Since joining Keller Williams in 2015 as chief innovation officer, Josh Team (now president) has been a key driver in helping the company move its vision forward – one created by Co-founder and Executive Chairman Gary Keller – to transform Keller Williams from a traditional brokerage into a world-class technology company focused on keeping agents at the heart of every transaction.
Led by Keller’s unyielding vision and Team’s expertise in technical excellence, the company has delivered on its goal to create the largest, smartest real estate platform in the industry, capable of helping agents take more market share. And, in 2020, KW accelerated its pace, introducing a host of new technologies, tools and strategies offering both simplicity and ease to agents and consumers alike.
Now, what’s next?
In an interview with Outfront Senior Editor Lalaina Rabary, Team reflects on 2020 and offers insight into KW’s plan for a value-packed year. He also shares how agents can embrace the year with optimism and an open mind, mirroring the company’s focus on innovation and partnership to push them to new heights.
When thinking about 2020, what word comes to mind for you?
Gratitude. For our associates, who around the world showed up for their clients and communities in one of the most disruptive years we’ve ever experienced. Also, to Gary Keller for his unwavering leadership and determination to maintain a strong foundation and offer consistent support to our people.
This year, everyone was pressure-tested – individuals and companies alike – on their character, culture, strategy, and value proposition. Some companies leaned back and out of their agent investments to protect the company, whereas we, in partnership with our agents, doubled down to pour more value into the industry and one another. As a result, we came out stronger. Not only do we continue to be the largest residential real estate brand, but our market share is growing at a fast rate, creating more space between us and our competitors.
You said it best, 2020 was one of the most disruptive and challenging years in history. With challenges, come lessons – What were some of the most important lessons learned at Keller Williams this year?
The importance of fully-aligned partnership. Our agents won at a high level because of their ability to come together and operate as one team. For the first time in the history of the company, we were able to run fully-aligned national plays, like the Pivot: Shift Ahead initiative – an educational movement which brought critical resources and digital training to nearly 80K agents, agnostic of brokerage.
Alignment is extending into everything we do, including our 900+ market centers, which are joining together as one, moving in a way we’ve never seen before. Our agents are outproducing and have gotten their unfair share during the recovery. All of this is a direct testimony to our people.
When times get hard, our true character gets revealed. And, in 2020, we came together, worked as a team, and supported each other. The lesson I learned above all else, who you’re in business with matters and I couldn’t ask for better partners.
What can agents expect from Keller Williams this year?
An expanded suite of value offerings for every business type: As I shared, last year we didn’t lean back; we pushed forward using our position as the world’s largest real estate franchise to invest more in our agents, resulting in unprecedented numbers compared to the industry and our competitors. This will continue in 2021. By continuing to grow in size and scale, we’ll be able to provide even more unmatched value for any agent in the industry, helping them grow as well.
At Keller Williams, you can be:
- An interdependent agent interested in maintaining your own brand while using our models/systems
- An independent agent who wants to operate with little constraint, yet still needs easy buttons such as workflow automation and affordable leads at record-low costs
- A dependent agent who would like to leverage out everything from lead generation to marketing through professional services
Technology centered on a simpler, smarter and more human experience: In 2018, we released Command so agents could run their business in a more targeted, meaningful way. At the start of the year, we launched the KW App – empowering agents to guide their consumers through the transaction with ease. And, in 2021, we’ll work to add value to adjacent activities around the transaction – mortgage, insurance, etc. – through our holding company, KWx. We will spare no expense in our mission to redefine the future of real estate and simplify the transaction for consumers and agents.
The ability to get into and grow genuine relationships through communities: Seasoned agent or new, connecting with like-minded people is the key to getting you to the next level. Our network is vast, and in the year ahead we’ll offer more opportunities for people to experience meaningful connection and community – whether that be through digital experiences like Family Reunion or within our platform, leveraging SmartPlans from agents across the company to solve pressing challenges/needs. Community is our culture in action and culture is at the heart of who we are.
Related Reading: How Keller Williams Turns Company Culture Into Success
When you look at Keller Williams’ 37-year history, innovation has been at the core of the company’s momentum. How can agents mirror this innovation in their businesses to experience stronger gains this year?
As someone who has built their career in innovation, I can say it’s challenging because in many ways, innovation can be a nice way of saying “you’ve been wrong.” It takes humility and a willingness to sit in the discomfort that comes with change and open your mind on the front-end to acknowledge that you could also be wrong. And, it takes compassion and servant leadership to navigate a team through a phase of innovation.
When you look at innovation with a growth mindset – acknowledging that something has to change and being willing to take active steps toward uncovering what that is with others – it takes the pressure off of finding the next silver bullet or big idea.
Also, bravery to preserve fully believing that the outcome will be better than the present. When Gary Keller introduced the Associate Leadership Council, bringing on agents as partners to participate in the shared decision-making of the company, or the ALC introduced profit sharing to create risk-free wealth building opportunities for associates, both concepts were unheard of. As a result, they were mocked. Fast forward, we’ve delivered over $1.5B to our associates over time in profit share, because our leaders had a clear vision and thick skin to innovate.
What’s the key to implementing an innovative mindset?
Implementation is where a lot of creative thinkers get hung up; they do all the great work being innovative and forget that implementation is where you generate results. Without implementation, the greatest innovation is worth nothing; a little bit of innovation that goes into practice is worth a whole lot more than the most brilliant plans to change the world.
The key to seeing innovation through is figuring out how to influence and inspire. Remember, innovation comes down to challenging the status quo, which will make people uncomfortable. Before you go into any room, you must earn the trust of those around you. Brilliant thinking will always fail to get adopted or embraced without trust.
What parting thoughts do you have for real estate agents?
Who you’re in business with matters now more than ever before. The more disruptive things get at a macro level, the more consolidated the industry becomes. This means money gets concentrated in smaller amounts to companies who can do more ambitious, simpler things – creating space between what an individual agent can do to compete.
The number one defense you have is to align yourself with forward-thinking people and organizations that can help build up skills and leverage that you cannot gain on your own.
Business books are littered with examples of people who were in poor partnerships that didn’t allow them to innovate. Companies, like Dairy Queen, who when going to their franchise owners with an idea to bring playgrounds to restaurants were denied, leaving room for McDonald’s to introduce the famous PlayPlace.
To ensure you’re in partnership with the right people, ask yourself: Does their vision align with mine? Do we see the world the same way? Is there a clear understanding that we are in alignment?
This is why we are so vocal at Keller Williams about our thesis that the agent is at the center of the transaction and the fiduciary the consumer wants to be in relationship with. We believe that’s where everything is going.
Similarly, if you’re leading people, it is your duty and obligation to make sure you’re communicating your vision – a bold vision that dares to be wrong to make sure everyone can achieve more and be where they need to be.