00:20:08] Yeah, that's that's that's largely true. Now we are we are actually going to school to the schools now and recruiting because one of the things we did during during the initial stages of the pandemic, as our competitors pulled back, we actually pushed forward. So we hired three recruiting companies to go out and and actively recruit agents and sales professionals from other industries so that we could backfill the pipeline. So so we're working through a pretty substantial pipeline of people who have raised their hand with with interest in getting into the industry. And so we are working just off the school graduate list or something like a wise hire or some of the third party recruiting companies.

[00:20:57] And if you're hiring a third party recruiting company in the in the software world, I would be paying them 20 percent of whatever their salary is when when they come in for that recruit. How does that work in real estate?

[00:21:14] When when you're you know, you're bringing someone in who's ten ninety nine, I believe that's how you're doing it. Or you bring in twos.

[00:21:23] Yeah, we bring them in is ten ninety nine. So one of the things that we've done especially this year, was realize that the recruiting industry was not exactly thriving in April and May. And so we were able to negotiate some different deals where it was paid for an up front fixed amount. This is what we'll pay you to recruit in one person. And then if if you don't like that up front, fix them out. If they survive 90 days, then we'll increase it because it's no risk to us. So the guarantee, smaller amount or take a larger amount and the and the lead stays for 90 days.

[00:22:06] Ok, so you negotiated that March, April, May. Is that something that they're still willing to honor? Do you think do you think if I if I went and negotiated that today, I would have a shot of getting getting a company like that to agree to that?

[00:22:21] Yeah, I believe that we found success for the last couple of years, ranging anywhere from somewhere between six and ten. Thousands have been the going rate, OK. And I mean, we've had we've had good success with that, and then we've had we've had mixed results going that direction, truly, it is it is like real estate. It is a numbers game. It's just how many how many listing appointments with people you want to be in business with. Are you going on every day? And that determines the type of quality you get. And we've had some great candidates that maybe didn't work or those outside influences from an unemployment standpoint that that make it a little bit challenging to hire right now as well. But but we're starting to see a big release of real estate school graduates here in the last probably 30 days. Forty five days, everybody.

[00:23:17] Everybody wants in.

[00:23:19] Yeah. And the schools were closed for so long. So we wanted in in the last six months, wasn't able to go take their test in person or class in person. And so now we've had this sudden surge of of agents that are getting licensed all of a sudden.

[00:23:36] Yes, so that's your primary responsibility, are you measuring that, are you using the Sisu recruiting to measure that as your agents are measuring their productivity, or are you not clear with that or.

[00:23:49] Yeah, I am familiar and more do what I say, not what I do, because I'm not effectively using it. Let's put it that way. I've been logging some of them. I don't have them all along, though.

[00:24:02] Ok, what about so it seems to me you have a culture of like you, you seem to have this culture of, hey, you really want to be a part of this. And so I would think that your people who are in their first 12 months are probably helping you do recruiting with their contacts. Is is that something you're finding is effective?

[00:24:26] We found the most probably the most effective thing for recruiting is actually my own. So I am past clients. Our past clients have probably been our best source of recruiting leads to whether that's the clients themselves or somebody that they're in relationship with. And so we we realized that we probably were missing a large portion of potential by not marketing our openings to our database. So we've started doing that in the last 60 days more aggressively because I'll go through my Facebook list and just start writing out names of somebody who I'd be willing to be in business with. I think their sales or do I think their operations and then having a conversation around what opportunity looks like for that person.

[00:25:16] But but it sounds like I mean, marketing everyone's marketing to their database, but are they marketing job opportunities to their database?

[00:25:28] Probably not.

[00:25:29] The idea and that's the problem is, is that marketing for the most part as real estate agents is pretty boring. And no one cares about your recipe card and and the fact that it's fall or winterization time. But they do care about refinancing their mortgage or they care about how they can not pay real estate taxes like Donald Trump or how they can potentially get a new career if they've lost their previous job. And so we're we're mindful and ensuring that we send out value added items, including including recruiting.

[00:26:05] Yeah, OK, well, it's been great. Eric, just getting to know you about you.

[00:26:16] Is there anything that you'd like to leave us with that you just feel is is a crucial thing to be doing?

[00:26:23] For next year, you know, I think one of the challenges that I have and I see most agents have is, is we there is so much available from a technology standpoint and from a from an industry education standpoint that oftentimes we end up complicating the business. It truly is simple. It is meeting humans and adding value to people and everything else becomes tracking and measuring and complications. And so that's one of the things that I love about Sisu is the ability to see a very simple glance. What are the actual numbers and transparency of our business? No stories, nothing more than the actual data itself and the simplicity of the business, what it was intended to be.

[00:27:07] So, yeah, yeah, it is really that simple and. To add to what you said, you said no stories, and I think that's the critical piece of doing one on ones, is that you're one on one's our numbers based, not drama based is right. Yeah. So anyway, Eric, it's been great. Congratulations on all of your success. You're crushing it. Keep it. Keep going. I love love being a part of it. And we'll we'll keep our eye on you.

[00:27:41] Awesome. Thanks so much. Appreciate the invite.

[00:27:43] Yeah. Thank you, Eric. Thanks. All right, everyone.

[00:27:48] That wraps up Track A for the day if you want to move over to track B. We have Treston coming on from lab coat agents and then in 30 minutes, we will be opening up a new stream, which will be our keynote, Tom Ferry.

[00:28:08] Tom is going to crush it. We all know how Tom delivers and something you don't want to miss. So plan on joining us for sure. Jump over to Treston if if you've got time right now. And then I'll see you with Tom. Back in 30 minutes.

About the Author

Brian Charlesworth
Chairman and CEO

Entrepreneur and business builder. Built and sold software and telecommunications companies. Passionate about making a significant impact on lives by driving technology forward.