As the founder and leader of the growing Sands Investment Group (SIG), KW Commercial associate Chris Sands is playing in the big leagues. So far this year, SIG has recorded 57 transactions, closed $80 million in sales – with another $75 million currently in escrow – and handled $220 million in listings. Those big-league numbers are only fitting for a guy who played for two years on the ATP Professional Tennis Tour and also captained the UCLA Men’s Tennis Team.
Sands, who started the team in Santa Monica, Calif., joined Keller Williams Commercial in 2010, and today his 27-agent team handles properties in 40 states, with an emphasis on the purchase and sale of grocery/drug-anchored shopping centers, single-tenant and strip-center retail investments.
Sands realized early on that the commercial sector was the right fit for him. “I’ve always been a numbers guy,” he says. “I love the client base I deal with on a day-to-day basis and how every deal is different, with a different storyline, a different tenant and different nuances. Every time we take on an assignment, it’s like a new opportunity to learn something. I was always driven to own investment real estate, and the commercial sector allowed me to be on the front lines to see that opportunity come to fruition.”
Love: Building Relationships
SIG takes a different approach to real estate, one that is built on personal touches, win-win deals and positive results. Sands puts these strategies to work in a multitude of ways, from talking to his best clients multiple times a week to traveling quarterly to attend conferences throughout the country to simply taking clients out to dinner.
“The big thing is to get to know the clients and what they do when they’re not buying real estate – what their kids’ names are and where they go to school, what their favorite food is, when their anniversary is,” Sands says. “A lot of my clients have become friends or partners, and then we find opportunities where we can co-invest in deals together.”
Clients aren’t the only people Sands focuses on creating solid personal relationships with. As the leader of a team that includes 27 agents spread across the country, Sands had to figure out the best management strategy for SIG.
“That was a fun learning curve,” Sands says. “I have to give a shoutout to Reagan Dixon, who is a KW MAPS Commercial Coach and always said, ‘Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first.’ We get in our own way at first and try to overcomplicate and overthink things. The best thing I’ve learned is that accountability is No. 1. We have everyone on our team on accountability metrics for being a great commercial broker – listing appointments, listings generated, offers written with buyers, how many deals under contract and how many deals closed.”
15: Six-Week Sprints
Through coaching and the KW Commercial models, Sands has since been able to come up with a set of best practices that work for him. His method involves breaking down the 52-week year into seven six-week increments, which he calls sprints. The weeks in between are for agents to recharge their batteries and get organized for the next sprint.
“It’s like a racecar driver,” Sands explains. “If you sprinted the whole time, you’d have a blowout or run out of gas and not finish the race. You need the break to get your fuel pump ready to go for next sprint. This, combined with our team scorecard, holds everybody accountable to each other, and we’ve got rewards and penalties that go with that.”
Through the process, members of the SIG team have stepped up into leadership roles that allow Sands to better split his time between management and production.
30: Culture of Leadership
“A lot of growth happens organically through the culture of leadership that we foster within our team,” he says. “I come from a servant leadership mindset, and I encourage each of our agents to grow and build their own teams and to pay it forward.”
Because of this structure, Sands can go more into production mode if he needs to or, conversely, spend extra time building new systems to fuel team growth. His passion for his team and his business is why he invests a large percentage of the money he and his team earn back into SIG. “You have to be invested in the people on your team and passionate about what you do,” he says. “What wakes me up every day is trying to build something that leaves a footprint in this industry. I want to create a better platform for my team so we can grow. I like to use the analogy of a carousel. If you take out the engine, the carousel is heavy and monstrous, and it takes all your might to get it started, but eventually you’ll get it spinning enough that you can just stand there pushing it along. A lot of people jump off the carousel too early, and it stops because you don’t keep pushing it. That’s why you have to love what you do. If you stay active in brokerage and production, it has value for your team because you know what’s going on in the industry.”
40: Giving Back
As a way of expressing gratitude for his success, Sands, who now lives in Charleston, S.C., with his wife, Elizabeth, and their sons, Drew and Will, established Sands Investment Gives, which donates a percentage of SIG’s profits (roughly 10 percent of gross production) each year to charity.
“The reason why I gravitated toward Keller Williams was its focus on putting God first, followed by family and then business,” Sands says. “I wanted to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. We’ve been amazingly blessed with the growth of our team, and I want to help others with the blessings we’ve been given. When I started this team, my whole theory was that I wanted to change the perception in the marketplace for commercial brokers. My goal was to try to rebrand that in the marketplace and create a place of helping and giving back.”
Game: No One Succeeds Alone
At the end of the day, Sands credits the success of his business to the KW Commercial model.
“I have to give props to all the work that’s been done by the KW Commercial team to take the best of Keller Williams and bring that into the commercial world,” he says. “I appreciate that new lens from which I’ve been able to look at commercial real estate. I love looking at these guys who have built these businesses selling 500 to 800 homes a year. It’s the fascination of being affiliated with this company. I also have to give a shout-out to all the people on my team who have faith and loyalty in our business. There’s nothing that I do that’s miraculous, and we wouldn’t be here without them. I think we’re on the right trajectory to do great things together.”