Give Claudia Restrepo a goal and it’s a good bet that she’ll exceed it. Now an agent with Keller Williams Realty Legacy Group in Spokane, Wash., and operating principal (OP) at the Coral Gables-Coconut Grove (Fla.) office, Restrepo arrived in the United States from Colombia in 2003, alone and not speaking a word of English. Within five years, she built a successful mega agent team in the Spokane market, closing $72.9 million in transactions in 2015.
In 2016, she became the first woman ever to reach the No. 1 spot on the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP®) Top 250 list.
The American Dream, Realized
Restrepo’s story is one of persistence, courage and determination in reaching the “American dream.” After making her way to Spokane, she immediately began taking classes to learn English, picking it up quickly by practicing with her roommate and other English-speaking friends. Soon, she landed a job as a bank teller. She was on her feet for eight hours each day, processing transactions and counting money, because the bank didn’t permit tellers to sit down. Restrepo was paid $800 per month.
Soon, she began to look for other opportunities. She had worked for a real estate professional in Colombia, prospecting for rentals, so she decided to earn her real estate license. Shortly after doing so, she noticed a customer wearing a KW shirt in her bank branch. One of her fellow employees knew about her real estate aspirations and urged her to speak to the customer.
“Somebody told me, ‘You should go there because they teach you,’” she recalls. “I talked to the guy, and he invited me to join him. I didn’t do any research; I joined his team as a buyers agent on day one. Within six months, I knew his was what I wanted to do – I eventually wanted to open my own team.”
In 2007, she opened The Legacy Group with a partner. And then the market crashed.
While it would have been easy to panic, Restrepo says that didn’t even enter her mind. Instead, she kept her focus, and managed to close 120 transactions in the first year. But roughly 80 percent of those transactions were buyers. If she was going to grow The Legacy Group the way she intended, she knew she had to change the ratio to include more sellers. She and her partner invested in marketing, especially radio advertising, and she hit the phones every day, becoming the “expired listing queen” – calling the owner of every expired listing she could find, she says.
Doing What Works
For the first two years, her entire world and most of her time revolved around building her team. The marketing and prospecting were working, but Restrepo realized she needed help in helping her team grow and turned to KW MAPS Mastery Coaching.
She hired a KW MAPS Coach – a move to which she credits much of her success. Her coach helped her do everything from setting up systems to learning how to find and hire the right people. In addition, he helped her identify her own strengths and weaknesses so she could use or address them to grow her team. She stayed in close contact with her coach, ensuring that she followed the KW systems to a tee to facilitate the growth of her team. Now she was driven to support her team, whatever it took. Her goal was to reach the 7th Level within five years, but she says her team was ready by their third year.
Even as her business grew, Restrepo began thinking about moving closer to Colombia. She had been involved in Keller Williams Realty International’s operations in Colombia and wanted to be able to return to her homeland more easily than she could from Spokane. To see if her team was ready to operate without her, she began taking two weeks off, or just going into the office two days a week. She was able to take off three months, and the systems worked without her. It was time to find her replacement to lead the 24-person team.
She worked closely with her coach to find just the right person. After extensive interviewing to ensure their work styles and goals were aligned, Restrepo made an off er to John Graham in April 2012 – seven months before her goal date. At first, the transition had its growing pains. She still went to the office every day and found herself managing the team and still doing everything she hired Graham to do.
“I would tell him what he was doing wrong, and he would say, ‘Look, Claudia. You hired me to do your job, but when you come in here, you’re doing your job, so there’s nothing for me to do,’” she says. Now, they laugh about it.
Restrepo moved to the Miami area and worked remotely to help Graham get up to speed, traveling back periodically when necessary. Shortly after her relocation, Restrepo met the team leader of the Coral Gables-Coconut Grove market center, who wanted to get back to doing what she did best – selling homes.
Restrepo knew she needed a strong candidate to fill the team leader role. She interviewed people for two months until she found Maria Elena Arias and offered her the position. Within three years, the market center has grown to more than 350 agents, distributing more than $250,000 in profit share. Its reputation attracts mega agents and icons, doing the same things that have worked before: finding good people, prospecting regularly, investing in marketing, and working with the KW systems.
Even with all of her success, Restrepo says that when she submitted her information to be considered for the NAHREP® list, she thought she would land in the top 10. Finding out that she was the first woman to top the list was confirmation that she was doing the right things for herself and her team. “You cannot take this as a job.
You got hired as CEO of your own business, and you should show up at 7:30 in the morning and leave when the work is done,” she says. “This business is fantastic, but you have to put in the time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to be ready for it.”