Matt Beall, Hawaii Life & Worthshop 4! Aloha!

CTM post (26)

Matt Beall is a breath of fresh air in the real estate industry. He is about as down to earth as you can possibly be but equally as savvy! Matt is the Principle Broker/Owner of Hawaii Life Brokerage with 10 offices throughout the islands. He and his partners have grown their company to over 200 agents and staff and have captured our attention with his humble attitude and fresh perspective and sexy online marketing.  So much so that HGTV gave them their own show!  When you get a chance to hear Matt speak you’ll be immediately inspired and disarmed by his ‘Aloha charm’

Next month Matt will be hosting his 4th annual conference Worthshop ~ unlike any real estate conference ever before!

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 See! That’s DIFFERENT!

Matt and his crew approach the Worthshop conference in a very different way. Each year they have a theme. Last year it was ‘Simplicity’ and this year it’s ‘STAND’.

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The line up of thought leaders is incredible and its such an intimate group that the discussions are sure to be rich! Last year my mentor and dear friend Matthew Ferrara closed out the conference and wrote about his epic experience and insights he gathered here, and is one of the big reasons I simply had to attend this year! SO I’ll be heading to Maui next week and I’m sure I’ll be having MANY Conversations That Matter there with both Matts! (IN HAWAII!! Whoohoo!)

Announcer: You’re listening to Conversations that Matter with your host, Teri Conrad.

Teri: Hey everybody, this is Teri Conrad with Conversations that Matter, and I’m extremely honored to welcome my very special guest, Matt Beall, who is in Hawaii. Right off the bat, we’re super excited, because we’re talking to Hawaii. Matt Beall and I have known each other for a couple of years, and Matt is running Hawaii Life. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt: Aloha, thanks for having me.

Teri: Aloha, indeed. Thank you so much for being here. I’m extremely honored. I’ve been watching you from afar. I probably know more about you than you do about me. The truth is that I’ve seen you on a couple panels at Iman Connect. We have quite a few friends in common. You are now – “Hawaii Life” is now on HGTV. It has its own show, and big, exciting news. Worthshop Shop is your conference that you’re running in Maui. I believe it’s your fourth year.

Matt: Yes, fourth year, yeah.

Teri: Okay, so there’s a thousand things I want to talk about. Let’s start at the beginning. First of all, Matthew, who the hell are you, and how did you come to be involved with Hawaii Life?

Matt: Right? Who the hell am I? What do I know about anything? Let’s see. I started my real estate career in ’98, but I realized – I never put this all together, but I’m actually a third generation realtor.

Teri: Wow.

Matt: Yeah. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say, I don’t think many people grow up when they’re kids like, “I’m going to be a real estate agent!” but in Hawaii especially, on the neighbor islands, there’s not a lot of industry. There’s just not a lot of – there’s basically agriculture, there’s military, and there’s tourism, hospitality, and real estate. And support industries, but that’s banking, my wife’s an attorney, that kind of stuff.

I came up in the hospitality industry. My first real job here was a food and beverage manager for a big resort. I was very young, and I had no idea what I was doing. That’s the nature of the work, is that if you can work, and you’ve got a work ethic, it’s like, “Here you go, go!” I had success at it, but it’s an enormous amount of work, and I just completely burn out.

A lot of my friends in the hospitality industry were going into timeshare. Especially here on Kauai, the timeshare industry’s very big. There are people that do very, very well. I got about halfway through my licensing course and I realized, “I am not going to succeed at time share.”

First of all, especially then, this is 20 years ago or so, I don’t really like being told what to do. I also am a good salesperson, but I very, very strongly then, and still now, identify with being a maverick. I was the kid that got the math problem done but didn’t show his work. In timeshare, the sales structure in most places is very hierarchical and there’s a leader board and the guy at the bottom is getting threatened to lose his job.

Teri: They have a lot of that here in Whistler. It’s the same thing. It’s the hard push, the hard sell.

Matt: Right. I think I didn’t know what it was. It was like, “Wow, that sounds cool. You can make a lot of money!” Then I got into it, I’m like, “Wait, what?” Now I had this license. I went out to dinner that night, actually, at a sushi bar. I sat at the sushi bar with my friends, celebrating I passed the test, and this woman sitting next to me, she says, “You should go talk to this company. They just opened their doors. I’m sure they’re looking for agents.” I did.

Literally green as green could be, I knew nothing, I just walked in off the street and started talking. I didn’t do a bit of due diligence. I didn’t call anybody. I just was like, “Great, I’ll start working here!” Ironically, it’s literally across the way from our headquarters now. I could throw a baseball and hit the office that I started working in in 1998.

Teri: Wow.

Matt: I since moved all around and come back to this location where we are. Yeah, I had a pretty good sales career out of the gate. I was hustling and really, really working, and did a lot of open house and a lot of floor time and a lot of buy-side business, like I think most people in resort markets probably end up doing.

Then I was recruited away to a big franchise to be a broker in charge. At the time, we were the largest company on the island. It was a Century 21 franchise. Then I had a couple of big developments. This is now 2002, I think. In Hawaii, at the time, you had to have your sales license for three years before you could be a broker.

Teri: Right, yeah. Typical.

Matt: I then got into, quote, “leadership and management.” Same thing, I was very green in that realm. I didn’t quite understand – I didn’t have any distinctions at all for different brokerage business models. I just was like, “Sure, I can coach people how to sell stuff. Yeah.” Hired a lot of people. “Bring them in them in the door!” Exactly, yeah. I didn’t know any different.

Then, about 2001, I started getting into, basically, personal investing. The weird property that needed something, but people that maybe live on the mainland couldn’t quite deal with, or just random things. Then I got into it, because I was making really good buys and picking off good things. Then I got into condo developments and foreclosures and just the worst – drug houses and partition sales, and all this stuff that was just really, really complicated. Then I for a while had my own crew, I had a full construction crew.

Teri: Wow.

Matt: I did a lot of different stuff, everything from estates to condominium developments to weird agricultural farm properties, water systems, foreclosures, all this stuff. I did a lot of units, close to 30 units, before 2007, when I had this very, very graceful exit from the market. I knew that the market was going to turn, I just didn’t – I don’t think any of us knew that the credit would evaporate, and that what happened happened.

Teri: Right.

Matt: Along the way, just for time reasons, I stopped being the broker in charge and went back into residential sales. I went to work for a little boutique firm that Hawaii Life has since acquired, that was a high-end firm. Then I left there because it didn’t have the breadth enough to sell my product, and I was very much eager to divest, because I knew the market would turn.

I met my current partners in that whole process, because they did design and marketing for real estate companies. When I was in this little boutique firm, they were the brand builders for that firm. I was this young, scrappy, like “I know everything about brand and design!” Of course, I knew nothing, but I’m a real estate agent, so I’m a genius.

I’m trying to tell them, “That’s a horrible idea, and you should do this.” They were just like, “Look, this is what we do. Shut up.” I wasn’t the owner of that company, so I just had to go along for the ride. I watched, over the years, how successful they were, and how they really did build a brand and how it stuck, and how the decisions that I maybe was at the table for, but I didn’t have any authority on, that I wouldn’t have done, things that I would not have done, they did, and they were the right decisions.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: I just didn’t know anything about brand or design or marketing or messaging or any of that stuff, but I’m a real estate agent, and I’ve been duped into believe that of course I can do everything, right? Of course I know. We ended up developing a friendship. While I was on this path to get all my property sold, they, I think, as the market was running up, got frustrated with their clients. They had four real estate clients, brokerages, and they were very adamant that you had to get online and get online quick. I think objectively, they saw the industry moving towards the internet with a lot of velocity.

The problem then was that we were all so busy, and frankly, I think we were all doing so much business that it was like – I call it fooled by randomness. “I’ve got a website, I’m doing fine.” I think they related to it like you might if a magazine came to you and said, “Hey, you should run a spread this month instead of a single page.” It’s like, “I’m sure you think I should.”

They were being really authentic. They were saying, “Hey, look, if you’re our client, we know that if you’re going to do SEO and user interface and content and all that stuff, it’s a long haul, and you’ve got to start now. You can’t just wake up one morning and write a check and then be number one in Google. It doesn’t work that way.

Teri: Which is a hard sell for some people. They can’t wrap their heads around this is an endurance race, not a sprint.

Matt: Right. Especially in 2005 and 2006, right, when everyone’s just a genius.

Teri: Yes.

Matt: Long story short – long story long, I had this – they started Hawaii Life, or the early seedling of Hawaii Life, as a website. They were running it like a referral model. They had a friend of theirs who, ironically, was a timeshare broker. He had his broker’s license, but he knew nothing about residential sales so that they could collect a commission. They were basically selling leads, for lack of a better —

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: He was literally one of those guys, like, “Hey, would you like – ” He’s calling the big island or Oahu or whatever, “Would you like a lead?” They did okay, but along the way, they were gaining a lot of traffic. They had built a great interface. It was like a public service, but they weren’t quite leveraging it.

At the time, they had these little featured property windows. I knew how much traffic they were getting, and I was paying them to put my stuff in those windows, like the houses that I owned that I needed to sell. It was stupidly successful. I was selling stuff that frankly should not have sold for that price. It was selling quickly and there was a lot of traffic, at a time – this its now, it’s like 2006, 2007, where you’re starting to get a little concerned. By ’07, it was like, “What’s going on here? This is concerning?” Still, I’m selling primo stuff, top of the market, doing good.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: I’m starting to see, “Okay, this has got some legs here.” I sell out of all my inventory, and I’m super gracious, because I could so easily now, in hindsight, be completely bankrupt. I’m now this practicing broker with 20, 25 listings of people who, along the way, ridden the market up in an investment market. I’m looking around, and this firm that I’m in is basically trying to recruit their way back to 2004 or 2005. Like if we just go get enough people, we can get our sales volume back up.

I go to the sales meeting, and I’ve got my new listing flyer, and I’m ready to give my rap about, “Hey guys, this is this place, and let’s get it sold.” The entire meeting is taken up with recruitment pitches, and frankly, just a bunch of crap. They’re just on a burning bus with no brakes, going downhill off a cliff. I just realized, “This is not going to get it done.”

Teri: Right.

Matt: I felt beholden – these people have been my clients for years. I knew I needed to make a change. At about the same time, I started looking around. My partners had a competitor, for lack of a better word, a competitor for traffic, really, who offered to buy the site. They were losing money, and they didn’t really know what to do with this thing that they had built. We were friends, and they brought it to me like, “Hey, what do you think of this? This guy wants to buy us. What do you think we should do?”

I’m talking with them like, “Where should I go? Who’s the firm? I’ve got to do some business here.” I’m looking at this offer, and I’m looking at their traffic and their sales and their leads and all that stuff, and I’m like, “It’s so strange.” This guy that was trying to buy them did the same thing, it was a referral site. At the time, they had all the traffic and they had all of the leads and everything. They were really coming on strong. I said, “It’s really bizarre.” They were based on another island. I said, “It’s so strange that here you are. You’re number one in Google, basically, but you don’t take listings.” I don’t get that. Who would do that? To me, as an owner and as a listing agent, where do I sign?

Teri: That’s the goal, yeah.

Matt: How do I get number one in Google? Then, as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was like, “Wait a minute,” that ta’da moment. Wait. That’s it, in a nutshell. We made it a residential brokerage, me and one agent, and then a few to follow. Mostly, they were people that were fleeing their companies. They weren’t coming to Hawaii Life because we were Hawaii Life. They were just, were not wherever they were.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: There was so much more willingness, at the time, to loosen to an alternative, because things were just sucking wind.

Teri: When you presented an alternative, what were you presenting?

Matt: Fortunately for us, we were presenting results. We were presenting data and metrics and conversion rates and leads and the basic sales funnel. Not drawn on a sketchpad. “No, dude, here’s the traffic and here’s the inquiries and here’s the leads and here are the sales.” Very spelled out. Most sellers, at that time, were like, “Great, I’ll take it. How do I get it.” It was so literal, and no one had seen anything like that. Not in our market. We just kept parlaying that and parlaying it.

As we grew, we, I think, created a culture that was collaborative enough to let the – because we were doing everything in house, to let the good ideas really bubble to the top. We had our own engineers and our own creative people. We all literally ate at the same table. The only money that we still make is commission money, that’s it. We don’t do anything else. If we don’t sell, we don’t eat, kind of thing. Everything that we do is given by how to basically sell the properties we are hired to sell.

Teri: How do you explain, what is the radical difference between you and the other models? Clearly, I’m talking to you, I’m aware of you, how you showcase and how you present online, digitally, very beautiful. I met one of your engineers in New York last year, actually. I’m sorry, I can’t remember his name —

Matt: Justin.

Teri: Justin.

Matt: Justin, correct.

Teri: He was awesome, and clearly very, very focused on back-end stuff.

Matt: Yeah.

Teri: I feel like the average brokerage, obviously – and again, totally different market. Sexy Hawaii is going to outshine other markets, so completely different proposition. At the same time, doing something very, very well, which is what, exactly?

Matt: Of course it’s changed in the six plus years that we’ve done it. The culture and the expression of it has taken a life of its own. I think, to your point, what we were doing is going after organic search traffic and basically then converting it, right? Being very transparent about all of that processes. “Here’s our traffic compared to our competitor. This is how we get that traffic. This is what we do with it. This is how we market. This is the size of our database. Here’s how these people have raised their hands and said, ‘Hey, I want real estate information.'”

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: Then over time, that’s evolved into, for example, we now run a pretty robust customer service system. At first, it was like, “Just give the lead to the agent. No, close it.” It’s like okay, well, that’s fine until you have thousands and thousands of leads, and because of the show, a lot of them now are like, “Hey, what’s your favorite island?” When you’re a hustling listing agent, you can’t stop and talk to people about what’s going on with the lava flow on the big island. It’s sweet. From a brand perspective, you want to love on those people, but you just have to put structure in place for who does that loving.

The reason I’m telling that story is one of the things we’ve implemented, to your question, is we run a really, really robust live chat. We can dial that service on and off according to the traffic, or according to the user’s search patterns. For example, if you come in to the site and you’re behaving like people we know have bought property, then we can offer you live chat. It’s not like we’re chiming in like, “Hey, how can we —” If you then say, “Hey, I’m looking for blah blah blah,” now we’re talking.

Developing that relationship and really just providing service for them, I think, is part of the whole user interface that we started with from the beginning, which was we aggregated all the MLS’s, we showed all the listings in the state, we showed as much data as we could in a way that was soft, meaning we tried as hard as we could not to get hooky. We never did forced registration. We never did really strong sales pitches. We had, early on, before reps, before the universal language, or supposedly universal language, for data feeds came out, we were running two feeds.

One of them, a BFTP feed, had 6 photos, and then one of them had 25 photos. For the sake of speed, we tricked the system to show you the first 6 photos, but then – and it was a psychological thing, the reason we did this – then, if you wanted to see more, you had to log in. Our thought wasn’t, “Let’s get an email address and let’s get a lead.” Our thought was, “If you’re willing to log in you’ll wait for a second,” because if we load all 25 photos right out of the gate, we’d get a huge bounce rate.

Teri: Got you.

Matt: People would be like, “Why am I watching this wheel spin?” Whereas just, “Here’s six,” is no problem.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: Then we learned, “Hey, that’s a great resource.” It became this thing like, “Technically, it’s not forced registration, but you make me register.” I’ll tell you, that taught us a lot about user interface. We were able to combine the culture of transparency, and really creating trust with the user, and doing it in a way that’s very obvious that, “Hey, we are a real estate company, and we want to help you.” It worked.

Teri: I have a bunch of questions.

Matt: Sure.

Teri: One is what’s the strategy moving forward now that Vinzilo [ph] is clearly the search engine? I don’t understand – you’re talking language that is way above my head for the most part, but I understand the importance of being discovered. I know Boomtown is another site that’s really SEO and generating leads. I know there’s these types of platforms, and how important is that? Then there’s this whole, “How much of your traffic is coming from outside of Hawaii?” The international shopper, and providing that customer experience to the internet – I don’t even know what my question even is.

Matt: Of course, it’s all changed, right?

Teri: Right.

Matt: Zillow, that’s a great example, where now – I posted something recently where I was complaining, this was five years ago, I was complaining  – I think Gary Keller started it, where he was saying, “Why are we calling them internet consumers? They’re just people.”

Teri: They’re people consuming.

Matt: Surprise! The [0:22:38] this year, and it’s probably going to stick. It’s the same thing, where that value proposition is – also because of the market, it has changed a lot. It’s harder to say, “Yeah, we’re number one on Google.” It still matters. I think the portal conversation is decent, but to me, I still relate to that like a service. It’s the modern classified ads. I think because most of our traffic was generated organically, that commitment hasn’t changed. What that looks like for us is like, Zillow doesn’t live here.

I love Zillow, and we want to be in the classified section for sure. We’re trying to sell properties, but the user is going to get way more information chatting with my guy Mike about, “How far away is the store?” or “What is the real – ” than he is going to go to Zillow and look at his estimate. It’s good data. It’s all good stuff, but I think Zillow’s way out there on the wide mouth of the funnel, and we’re the guys on the ground.

Teri: I call that the context.

Matt: Right.

Teri: Right. You actually know the neighborhoods, know the properties, know the market, etcetera.

Matt: Yeah.

Teri: That’s where it becomes so much more valuable.

Matt: The truth is, I think Zillow would tell you the same thing.

Teri: I think that’s true.

Matt: Unfortunately, it sure seems like there’s a lot of misunderstood roles. They get collapsed around all the portals. I even look back at when we started. Granted, we’re a little unique because we started taking advantage, I guess, of the emptiness, of what wasn’t there. As a home seller, had Zillow been around as robustly as they are now in 2007, 2008, I think a lot of people would have been a lot better off.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: You just couldn’t get that kind of clarity.

Teri: Right.

Matt: There still was these notions of – in fact, I even think forced registration is the same thing. It’s one thing to to set yourself up to only deal with the people that you think are serious, but there’s also this quality of – you see it with a lot of developers. They try and pretend like the other product doesn’t exist. It’s like, “Dude, it’s 2014. I can find everything I want in 30 seconds on my phone. You’re going to pretend like the building that’s going up across the street isn’t there and isn’t for sale?” It’s so silly. You see that mentality all the time. It’s like, “Okay, I guess we’ll go along with that.”

Teri: Here’s what’s interesting. This is why I reached out to you; ne of the reasons I reached out to you. I’ve been to a million conferences, and I think the first time I heard you speak, can’t remember if it  was Inman Connect San Francisco, I think it might have been.

Matt: I’m scared.

Teri: You were on the state and you were in your Hawaiian shirt and your flip flops. It was evident that what you guys were doing was really epic and big and game changing, but you remained extremely humble and grounded. You’re like, “Hey, this is what we’re doing. We’re not telling the world to follow what we do, but here’s how we do it.” You resonated as one of the most grounded, real people that we’d heard in a good long time, who clearly were doing things very differently and in a really innovative, creative way.

Having said that, Dave Crumby wrote that book, and he reached out to a bunch of his friends and said, “Hey, give me – “

Matt: Yeah, “Real.”

Teri: “Give me your best advice” – “Real.” Of course, I’m reading that book, “Real,” and there’s Matt Beall. He’s saying, “Don’t believe anything anybody tells you.” Talk to me a little bit about your philosophy around that.

Matt: It’s tough, because —

Teri: You said you were a maverick. You did say that.

Matt: Yeah, and that’s in or outside of the industry, I think that’s just a personality trait. It’s no secret that there’s an enormous amount of “How to” information that comes from the outside into real estate. The other problem is the other side of that coin is that realtors seem to have this thing, where they just – unless you’ve been in the trenches, then you’re not worth anything, or your information doesn’t mean anything. Also, there’s the old adage of, “The salespeople are the easiest people to sell to.” All of this, this world of information.

It’s like a pseudo industry that exists parallel to the real estate industry that is selling them how-to information. The latest app you should download, the whatever. I know my story is tongue-in-cheek, about don’t believe anything anybody says, but the idea is that you have to start with some level of discernment. You have to know that where you are and who you are is the most important information you have, and that yeah, it’s awesome to go to a conference and to learn best practices and all of that stuff, but – and I’m not being an advocate for gross provincialism and this whole notion of, “Yeah, but we do it differently in such-and-such county!” It’s like, not really.

There is a quality to just not taking lock, stock and barrel that “outside in” advice from who knows where, and just applying it and saying, “I’m going to do this, and this is how it’s going to work, or else.” It’s just mostly, I think, because we started in the heart of a really challenging financial time for a lot of people, and especially in an investment resort market, so people are just getting hammered. We started with no money. In fact, in debt. With, I’ll call it, a little bit of a millennial, tech-y culture. We’ve always been really, really nimble, and really focused on the current moment and the current circumstances, and how to deal with those circumstances.

I think one of the mistakes that I see a lot of is people getting – well, first of all, there’s this addiction to knowing stuff.

Teri: I’m guilty. I want to know what’s going on, I want to be in the know, I want to be in the middle of the action. I’m so that girl. Yeah.

Matt: It’s also like my wife, I was telling you, we went to NAR, the conference. I grew up in Georgia, so I thought, “We’re going to New Orleans, I’ll go see my mom and my brother. ” We made a trip out of it, and I got my wife to go. My wife knows about work travel and conferences. She’s like, “Aww.” She said, “Can we limit the conference creep. I thought, “Oh, that’s a great term.”

Teri: That is good.

Matt: It’s so cool. She gets it. That’s what it is. It’s like all this stuff that just creeps in. It’s one thing to know it and to be aware of it, but it’s a totally different thing to integrate it, and to actually beat it and put it in play. I think that’s where the disconnect comes in a lot. For me, my point about that joking story of burn this book or don’t believe anybody, is chances are, if you just pay attention at the consumer level and in your market and for who you are, you’ll know where to go and what to do. It’ll be pretty obvious. If you start second guessing that and overlaying all this, “This top producer in Ontario says I should get my systems together and take it to the next level.” There’s just a lot of crap in that.

I see, because we’re all driven salespeople, it’s that bright, shiny object syndrome. “We should do this! We should have glow-in-the-dark for sale signs!” At the end, its’ like, “Maybe we should just call our client.”

Teri: I think everyone should just put on a pair of flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt. Then my market will go crazy. While we’re on the subject of conferences creeping in, since we don’t believe in letting conferences creeping in, we’ve gone and we’ve started our own conference.

Matt: Exactly. That’s the thing. It’s like we were fortunate enough, early on, to be invited to be on a panel in Inman, or a luxury portfolio, or Leading Re, these really, really great events. They have their own challenges when you’re trying to appeal to thousands and thousands and thousands of people and make that content relevant, and even give them channels.

Teri: In multiple markets, yeah.

Matt: That’s right. Give them channels so that the brokers or the agents can find their way, and find what’s meaningful to them. Like any conference, you go and there’s a lot of junk, but then there’s the one or two people that you think, “Okay, that guy just rocked my world.” That’s legit.

For me, and this is just for me, I had a great conversation with Matt Farrar about this, like he’s prone to do – had a light bulb go off for me. I’m really drawn to the people that change the context. They get me thinking differently. It’s not like going to a sales seminar and having someone say, “Hey, you should try this script when you’re negotiating with a seller for your commission.” I’m not pooh-poohing that or saying that stuff isn’t valid, I’m just saying that I’m totally capable of grokking all that stuff and applying what’s relevant to me pretty quickly, like that menu stuff. It doesn’t show up like I need a lot of help with that.

What I need help with is really challenging notions that I’ve thought to be hard or fixed or permanent, or ways of doing business that I never knew existed. I want to go after the stuff that I don’t know that I don’t know.

Teri: Right.

Matt: Long story short, I had this idea. In Hawaii, we don’t really have conferences, and we’re 2,000 miles from anywhere. There’s a benefit to that, in a way, too, where innovation happens out here on the fringes. The problem is, you don’t really get to see what’s trending, what everyone’s talking about and all that.

I had this brilliant idea of, “Hey, we should get that guy to come speak to our crew.” I’m investing in looking at that and seeing how it works. I realized, “Wow, that is really expensive.” In classic Hawaii life style, there’s no reason we should make it proprietary, so let’s just open it up to the public. That’s weird. It’s a real estate company that’s having a conference and then inviting the competition. Right away it’s like, “Hey, this is a recruitment thing. What’s the agenda?”

Teri: Right.

Matt: It’s like, “Our agenda is, this guy costs a lot of money.

Teri: Yeah, we’re covering our costs.

Matt: Also, too, I think, we realize that it’s that simple; I put a post up in the Worthshop blog about it. Just the rising tide syndrome. We won one of these business growth awards. We were the third fastest growing company in Hawaii. When we went to the banquet for it, there was a guy who does kimchi and packaged foods, all sorts of local – soy sauce, and all this stuff.  He was telling this story about when he sends his distributors out into the field to these various grocery markets, he has them line the entire row.

He puts kimchi on the shelf and he makes it pretty, and then he takes all of his competitors and he makes all their stuff pretty, too. He said, “The reason I do that is that I want all of kimchi to look good. I want the consumer to feel good about buying that product, in general, that thing in general, and then let them discern the little distinctions about brand, and this guy does this and that does that.'” He straightened all the shelf.

I was so moved by that. I thought, that’s actually one of the big benefits of these conferences, is that when you get that, even if it’s a small percentage, and everyone hears it, especially if you’re all in one market, there’s this very lifting quality to that, where if it’s good content, it’ll really impact the way we all cooperate and compete.

That was the genesis of it. It was weird then, and it still is weird now, but the cool thing is that it’s got a life of its own. Just like Hawaii Life, it’s taken this little seed of an idea – it started as a half day event, and then it was a whole day, and now it’s two days, and really now it’s three days. It’s become this very, very cool – it’s even transcending real estate. Of the 20 plus speakers we have, there’s only two things that are really inside real estate.

It’s not that they leave it, but it’s a lot of, this year’s a lot of production, a lot of agency, and a lot of media and authenticity and messaging. It’s cool stuff. It’s really cool stuff.

Teri: Honey, you have no idea how excited I am to come to this conference. We had discussed this earlier, but Matthew Farrar was the one who told me, after last years experience, when he was asked to wrap the whole conference. As he was expressing to me his experience, and how it even took him out of his comfort zone and stretched him. He wrote a blog post about it, and he’s been talking about it ever since. I’m just like, “I have got to be there next year.

Matt: He’s going to be a very tough act to follow, even for himself. I’ll say that. He hit it out of the park. I’m still reminded of that talk. That’s so rare. That’s like I’m saying. I went through a period in my life where I did every meditation, every workshop, every diet, everything I could get my hands on. There’s a trend that happened to where you get into it, you have some insights, you make a change, you have some experience. It starts to fade Then it’s like, “Oh, I did that thing.”

Teri: Totally.

Matt: Every now and then, you get one that really radically impacts who you are, and it’s not a thing that you know. It’s like something that changes you, whether it gives you access to something, or whatever it is. His talk was that last year.

Teri: Right, but from what I understand, and having seen the site and having – okay, so let’s set the stage for what Worthshop is. Yes, of course we’re promoting this, but there’s a reason we’re promoting it. It’s because when I go and I look at the website, and the reason that I’m going in the first place is it’s like, “Holy crap, this is different.”

Matt: Yeah.

Teri: Right off the bat, you have a theme, and it’s based on a value.

Matt: Right, right.

Teri: This year, it’s stand. In other words, what do you stand for? By the way, at the end of this discussion, I will be asking you, “What is your legacy, and what is most meaningful to you?” That’s what I’m all about.

Matt: I should start writing.

Teri: Yeah, you should be thinking about that as we go. The fact that you’ve created a conference around a theme called “stand,’ there’s nothing like that out there, obviously. Who’s behind the thinking there?

Matt: Me. We rattled around a bunch of different themes. Last year was a little more direct. It was “simplicity.”

Teri: Love that, too.

Matt: Yeah, really obvious, but not easy. It was a great, true theme to be a chord throughout the event. Some of it we went right and could say, “Okay look, this is what we’re talking about.” Some of it was more of like, “Hey, when you start really distilling down your messaging, or whatever you’re talking about, it’s not easy. It’s so powerful, and here’s why, and here are your results.

Teri: I think Jessica Swesey just wrote an article from 1000 Watt, and it just came out this week, around that exact idea. Around getting super simple and peeling away the nonsense and, knowing your messaging and how important that actually is. I think that’s huge.

Matt: My partner Winston’s our creative director. He presented last year, and he was sharing about some of the stuff that we see internally in our own firm, and the cost of not being simple. One of the things that he put up was one of our own agent’s email signatures, which it was half a page. It’s just this massive thing.

We all know people who are guilty of this, but I go back to timeshare. If you need that long to sell me something, should I be concerned? You know what I mean?

Teri: Yeah.

Matt: How many designations do you really need? I get it, you have – he was really dialing it in. He had all these make-believe designations he was doing. He did a mock one. That’s an example of a real, practical, real-world thing of just letting stuff get way out of hand. Then also looking at the cost of it, of how someone might interact with it. No one’s going to call you and say, “Hey, I was going to work with you, but when I read your email signature, I was so turned off.” You know what I mean?

Teri: Yep.

Matt: Yeah, “stand” is – in this conversation I’ll share about it. It’s a little more intimate than I think I can really bring up on the stage or for all the attendees. The real simple, obvious one is, I wrote a post about it, about how every business and every person, whether it’s at the genesis of the business or somewhere along the way, you get flat about the reality that there is a purpose there, and there is some meaning behind whatever it is you’re doing, whether you’re providing a service, whatever it is. Whether it comes to you and you discover it that way, or you generate it and create it for yourself, and then that’s what you’re doing, it’s not just profit or just business for business sake.

Of course there are businesses like that, but I think especially in real estate, it’s one where – you just can’t do this business without having that purpose come at you and be very relevant. One of the ways that I talked about it is you’re helping people, free people, trade massively valuable things, massive amounts of money, or these homes.

Along the way, you become their family member, their consultant, their therapist, their dog-watcher, their cleaner, all these things. There’s no way that you can’t be impacted by that. Whether or not you caused for yourself this true meaning, and why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s such an intense experience that it clearly becomes more than just pay for service. I think sometimes we don’t define that very well in our industry.

One of the things that I was really getting present to in my addiction to knowing, over the course of this year, is all of these, frankly, defensive takes on the industry itself. People inside the industry either shaming each other or just overtly defending their career. Something as simple as “Top Ten Things That You Should Know Before you Get Your License,” or “What Your Broker Never Tells You.” This kind of stuff. Built into that is, frankly, this victim-y – and I’m not talking about any given post, I’m just talking about the trend. It’s this victim-y, woe-is-us industry. Like, “No one knows how hard it is!”

Teri: It is really hard, Matt.

Matt: Yes. I totally agree with that. I have a friend who’s a brain surgeon.

Teri: That would be harder, probably.

Matt: I don’t see those guys writing blog posts about how no one really knows how hard being a brain surgeon is, or like, “I did 40 today.” My point is that because – I think in real estate, there’s a lot of different influences. I have all sorts of theories about this. Again, it’s super hard to generalize. There is a inferiority complex.

Teri: Totally.

Matt: We do it to each other. We perpetuate that story. It’s unfortunate, because the truth is what we do is actually pretty freaking heroic. It matters so much to people. It’s one of those things where – and look, I’ve talked to a lot of venture guys. I know everyone’s fear is Zillow. I know that like, “In ten years, the realtor won’t exist,” and blah, blah, blah. Part of me says, “Bring that on. Let’s see how well that goes.” My partner Justin, he’s one of those guys. He’s one of those, “We’ve got to just fix it, and get it solved.” He sold his own house. He’s like, just assuming that we all help him.

I’m not kidding. He comes into my office one day with a buyer on speakerphone, and he’s like, “Tell this guy!” He had a sliding door that he didn’t know wasn’t permitted, so it screwed up his appraisal. Someone had to go down to the county and get the permit solved and do an after-the-fact thing so that the appraisal could get fixed. This VA loan, he had funding, but we couldn’t tell anybody. It just was the perfect storm. What no one seems to understand is that this is what we do all day.

Teri: All the time.

Matt: Yeah, it’s totally normal. Surprise, you need a human being to –

Teri: Get shit done.

Matt: 1. Hold everyone’s hand and calm everyone down, and 2. Actually go down and do the work. I’m sorry, but Zillow’s not going to talk to the guy at the county. That’s just not happening.

Teri: Frankly, they’re not interested in doing that.

Matt: Then what ends up happening is, where does that externalization show up? It’s not that much different than —I have to call Hawaiian airlines to change a flight in a minute. They’re going to put me on hold. I’m going to be oh hold for 15, 20 minutes. That’s their way of saying that —

Teri: You could dial right now if you want.

Matt: Yeah, right. Like their time is more important than mine. I’m not picking on them, I’m just saying – I love Hawaiian Airlines, by the way, but anyone, it’s the same thing. If you externalize that going down to the county, or holding hands, to the consumer, you didn’t make real estate easier. That’s not the latte vision, right? That’s making it way freaking harder. That’s why I think these are the components that we  need to really own.

All of that therapist, cleaner, hand holder, counselor, professional document guy, that’s the stuff that we get to stand on. Really get to claim, and be like, “Hey, this is legit liaison to freedom.” I know those are huge words, but really, if you think about it, it’s not that far off. There’s not a realtor out there that doesn’t have that story for their client that so obviously changed their lives

Teri: Liaison to freedom. That’s tweetable, for sure.

Matt: It’s so hard to be with, because it is so hard and all of that.

Teri: Agreed. I think the average agent living independently and isolated, maybe the woe-is-me comes into play. Again, I’ve been guilty of that myself.

Matt: For sure, me too. Me too. I had a woman I work with for a long time who helped me in all sorts of ways, and was doing, for a while, office escrow work and stuff. One day, my pipeline was drying up, and I was like, “Wow, I’m starting to get really concerned. I’m wondering where the next deal’s coming from.” She gave me this look like I was just being an idiot. I was like, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “Haven’t you been in business for ten years? Isn’t it just obvious, you’re going to do another deal? Isn’t that just so silly.” I thought –

Teri: So true

Matt: It’s so dumb. To me, I’m like, well that’s right. I think this is the irony, is that everyone goes through that. There’s such a disconnect from the way that we’re paid that unfortunately, it fosters that belief.

Teri: I agree.

Matt: I see a lot, with people who are mid-career or new to the industry, where it’s hard for them to reconcile, maybe not the mountain, but the money/no money thing, where they get this check, but they’re not putting that in perspective of all the work they did to get there.

Teri: Right.

Matt: It goes back to the value proposition, too. You get into service conversations with these clients about what it is that you do, and “Why should I pay you for blah, blah, blah.” It’s like, talk about client development, I’ve known that guy for 15 years.

Teri: Wow.

Matt: How do you put a price tag on that? I don’t know.

Teri: I talk about transactional thinking quite a lot, because I think in our industry, we’re very guilty for being so focused on this one deal or this one moment versus the long haul. You just exactly encapsulated my thinking, which is, this is something that builds. As you develop your career, you can amp it up, because all those deals an relationships that you’ve established back here are going to start now paying off up here.

Matt: That’s right.

Teri: I know you can’t actually qualify it or quantify it, but at the same time, basic sensicality tells you, “This is what’s going to happen,” right? The momentum builds.

Matt: Right, and in the same way, yes, you’re compensated on a per transaction basis, but in order to do that transaction, there’s innumerable stupidities that you have to go through to even get to that place. It’s that disconnect that I see going on so much, where people think that, “Oh, I did this one deal and I got paid,” and everything else is dark. It’s like, “No, it doesn’t work like that. It’s all one big package.

Teri: Yep.

Matt: I think somehow, that compensation disconnection plays into, frankly, that either not standing or that inferiority, in a way. I don’t quite understand that disconnect, but I see it. I don’t know if it’s just people not quite owning the service they provide. I see that a fair bit.

I had a really interesting conversation where I had this epiphany that – everyone says, and I see this in my own firm and my own practice, that your client follow-up is the big, we call it a “puka” in Hawaii. It’s the big, gaping hole. It’s the one thing that people just don’t do.

Teri: They drop the ball.

Matt: If you think about it, I think these things are related. I really do. I think the shiny object syndrome and the inferiority complex and the disconnection around compensation and the owning who we are and what we do and that valued purpose, those things are related. I think that the reason you can’t pick up the phone and call your client that you just sold a house to 30 days ago and say, “Hey, I’m just checking in. Did you guys get moved in okay? How are the kids? How’s your house? Do you have everything you need? Is there a vendor I can – what’s going on?” The reason you don’t do that is because you’re afraid that that guy’s going to say, “Hey, you know what? I don’t like this house, and I don’t like you, and I don’t like the way it went.” Which, of course, is a totally rational fear. Even if he is going to say that, it’s still better that you call, right? Because it’s way worse if it goes undealt with.

Teri: Yep.

Matt: What happens? We don’t call. Then we hope that we’ll meet somebody brand new that we don’t have that background with, that we don’t have to worry about the shame of this interaction, right?

Teri: Right.

Matt: That’s what it is. It’s this totally stupid, toxic shame that has nothing to do with reality, that keeps us from just picking up the phone and calling the people who probably will give us more business.

Teri: Right.

Matt: Instead, we want the new app, where a shiny message will appear, and, “Hey, look, business!” It’s so bizarre. You start looking at the cost of generating a lead, for example, which is something we spend a lot of time on. You think about how infinitely cheaper it is to just make that phone call.

Teri: You had actually reached out to me a while ago to talk to Brian Solis about coming to Worthshop; that was a couple years ago, He talked relentlessly about retention versus acquisition, and what is that value.

Matt: Huge.

Teri: It’s an interesting topic. It is an interesting topic. I think a lot of people in a lot of different verticals struggle with that, to be honest.

Matt: Yeah. I don’t think that’s just real estate. I do think that there is that correlation there between our inability to own that value and that stand and why we don’t call.

Teri: That stand. Alright, I think we should wrap it there. By the way, I will be there for a good solid week, and I’m really hoping to have some quality time alone with you, because It think this will be —

Matt: Awesome. When do you get in?

Teri: I’ll be there from the 8th to the 15th.

Matt: Oh, perfect. Okay, so you saw we added the concert on the night of the 10th.

Teri: Let’s go over quickly, before I let you go, who are the most amazing people that are coming to this conference? Let’s run it down, because there are some epic, epic stars.

Matt: First of all, just to give you the background, it’s a not-for-profit event, right? We give the proceeds to a charity. This was a cool thing, because it keeps the focus on the content. Last year, I felt like any of the speakers could have carried an entire event. I think that’s true this year. We’ve gotten even more heady. It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how it all plays out. Bob Hoffman is coming, and he did “The Golden Age of Bullshit.”

Teri: Saw it.

Matt: He’s going to do a version of that for us. He’s just an absolute genius.

Teri: Advertising guy.

Matt: Yeah.

Teri: Yeah.

Matt: He’s just so flat about everything. He’s just, “Hey look, that’s crazy. Here’s what the truth is.”

Teri: Yeah, awesome.

Matt: We have a woman named Judy Robinett, who wrote a book recently about being a power connector. Super distilled; it’s about networking, but I’ll tell you, when you talk with her, you realize that this woman is – she has [0:58:00] human resources, in terms of a network or your client database in a way that is so profound. It’s super simple, but it’s like, “Oh, right. Yeah, I never thought of that.” She just keeps hammering it, and she really brings it down to this essence that’s like, you can’t deny it. It’s cool talking to her.

Teri: Awesome.

Matt: Then we start getting into production and media. We have the senior vice president from the scripts network, so HGTV, talking about authenticity and media, and how HGTV has won its clients over with this interaction engagement. They do really, really well with their advertisers, because of the authenticity of the content.

Teri: Interesting.

Matt: Which is a really unique thing, if you think about it. Then I think she was the first Harvard Business professor, Anita Elberse, who wrote a book about blockbusters in sports and entertainment. You’ve got to read it, because it’s so – she could’ve written it about real estate. It’s all about how a big movie production company would rather go after the next Harry Potter, and gamble to get it, than just produce the totally predictable rom-com that’s going to get 1.2x return.

She gets into sports, too. If you just supplement out “media” and “sports” and put in “real estate,” it’s super obvious. The trends are all real similar. That’s some of it in a nutshell. Then, we have a really cool CEO panel that Sherry Chris is going to moderate. We always do a local agent panel, which is a lot of fun. It’s like seeing – she’s got so many micro markets that you can see some parallels from all over. Matt Farrar, going to wrap it up again.

Teri: Of course.

Matt: Then we have, each night, and there’s two nights in particular, we have really, really great musicians. The opening night, Makana is playing, who is probably one of the most talented slat key guitar players in the world. Then on the closing night, we’re doing a very cool thing where we have a classically trained jazz improvisational pianist and a singer, and they’re going to perform. It’s on this beautiful terrace. Then we have a guy named Scramble Campbell, who’s a live painter. He’s going to paint the entire event, and then Concierge Auctions, their auctioneer is going to help us auction the painting off for the land trust. It’ll be fun. It’s a great little wrap party.

Teri: Oh, my gosh. I’m so psyched, I cannot even wait.

Matt: Me, too. I’m like, geekily excited to go to my own thing. It’s the conference that we all wanted to go to.

Teri: I’m super excited. I will see you in a couple weeks. Like, three weeks?

Matt: Yeah.

Teri: Three weeks.

Matt: Not even. Yeah, coming right up.

Teri: Okay, before I let you go, quickly, again, I always ask a legacy question. By the way, the people that I ask to speak to on these conversations are always people that I admire and respect.

Matt: Thank you.

Teri: The truth is, is most of the answers that I get aren’t radically afar from what I would imagine the answers would be, but I’m going to ask anyway. What is the legacy that you would like to leave? What is most meaningful to you in your life?

Matt: Wow. I always get questions like that. I always get the five-year question and all. I think I’m so, and this could be dysfunctional, but I’m so committed to where we are right now, and dealing in these current circumstances, that I’m not on the exit strategy thing yet. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or just our company’s life cycle, but I’m not thinking about how we’re going to leave it, or that kind of stuff. That said, from a business perspective, this thing has taken a life of its own. We’ve got now 240 or so people whose lives have been changed, for lack of a better term.

Teri: Impacted.

Matt: They really have co-created a very, very special culture that is – just because Hawaii is what it is, I get just goose bumps talking about it, it’s really, really given by where we live. That’s a very, very special thing in Hawaii. There’s a Hawaiian saying that says, basically, we are who we are because of the land. We are who we are because of where we are. I don’t want to collapse that too much into real estate, but I will say that Hawaii is a very, very special, sacred, powerful, humble place. To be able to have this group of people represent it in the way that they represent it is just so, so special. I don’t want to do anything to tinker with that in any way. If there is something that I get to be honored by playing with, or helping to foster, that’s it. Whatever life form that thing takes, I’m all in for. We’ll see. I don’t know.

Teri: I love it. That’s an awesome answer. Just when you think you might know something, you have no idea where that’s going to go. I love that answer. I agree. By the way, I spent a year in Hawaii when I was ten, in Oahu and Kailua, so Hawaii calls me, absolutely calls me. I can’t wait to come and see you and share in that amazing experience very, very soon.

Matt: Awesome.

Teri: Thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation. I do think it’s a conversation that matters. I do think that you have a unique perspective, and a brilliant way of getting rid of all the crap and getting down to what actually matters. Thank you so much.

Matt: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me, and I’m so looking forward to seeing you.

Teri: Me too. Okay, well we will see you in a few weeks.

Matt: Alright, aloha.

Teri: Aloha.

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