Are You Surrounded by the Best?

Nov 29, 2011 12:56:01 PM

Greg HarrelsonIf I had to pick one defining moment in the history of Keller Williams Realty, it would have to be a conversation that I had with a consultant back in 1994, when I was trying to map out a strategy for expanding our company outside of Texas. He said, “You know, I’ve looked at your goals; I’ve looked at your organization, and it’s going to take about 14 or 15 people for you to hit your goals.”

At the time, I thought it was going to take about 60,000 people, and when I told him that, he drew an organizational chart that showed me how I could make it happen with the right 14 people who would hire and empower their own teams of people and so on. He was right, and he’s still a consultant for us.

This was more than a pivotal lesson in hiring. It was the conversation that sparked our company’s whole philosophy of succeeding through others, as well as our understanding that the people we surround ourselves with, make all the difference in our success or failure. Without exception, I find that the most successful people in real estate and in life are those who are very intentional about seeking out and surrounding themselves with the very best.

I often think back to that turning point in our company’s history during conversations with mega achievers, so it’s no surprise that it came up when I had the pleasure of visiting with Greg Harrelson, founder of The Century 21 Harrelson Group in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

In 2010, The Harrelson Group’s 18-person team closed more than 700 deals. Even though Greg says he now functions as more of a coach for his team than as a real estate agent, he personally closed more than 100 of those deals. At the age of 40, he’s clearly doing a lot of things right and has been very focused on surrounding himself with the right people. His passion at this point in his career is simply to fuel the success of those in his inner circle.

Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:

On standing on the shoulders of giants

At the age of 27, after four years of working for his Dad’s real estate team, which was doing about 120 deals a year, Greg says “The ego was kicking in and I started seeing that there was a lot of upside in me becoming the No. 1 decision-maker on the team. My Dad agreed and the next thing you know, we are doing 160 deals a year, 180 deals a year, 240 deals a year, 300 deals a year, 330 deals, all the way up to 484, which is the number of deals we closed in 2004, the year my Dad retired. And that was my mission – a secure retirement for him and my Mom. I recognized that he brought me into this business and he guided me and trusted me and supported me when I was going in all of these different directions. He was my No. 1 team man and we did it together to 484 deals. My next goal was to build a team with the highest per-person production in our market.”

On leverage

“Tony DiCello was my coach when he was with The Mike Ferry Organization and one day we divided my day into income-generating activities and income-servicing activities. Once I looked that list I declared that I would never do income servicing activities again, and that concept now carries through my entire team. Income generators do nothing but generate and income services do nothing but service. Our current teams consists of eight listing agents, six buyers agents, a closing coordinator who takes over once the contract is signed, a listing coordinator who is currently handling 550 active listings, a broker/manager, and an executive assistant. ”

On lead generation

“Cold calling FSBOs and expireds represents about 10 percent of our business. We’ve built a huge data base over the years and the goal is to turn cold calls into warm calls, warm calls into a sphere of influence, and the sphere of influence into advocates. I’m doing that by communicating a lot and serving as a resource for information. We’re really concentrate on giving value to our database. One example: a few weeks ago we sent out a letter to our entire database concerning our county’s five-year reassessment of property values, letting them know that our staff was on hand to mail the appeal form to them if they needed it, as well as a list of the previous year’s closed sales out of the MLS. That spread virally through our market. People were forwarding it and we got a lot of calls from outside of the database – which expanded our sphere.”

On talent

“I look for someone who has a strong desire to succeed, someone who has a systematic approach to doing business, and someone who is coachable – willing to do whatever it takes. If those three things are there, I invite them to ‘test drive’ in our training center. We have a large room where everyone prospects together – no individual offices. If they show up a second day, that’s a good thing and then we talk about whether they feel comfortable in the environment. If they want to keep going, I hand them all of our scripts and before they can go to work, they need demonstrate that they know the scripts. No one starts working without being script certified.”

On growth

My intention is no longer to grow my personal business. I’m really focused on helping my people to grow their businesses. When I was coaching with Tony DiCello, we had two years in a row when we did 300 deals and when we looked at what went wrong, why we hadn’t grown, we decided that I needed to stop setting monetary goals and needed to start setting goals of how many people we were going to help. We took money out of the equation and started to focus on making a difference and serving people. That was the point at which we broke through.