The Keller Williams Vision Speech: Followup and Further Thoughts

Yesterday’s post on the keynote Vision speech by Josh Team and Gary Keller at this year’s Family Reunion generated… ah… let’s call it “a bit of passion.” The early batch of commenters took issue — and not in a civil fashion — about what I wrote based on the Inman story. Except for the tone, that’s a fair criticism… if Inman got something wrong, or left something important out of their coverage.

Well, because we have the best readership in real estate here on Notorious, I was sent a video (in 5 parts) of the speech itself that Lori Ballen made and uploaded to YouTube. I linked to all of those in the original post. Then I watched it.

Part 1 of the video is below and the video will auto-play the other parts:

Many thanks to Lori Ballen for recording the session and for sharing it with the rest of us. Hopefully, KW has a better recording of the session and will make it available soon, but this is invaluable to those of us who care about the real estate industry and where it’s going.

[EDIT: Was told by a reader, and confirmed for myself, that these videos have been removed by the user. I don’t know what happened, and don’t want to put Lori in a bad spot. So, I’ll put myself in a bad spot, if that’s what it is. If someone brought pressure to bear to get those videos removed, then I’d like to experience that pressure for myself. So these videos are now from and on my channel.]

What I saw necessitates this followup, because while I stand by everything I wrote in the original post, what Josh and Gary actually say on stage is far more radical, far more confrontational, and far more important than I had originally thought.

Inman’s reporting was not wrong in any material respect. If anything, it seriously downplayed what actually happened at that speech. Like many news organizations, it’s as if Inman tried to drain all of the drama, all of the fire, all of the tone out of the event in an effort to be factual, dry, and neutral. I don’t have those concerns here. I’ll just call things as I see them.

And what I saw in that speech is nothing short of the beginning of the end for Keller Williams, and by further extension, the strongest evidence yet that traditional brokerage is dead. The leaders of the old school see the threat, see the danger, but don’t know what to do and how to cope with it.

This speech will go down in the annals of history as the tipping point, when it became clear to those with eyes to see that the age of the traditional split-based brokerage ended. Bold claim, but I intend to back it up. So let’s do it.

Let’s Give Gary Keller Credit

Since I realize that many KW people are fiercely loyal to KW as an organization, and to Gary Keller the person, and may see this post as some kind of an attack on either. So I need to make something very clear right at the outset.

I admire the hell out of the Gary Keller. He is truly one of the greatest innovators and leaders in the history of real estate.

In my recent post about Leadership in real estate, I said that what is most needed is courage. Well, Gary is acting with enormous courage here and betting his company’s future on it. He’s not putting his head in the sand hoping that somehow, magically, things will change. He’s not going to the government seeking intervention to somehow save his skin, save his company, to stave off the inevitable as taxi operators have and continue to do confronted by Uber and Lyft. He is exercising true leadership, instead of positionship, and trying something different.

For that alone, he deserves our praise and admiration.

But it’s more than that. He sees very clearly what the problems are on the horizon. I found very little with which I disagree on the problems that the industry faces; where we differ is on the solutions and strategy, but not on the underlying problem.

Gary is absolutely correct that technology is rewriting all of the rules, all the job descriptions, reimagining businesses, creating new industries and eliminating others. He’s not wrong that we’re in the age of “Always On, Always Learning, Always Thinking.” (Well, I could quibble with the “Thinking” part since machines do not yet think, but I get what he’s driving at.)

And Gary is absolutely correct that AI (that is, expert systems, not self-aware thinking machines) can either be a partner or a competitor. The expert system we’re most familiar with is the common GPS like Google Maps, and before Google, those black box Tom Toms and such. The software provides guidance to human decision makers and makes us far far better at finding an optimal path to our destinations. The GPS is a partner if you’re a driver; it’s an unbeatable competitor if you make maps for a living. There are expert systems in healthcare, law, finance, engineering, military, and on we go. Industries that lack them today will soon have them as entrepreneurs are working day and night on effective expert systems in various verticals.

He’s not wrong that there is a battle going on right now for the future of the real estate industry, because of technology. Where he’s wrong is that the game will be decided in the next 12 to 18 months; truth is that the game is already over. We’ll deal with this far more below, but he’s not wrong that there is a battle going on.

He’s absolutely correct that “bolting on” technology on top of physical platform gives you Blockbuster or Barnes & Noble… or Keller Williams in its current form. (Those are his words, not mine.) Head-to-head with digital native companies, those hybrid wannabes lose and die off.

He’s not wrong that “Data is the new oil” — he gets several details wrong, in my opinion, which should impact the solution, but we’ll get into that below — in that it is the raw material that is worthless until refined/transformed into some useful product. But without data, there can be no refined product.

And he’s not wrong when he states that in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the one with the most insights wins. Again, I disagree that it means the one with the most data wins, because of the “refining/transformation” issue, but you see how Gary is spot on with seeing the problem.

He then states that the coming digital boom will bring opportunities to those who can collect the most data and turn it into insights, and asks:

If someone else has your data and knows more than you do, who’s really running your business?

Once again, he’s not wrong, y’all.

And finally, Gary is spot-on when he lays out this continuum:

If you can’t read the words, it shows Agent –> Tech Enabled Agent –> Agent Enabled Tech –> Tech. For what it’s worth, I found this slide to be the most important in his presentation, because this is the fundamental underlying problem of the industry vis-a-vis technology.

And Gary says, “This is the game right here.”

In fact, Tego Venturi, a reader, sent me this video which makes the whole thing much clearer:

The challenge is to stay at the “Tech Enabled Agent” sphere, and prevent the “Agent Enabled Tech” and the final evolution of just “Tech” in which the Agent piece goes away completely. Because that is where, for example, the travel industry is today.

I find very little disagree with Gary on in all of this analysis. He sees the problem very clearly indeed. And being a true leader, he acts with enormous courage and tackles the problem head on.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that the strategy he has chosen to embrace is a bad one. It will not work. It has no chance of working. History is filled with examples of what he’s trying to do, which is to defend the status quo in the face of radical change.

But worse still, he then compounds the bad strategy by taking a confrontational go-alone approach that not only does not advance the stated goals, but will actually help doom KW’s efforts.

That’s not a failure of vision, or of intelligence, or of courage. That’s a failure of strategy.

The Fundamental Cause: Data?

So before we can get into why the strategy he has picked is the wrong one, we have to think about what the fundamental cause of the problem he has correctly identified is.

To use a medical analogy, Gary has correctly identified the disease. He has misidentified what caused the disease, and as a result, prescribed the wrong course of treatment.

It is clear that Gary thinks the cause of today’s problem is that the real estate agent, and by extension the real estate industry, did not realize the value of data and freely gave it away to outsiders, to third parties, to vendors, to technology companies whose goals were to create first, the Tech Enabled Agent, and then the Agent Enabled Tech, and finally, just Tech.

This slide from his presentation (and the Tego Venturi video above) encapsulates Gary’s concept:

Again, since the image is a bit blurry and small, what it says is:

  • Book: YOU owned data + search and transaction
  • MLS: WE owned data + search and transaction
  • Public Search Portal: WE own inventory data + transaction data; THEY own search data + eyeballs
  • What’s Next: ? Depends on YOU!

He then asks, “What’s left? What do you have to play with, with which to rewrite the rules today?”

His answer:

  • Your Database
  • Your Transaction
  • Your Proprietary Knowledge and Insights Around Real Estate

He says that this realization gave him hope, that the patient wasn’t dead! He just needed to be revived.

To revive the patient, what is needed is to reassert control over data — the raw materials of the Fourth Industrial Revolution! Hence, that’s what KW is going to do. Reassert control over data!

And the crowd cheers! Yeah! Take our data back! Take our data back!

The Wrong Treatment

As a result of this mistake, what Gary Keller and Team are embarking on is a disaster in the making for KW and for the industry.

Let me be brutally frank here, even more than my usual. Because it’s necessary to kill your illusions. No disrespect is meant, but we have to be real about some things here. As Gary himself kept saying over and over during the speech, I’m not picking on him or on Keller Williams. “I’m just telling you the way it is.

Gary Keller spent a lot of time and energy telling a room full of True Believer KW agents that KW is a financial powerhouse, privately held, with “plenty of money” to do what needs to be done. And what needs to be done is to create a Keller Cloud based ecosystem into which everybody else will plug under the “line in the sand” terms dictated by Keller Williams based around its new “Data Pledge.” Along the way, KW will create an AI assistant so advanced, together with all of the other productivity enhancement tools, such that KW agents will have all manner of insights that no one else will have, control their data destiny, etc.

As he says in the Tech Breakout video, “You’re going to have to give the data to us, in order for us to put it all together for you.” Let’s go through this one by one.

Financial Resources

Much has been made about KW’s promise to spend a billion dollars on technology, and Gary made a point of dissing upstart competitor eXp for barely making a million dollars a year. Josh, the CIO, boasted about increasing KW’s tech spend by “tens of millions a year”. So they’ve got the financial resources, and “over 200 people who touch code” to do this grand AI and data thing, or so they say.

Except that “tens of millions” might be a lot of money in the real estate brokerage space, but in technology world that Gary is proposing to play in? It’s a bump on a gnat’s ass. That’s angel investor type of money, Series A VC type of money.

Facebook spent $1.9 billion (with a B) on Research & Development Expense in just the last three months of 2017; for the entire year, that number was $7.7 billion. Do we need to continue on with Amazon, Google, Apple, Oracle, Salesforce, and so on?

OK, so that’s big bad Facebook, and the real Tech Giants, all of whom are hard at work on AI + Data. We already know KW isn’t talking about competing against those guys. Fine. Realtor.com and Zillow came in for a bunch of abuse during the speech, and the audience was more or less told to stop sending their data to Zillow. Gary’s Tech Breakout video made that even more clear.

Well, Zillow spent $320 million in 2017 on Technology and Development. In 2016, Zillow spent $255 million on Technology. Over the past five years, from 2013 to 2017, Zillow spent a total of $893 million on Technology and Development with significantly more than 200 people who touch code.

KW had best get to spending that $1 billion, like this year, and buy all the talent it can get its hands on.

Recruiting Talent

Speaking of which… that’s assuming that KW can even hire the top notch talent that they would need, whether programmers or data scientists that everybody else wants.

Suppose you’re a freakin’ brilliant math and CompSci genius with a Ph.D. from Stanford at the age of 19. You have job offers from literally everybody in the world. Here are four choices:

  • Google, where you can work on AI problems with an unlimited budget, and get enough publicly-traded stock options to retire by the age of 26;
  • Tesla, where you get to work on self-driving cars that will literally revolutionize the world;
  • Amazon, where you can work on making Alexa self-aware, again with an unlimited budget and unlimited potential for personal wealth;
  • Or, you could go work for Keller Williams, to create an expert system to tell agents what they have coming up on their calendar for the day.

I mean, for God’s sake, get real for a minute here!

Time, Time, Time

In another part of the speech, both Josh Team and Gary Keller make a big deal about the fact that they’ve been working on Kelle and the Keller Cloud and all of these ideas for “over a year” to “several months” and that none of these things are mere ideas or concepts. They’re all working products.

Well, Redfin has been around for ten years. Zillow’s been around since 2006. Do you imagine those boys and girls have been working on advanced toaster ovens for all that time?

Could the KW strategy really be, “Let’s go head-to-head with companies that have been doing this for ten years longer than we have, with budgets that are significantly bigger than ours, because we’re big bad Keller Williams????”

About Data

Finally, the underlying premise of this strategy is that individual agents have valuable data: Your Database, Your Transactions, Your Insights. But the problem is that the dataset is too small. Gary lays it out. The data and experiences of a single agent is not enough data to glean insights out of, so you should give your data to KW, who will “put it all together for you.”

Except that the critique he makes about a single agent’s dataset applies to KW as well. I guess he thinks the data and experiences and insights of 175K agents is enough data. I do not.

One of the more amusing things about the whole Big Data conversation in real estate is the delusions and hubris of real estate people on how much data they have and control and generate. It infects the MLS world more than anybody else, but apparently, the infection has spread to Keller Williams leadership.

Real estate gets a few terabytes of listing data, CRM data, and so on and thinks it’s in the Big Data game.

Walmart, an actual player in the Big Data game, has more than one of these giant mysterious buildings:

That’s a Walmart data warehouse. Walmart has a few of these around the world. And Walmart processes 2.5 petabytes of data every single hour. That’s 167 times all of the information in the Library of Congress… every hour.

Note that Gary made fun of Walmart getting into the data analytics game, saying that Amazon is a real AI + data company, while Walmart is “bolting on” technology.

You could take all of the data from all of the real estate companies that Gary mentions: all of the listings, all of the client databases, and all of the transactions… and you might, just maybe, get into the Medium-sized Data game.

Point is, Keller Williams is a dollar short and a day late to be jumping into the AI + Data game. If you’re going to try to transform your entire enterprise, you need to either (a) leapfrog the Next Thing and go for the Thing After the Next Thing that nobody is working on (so-called Blue Ocean strategy); or (b) buy your way into the game by M&A.

So the thing to do is to partner with everybody you possibly can, right? Well… here comes the bizarre.

A Big Middle Finger For All You Punk MC’s

Finally, we have what everyone else appears to have picked up on: the bizarre hostility and often petty attacks on technology vendors, on portals, on other real estate companies, on MLS and Associations… well, on everybody! It’s why I used “I Am a Rock” as the final video in my original post. It’s KW saying, “We’re going it alone! I am a rock! I am an iiiiiiiiiisland!”

What in the world?

This is exactly the opposite of the approach KW needs to take if its goal is to draw a line in the sand between “Tech Enabled Agent” and “Agent Enabled Tech” and defend the former.

As I mentioned with the Big Data delusion above, if you really want to play in that game, you’re going to want as many partners, as many friends, as many compatriots as possible with you. You’re going to want to do the “We’re all in this together!” thing and go do a giant group hug with the rest of the industry.

You’re going to want to go to Zillow, to Realtor.com, to Fidelity and say, “Listen fellas, it’s in your best interest to have Tech Enabled Agents, because they pay you a lot of money today. Let’s join forces and fight Agent Enabled Tech!”

Instead… you go and alienate every single technology vendor in the industry? Telling them they’re “not safe” for the agent to use?

You’re going to want to go to every single MLS and to NAR and say, “Let’s hug it out, bury whatever hatchets we might have had in the past, and work together to defend the Tech Enabled Agent!” Instead, you tell your 175K agents that “One of your greatest challenges is surviving NAR and your local boards, because they’ll sell you out.” You tell them, “You don’t have to [keep giving data away]; you can boycott MLS and walk out.

Wow….

You’re going to want all of the other brokers and real estate companies to join in your crusade. That means the classic coopetition model of real estate, as exemplified in the MLS. You’re going to need their data, after all, to achieve what it is you want to achieve.

Instead, you go on a bizarre rant about tiny little eXp saying, “God help you if you go to eXp!” then followup with “A million dollars won’t even pay for two or three good data scientists.” (Uh, let me remind you, what real tech companies and real money guys think of your “tens of millions” every year.) What the hell is that about?

You needlessly insult Compass saying, “They don’t have a technology platform!” which I’m certain will come as a surprise to Ori Allon, an actual technologist with a track record of building and selling enterprise technology to the likes of Yahoo and Google. (Something that KW’s Josh Team is lacking, by the way.) Then add, “And the interesting thing is that their technology doesn’t actually work.” Why was any of that necessary?

You go on a bizarre rant against Brad Inman who you say “doesn’t know spit about technology.” And the reason you know that is because Inman will “let anybody who will write a check sound like the latest and greatest in tech.” Then you call Inman News a “comic book.” Why was that necessary?

In the end, you and Josh Team tell the entire industry, you’re either with us or against us. This is an actual exchange in the video:

Josh Team: “The line has been drawn. We’re either going to have partners or competitors. There’s nowhere in the middle.”

Gary Keller: “That’s exactly right. Lines in the sand. We have to own the data, we have to own the software. And if anyone says no to those two things, we pick up our stuff and walk out of the room. We’re done with them.”

Wow. Words fail me, and that doesn’t happen often.

To pull off the strategy they’ve committed to, to protect the Tech-Enabled Agent agianst the Agent-Enabled Tech, Keller Williams is going to need everybody else in the industry to get with them. So they go and decide to piss in everybody’s eyes and throw up a big middle finger to the industry.

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

No Keller Williams IPO, I Guess….

The final bit of bizarreness comes from the insistence by Gary Keller over and over that they can do this because they have no outside investors, no VCs, no Wall Street money to which they’re beholden.

At one point he says, “Keller Williams is a privately held company. We will do whatever we freakin’ need to do.”

Well, cancel that IPO! Outside investors? Y’all can go pound sand, unless you want to finance our quixotic tilt at windmills!

At a time when Softbank is pouring $700 million into Compass, when Warren Buffet owns a real estate company, and Keith Rabois at Opendoor.com can tap the Paypal Mafia for pretty much unlimited funding… KW decides it’s going to be a rock, an island.

Again, I just don’t get it. I really don’t.

Leaders of the Old School

Early on in his presentation, Gary Keller says that Brad Inman paid him and KW the most insulting compliment ever by calling them the Darlings of the Old World. Then he says, “To be honest with you, there’s a little bit of truth to that.”

Actually, Gary, there’s more than a little bit of truth to that. Talking about taking your data back is about as old world as it gets. The industry’s been yellin’ and screamin’ about that for at least the past ten years. Bill Chee’s “Lion Over the Hill” was during the Clinton Administration! You can dress up in a hoodie and wear sneakers on stage, but that doesn’t change the fact that what you’re trying to achieve is to repackage the same outdated ideas that couldn’t be more Old Skool if it were wearing Kangols and a fat gold chain.

The cause of the sickness isn’t that the industry “lost control” over the data. The cause of the sickness is that the industry forgot what it does for a living, because it had control over the data for so long.

By Gary’s own analysis, at one point, “we” owned the data + search and the transaction. What did the industry do with all that power, all that control?

Here’s one thing brokerages could have said: “We can’t forget that we’re in the business of helping sellers sell homes and buyers buy homes. We need to ensure that we’re delivering better, faster, cheaper services to consumers, and doing everything we could to make the process easier for them.”

You know what the industry did instead with all this control over data + search and transaction? First, Dave Liniger started Re/Max and ushered in the agent-centric age and in so doing, abdicated the role of the broker in the consumer experience. A decade later, Gary Keller himself came along and took the agent-centric model to the next level, proudly proclaiming that KW was a training company that happened to run a real estate operation. The rest of the industry had no choice but to follow suit.

It was the control over the data and the search that allowed brokers to do this, because consumers had no choice but to call a broker, or walk into a broker’s office, or talk to a REALTOR they knew about buying or selling.

When you have a captive marketplace that has no choice but to use your services, you know what you don’t need? Top-notch professionals with deep local insight, marketing expertise, and years of experience… because those people are expensive (in terms of splits). So Re/Max and KW and all the others who were forced to follow in their agent-centric footsteps abandoned the consumer and became agent recruiting and retention companies.

Which then led to so many agents forgetting what it is that they do for a living. One Placester survey found that 26% of respondents spend several hours a day prospecting. When do those people have time for anything else? Here’s a Tom Ferry Perfect Day for a Real Estate Agent. You tell me where you see “learn about market conditions” or “study the available inventory” or “improve negotiation skills” on that perfect day. Instead, it’s prospecting, prospecting, going on listing presentations (which isn’t helping people buy or sell real estate, but closing the sale of one’s services), and if you don’t have enough appointments, prospect some more.

Tell me again what it is that a real estate agent actually does for a living again? Is it prospecting, or is it helping people buy or sell homes?

For example, how can you offer solid professional advice unless you know the inventory? Does the average agent tour every home that comes on the market in her service area to make sure she knows what it smells like inside? A few do; most do not. Does the agent keep abreast of local ordinances that would affect the inventory, the market, or her clients’ property interests? A few do; most do not.

No matter how much the experts, brokers, leaders, technologists, and others have told the industry time and again that those days are gone, as the Information Age killed off most of the so-called “information gatekeeper” industries, and no matter how much REALTORS and real estate leaders pay lip service to the idea that “We can’t rely on our control over the data as our value proposition,” fact is we’re all human and some habits are harder to break than others.

This is the perspective of the vast majority of the real estate industry, because it’s their experience coming up in the business. No wonder the message resonates with the audience.

Thing is, you can’t possibly get any more old school, any more stuck on old ways of thinking, any more defender of the status quo than this.

This Is Blockbuster; This Is Kodak

As a matter of fact, what Gary is trying to do is exactly what Blockbuster tried to do, what Kodak tried to do, what every industry facing massive technology disruption tried to do… and failed.

I have often said before that people at Kodak were not stupid, nor were they ignorant of the impact that digital photography would have on their business. None of the executives at Blockbuster were stupid, nor did they not realize the threat of streaming video and Netflix and so on.

They all knew. They all correctly diagnosed the problem. So why did they fail?

Because they all tried to defend their existing businesses, while trying to cope with the disruptive forces bearing down on them. One can hardly blame them.

Kodak had billions of dollars in capital tied up in film production plants and film processing and so on. How in the world do you tell the Board of Directors that you plan to cannibalize your own business, give up billions in revenues, because you see the next wave coming over the horizon?

Blockbuster knew that Netflix was coming. But they had so much capital tied up in the existing DVD-rental and physical locations business model that they simply couldn’t adjust fast enough.

You find similar case study after case study after case study in the annals of business. The entrenched companies are not stupid. They see the problem. What they can’t figure out is how to defend what they have while incorporating the disruption.

That is exactly what Gary Keller and KW are trying to do here.

Facing the problem of Agent Enabled Technology — and possibly the specter of Technology alone — Gary and KW are trying to defend their cash cow business: independent 1099 agents paying them a piece of the commission pie, as well as training fees, coaching fees, tech fees, etc. etc.

Since the cause of the problem, in Gary’s analysis, is DATA, he thinks that by somehow controlling data, KW and its agents can prevent the proliferation of Agent Enabled Tech.

The problem, of course, is none of that is true. If Agent Enabled Tech is the future, then there is no way to defend the present day status quo. Just like taxi cab companies cannot defend against Uber and Lyft by offering a mobile app, because the underlying value proposition to consumers is different, KW can’t defend against Agent Enabled Tech because the underlying value proposition is different.

At one point, in the Tech Video above, Gary says, “Consumers want the tech-enabled agent. They want the human touch.” Well, if that’s true, then there’s nothing to worry about is there? Why all this hoopla? Why the investment? Why the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt campaign?

The Bleak Reality and the Tipping Point

I think what we’re seeing is the backhanded admission that the age of agent-centric brokerage is over. This speech may go down in history as the moment when those with eyes that see realized, if Keller Williams can’t cope with what’s coming, then nobody can.

It is exactly as we have foreseen in our Future of Brokerage Black Paper. The agent-centric, commission-split based brokerage is dead. If KW, the most agent-centric real estate company in history, cannot adjust because of its deep investment in the status quo and the way things are today, then nobody can. If Gary Keller, with all of his courage and all of his correct diagnosis of the problem, still can’t let go of the “it’s about the agent, it’s about control over data,” then no one can.

The bleak reality of brokerages is that they are ten years too late to the AI-Data game, and they’re a few billion dollars short. KW can throw its entire balance sheet at the problem over the next 12 to 18 months, and it still won’t make it over the top against not even Zillow, never mind Google and Facebook. Because that battle is not afoot right now, as Gary says, but long over.

Even the whole “CONTROL YOUR DATA” thing could not possibly have been timed worse. At the exact moment when the DOJ and FTC have announced workshops looking at competition and data in real estate, one of the biggest leaders of the biggest brand in real estate is publicly telling 175,000 agents that they need to hold their data back? Does anybody think that all kinds of regulators, think tank people, and lobbyists didn’t immediately start sending emails to each other upon seeing Gary’s Vision speech? If you don’t think this speech will be brought up at that Workshop, I’m sorry, but you’re delusional.

In fact, the hubris, the self-congratulation, the chest-beating about how rich KW is and how awesome their technology is, the anger, the unnecessary insults, the petty disses on tiny little startups like eXp… all of those come together to paint a picture that is hardly reassuring if you’re a fan of Keller Williams.

This is not how the strong behave. This is how the formerly strong, realizing that he’s losing his strength, realizing that he’s been painted into a corner, behaves: lashing out at everybody and everything, trying to reassert his dominance. This isn’t confidence speaking, but barely suppressed fear….

That is a tipping point. For KW, certainly, but for the entire brokerage industry as well.

Gary Keller is inadvertently telling the rest of us that he does not intend to go gentle into that good night. No, he will rage, rage against the dying of the light.

He Might Prove Me, And All of Us, Wrong

Let me finish by echoing what Gary said on stage: he intends to prove the industry wrong. He very well might. If anyone could do it, it would be him and Keller Williams. He has a long track record of success. The industry has bet against him in the past, and lost. He’s a Texan through and through, and we Remember the Alamo.

A part of me wishes him and KW the best of luck, because I admire so much what he has built, and what he has meant to thousands and thousands of really great real estate brokers and agents. If anybody could do it, and prove me and the industry wrong, it’s Gary Keller and the company he has built.

But let’s not forget that as much as we admire the heroes at The Alamo, they all died. It wasn’t a failure of vision or of courage then either.

Like Gary said, I’m not picking on him or on KW; I’m just telling you how it is…. Let’s find out who has the right of it when the race is run and the game is done. Because this strategy, done this way, is not going to get it done. By all means, though, do your thing and show us what you need to show us.

-rsh

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37 Comments

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  1. I was in shock when I heard Gary’s speech. When he spoke about eXp, I thought to myself “if their such a blip on our map why even mention them? That’s not the Keller Williams culture I know.” Then comes all the talk about your with us or your against us. This is truly a Gary Keller I have never witnessed in my 12 years of being with KW. There’s trouble on the home front boys & girls!

  2. Well said, Rob. Well said.

    “I think what we’re seeing is the backhanded admission that the age of agent-centric brokerage is over. This speech may go down in history as the moment when those with eyes that see realized, if Keller Williams can’t cope with what’s coming, then nobody can.”

    Totally agree we’re seeing the downfall of the agent-centric brokerage model before our eyes.

    One other note on this quote:
    “The challenge is to stay at the “Tech Enabled Agent” sphere, and prevent the “Agent Enabled Tech” and the final evolution of just “Tech” in which the Agent piece goes away completely. Because that is where, for example, the travel industry is today.”

    Travel agents still exist, and my gut is they are growing. People used to pay travel agents because they couldn’t access the data themselves. Now, they pay them because they literally don’t have time to wade through the crap/noise/endless options themselves. They just want someone they trust to plan and book the trip for them.

    Do you think we’ll ever get to “tech” where there is no agent? I’m not convinced. On investment properties, flips, overseas relo buyers… sure, I can see that happening. But on the average transaction for the average home buyer? I’m not so sure.

    1. I agree Drew. I was thinking the very same things about the travel industry. I am certainly fine doing the research for a trip but it is worth every penny to get a professional to help me finalize the details for a big vacation.
      I do agree with Rob that we are seeing the end of brokerages as we have known them. I think what will evolve will end up like the travel industry. Certain transactions will require the human touch, professional expertise and value that licensed agents bring. You don’t need a travel agent to book a plane ride but when it comes to high dollar trip you can’t always trust your computer to get all the details done.

  3. “The cause of the sickness isn’t that the industry “lost control” over the data. The cause of the sickness is that the industry forgot what it does for a living … Tell me again what it is that a real estate actually does for a living again? Is it prospecting, or is it helping people buy or sell homes?”

    There it is Rob – the head of the nail.

    All this reminds me of a quote I came across on LinkedIn (sorry can’t remember the exact source)…

    “Amazon didn’t kill the retail industry – they did it to themselves with bad customer service. Netflix did not kill blockbuster – they did it to themselves with ridiculous late fees. Uber did not kill the Taxi business – they did it to themselves by…. Apple did not kill the music industry – they did it to themselves by … AirBnB did not kill the hotel industry – they did it to themselves by …

    Technology by itself is not the real disruptor. Being non-customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.”

    As you point out – all those industries knew it was coming – they could see it – but instead of embracing it – instead of reinventing themselves – they chose to try to protect the status quo.

    So in my view, all this talk of ‘data’ & ‘Tech’ are nothing but sideshows. Sure tech is enabling. But the real challenge is becoming truly client-centric – remembering what our job is. Reinventing our ‘value proposition’.

    We must build a better product/service. Or as you say … “ensure that we’re delivering better, faster, cheaper services to consumers, and doing everything we could to make the process easier for them.”

    So how do we do that? The solution is, in my view, really simple… Restate real estate as a ‘Professional Service’.

    In his book ‘Disruptors, Discounters & Doubters’ Joe Rand points us in this direction. You point us in the same direction in “The Future of brokerage” – describing how a professional service ‘Firm’ may be structured. But I feel you both haven’t quite made the full leap. Still, in a way, clinging to the underlying status quo – The % commission-only business model.

    The simple reality is, like Kodak, our industry as a whole is not geared up as a “Professional Service”. They’re to invested in the status quo.

    A true individual professional consultant protecting & serving their local community – charging fees based on work & outgoing costs to each individual client – gives our clients and the agent some pretty amazing benefits over traditional commision-only agents. But it does not fit with the commission driven, headcount focussed KW type empires of the world.

    Which is why, rather than trying to reinvent our industry from the top down. We must reinvent it from the ground up. Firstly figuring out how to make a professional service model work for those that matter most – our clients (product-market fit) – then working out how to best structure our industry around it – Which is where I see the ‘Firm’ coming to fruition.

    It’s also interesting you mention ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. Great book. I released a podcast on that topic some time ago … http://realestaterestated.com/blue-ocean-strategy-applied-to-real-estate/

    Anyway, all great discussions. Keep on sharing your thoughts with the world Rob – I for one find them thought-provoking 🙂

    1. “Being non-customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.”
      A hundred thumbs up!

      “…all this talk of ‘data’ & ‘Tech’ are nothing but sideshows”.
      I could not agree more. Very well said.

      “Reinventing our ‘value proposition’.”
      If the value proposition is already right, it does not need to be reinvented.

      “…delivering better, faster, cheaper services to consumers,”
      Better – absolutely yes!
      Faster – not as important as “Better”. Better to focus on “Better” than faster.
      Cheaper – greater value, not cheaper. Getting more for my money is better than cheaper.
      Most consumers are willing to pay more to get more. For example: why would anyone want to pay more for a room at a Ritz Carlton, or even a Hyatt Regency, when you can get a much cheaper room at Motel 6?

  4. Drew asked, ‘Do you think we’ll ever get to “tech” where there is no agent?’

    Yes, absolutely, and we’re just about there. Not because it’s the best for consumers, but because disrupting companies will lie their ass off about offering full service for less, and accuse the consumer of being stupid to pay 6% for the same thing.

    You and I know it isn’t the same service, but they are spending millions to advertise it while the traditional brokers are just sitting here and taking it. Those disrupters don’t have much market share yet, but look how Zillow has taken over in just ten short years.

    We don’t necessarily need to re-invent ourselves (but it would help). We just need to spend millions to compete with the VC-backed tech guys who start every promotion with how they got ripped off by a realtor and decided to build a better system for less.

    It’s not better, but nobody else is doing the talking.

    1. Drew – Agreed. Like it or not “Tech with no agent” is not far off. The question is will it be “Better”(for consumers) than having a professional full-service agent acting for them?

      I believe not. However, many consumers will think so – because of their poor experiences with our traditional industry. I mean if our industry as a whole was providing great service at good value – then the so-called disruptors wouldn’t find a need in the first place. After all, any significant change first requires some pain – some dissatisfaction with the status quo.

      However… continuing to do what we’ve always done and simply throwing millions at advertising to try and compete with the ‘VC backed tech guys’ – is insanity. We’ll never compete on that basis.

      How about we create a system that is actually “better” for our clients? (More professional service at lower cost). The thing is… to do that … we MUST reinvent ourselves… or become like KODAK.

      1. So lets say “Tech with no agent” is not far off. My real question is whether or not consumers will adopt that as an experience. The technology, let’s be honest, is not the holdup. What regular 1st time buyer is going to press a button and “voila”, commit themselves to 500k (or 1.2M for that matter)? Without the help of an advisor.

        I’m a business owner. Even though I can do all my taxes myself, I don’t. Even though I can do legal contracts myself, I don’t. I pay trusted advisors to help me, because the risk of a screw up just isn’t worth it to me. And peace of mind… they are experts in their field, I’m not. Real estate’s price point is exponentially more than those services… and transactions are by people that have (usually) NEVER done anything like it in their lives. It’s an expense they will be stuck with for decades. I’m just trying to wrap my head around what the obsession is with enabling buyers to buy a home with a click of a button without talking to anyone.

        “continuing to do what we’ve always done and simply throwing millions at advertising to try and compete with the ‘VC backed tech guys’ – is insanity. We’ll never compete on that basis.”

        Agree 1000%.

        You’re right, the question is… how do brokers and agents compete? How do they deliver better?

      2. Carl – I agree that the poor experiences with lousy agents have backed us into this corner. You suggest that we create a system that is actually better for our clients.

        Hear me out.

        Let’s convert the industry to the auction format.

        If we sold every house by auction, with no reserve, then most agents will be out of business. Sorry. But it’s coming anyway, and long overdue.

        The auction format would provide full transparency so buyers quit getting screwed by ‘Coming Soon’ and ‘Sold Before Processing’ sales where the listing agent tilts the table. If the sellers knew what the lack of full exposure cost them, they would object to such shenanigans. While it is only a minority of homes sold that go this route, it is noticed by all – they tend to be the best houses at the best prices.

        But listing agents get away with it because there aren’t any rules, no enforcement obviously, and huge money available (2x) to double-end the commission. Agents see top realtors sandbagging their listings, and want to emulate the big shots.

        Let’s pay a reasonable fee to the listing agent for producing the auction, and a hefty reward to the buyer’s agent – an amount that the seller volunteers to dangle as a bounty for selling the house. I think sellers would be happy to offer 2% or 3% to entice buyer’s agents – and the best agents could make a living.

        The auction format could save the realtor industry, and invigorate the marketplace (whose momentum is maturing fast). We literally turn on a dime, and a new reality is created, rather than having to re-invent ourselves. We’d probably save on advertising too – once it catches on, those who insist on advertising their lies and deceit wouldn’t be near as effective.

      3. Drew – yes I’m sure some consumers will, but I doubt very many. And those that will – well they’re not our ideal clients so don’t worry about them. Lets instead focus on those who do want a ‘trusted advisor’ to guide them (moving forward, this is where our value proposition lays).

        “I’m just trying to wrap my head around what the obsession is with enabling buyers to buy a home with a click of a button without talking to anyone.”…

        May I suggest that this is NOT the obsession. Not what Disruptors are seeking to do. Buyers are NOT the target market. Sellers are. Sellers are the paying customers of our service. Listings/stock is where it’s at. Control the listings and you control the market. In any type of market – a well presented, correctly priced and professionally managed listing – attracts genuine buyers like bees to a honeypot. So first and foremost disruption is about enabling sellers to sell without a real estate agent.

        Regarding enabling buyers to buy without a real estate agent – as you say – tech is not the holdup here. Buyers can already easily search for and find properties without an agent. Adding a ‘buy now’ button with automated contract generation would be relatively easy. But as you say – how many will click ‘buy now’ without even viewing it – getting pest reports – due diligence etc?

        With that said, the ‘Buyer Agency’ as you North Americans know it… this odd situation where the seller pays for the buyer representation… is doomed. But that’s a different discussion. All I’ll say is that the rest of the world doesn’t have “Buyer agents”.

        “So how do agents compete?” The answer is contained in your own words… ” Even though I can do all my taxes myself, I don’t. Even though I can do legal contracts myself, I don’t. I pay trusted advisors to help me, because the risk of a screw up just isn’t worth it to me. And peace of mind… they are experts in their field, I’m not.”

        We compete by offering what tech cannot. We compete by being our clients expert “Trusted advisor”. By acting like a real profession… not this commission-driven sales industry consumers see today.

        “Real estate’s price point is exponentially more than those services” – that’s only because of the inefficient and bloated commission-only business model.

        In the old days, it was comparable to Professional Services. But as values have increased – increasing the size of the commission – more agents have been recruited to chase those commissions – and the production (number of transactions per agent) has dropped to pathetically low levels. At the consumer’s expense. But that’s also a discussion for another day 🙂

        I will, however, say that my clients are now engaging me (and my team) with a non-contingent Engagement fee + outgoing marketing costs + hourly rate ($350/hr which is similar to what they’d pay a good lawyer here in NZ) + bonus upon sale. Over the last 200 clients, it’s worked out around 35% more efficient for them (Clients paying 35% less than traditional commission) while overall I’m earning the same if not more.

      4. Jim – I love it that you are endeavouring to look for a solution.

        Yes, Auctions have some advantages. Although I don’t believe they are the long-term. answer. I only say this because the Auction system has been in the real estate scene here in NZ and Australia for well over 30yrs. In some markets, they are the dominant selling method pushed by agents.

        However. From my experience, they also have some major flaws for Sellers, Buyers and agents. Not going to try to point them all out in this comment but suggest you do some research. One of the most outspoken against auctions over the years is a guy called Neil Jenman. Check out this article … https://jenman.com.au/9-reasons-auctions-get-lower-prices/

      5. “the rest of the world doesn’t have “Buyer agents”.”

        Yup, indeed that’s true. I’ve long wondered whether the US market will adopt that model, or if the rest of the world will adopt our model. Or if things will simply carry on as is..

    2. “VC-backed tech guys who start every promotion with how they got ripped off by a realtor and decided to build a better system for less.”

      The graveyard of those who have tried that approach is huge, and growing. Virtually all the founders who start that way pivot into a traditional brokerage once they realize the business economics just don’t work (and gaining consumer trust is harder than they thought).

  5. Realtors lost sight of the consumer. Prices have tripled in the last 25 years so the commissions did as well but the available tech has made the job so much easier. Online search, comps, email, DocuSign! The only thing about the job being tougher is the # of agents you must compete against. Too many! Smaller slice of the pie.

    An agent friend of mine held a recent open house in the SF Bay Area. Over 2 days over 300 people came through. Only one agent left their card! Do buyers agents even work weekends anymore?

    A few agents toured Monday and Tuesday because clients wanted to write offers.

    Multiple offers in days. In contract immediately.

    The work involved justifies getting a $45,000 commission check on each side? Buyers and Sellers are saying not anymore!

    1. Agreed TY – the industry has lost sight of – as Rob puts it – what our job is. Our business model is broken and consumers are over it.

  6. Rob, I suggest we (industry folks) may be over thinking something real simple. Gary wants to make money. Lots of it. I’m not sure it matters how.

    Gary recognizes that his 175k agents that avg less than 7 sides per year are spending considerably more money annually on products and services from other vendors than they’re spend with him.

    eEdge at $19.95 per year and forced to his agents generates almost $41.9 million annually and much of that goes to Constellation and Zillow. Gary would like to keep that.

    What’s the solution? Put a fence around 175,000 agents and reinforce their bogeymen. Then give them products that are perceived competitors or (better yet) perceived as superior to competitors and create restrictive systems that appear like advantages to steer your 175k agents through the turnstile.

    Last, take a page from Trump’s campaign stumping re: patriotic nationalism and talk about “KW first.” Talk about taking your toys and going home if no one else plays by your rules, etc. It’s actually quite humorous to lay Gary’s speech template over Trump campaign attributes. This is not a political statement or a good vs. bad statement, but rather just an observation.

  7. Carl Slade – I agree that auctions aren’t perfect and shill bidders are hard to stop. Jenman isn’t on the street selling houses in 2018, so his guesses about how sellers and buyers feel today aren’t applicable.

    Here’s the problem: In a tight-inventory environment, there are multiple buyers for every quality house with a decent price. How do you pick a winner?

    This is the standard around Southern California: The listing agent collects the offers, and goes into the back room with the seller to determine the winner. They usually select the offer that was also written by the listing agent, who then double-ends the commission. Let’s call it the No-Transparency Solution.

    This has led to Problem #2. Now listing agents don’t even bother with the illusion of an open-market sale, and just find their own buyer via some nefarious ‘Coming Soon’ campaign. All they have to do is put a sign in the yard and/or input it on Zillow. When buyer-agents call, they are told, “oh, it’s not ready yet, but it will be coming soon’. But when buyers call direct, they are welcomed, and an off-market deal is made…..and yes, another double-ended commission.

    Because these deals are inputted onto the MLS after the fact, they are self-perpetuating because other agents see it happening and figure it must be ok. It has become a badge-of-honor, and everyone is doing it; from top agents at the big-box corporate brokerages like Coldwell Banker and Berkshire Hathaway to Redfin and PurpleRex.

    I realize there is no chance of auctions being adopted as the selling format of choice. Heck, nobody in the industry wants to change – double commissions are better than one!

    We have a fiduciary duty to serve sellers and buyers. But their wants and needs are being ignored while listing agents tilt the table in their own favor. It will keep happening until the district attorney puts a stop to it.

    Have any other solutions?

  8. Agent-centricity creates a transactional culture that cannot serve the client at the highest possible level. That an industry thought leader is preaching agent value prop = data control (in 2018!) is emblematic of how ripe this industry is for change. Consumers do not care about the latest agent app.

  9. Biggest fallacy I find people continuing to say this is our data. IT ISN’T! It is someones home, bought or sold. Amassing the data and analyzing it is not what we’ve done as in big data. We look at pretty small data sets for CMA’s, or for whether we have a buyers market/sellers market. We don’t have enough data in the MLS to align “Big Data”. Would KW have mortgage for income and Credit Rating data? Repairs and upgrades pre and post sell? Automobile purchase? etc. I think home sale data is available from a number of places, and cornering the market on Consumer Data for Home Sales is either really silly, or KW needs to own car dealerships, home remodeling, mortgage company, and an online store to compete with Amazon.

    OR – KW is for sale and Amazon is the buyer?

  10. Wow. I have no words. Largely due to the fact that they have all been stated above. But I will add this dynamic. The MLS industry has NEVER been a “we” as it relates to our industry. In fact all of organized real estate has been a “they” since inception. Why? Because we fo have data issues but we have refused to realize that these issues are directly linked to the business practices issues we have with our outdated, failed data management system – the MLS. And, we do have issues with process. Random practices and processes delivered to consumers by a disparate 1.2 million agents will not survive the test of time. Formatted processes with clear predictability and improved experience es will erode the random things we do under supposed brand experiences. How can you provide a brand experience when every agent does “things” differently? That is the other side of the coin that we have been in denial about until the viable alternatives; Opendoor, Offerpad, Knock have appeared to compete. So this real issues? The level playing field sustained by the brokerage industry’s blind-relationship with organized real estate and transactional processes delivered by 1.2 million random Realtors. So in full disclosure, I lied. I had a few words.

  11. Well done Rob and thank you!

  12. You are courageous, Rob. And though I admire Gary Keller for like you say what he has contributed to the industry over the years, when I was at KW in 2008-09 I noticed right away a we v. them attitude — and the “them” was the NAR, local board and MLS. I’m really not all that surprised by this grand finale of fireworks. Indeed, the agent-centered, recruit and retain brokerage is dead. Deal with it.

  13. “Less than 7 sides per year”!!! I’ve always kinda felt that that number was pretty much on the money. I am a one man band working out of my 3rd bedroom and specializing in rural property – country home, vacant land, farms. Of course we all know they are the red-headed stepchildren of the the industry. With all that baggage, I always close more than 30 sides per year – most double-ended.
    I am 75 years old and do not work my ass off. And spend loads of time in my wood shop and chicken-breeding. I have not had a buyer/seller in my tiny “office” in over 10 years.
    A lot of this conversation is muddy water to me and I do think we will lose a lot of business with buyers/sellers representing themselves. The product is a house, for God’s sake, so let’s not over glorify the product. It’s not like selling a space shuttle. The internet and the data available enables buyers/sellers to go it alone and I see this proliferating.
    The big guys have enormous problems facing them and I think the one-man-band, low overhead firm will survive just fine. I will say the industry screwed up big time when they gave the data away. The industry acted like the nerd at school who ran and hid from the bully. Now, see what a mess we allowed to happen? And, who got the $975,000,000 that Rupert Murdock paid for Realtor.com? Hate to restate it, but – The Danger Report said 87% of real estate clients think agents are incompetent and/or dishonest. You people did that to yourselves. Bye now!

  14. I’ve had a tough time figuring out how to comment on this topic with any seriousness. I mean, have you been in a real estate office? Agents are converting jpgs to pdfs or surfing Facebook, not bloody coding or data science or design. The difference between a tech company and a tech customer is a thousand miles wide.

  15. Great article on KWFR. I disagree with: “Gary thinks the data and experiences and insights of 175K agents is enough data. I do not.” Of course 175K agents *is* enough. Zillow Group is distilling their agent advertisers down to the biggest spenders — smaller than 175K agents contributing meaningful data. The problem is that KW will struggle to get adoption. Even best-in-class software sees low adoption, and going end-to-end ensures that you’re not best-in-class in any category.

    Therefore…

    “You’re going to want all of the other brokers and real estate companies to join in your crusade… You’re going to need their data, after all, to achieve what it is you want to achieve” ← $$$$$. This is THE point.

    We’re finding that even in traditionally competitive (cut throat) environments like NYC, brokerages are collaborating and putting their data onto our platform to create an unassailable data advantage.

    Haven’t we already seen the result of protectionism in our industry?

  16. Does that data really matter? Other than comps what really matters? Every house has a different story, a different seller, a different reality, a different motivation, a different circumstance. You can take two of the same track home and think you are comparing apples to apples but really it’s apples to oranges.

    If the realtors would just lower their fee thy could still win. Consumers are disgusted by the fees.

    1. Comps look into the past. Current market demand is a big missing piece of the puzzle. When a real estate agent tells you your home is worth $500k because your neighbor’s house sold for $490 6 months ago, that’s a shocking lack of sophistication that won’t work in the next ten years. If a real estate agent could tell me that the demand for a 4 bedroom home in my neighborhood has increase 10% in the past 3 months, *that* is important in informing list price and approach.

      1. It seems an offers platform is what’s needed. If the MLS could mandate every agent to use it to submit offers (and review/accept them on the list side), it might stand a fighting chance. Of course, a transparent offers platform would quicken the coming crashes in some geographies by bringing more transparency to the fact that demand isn’t there.

        “a real estate agent could tell me that the demand for a 4 bedroom home in my neighborhood has increase 10% in the past 3 months”

        What if that same agent could tell you that demand for a 4 bedroom home in the neighborhood has decreased 20% in the past 3 months? Would they actually tell you that??

  17. R.O.B. – We saw this exact same type of ignorance in the lead-up to the dot.com crash. The exact same generation (Yes, Boomers, I am talking about you.) responsible for that mother-of-all-tech/ignorant-financial-meltdowns, are still not getting it?!! Really??! Well, I would have to copy and paste this entire post if I wanted to highlight everything I agree with in it! Instead, I picked out my favorite line, because of its poetic prose and perfect imagery. “You can dress up in a hoodie and wear sneakers on stage, but that doesn’t change the fact that what you’re trying to achieve is to repackage the same outdated ideas that couldn’t be more Old Skool if it were wearing Kangols and a fat gold chain.”
    FREAKING POETRY, Rob! You made my whole week with this! (ps. Tell Sunny, “HI!”.)

    1. Heh, thanks Mimi. I did briefly flirt with the idea of putting an image of LL Cool J, circa 1990 or so, to illustrate the point….

  18. Awesome. Thanks a lot.
    Do you think having the Data from 175,000 agents might add some value to his company when he decides to sell it?

  19. Amazing Comment String! =)

    I have to go back to your first Post … “In Which Keller Williams Completely Confuses Me” … I have tried to wrap my head around this (Compelling) story since that 1st read and I CAN”T! I can not, for the life of me, understand?! and that worries me!

    Something else is going on? This can’t be the plan? Can it? Really?

  20. When I saw the headline “we are no longer a real estate company, we are now a technology company”, my first thought is this was Gary Keller trying to change his multiple. I’ve read over and over again how Compass is getting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment based on tech valuations, not traditional brokerage valuations. I’ve seen Realogy, ReMax, and others complain about how Compass and Redfin are now “worth” more traditional brokerages, despite producing a fraction of the revenue and none of the profits of Realogy et al.

    The industry has proven to be jealous of these tech multiples, and my guess is a very savvy Keller began scratching his head and doing the math on what his empire would be worth if he got even close to a tech multiple. He started down the tech path last year, made up primarily of “bolt-ons” and maybe went out to the VCs (or at least investment bankers) to test the water. They likely told him that he was still a real estate company because unlike Facebook (or Redfin or purportedly Compass) Keller did not have unique and PROPRIETARY technology. This made Keller mad, so he fires everyone who didn’t challenge him when he was coming up with the “bolt-on our way to tech company” idea except Josh Team (because his company is now built on the team based structure and he couldn’t resist making the “that’s why I hired him” joke in every meeting) and decides build their own tech with their billion dollars.

    It makes sense too, because while KW will never get a tech multiple no matter how much or how good their tech is (because the VCs want the 10000% ROI that can only be delivered by start ups)… they don’t really have to. Even if Keller only took his valuation multiple from 1x to 2x using this approach, he was successful. And if he messed around and took it to 3x, he’d be the biggest genius of all time.

    “But, but… Lee, GK just said he wasn’t going to take any VC, they had enough money to do what they wanted to, and we could only trust him.” Yeah, but he also told you people can be made into liars when big money is involved, and last I checked GK was people to. If they decide to take VC (or more likely PE) money, it will be easy enough to spin this to the faithful as “we are in an arms race with Zillow, etc and we went out to get more money to compete”.

    Side note on Exp Realty: Now his former protégés have gone over to Exp, created an OTC stock and are pedaling minuscule amounts to agents as recruiting bait. No doubt this is being done by pointing to the Redfin and Compass (and Zillow) valuations and promising future riches. I’ve already seen several influential agents and teams move to Exp, and all of them are from Keller. I doubt Keller sees them as a real threat today, just likely irked/envious of their initial success at his expense using what some see as a BS marketing gimmick with no real long term value.

  21. I was previously a REMAX agent and they constantly talked about KW, that’s how I knew KW was nipping at their heels several years ago and now look what’s happened. I am currently with a NextHome franchise and when someone tries to bring up another franchise the corporate office will simply tell us not to focus on them but to focus on our own success through their amazing technology, training, etc. What people say reveals a lot about their worries and what they don’t say reveals equally as much. . . great article.

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