Leighton Dees is the Bees Knees; On Brand, Design & Innovation!

CTM post (28)

Leighton Dees CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Generations  in Mobile, Alabama; a brokerage that won Inman
News Innovator of the Year 2014 for Most Innovative Brokerage! Check it out below!

As Leighton says “My job is to make Real Estate sexy … and to make YOU (the agent) look like a rock star” and he does! The moment you land on Generations website you will instantly be aware that ‘this is different!’ Generations offers their ‘GenLife Training Systems’ designed to coach agents to achieving “more'”.  A powerful promise accompanied by their ‘Real Estate Sales Blueprint’ that truly addresses what every agent craves from their broker and I believe a true differentiator. Leighton and I share a passion for design and brand and believe in the importance of marketing:

“Business has evolved so much. Marketing used to be a department but is now threaded throughout every aspect of a company. Marketing is what holds everything together.”

 

Generations moves quick to execute on marketing initiatives at lower costs because they’ve brought it all in house with Leighton leading the vision. Thanks to Leighton for joining me for this CTM! He’s definitely one to watch and learn from, and you’ll LOVE Leighton’s answer to the Legacy question! Truly inspiring!


I hope this conversation inspires you! If it does, please share and subscribe to CTM on iTunes (and leave us a review if you want more!)

 

 

Teri:Hi, everybody! I’m Teri Conrad and this is Conversations That Matter. I am joined today by the lovely Leighton Bees out of Mobile, Alabama, and you’ll be treated to a fabulous southern accent here in just a moment. Leighton, you are the CEO of the Better Homes and Gardens Generations office down there in Mobile, Alabama. Recently you won the Innovators 2014 Award out of Inman. There’s a lot of different ways that I want to take this conversation. One of the reasons that I reached out to you, obviously, is because Laura Monroe thinks that you are the most adorable, sweetest guy ever. She’s also fascinated, as I, with the innovative culture that you’ve created there, and what is it about your office that caught the attention of the industry.

There’s a lot of different ways we could go, but why don’t we start there since that’s what we’re on, and talk a little bit about – why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you grew your office. I know that originally you weren’t at Better Homes and Gardens office. You were an independent, I believe. Why don’t you talk – let’s start there. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what are the challenges of running an independent brokerage? What drew you to the Better Homes and Gardens brand?

Leighton:We started out at independent for a reason. That’s what we stated in the beginning, but the real reason mainly was we wanted to have creative freedom. I’m a designer. That’s a passionate mind, whether it was for business or hobby or whatever. It was very important in the beginning not to be limited by what we could do to brand ourselves and grow our vision, basically. I consider myself a creative type of person more than a business person. I know business and enjoy it, but my passion really is in innovation, and creation, and design, and everything. As long as I can continue to do that in an environment that benefits from it, things work.

As an independent company, we were able to start fresh. We started with five people, but we had a couple of things in mind. We understood culture, we understood passion, and we understood purpose. When those three things were put together under a shared vision, it was just a matter of time, time and pressure. We kept digging. That’s something that I think people want to be a part of. It wasn’t so rigid. It wasn’t purchased out of a box. We were called Oracle Real Estate, and the irony is down in the south here, nobody knows what Oracle Corporation is. Needless to say, Larry Ellison was the third richest man in the world at one time, who owns Oracle. 

When I designed our final logo, we were getting it trademarked, and the attorney didn’t ask us for proofing what he has submitted to the office for trademark, and it threw a red flag to Oracle Corporation. We received an assist – what is it?

Teri:Cease and desist. 

Leighton:Cease and desist letter. We were like, “Oh, my God. The Oracle Corporation is coming down on us.” We actually didn’t do anything wrong. We worked it out. One, the situation – and two weeks later actually wining, we turned our company into Better Homes and Gardens throughout the state two weeks later. It was – we proved a point and that’s it. What we saw as an independent firm was after we got momentum going, the vision and everything had plenty of room. In order to grow a company, and to bring people in to retain them, and to keep them competitive, you have to provide value, tools, resources, these types of things that we weren’t always fans of, necessarily, because we trained how to be on a referral based business not how to spend money on advertising and generate leads through ads. 

It was relationships. Your data base is a list of relationships, a living organism, it grows. That’s what we teach. We overlay it with technology and the use of tools and stuff but not with the purpose of replacing anything. It helps the growth. It doesn’t replace anybody’s place or purpose or anything in the system. Just a short minute, sorry about that.

Teri:It’s okay, you’re working.

Leighton:The main thing that we realized was in order to keep growing, because once we hit about 25, 30 people, we realized we were hitting a growth ceiling because I was the IT guy and the marketing guy. Josh was the broker, my partner, Joshua Tanner, the broker and the legal guy and everything, so operations, finance. Then you have to be this inspiration to the agents, as well. We realized wow, we’re hitting a ceiling. We ran into Sherry Chris in San Francisco. I was speaking at Inman in 2011, that summer. I asked her if we could get a cup of coffee. We walked by her and I said, “That’s Sherry Chris,” and Josh was, “Who’s that?”  I was, “That’s the CEO for Better Homes and Gardens. I’m going to ask her if we can get a cup of coffee with her while we are here.  He was like, “Alright.”

I walked over there and I introduced myself. I said, “We’re going to be here for a couple of days. Do you want to get a cup of coffee?”  She was, “Yeah.”  Josh was, “She said yeah!”  We were pumped up. Actually, they called us about an hour later, and we’re like, “You want to meet today?”  We go meet with them, and what they did was they went to our website at the time. Oracle is one of my first major products that I designed, and it was beautiful, one of the sexiest, most beautiful websites I think I have ever been able to put together. It had our core values and everything on it, and we were so in line with them, and they felt that. We knew it, too. 

It was like a no-brainer when we came together. It was a match made in heaven for us to come together with a brand. That’s how we made it from an independent company into a franchise. We weren’t looking for anything at all. It just came together. We haven’t slowed down since because November 8, 2011, is when we converted. We tripled in size since then and are continuing to grow. That’s how it all came together.

Teri:That’s an awesome, awesome story. Thank you for that background because that really is interesting. I think a lot of independent brokers struggle with that piece. There’s a thousand different ways I want to go here. First of all, you talked about vision, and passion, and purpose, and I love all those topics; design and how important design is in inspiring a brand and a culture. I hardly even know where to begin. 

Let’s start with first of all, big fan of Sherry Chris; I’ve known her for years as well and because of her, have been a fan of Better Homes and Gardens brand and in fact, I will be interviewing Nelson Goulart, who’s VP of Canada up here. Let’s start with – let’s go brand and design since you and I share that passion. How important do you think it is, moving forward – the brand and the design, what does that mean to you? I’m not even going to feed this conversation. I want see where you want to take it.

Leighton:I think everybody has their own style in business, in general, in any industry, as far as design goes. My style, my role in this company has been to push the envelope of what this industry has produced as far as an image for itself. This is something I appointed to myself, by the way. This isn’t anybody gave it to me. My passion is to make real estate sexy and make the design come out and speak almost, way past property and stuff like that where you can feel our vibe through our imaging, through what you see and interact with. The only task is – I’m wired like that. My partner gets it and we have numerous agents that get it, as well. As an owner, using that in with your people and how they might be wired a certain way as well is the trick to that culture and trying to push it that way where they see the value in that, as well. 

I also see my job as – and I tell this to agents when I’m interviewing them and stuff, what my job is to them and what my opinion is to get them the most exposure they can, and to make them look like rock stars, way better than your competition. I’ll lend that aspect; it’s up to you to mess it up as far as with your actions. I’ll make you look good, but it’s up to you to deliver the performance.

Teri:I love that. I love that idea. How often or how much of the design and the sexiness of that do you think is drawing in those new relationships for your agents?

Leighton:As far as clients for them or for them coming on board here?

Teri:Yes. You’ve touched on a big point, which is there’s so many layers in real estate, from association to broker, from broker down to agent, from agent down to consumer, for brokers to consumer around the agent. There are so many different ways to look at that. I was specifically asking about as you are offering this value to your agent, you’re saying, “Hey, I’m going to make you look sexy.”  How would you say that is impacting your agent’s business?

Leighton:Very positive because one thing is – what I noticed is when I got into the industry myself as an agent, I was 25 and I was literally – I think the next person in age was 50 at the office I was at. It seemed like this big – yeah. Nobody could hardly email. It was ridiculous. They were having classes on how to email where I work. I was like, “Wow, okay.”

Teri:Which was what, about 10 years ago?

Leighton:Yes, ten years ago. It’s funny how evolution is. It ramped up so fast. What I saw was this huge opportunity to take advantage of with this gap. Nobody in my market area was marketing like I was and was going to be looking down the line. I think that it really, as an agent, gave me a big gap to take advantage of, as well. Nobody was really going to match that, either ,because I’ve still yet to meet a designer/real estate agent in my market. I’ve met a few at events and stuff like that, but that’s a rare hybrid, is a designer/agent, because it’s almost two different mindsets.

The creativity that comes out of that is so applicable, but the speed at which it can be implemented since I can come up with something, and put it down, and have it out within minutes has helped us for me, when I was an agent to when we started a company. The speed and the delivery of the image, as well, but that’s been how I worked with this stuff.

Teri:Which I love. I am also creative, and we do – I don’t know if you knew this, but we do Brand Quest out of our business where we are helping agents re-brand themselves underneath their broker brand, which is a whole different conversation. I don’t know how Better Homes and Gardens feels about that. I will say that one of the reasons that I’ve been so drawn to Better Homes and Gardens is because of how that brand speaks to me. 

When I talk about brand, and I’m sure you will probably agree with this, it really is about that overall experience. It’s what are the emotions that are being pulled from me? What is that inspiration that I feel and I sense? How do I experience that at every touch point, whether that’s online or in person, when I’m having coffee with Sherry Chris and she says, “Sure I’d like to meet with you,” whatever that might be, those experiences across the board.

You had touched on this earlier in our conversation. You talked about vision. Let’s go there a little bit and talk it out. What is the vision, particularly in today’s, we’ll say, industry? How many decades did real estate never really have to evolve that much, save learn how to email or not use a fax? Beyond that, looking down the road at how you think this industry might be evolving – I don’t know about you, but I personally believe that design and creating those visceral experiences when you touch a brand or experience them visually, and the design aspect of that, how important do you think that is looking down the road for you, for your brand? How much the visual experience, how much of a piece does that play? How much of it is more – again, you talked about vision and culture, and how do maybe they all tie together?

Leighton:This, in my opinion, is what says it all. Business has evolved, in general, so much since our fathers and our father’s father were in business as far as sales and everything go. Marketing used to be a department. Marketing is now threaded through every aspect of any successful company, point blank. That is how my vision of our company and what I see down line coming in every industry is people starting to really understand and implement that marketing is what holds everything together. It’s what makes everything effective. 

Everything has to have an image now, if you think about it. This next generation coming up doesn’t use Facebook. They use Instagram, because it’s all pictures; it’s all visual. They don’t have to read, and they don’t have to turn a page. They can touch. Everything’s, if you think about it, super sensory targeted.

Teri: Love that.

Leighton: That’s where I see the experience going as well because the one thing you can’t replace is what you feel when you are actually at a home. Technology can make it easy to preview things, and make offers, and erase paper. I would love for it to be able to speed up the movement of an actual body from Point A to B. That would be a super advanced work around real quick. Literally, the whole marketing aspect is what is changing everything, because marketing and technology go so hand in hand with speed. It’s in the sales, it’s in the leadership, it’s in the HR department, it’s in the IT department, it’s in the finance and accounting department. 

Marketing is now – every aspect has marketing threaded through it. Think about HR. HR markets net two to employees inside the company. You know that but if you stop, it takes a second to think about it for a second. “Wow, that’s what’s really happening.” That’s what I’m getting at. Marketing is — it’s called at the seams. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this before, but it’s called the seams is what marketing is threaded into everywhere, at the seams of every department.

Teri: I had not heard that, and I love that. I follow Brian Solis quite closely, and I’ve been watching the Future of Business and the collaborative economy, and how we’re sharing, and the digital experience, and how all of those things come together to create this very, very noisy world; information consumption overload, and then the siloed reduction internally in corporate America, and how do all of these things play together in the future of business.

I’m fascinated by that. I love that ‘seams analogy’. Actually, I’d love to explore that a little bit further another time, but that’s a really interesting idea. I guess the challenge is now, inside our industry particularly that’s been so ingrained in traditional operations — I suppose it’s, in some ways, easier to distinguish yourself and stand out but in other ways, it’s very challenging. This is where the innovation part comes in. You’re having to create entire new systems of operations. Why don’t we talk a little bit about, you did win the Innovator award. What did you win that for, exactly?

Leighton: It was a couple of things that we put into play over the year that year. One was a website that I built that was the first of its kind in our area. It’s a brokerage site that went unbranded, head to head, targeted at Zillow. Its competition was Zillow. What my analogy of the consumer’s perception was there’s still – consumers are still going from each brokerage’s site to look at listings, thinking that they only have their listings on their website and you have to go to that next company to see that company’s listings. They don’t realize that IDX has everything at every site. 

Zillow has played on that in a very effective way. I love Zillow. There’s not anything wrong with Zillow, so props to them. My thing was this. People don’t like to commit, either, to a brand site. Putting out a brand new Better Homes and Gardens site, a brand new ReMax site, that wasn’t what I thought was a smart step to gain traction fast, which is why I was like, we need to target the consumer, unbranded, so they can get that information that they need. We matched Zillow’s offering on the website, but it was called the Mobile MLX. It was actually originally the Mobile MLS.com, and I got in trouble for having MLS —

Teri: I was going to ask. I was going to ask about association slaps on hands.

Leighton: Well, the association gave it to me. It was one of the members that complained, from another company. I went ahead and changed it and called it MLX.com. We pushed that and just rocked, it did great. That was one of the things we did. That’s a long circle, to come around to answering your question. That was one of the things we did.

Teri: Interesting.

Leighton: Also, the structure behind how we ran it was called “the machine,” is what I labeled it as. That was a code name I originally started with, me and my partner referred to it as, and then it just stuck. We built up this team structure in a way that we all put it together, and they really liked that as well. In our brokerage, in the brand, one of the other things is like we talked about earlier with the marketing, we deliver all of our marketing and branding and design in house, live, and super fast. 

We don’t have a marketing company. I am the marketing company in this room, designing this stuff. That right there is the difference between a super responsive company versus a traditional company. We can come up with an entire marketing campaign and implement it within hours, versus weeks waiting on concept, design, approval. Send it to a marketing company, they design it, you look at it, approve it, and then say “Go.” 24 hours we can implement something big if we wanted to, because we make it all in-house.

Teri: I love it. I’m a creative like you, and I could talk about that all day long and get totally excited about it, but the business side of me and all my other people are going to be asking, “Okay, but how cost prohibitive is that?” Can every brokerage – at what point do you build it so that it makes sense? Do you have to have the vision and build it so that it generates the business down the line, or do you think that this is something that every brokerage should be doing in-house?

Leighton: I feel that a brokerage needs to have this new way of doing business. There’s no way I’d open up any other company, really, and not have, if I couldn’t do it, somebody that could, that was amazing, that was in-house, that could implement my ideas on the fly, so that we’re testing it out immediately, and that was their sole job. 

What you’re going to pay them in a year will be minimal compared to what you’d to pay a marketing company to do the design and implementation. They’re like a property management company. They charge you cost plus 10, or plus whatever, so everything is more than it should be.

Teri: Agreed.

Leighton: That’s why in-house is the way to go. Plus the difference is the speed at which you can implement against your competition. If you all attended the same event and you come back home with the same ideas, who’s going to be the first to market with a concept for the public to take and say, “Oh, they were first”? That’s all that matters.

Teri: I completely agree with that. Do you find that there are many people in your market, or that you’re aware of, that are quick and jumping on things, or do you find that a lot of people are still doing this “Stand back and wait to see what the other guy does first”?

Leighton: There’s a few companies in our market that are now trying to do that implementation. For a few years, I think everybody was more entertained by us doing it, like, “Wow,” because these people that are in the companies are in their 60s and 70s. They’re not about to change anything, and they made so much money it didn’t matter anyway. That’s why I say it was entertaining to them. When we started out, there’s 350 companies in our market. Now we’re number three in six years.

Teri: Wow, good for you.

Leighton: Six years ago, they weren’t thinking we were going to accelerate like that. It was entertaining for a while. Now it’s like, “Oh, oh, oh.” We’re friends with everybody. Not enemies out here. There’s no need for that. We’re all on the same team.

Teri: I completely agree. Actually, that’s a whole other topic of conversation. We come from this very – we’re called cooperating brokers, but really it’s this competitive nature that we have, to beat, and win. I think it speaks to the transactional thinking and it speaks to not having a larger vision, and identifying your core values, like what is it that you’re actually delivering as value to the marketplace. 

I don’t know if you want to speak to that at all. It’s just something that occurs to me is that there’s – the reason I do these Conversations That Matter, frankly, is because I’m fascinated by the people who, in my opinion, get it, are leading in the space, and have a lot of knowledge and vision that you can share with other people who haven’t quite yet made that shift or had that light bulb go off just yet. 

Not everybody makes it to the conferences and is reading the same things. I find a lot of people in my market, particularly, their heads have been down, much like I noticed with the PR industry. Their heads were down, busy, doing what they’d always done, and then social came whipping by, and they were like, “What just happened? What’s going on?” Now everyone’s starting to look up and look around and see what’s happening. What would you advise to other markets, where they’ve been a little slow to get in the race?

Leighton: Be careful what you spend your money on. I can’t say that a new website is going to do anything for you, as a brokerage, anymore. 

Teri: Why is that, the one piece? Why is just having a new website not going to actually necessarily move the needle?

Leighton: It’s the purpose of the site that makes it work or not. The only reason you need to technically have a site is to capture people that you send there, really. Zillow has done such a good job of capturing the attention of the American public, whether their data was correct or not, that it’s pointless to fight that machine anymore.

Teri: Agreed.

Leighton: You just need to structure your brokerage to work in a way that doesn’t go against it, and just benefits from the actions that it’s producing. The only thing about Zillow is if there ever was a chance to have one MLS across the nation, there it is. That’s my only, it raises my eyebrow, because they just bought a company. I don’t know if you were – were you in San Francisco this summer?

Teri: I was, yeah.

Leighton: Remember they were talking about Retsly?

Teri: Yes.

Leighton: Retsly is that company that has all the rets feed from all MLSs? Zillow bought Retsly, Zillow has a company that they own that has every rets feed on associations. They have infrastructure and the national audience. There it is. Here’s my big thing. Everybody was all scared Zillow’s going to go into the brokerage business.

Teri: Which, by the way, we have Zoocasa in Canada, which has done exactly that.

Leighton: Let me say this. Maybe it’s different in Canada, I don’t know. I laughed at my business partner about talking about Zillow going into the brokerage business. Why in the world – 

Teri: Would they want to?

Leighton: Would they do that to themselves? They get paid every month by everybody that subscribes. Unlike us, where we can do all this work for weeks and then somebody wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, or doesn’t like the way the sun came up that morning, and is not going to close, and we all did this for free, and they won’t answer the phone anymore and it’s over. Why would they change this model that’s making hundreds of millions to go to that? That’s to me, it makes perfect sense that they would not. That’s not where the money’s at.

Teri: Yet, yet. Things could shift, who knows.

Leighton: That’s just my opinion.

Teri: I agree with you for right now. It’s something to watch, for sure. It’s definitely interesting. I think that is another question as well, is what are the pain points of being a profitable brokerage?  There’s so many people that say, “Why would anybody even own a brokerage anymore? It’s like you’re collecting on desk fees. How do you stay true to your vision, and your purpose, and your culture, when you can’t operate if you aren’t collecting those fees? Maybe we do take somebody with a pulse, because frankly, I’m closing my doors if I don’t have somebody sitting at my desk.” How do you discuss that?  What’s your position on that?

Leighton: It’s all decided on whether  – it’s a decision you have to make. Are you going to be small, or are you going to be big? You have to stay small, 10 or less, or you have to go big, 40, 50 people or more. You’re not going to make it in that in-between part, because while you’re small, you can still make money selling personally. You’re day’s not eaten up by all the problems that the agents create, because there’s not that many agents. 

Once you hit 20, 30, there’s too many problems that you have to deal with as the owner/broker that you can’t sell anymore like you could, which costs you money, and your day is eaten up. That’s what Brian Buffini calls Death Valley. It couldn’t be more labeled correctly. You’ve got to get through that gap as fast as possible so you can breathe again, once you get up into the 40, 50, 60, because then you have enough revenue offsetting the time that you’re not being able to sell anymore. 

I still make way more money selling real estate than owning it one, just by the way. If anybody out there that wants to own one, that’s not where the money’s at, just so you know. It’s where the freedom is, but it’s not where the money’s at.

Teri: I agree with that. It’s an interesting topic, because I’m always curious about where the industry is going. That’s why I think we’re seeing so many boutique brokerages open up. It’s like you said originally in this conversation, we were talking about being nimble and being free to articulate your own brand value, and not be limited by the bigger broker brands. 

It’s always an interesting conversation, but I think honestly, what makes it so interesting is that so few people talk about it publicly. They live in their own little experiences. “I worked in this one brokerage, maybe two, all I know is that. I have no idea what it actually means to operate company.” I’m just curious, as a trend, why is this happening? What’s the experience on the other end of everyone jumping into opening their own company? Do they then pull back and go, “My god, the pain of having to run it was more than the joy and freedom of creating my own brand.” It’s just an interesting – I don’t have answers, and I don’t even know what my specific question is – 

Leighton: I think the next little trend, model that’s a trend, will be basically these little offices, these boutiques, are nothing more than powerful mini teams.

Teri: Teams. Yep, agreed.

Leighton: It can support that all day long and be super profitable, because you don’t have the expense and the hours eaten up from all the lag of the people that don’t versus the ones that do. If you have a team anyway, you can hold it more accountable, and the outcome will be more — but you can support the overhead of a small office, with the utilities and the marketing, because that’s what you would be doing. The difference is probably $2000 a month difference between a mini team at a brokerage for opening your own little boutique with mini team.

Teri: Pick one, yeah. I completely agree. It’s interesting. I know my buddy, Michael Thorne hosted — I can’t remember his name ever, meno brain, Steve something from REAL Trends? He wrote the book “Game Changers,” and he talks specifically about facilitators versus counselors, and about the trend of, obviously, we’re seeing more and more teams pop up, little power teams. 

It’s interesting to see where it’s all going, for sure. Back to Better Homes and Gardens, and you specifically, in your market. If anybody visits your site, it’s clear to see that you guys are doing something really different. It’s a completely different experience when we went on your site. You are heavily recruiting. I would say that’s a big touch point on the site. How are you working that angle, and how does that work for you?

Leighton: In January, I was talking with Josh, my partner. I decided my role this year was for the first time, we actually were going to do recruiting, as we hadn’t done it before. People came on board, and it just worked. We wanted to really accelerate that growth, so I put together a strategy. What I saw was after about five or six weeks of asking agents, “What do you want? What is it that you want?” What is it that an agent wants?

Teri: I love that you ask them.

Leighton: From that, that’s the easiest answer to what the strategy needs to be built around is what they say they want. Not trying to sell them on something you think they want. They just wanted training and support and tools and stuff like that. It was training, and it was resources, technology tools and stuff. 

Then leadership, of course, which is where the idea from the training program GENLIFE came from. That’s why I created it. I took the feedback I got from them and said, “If I was going to do it, this is how I would do it.” This was my, I guess, motto. So many brokerages out there that they’re going to interview with, all of them, say, “Our brokerage has training.” 

Teri: Yes.

Leighton: We don’t have training. We own a training/coaching company, GENLIFE. It’s its own thing, and we will sell this nationally. That’s what you get here. When they’re interviewing with us, and they go interview somewhere else, our training has its own image, its own presence, its own tax ID number. 

Our brokerage could go out of business, and GENLIFE would still be open. I built that with the strategy of saying, “This is a blueprint for you to succeed. This isn’t ‘Our brokerage has training.’ This is how you do it in today’s world.” That’s what they wanted. That’s what they told me they wanted. That’s why to date now, I’ve recruited – our company’s grown another 25 percent. We were at 25, and then we tripled to 75. I’ve already hired 28 more this year, and I didn’t start until March. 

Teri: That’s amazing.

Leighton: I took about 90 days to put this together. Then I’ve continued building it and things at work, but that’s what they want.

Teri: Yep, I agree.

Leighton: Then they get it when you encapsulate it with an image. Our brokerage has training.

Teri: I think you’ve touched on a really big point that’s been a personal pain point of mine, which is I believe for the new agents, I think our system is fundamentally broken. We spit out these new recruits. They’ve taken their licensing, but they have absolutely no idea how to run a business, how to market, how to sell, how to do anything that has anything to do with running a real estate business effectively. 

They all go with the right intention to make sure they’re “getting their training” at their brokerage when they interview, should they interview maybe more than one or two different brokerages in their market. Of course, they’re told they get training. They’re trusting that broker to know what training they actually even need. They don’t know. They don’t know what they don’t know. 

Leighton: That’s it.

Teri: It kills me to watch these poor people struggle when I think that so many of them would be so much more effective. To me, the broker has been so shortsighted, not to see that advantage to be offering really good training, to the point where look, let’s be honest. That agent, if they’ve come right out of licensing, are going to have no idea that it’s any different in any other brokerage. If you are giving them those tools and actually training them to be successful, that’s a profitable endeavor.

Leighton: Yeah. The main problem, I feel, is so many broker owners are exhausted, and they lack the skills to design something like that themselves. They’re either constantly fixing problems, or there’s no revenue, or they’re having to sell. When it comes to growing a brokerage, especially if it’s just them – I have the benefit of having the most amazing partner in the world. Our partnership, to this day, we’ve never even had an argument, because we know each other’s strengths. We’re yin and yang, and it works. We lean on each other where the other is stronger. We realize the power in that. I couldn’t do this without a partner. Point blank. I don’t know why anybody would open up a brokerage by themselves, because you immediately gave your life away.

Teri: Totally. That’s another passion of mine, is the idea of collaboration. I think that we are in this very collaborative world. The power of more people, this is why I do these, to stay in conversation and learn from other people. Trying to do everything yourself is just absolutely daunting and overwhelming. I think that’s another reason why I found brokerages really appealing to agents. 

We’ve heard this time and time again. They want support, they want systems, but more than that, they want that culture, and they want to feel like they belong somewhere, and that they have this experience of feeling valued and on purpose. I think when you create that experience inside a strong brokerage, like it sounds like you’ve done, I think that’s a profitable equation. Then put that package out all really nice and pretty, and suddenly, you’ve got a winning model. 

Leighton: Yep, and the more senses you involve, the easier they get the idea that you’re trying to explain. Giving it an image and a feel to it, and let it stand alone, really puts together, “I can benefit from that” in their mind, versus trying to figure out how to gauge between brokerages that all have training at their brokerage.

Teri: Absolutely.

Leighton: Because then you’re just taking somebody’s word for it.

Teri: That’s so true. It’s like dating. We’re asked to go and literally marry somebody without actually even having the slightest clue who they even are.

Leighton: They control the checking account.

Teri: Yeah.

Leighton: Because the agent can’t even receive money directly, it has to go straight to the broker. The state of Alabama, that is such a marriage, but it is so one-sided who’s in control. One side can screw it up royally, and the other side makes all the decisions. It’s crazy how they have it structured.

Teri: I don’t even know what to do with that. That’s huge. That’s a whole other conversation. This has been so interesting to. I’ve really had a great time digging in a little bit and getting to know you a little bit better. I’ve heard so many amazing things about you that this has been really fun. 

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I usually ask, on the heels of most my CTMs, a legacy question. This is something that’s really interesting to me. I’m really interested in knowing people on a little more deeper level. I’m going to ask you, you’re looking back over your lifetime, what are the things that matter most to you, and what is the legacy that you’d like to leave?

Leighton: I’ve said this a long time, and I don’t know really if I still know how to describe it, but ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a businessman. I didn’t want a backpack for school at the beginning of the year when we went school shopping. I wanted a briefcase and my books since I was in second grade. It was always a joke the family made. 

I’ve always wanted to do something big that made a difference. I’m not there yet, but I continue to strive, because it’s not about the money. If it was, I would be selling real estate versus owning; that’s for sure. The freedom that I have, and I’m lucky enough and and blessed enough to be in a position like this to where my mind can now go crazy and do whatever it wants and be creative. I think it’s headed that direction, to have the chance at least of accomplishing that mission of doing something big that matters, that helps others. 

Whatever I do, I want it to help people become better in themselves and continue after I’m there for sure. I would love for my children to be a part of that, if they would like, but if not, that’s fine too, as long as they are chasing their passions with every inch of passion they have.

Teri: I absolutely love that. Completely resonate with that. It seems certainly true to your character and everything I’ve heard about you. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love it. I absolutely love that. That’s inspiring. I’m just going to come and work with you, I think. 

Leighton: Well, come on down. You’ll love it down south.

Teri: I hear, I hear. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day, and we wish you all the best. I think you’re well on your way.

Leighton: Good deal. Thank you for having me.

Teri: Thank you so much.

Leighton: Alright.

  

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