Doug Gieck is a real estate professional specializing in operations and production for 8z out of Colorado. His efficiency has led to the success of 8z with 2665 transactions last year, 1.27 billion in volume, and 150 agents!

In this episode, Brian and Doug discuss how to ensure your business survives during COVID-19, the things you should be doing to hold your team accountable as a leader, and how Sisu has helped his business!

In this episode, we talk about…

  • 3:20 – Doug gives insight on how his business survived in 2008 when most people were going out of business
  • 7:57 – If you are struggling today as a leader, start by turning off your TV and the news. 
  • 13:51 – COVID-19 How to hold your team accountable, engaged and motivated while working remotely.
  • 18:15 – 15 offices and a lot of data, this is how Doug structured his business to manage it!
  • 24:31 – 8z’s infrastructure is what has allowed them to recruit agents organically, but how?
  • 28:10 – This is the most crucial time to try and keep your business afloat and Doug shares his thoughts on how to do so.

Show Transcript

Brian Charlesworth 0:36
Welcome back to the GRIT podcast. I’m Brian Charlesworth. I’m the founder of Sisu and I’m the host of the show. Today we are here with Doug from 8Z. Doug has his son Travis with him as well. With everybody working from home in today’s world, where we’re seeing more and more of that. Grateful to have you on the show today, Doug and really looking forward to learning more about what you guys have done at 8Z. It sounds like you you’ve played pretty much every role in that business other than really being an agent. Give us a history on your business. Maybe start with how big are you guys today? I think you have about 15 offices and I don’t know how many agents. And so you guys have grown a phenomenal business. But tell us about where you guys are at today. And then maybe we can get some of your history.

Doug Gieck 1:31
Yeah, sure. Hey, everybody. Glad to be here. So Doug Gieck with 8Z Real Estate out of Colorado, We service the Front Range. And for those of you not familiar with Colorado, that’s basically Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. The I25 corridor is another way to talk about it. But yeah, we’re an independent. We’ve been around for 10 years. And in those 10 years, we’ve expanded to 150 agents. Last year, we finished with 2665 transactions, and 1.27 billion in volume. So we’ve grown slow and steady over the years, and we’re pretty proud of our business. I still like to think of us as a small nimble startup, but I think other people would would argue that opinion out there. 150 agents, all all doing pretty, pretty solid production. we averaged about 20 to 22.08 to be exact transactions per agent in 2019. And a little over 10 million in volume 10.7. So really proud of that and looking to make that better as we go along here.

Brian Charlesworth 2:51
Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. So I know when you got into this business, you guys got in I bought a home inspection company in 2008. I bought The Home Inspection company housemaster back then and as the franchise or and I remember the struggles we were trying to figure out. Okay, how are we going to replace this revenue with some other source of revenue? So you guys were jumping into the real estate business the exact same time, horrible time to get into real estate. How did you guys how did you guys go from nothing to be how did you even survive because most people are going out of business while you were coming into business?

Doug Gieck 3:26
Yeah, yeah it’s, you know, it’s a really interesting story. I mean, I was on the ground level right and hired in April 2008 and in I think late May, I was looking at the prospect of getting laid off because we didn’t know exactly what this this housing crash was gonna was gonna bring. Luckily, I was retained purely on chance, or another employee decided to switch industries. So I got kept on and we really just buckled down and focused on what we were really Good at that time, which still rings true today, but it was lead conversion. We had a really successful website on in Colorado as it was called if you if you go there now it just takes you to our current website but the best way to explain it is it was a zillow of Colorado before Zillow existed. And my CEO came from that he came, he was a founder of Zip during the .com days and Zip was one of the first companies out there to put listings on the on the on the internet. So first I’d like sites and obviously that’s commonplace now, but it’s really buckling down and doing a lot more with less right. So less agents, less money, but more production and it really became just being really good at getting information to the consumer. And at the time that became foreclosure information is short. Sell information and talking them through all that stuff. And we were able to do a lot of transactions and being nimble throughout that, that time until the market obviously turned. It was pretty short lived in Colorado. We weren’t it wasn’t as devastating here as it was in other places. I think we saw three years of negative appreciation and overall as a state, of course, there were pockets that that got hit a little bit harder. But overall, the state we lost maybe 8% home appreciation over three years. But, you know, we didn’t know what was that was going to look like and it killed a lot of businesses, but we were able to just buckle down, focus on what we were good at and came out of it when the rebound came, came out of it a lot stronger and took off. So that’s what that looked like then. You know why my CEO decided to start a brokerage in the biggest economic downturn in history is, is an interesting question. But it but it worked and it made us battle tested and and scrappy to face times like we’re facing now.

Brian Charlesworth 6:08
Okay, so let’s jump into now. So are you selling homes today? Are homes still selling?

Doug Gieck 6:18
Homes are still selling Believe it or not. And of course there’s been a downtick. So we finished thanks to Sisu, I know these numbers like the back of my hand. We finished March at 214 transactions were projected to do 187 in April. And you know, we count those contract under contracts and closings on a daily basis over communicating that to our entire brokerage now, which is a lot more people to communicate with than it was back in 2008. But yeah, houses are closing and you know, we’ve been watching these statistics from our three main MLS is Come on, daily and and listings are still getting listed, I’ll be in at a lower rate. And what’s really surprising is how many of them are going under contract, it’s almost equal. So we’re in a very tight inventory market. And that remains true, even with the pandemic going on. So how, you know, it’s still happening, what what’s interesting is you got to pivot a little bit to your normal day to day on how you get across the finish line. So that’s, you know, been my primary focus for the last three weeks. And something that everybody can do. These aren’t, you know, things that are not doable, no matter where you’re at?

Brian Charlesworth 7:39
So you guys, obviously thinking outside of the box, you guys are constantly innovating, figuring out how you can be the leader, for someone who might be struggling today. What are those things? Let’s jump into some details. What are those things that someone should be doing today versus what they were doing a month ago?

Doug Gieck 7:57
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was Start with turn off your TV and turn off the news. And stick to the facts. Look at what’s really happening in your market based on data. You know, Steve Harney, with keeping current matters, really bright guy that is, he might be 100% at predicting what’s happening in the market. So he’s a good one to follow. But that was some sound advice that he gave. So first of all, don’t get hung up in doom and gloom. They’re trying to sell more newspapers make you watch, watch their TV more into their station more. So stay away from that and then over communicate and get really close to your clients. Look at my The reality is smart people probably will pause right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen. But traditionally, you know, we like to look back at others type scenarios in history that this you know, gets close to. The best analogy is 911. That’s the best one we found, which everything shut down, and everything was quiet for four weeks. And if you look at it historically, it was just a blip. And it was a very sharp v correction, right. So that’s what we’re anticipating. But you better be ready for the rebound. Because what I think is going to happen is we’re going to have to do six or nine months worth of real estate transactions in about three months, it’s going to be crazy. And if you’re not ready for that, and you don’t stay in front of your people, you’re gonna, you’re gonna lose, you’re gonna, you’re not gonna be ready. So you know, make sure you can handle apply for the government loans that are happening, get out there, make sure you can keep the business running, but stay really close to your people work on the business while while you’re not working in the business, prospect harder, make more phone calls, be empathetic, be humane, because people are going through some crazy stuff right now. And if you show some value and get close to them, you’re going to be the first phone call they make when we come out of this and we will come out of it.

Brian Charlesworth 9:58
Yes, we always do. Right. So, when you say over communicate, I know, I think what most people think of is over communicate with my clients, right? Reach out, talk to my soI, keep them, let them know that I care. Let them see if I can help them in any way, you know, now’s the time of contribution. But what else can you do when you say over communicate? I think you know, if you look at your team or your brokerage, what’s what’s the communication there right now? How What do you need to be doing it at the business level to keep your agents from from doing exactly the stuff you just talked about living in front of the TV?

Doug Gieck 10:39
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great, great question, Brian. So it’s happening at that level too. We are communicating 234 times a day through all different channels, whether it be sending a video to every single agent and support staff. That’s an easy we’ve, we’ve we’ve made a dedicated COVID Web. page on our website that is updating them on how to do a virtual open house how to do a virtual tour? how, you know, get your zoom account set up? How do you do a real estate review with a client virtually just basically trying to arm them with the tools and stay in front of them. And furthermore, every day we have an end of day email that sends out numbers for the day. So how many we put under contract how many sold on that day? personal stories, you know, we’re something down from our entire staff. Stories that they’re sharing, sometimes good sometimes bad, but it’s it’s staying with them. I’m our leadership team met monthly we’re meeting weekly now and then sometimes even more than that was special one off, because this has been so fluid, right? Things are changing, at least they were for a while changing on sometimes hourly basis. Are we essential? Are we not essential? You know, all these things. So You know, it’s, it’s simple, but you can’t communicate enough right now. Like if you’re if you’re hesitating you type out an email and you’re hesitant to hit the send button hit the send button if you’re hesitant to make a phone call Don’t hesitate. Like there’s nothing that you that can be out there right now that does that can be addressed and that shouldn’t be addressed. Like if your thing if you have a good thought, you know whether it goes deeper or whatever, stay close to those your inner circle that is at work and being really close constant communication.

Brian Charlesworth 12:33
So, over communicate across the board, if you’re an agent over communicate with your clients with your soI. If you’re running a business over communicate with your team, your brokerage, whatever your business right when I say team.

Doug Gieck 12:49
I mean that’s something that seems really simple. But I’ll tell you, it’s working for us. You know, we’re getting was times when there’s a sticky trend. action and things that maybe you wouldn’t have made that phone call to your team leader, whoever that might be. We’re getting everybody involved and figure out how we can get that thing across the finish line. You know, are we switching mortgage companies? Are we, you know what, oh, that title company is shut down operations? Can we get them to a different title company? No, all these things are happening because we’re staying in contact with each other, even though we’re all sitting at home.

Brian Charlesworth 13:26
Right. So I normally don’t talk about Sisu on this, but I know you’ve brought it up a few times already. So you’ve you’ve grown out that you close 214 in march, 187 is what you’re on pace to close in April. And we’ll close unless you hurry and put a cash transaction together. Right. So how do you stay on top of those numbers? How do you hold your team accountable? And especially in this remote environment, and today, I mean, what’s the what’s the accountability that you’re doing? With your team, or how do you keep them engaged and motivated?

Doug Gieck 14:03
Yeah, you know, for me, you know, Sisu is only as good as the data that goes into it. So first and foremost, it was starting with our transaction coordinators, so part of 8Z, each office has a transaction coordinator that’s working remotely now. So I’ve been really close to that team, making sure that they are that Sisu is the first priority that anytime a status changes on any transaction, or anytime they get updated on a new transaction, that it goes into Sisu immediately. So that’s key one to make sure you have good data. And then you can in you know, we’re fairly new to Sisu we turned it on as a brokerage in January. So we’re just getting started. We’ve always measured numbers but now we’re we’re measuring and seeing stuff like we never seen our business holistically and then being able to dive into the weeds on stuff like never before.

Brian Charlesworth 15:03
So really it’s just keeping those things in line but knowing what sees who can show you that maybe you weren’t focused on ever before.

Right maybe share with us, you know, you’re talking about jumping in the weeds being able to see things like never before maybe you could give an example of what, what some big aha that you guys have had.

Doug Gieck 15:32
So we have a sister company called Zapier that deals with buyers and one metric that they’ve really been trying to measure really hard is listing. And what I found out is a lot of brokerages don’t really know how many listings or how many listings are in the pipeline. Well, we’ll see soon because of when we we can manipulate when we want to enter data. I know exactly how many listings we have, and how many are under contract and how many are set to close. So that’s one example under contracts like being able to look out the box mirror and see exactly what’s gonna happen in the business. We had. We had estimated metrics on this before. Now we have real Hey, I like like you just said, Brian, we’re probably going to close 187 in April. And that’s because I know exactly what’s happening. Thanks to Sisu. These are things that I didn’t have before we we partner with you guys. And getting in and you guys can go deep. I mean, unfortunately, worse. We’re big. So we move slower than I think a lot of your clients do. But if you’re smart and you and you hook Sisu to your CRM, you know, we use Boomtown and Sisu hooks right to Boomtown. I know Sisu has the ability to hook to pretty much any CRM to where you can feed real time actions into the system. That’s phase two for me, but I know there’s a lot of Sisu users out there that do it now. And they can know how many dials are happening on a daily basis, you know? These are the things that are going to dictate how, what what your people are doing. And then the beauty of it is you can gamify it makes challenges and really get those people moving in the right direction and make it fun.

Brian Charlesworth 17:15
Okay, guys, so

Doug Gieck 17:17
we just started, I created about eight challenges for two specific teams yesterday. And, and they’re already off and running, and they’re fired up about it. And, you know, the challenges are around handwritten notes, phone conversations, we put zoom meetings in is one of the challenges, which is really cool, you know, so we’re adapting to what’s happening in the market. And social media posts, like we have all these challenges going on now that we’re something we never focused on before. But because of seaso I can do this in an hour would have taken me probably at best weeks and spreadsheets to figure out that would have had no visibility now I can just hit the chat. You know, you always At the challenges, any agent can see where they’re at, at any time, so it’s pretty amazing stuff.

Brian Charlesworth 18:06
Yeah, it’s fun. So you guys have how many offices now?

Doug Gieck 18:12
15 offices. So we’re spread out.

Brian Charlesworth 18:30
So running 15 offices, I mean, that’s a lot of data, being able to do that. How did you I mean, how did you do that before? I can’t even imagine doing that with this with spreadsheets. How did you how do you manage 15 offices and know what’s going on and keep people accountable?

Doug Gieck 18:51
Let me let me rewind to about April 2019. I’d always had an in house engineer. So write code was a technologist, all these things and the team, I was always the least one, but I’ve had it as big as four throughout the history of ad. So we spent lots of time and money and hours tying things to Google. And, and, and building that infrastructure ourselves, which was pretty volatile, based on, you know, different different operators coming in and different developers, all that stuff. And it worked, but it didn’t work. Great. And when we wanted to make changes, that would take months. And, you know, this, we’ve measured since the beginning of time since we innovate 8Z beginning of our time, and that’s, you know, Sisu didn’t exist in 2008. Right. But now you have, you have the SAS companies like Sisu that you can start to focus again on what your best That you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and time and effort on making all that work right and most people don’t. But for a pretty nominal fee, I mean, our most valuable thing is time and there’s I you know, I was imagine your podcast is full of a lot of broker owners Brian I imagine that’s a pretty popular or at least the majority of your audience their most valuable asset is time and trying to figure all this out and and the long nights and putting all these pieces together of how do you make this spreadsheet and how do I make it pretty slick and display it? You’ll kill yourself trying to figure that out. Trust me, I’ve been there. PC can do for you in just sign up.

Brian Charlesworth 20:47
So you got you guys went from having up to four developers to now you don’t need that. Right there.

Doug Gieck 20:58
We we were very much nn the edge of technology and, and real estate, right we and we have been since our inception, build our own website years ago, so on and so forth. But we did we made the conscious choice to be a brokerage with tech involved and yeah, we were a dev shop there’s no doubt about it we that was a big element and thanks to you know, you guys and a few other vendors, I’ve been able to take you know, hundred thousand dollar a year employees and and change that into a we’re saving a lot of money and I didn’t fire them they move on. And I had a choice to make do I hire somebody else or, or look for off the shelf solutions and thank goodness for you know, the inner circles of real estate people that I know, that pointed me towards you guys. Because you guys saved me a lot of time and effort and pain and heartache.

Brian Charlesworth 21:58
Good that’s that’s why we’re here. I got to feel that at a really low level before I started Sisu, which is how Sisu got formed as I jumped in and helped my wife with her business. So you are the Vice President of production, is that correct?

Doug Gieck 22:15
That’s right.

Brian Charlesworth 22:16
What does that actually mean? What do you actually think?

Doug Gieck 22:20
Nobody really knows. So I, you know, I kind of No, I’m just joking.

I focus specifically on operations and with a production mindset, when I when I talk about how we’re operating in efficiencies, like, I wake up, my first thought is, how do I make our realtors more productive today by taking whatever I can off their plate. So they can focus on prospecting and transacting. So, so I look at the operations of the entire brokerage and decide, you know, is Sisu the right tool that’s going to help us with coaching reports and measurables and accountability. Yes. And there’s a million different things like I looked at our marketing team, our agents are, are not responsible for marketing their own property. We take care of all that stuff for them. We have a baseline of social media, of course, we let our agents they want to do a little extra, they certainly can. But I want them focus on what again, what they’re good at how Sisu takes a lot of stuff off our plate. I’m looking to take as much off of agents plates as I can, so that they can maximize their sales time, the people, the people belly to belly, going out and actually transacting. That’s the only way you can push agents to be super efficient and close a lot of real estate because do this on your own. It’s tough, right? I mean, you got to focus on marketing, you got to focus on lead gen, you got to focus on measuring your business and the reality is most people don’t. But how can you make that better and you have to start looking meet these things and to get better. So that’s what I do. I’m constantly looking at our operations and figuring out how they get better.

Brian Charlesworth 24:08
Which is, you guys obviously a great job of providing value to your agents, which is how you have so many agents. You guys have obviously done an amazing job with your productivity. If you’re averaging 22 plus per agent, that’s those are great numbers. What about on the recruiting side? What are you guys doing there? How do you recruit agents?

Doug Gieck 24:30
Yeah, it’s a great question, Brian. And recruiting is I would see it as something I’m not really proud of, because we don’t have a really structured recruiting system. We recruit really organically, but it’s because of our infrastructure and how our businesses set up. We read out charge our agents, you know, fees or sell them products. We our our investment is completely aligned with them selling real estate. So we don’t necessarily grow by agent count. We grow by agent production first, right? But because of our production and because of everything we’ve done organically, a lot of people come to us and say, Wow, this looks like you guys provide a lot of value. I’d like to hear more. And you know, it might seem silly, because we’re at 150, which is a pretty big number for an independent, but that’s been largely organic. And, you know, it’s interesting, it feels wrong to get super focused on PR, excuse me, recruiting during a tough time, right? Like, I’m not looking. I hope everybody makes it through this. I’m not looking to snake agents from other brokerages because they might be on hard times. But I think the reality is, some people are not set up to weather the storm, and it’s going to happen. So you know, we’re doing a lot To get our message out there help people understand what an API is and how we operate. And naturally we’re going to get more agents coming but for recruiting for us has been largely organic. It’s not something that is a major driver for us.

Brian Charlesworth 26:19
So it’s really focused on the agent productivity drive the value and they’ll come to you.

Doug Gieck 26:27
I mean, we’re we drink a lot of Jim Collins Kool Aid. My CEO happened to be on his research team when he wrote Good to Great and Jim Collins was actually his last transaction which is a fun story to tell. But his transaction as a as an agent.

Brian Charlesworth 26:46
Wow, that’s cool.

Doug Gieck 26:49
That’s pretty Yeah, pretty nice. I I fell into a lucky lucky seat, but we’re always trying to find not 10 agents to get on the bus but that one agent, that one Right agent to get on the bus that we know we can drive to massive production, right? That’s our focus.

Brian Charlesworth 27:06
So your CEO, your founder, was the founder of Zip. And he also helped drive good to grade.

Doug Gieck 27:14
He was on. He was on the founding team at Zip, he wasn’t the founder. Okay. But he was on he was on the, the. I don’t I don’t recall his actual title on it, but he was on the founding team. He was a research assistant. He was finishing up his MBA at CU when Jim Collins wrote Good to Great. Yeah, he’s he’s got a pretty impressive rap sheet. Yeah, that’s very cool.

Brian Charlesworth 27:43
That’s fun, great to surround yourself with people like that. Is there any other advice that you would like to give to our audience, just stuff they should be doing? Really in this in this moment in time. You know, you just mentioned a lot of people aren’t set up to get through this and so what what can people be doing today other than applying for, you know, VP funding?

Doug Gieck 28:10
Right? I mean, do apply. Yeah. Because that’s sweet money and a lot of forgiveness in that and why not right? Do what you have to do to keep your business afloat. But I, you know, I think it goes back to do what you do best. That’s what we’re focusing on. You might have to pivot a little bit like I might have to get on a zoom. Now instead of talking face to face, but do what what is your, you know, option, right, right. What is your one thing that you’re amazing at? Keep doing it and do it often and do it, do it more. Because if you do that, the chances are, when this thing passes, you’re going to be set up in a great position. Two, to weather the storm to make it and have a thriving business and those Don’t make it, you know, there’s going to be buyers and sellers out there, they got to go somewhere because now their agent doesn’t exist, right? be set up, be ready to take that on, like, set yourself up to where you’re prepared to crush it when we can all see each other in public once again, right? Let’s start there and be really tactical about where you’re spending money, like audit your entire system. Where are you spending money? What can be cut? Where can you get lean? You know, there’s a lot of places to get lean. Sisu is not one of them. Trust me, you need to know what’s going on with your metrics and what’s going on with your business. If you’re not measuring your business, you’re not really a business. That that’s that be my number one thing to tell people like, make sure you know what your numbers are, how you generate business and how you can focus on keeping that going, and then double down on it. You know, everybody If your agents are treating this as a vacation, it’s not going to be good when the rebound comes. But if your agents are doubling down on prospecting and getting in front of their people, you’re going to it’s going to be a fun ride and a wild one. Get your seatbelt ready.

Brian Charlesworth 30:19
thank you for that. Just a couple of other questions in wrapping up here. Doug. Do you have what’s your favorite book or your favorite source of learning? For some people? they don’t they don’t read books. But for some people, they love books. So what’s what’s been your best? something you’d like to share with the audience?

Doug Gieck 30:40
Probably favorite book that I most recently read, would be dare to lead by Bernie Brown. That’s a really, really great book for anybody that finds themselves in a leader, leadership position, making sure we’re getting into the arena and not sitting on the sidelines. So that’s a good one, my three kind of constants big shocker coming but good to great. I’m built to last by Jim Collins are have been really impactful books and then Simon Sinek start with why are probably are probably my three go twos. And then one that I really enjoyed rocket fuel. I think it’s really important to have have the idea guy and then the execution guy, unfortunately, I’m the execution guys so I always I always get a little miffed at that someday maybe I might be the idea guy. But um, I think that’s a great place to start. And, and constantly, you know, constantly do better Five Dysfunctions of a team lencioni that’s a great book. But just trying to find holes and get different perspectives. Is is really what I what I like to read. I like to look at problems. I’m a fixer, right. I like to see where the holes are at in operations or anything and see how to fix it. So that’s where I usually go to when it comes to comes to educating myself.

Brian Charlesworth 32:14
Yeah, thank you a lot of great books you shared. So thank you. Your What’s your favorite place to go when you can leave your house? Well, yeah, this is all when this is all done. Where are you going?

Doug Gieck 32:27
It’s funny, isolate even more huge, huge outdoorsman. And I got a place it’s really dear to my heart. I could go there. Now if I wanted to. If I really wanted if I didn’t have kids. During a podcast, I could go go there right now. But the mountains is a really special place. you ever find yourself in Colorado called trappers lake. It’s in White River National Forest. It’s called and it’s the flat top wilderness. You can isolate you won’t have cell phone service on. I was fortunate enough, you know, working at a dealer. If you’re here for six years, we get a sabbatical. So two months paid off to go do whatever you want. And I went on a solo backpacking trip, spent three weeks by myself in the wilderness, which was pretty cool. And that’s what I like to do. And hopefully this thing gets over soon because I got a fishing trip planned to Alaska in September, so I’m hoping that doesn’t get canceled.

Brian Charlesworth 33:26
Yeah, awesome. Well, Doug, thank you so much for your time. If people want to get a hold of you, if we have questions, what’s the best way to reach you?

Doug Gieck 33:34
Yeah, I’m definitely go to our website really easy. Two letter domain. Go to our professionals. You can find me there. They can hit me up on my email. It’s fine to Facebook is great. I participate in a few real estate communities on Facebook. But just Doug Gieck. My email is Doug Gieck plus the plus company [email protected] So if you guys have any questions, or need help or need to talk to somebody, these are interesting times, right? I love seeing other faces too. So don’t hesitate to reach out.

Brian Charlesworth 34:14
Yeah, and if you guys need more information on Doug, you can go to the 8Z, 8Z website or you can go to the seaso podcast website, we’ll have Doug’s information there as well. Thanks for joining everybody. Doug, thank you so much for joining us today and great getting to know you better.

Doug Gieck 34:31
My pleasure, Brian, thanks for everything you guys do at Sisu. You make real estate easier.

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