I recently had the opportunity to attend the Keller Williams Family Reunion event in Phoenix. Those who have attended this event in the past will best understanding its unique and amazing dynamics, though such is not the focus of this piece.
Traditionally one of the first programs at the Family Reunion event is the annual vision presentation produced by Keller Williams Chairman of the Board Gary Keller and his team of writers and researchers. Sitting in the venue watching over 10,000 people attempting to capture the meaning and relevance of every word, one cannot help but wonder whether or not there is one word that fully defines this presentation. It is part lecture, part newscast, part comedy routine, part coaching, part motivation, part sermon and all with a giant dose of admonition. The word Gary Keller chooses to apply to this lightening bolt of consciousness is vision, and it is certainly all of that.
Defining, refining and communicating a clear and powerful vision is one of the fundamental and essential duties on which a business leader must deliver. Yet, as one experiences the various personalities, images and words of our industry’s leaders, it isn’t clear that all brands, franchises or entities are being guided by a vision rather than status quo or automatic pilot. Even if these fine organizations have evolved such a vision it is definitely not clear that it is being communicated to either its internal or external constituencies. Very few managers, franchisees and/or agents can even begin to articulate their brand’s vision and direction.
What is clear is that in the current market atmosphere of “tipping point” level change and historic transition all of our industry’s business leaders and executives should be focusing on the basic elements of visioning, vision implementation and vision communication.
Creating and communicating a clear and powerful vision delivers many benefits. A clear, shared vision helps to define company philosophies, direction and values for the benefit of everyone involved, perhaps most importantly to agents that the company is seeking to recruit. In today’s marketplace agent recruiting and retention atmosphere more and more agents are becoming aware of the fact that their career choices must go beyond commission splits, office expenses, brands and marketing plans.
More and more agents from all generations and experience levels are coming to understand that (1) choosing the right company in which to invest one’s career and future success is becoming more critical than ever before, (2) that there are less and less options with respect to companies that a top agent, or would be top agent, might want to have a long term career relationship with and (3) that this may be their last recruiting decision and as such it better be based, to a great extent, on understanding, respecting and assuming ownership of that company’s vision.
While a strong vision can contribute to productivity and efficiency it can do even more to contribute to the formation of the committed long term relationship between companies and their agents that will be the basis of sustained success moving forward.
So, how should real estate industry business leaders go about creating and communicating clear visions for their troops to follow? Here again the Keller example might serve as a model for what it takes to produce a relevant, unique and effective vision for any entity in today’s real estate marketplace.
First of all, the answer lies in understanding and identifying the business’s core values, understanding the core purpose or envisioned future of the business, and clearly articulating and communicating the vision to the organization. The best visions are developed by individuals who are truly in “awe”, “love” and “in respect” for the functions and legacy of the residential real estate business. This might or might not be in direct contradiction with the industry’s current expanding relationship with Wall Street. The industry will soon learn whether classic shareholder value based priorities can successfully contribute to an overall company vision that can be owned by all involved.
Exploring the creation process further, it might be said that would be visionaries ought not be in the midst of their wealth collection phase for dollars and cents directed decision making, as that often runs counter to what it takes to be a great visionary. Stability and continuity are also critical elements. It is difficult for someone who is worried about his or her own future to create a great vision.
Finally, great visionaries tend to have a strong sense regarding the common or community attributes of their industry. Competitiveness is certainly a powerful, respected and even worshiped virtue among successful business leaders in both the real estate and other industries. Yet upon closer examination one would discover that over and above competitiveness, visionaries understand that “to the victor belong the spoils.” Being the winning competitor in a race to be the best in a failed industry is of little value to its participants, its executives and its shareholders.
While the obvious audience for Gary Keller’s vision presentation was the 10,000 or so Family Reunion attendees from both North America and the several countries around the world in which Keller Williams franchisees are currently active, they were by no means the only group that could benefit from the information and insight provided. Interestingly enough much of the presentation is also directed at an audience that was not in the huge venue. For executives, brokers and agents across the American residential real estate industry, Keller’s comments offer a level of guidance and wisdom that can only be produced by sustained study and continuous analysis.
Beyond his status as the founder of the Keller Williams organization and his current employment as its Chairman of the Board, Keller holds yet another designation. Gary Keller is Keller William’s resident scholar and senior researcher and it is this status that takes him beyond being a KW treasure and makes him an industry icon. Keller is a prolific writer who has written and/or coauthored several best selling books on real estate business operations, marketing and personal achievement dynamics. Keller spends much of his time studying the residential real estate industry and the changing environment in which it must exist from the command center like spaces in the basement of the Keller Williams International headquarters outside of Austin, Texas.
Beyond his engagement with Keller Williams, Keller has also demonstrated an ongoing commitment to the overall intellectual and business health of the real estate industry as a whole. In 2007 Keller personally contributed the funds necessary for Baylor University to create a new research center for residential real estate. Operating under Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, the center is among the first of its type in the country. The center will benefit the entire industry, as well as the real estate consumer by studying issues such as real estate consumer behaviors, factors that influence real estate-buying decisions, and real estate marketing and management strategies aimed at assisting agents and brokers reach more effective business practices and customer relationships.
Is Keller’s example an exclusive insight into the qualities of a visionary? Obviously not. However, it does offer a number of clear and valuable indications of what matter of intellect, emotional stability and commitment are necessary to field and communicate a great vision.
So, you ask, what vision did Gary Keller deliver in his presentation? It really doesn’t matter. Experience tells us how effective his visions have been in the past and history will reflect how intuitive they will be in the future. Besides, you really had to be been there when his eyes narrowed and he announced; “if you are not going to stay in real estate don’t screw it up for the rest of us.” Enough said.