I hesitate to write this. I really do.
The reason is that I have so much admiration for Gary Keller, who is on my list of the top five most important and influential people in the history of the residential real estate industry. (The other four are: Colbert Coldwell, Dave Liniger, Arthur Barnhisel, and the duo of Lloyd Frink and Rich Barton.) The real estate company he founded in 1983, Keller Williams, has grown to be the largest single brand in the world by agent count with over 180,000 agents in May of 2018. (Realogy remains larger across its many brands with about 192,000 agents.)
Many of my favorite people in the industry are Keller Williams brokers and agents, and things like KWCares, Red Day and KW’s coming to the assistance of the people of Houston after Hurricane Harvey are extraordinary and worthy of admiration.
But I have never seen a clearer example of Jim Collins’s Five Stages of Decline than Gary Keller’s performance on Inman stage yesterday. Inman News recap of the session notes:
But the tone of the conversation — intense, conflict-ridden, sometimes awkward, sometimes funny — is what really stole the show.
That’s being rather gentle.
UPDATE: Inman has published the full video of the session in sparkling HD. Go check it out!
Combined with the strange message of his Vision speech at Family Reunion earlier this year (which I discussed here and here), what I saw was a leader of a company well past Stage 1, deep in Stage 2, and headed towards Stage 3 of decline. This is worth talking about not because any of us should take pleasure in KW’s fall, but because other companies in real estate can and should learn important lessons from what is unfolding before our eyes.
Dr. Slido, the One Word is “Hubris”
Since I’ve learned not to rely on a news report, let me embed the video of the complete session between Brad Inman and Gary Keller:
You tell me whether I’m being uncharitable when I say that the one word to describe Gary Keller on stage yesterday is “hubris.”
The constant back and forth with Brad Inman was entertaining, to be sure, and Gary Keller’s charisma is undeniable, but…. The constant interruptions and side comments, the refusal to sit down, the one-upmanship, the incessant “We’re #1” claims, the putdowns of other companies…. Combine all of that with small revealing moments like, “Pretty much all the people that Inman News worships,” and “I built an innovation engine,” and “I don’t care” (when told that Glenn Sanford of eXp respects him) and so on and it is extremely difficult to avoid the overwhelming impression of (a) supreme confidence, if you’re a fan, or (b) overweening arrogance, if you are not.
Is this what you want from the leader of your organization?
And if this is the leader, what does that say about the organization?
Five Stages of Decline
Jim Collins wrote How the Mighty Fall to help leaders learn how to stave off decline and to reverse the course. In this post about the book, Collins lays out the Five Stages of Decline:
- Hubris born of success
- Undisciplined pursuit of more
- Denial of risk and peril
- Grasping for salvation
- Capitulation to irrelevance or death
Quite a few companies and organizations in real estate are somewhere on this curve from hubris to capitulation, but it is difficult to discern exactly where and to find evidence of where they are.
But it seems clear that Keller Williams is past the point of hubris born of success and deep into an undisciplined pursuit of more, and leaning into a denial of risk and peril.
Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success
Of hubris born of success, Collins writes:
Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow. Luck and chance play a role in many successful outcomes, and those who fail to acknowledge the role luck may have played in their success—and thereby overestimate their own merit and capabilities—have succumbed to hubris.
The best leaders we’ve studied never presume they’ve reached ultimate understanding of all the factors that brought them success. For one thing, they retain a somewhat irrational fear that perhaps their success stems in large part from fortuitous circumstance.
Does any of Gary Keller’s performance at Inman, or at Family Reunion, strike you as suggesting an irrational fear that perhaps success stems in large part from luck?
Do his constant putdowns of competitors, from eXp Realty to Realogy, say to you that this is a guy who underestimates or overestimates KW’s merit and capabilities?
What I find so disturbing about this is that Gary Keller does in fact have penetrating understanding and insight as to why they’re successful. I wrote in a previous post:
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 says on Inman stage, he woke up about three years ago and realized that training and education is no longer the key, but “technology and only technology” is. (At about the 31:45 mark of the video above.) That’s a remarkable insight.
However, hubris born of success led directly to stage 2: undisciplined pursuit of more.
Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More
On stage 2, Collins writes:
Hubris from Stage 1 (“We’re so great, we can do anything!”) leads right to Stage 2, the Undisciplined Pursuit of More—more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as “success.” Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence—or both. When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall. Although complacency and resistance to change remain dangers to any successful enterprise, overreaching better captures how the mighty fall.
Discontinuous leaps into areas in which you have no burning passion is undisciplined. Taking action inconsistent with your core values is undisciplined. Investing heavily in new arenas where you cannot attain distinctive capability, better than your competitors, is undisciplined. Launching headlong into activities that do not fit with your economic or resource engine is undisciplined. Addiction to scale is undisciplined. To neglect your core business while you leap after exciting new adventures is undisciplined. To use the organization primarily as a vehicle to increase your own personal success—more wealth, more fame, more power—at the expense of its long-term success is undisciplined. To compromise your values or lose sight of your core purpose in pursuit of growth and expansion is undisciplined. [Emphasis added]
Is this not a perfect description of Keller Williams in 2018? A company that has strayed from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place? One that is making leaps into an arena where they cannot be great, cannot be better than existing incumbents in that new arena, into activities (technology development) that do not fit with its economic engine?
KW’s culture and emphasis on training, on learning, on community all made it the largest single brand in real estate over the past 30 years. Gary’s insight into the mechanics and motivations of agent teams gave KW a huge leg up over their competitors in real estate in the past decade or more.
Absent hubris from success (“We’re so great, we can do anything!”), KW might have seen the coming changes in the industry and the importance of technology, and chosen to find partnership and alliances with everybody they could in order to remain focused on the real estate industry.
Instead, it chose to jump into the technology industry with both feet, calling itself a “technology company”, dressing its senior executives in what they think is the tech-startup uniform of black t-shirts and hoodies, and telling technology vendors to FOAD.
Talk about a discontinuous leap into areas in which they have no burning passion.
Then on stage yesterday, when Brad asks Gary whether he has a deal with Zillow, or with “any of these people”, Gary does the coy thing and “What do I do with Zillow?” and “I have an agreement with Dotloop, but they can’t use our data.” Why in the world would you want to alienate and piss off Zillow?
Love ’em or hate ’em, Zillow is a company with a burning passion for technology. They are the largest technology company in real estate by far today. I wrote about this in my second post about Gary’s Vision speech:
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.
To turn from the disciplined focus on real estate, on training, on education and on culture–in which KW had substantial advantages over its competitors–to compete head-on with real technology companies, in their own backyard, then go out of your way to piss them off as much as possible….
This is a textbook example of Stage 2 of decline: undisciplined pursuit of more. It is a direct result of hubris born of success.
That is where KW is today.
Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril
But after yesterday’s performance by Gary Keller, I have to wonder if KW is not edging into stage 3 of decline. When Brad asks Gary “Does anyone scare you?” and the answer is a disbelieving “Noooo!” as if Brad had asked if Gary likes Nickelback… it’s beginning to feel a lot like
Christmas Stage 3.
On stage 3, Collins writes:
As companies move into Stage 3, internal warning signs begin to mount, yet external results remain strong enough to “explain away” disturbing data or to suggest that the difficulties are “temporary” or “cyclic” or “not that bad,” and “nothing is fundamentally wrong.” In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether. When those in power begin to imperil the enterprise by taking outsize risks and acting in a way that denies the consequences of those risks, they are headed straight for Stage 4.
No one scares Keller Williams? Nobody?
Obviously, Zillow doesn’t scare Keller Williams. Does Amazon scare them? How about Google?
Sure, the history of the real estate industry is filled with lions over the hill who have ended up doing precisely zip to change the fundamentals of brokerage. But KW is no longer competing (solely) in that space; KW wants to be a technology company because technology, and only technology matters. No one scares Gary Keller or his team at KW in that arena?
At one point, Gary Keller says, “When people disagree with me, that means I’m ahead.” Really?
Does anybody on the senior team, or in the agent Leadership Council that Gary mentions (around 31:00 minute mark) disagree with Gary? Is there any vigorous, fact-based dialogue happening inside the room where decisions are being made? You know, facts like “$1 billion really isn’t that much in technology” and comparing the number (and quality) of programmers working for KW vs. the number (and quality) of engineers working for Amazon, Zillow, Redfin?
How about facts like huge numbers of KW’s producing agents leaving for eXp, NextHome, and others? I mean, Gary himself admitted as much when he talked about former KW agents now at eXp returning $1 million in profit sharing. That’s a lot of profit sharing which left the company in recent months, no?
I don’t know and can’t say whether KW as a whole is in Stage 3 of the decline. Maybe there are vigorous debates behind the scenes, and Gary feels like he’s way ahead as his own senior team disagrees with him on investing $1 billion into becoming a technology company–something precisely none of the senior executives at KW have any experience running. Maybe his franchisees and top producing agents are sending warning sign after warning sign back to Austin, and those warning signs are being heeded.
But based on what I saw yesterday, it’s hard to think that’s what’s happening.
Could KW Actually Be in Stage 4?
It could actually be that what we are seeing is Stage 4 of the Decline. What Gary Keller and the KW team are doing is not making discontinuous leaps into areas in which they have no burning passion, but throwing up a Hail Mary pass out of desperation. That is a possibility.
Of stage 4, Grasping for Salvation, Collins writes:
The cumulative peril and/or risks gone bad of Stage 3 assert themselves, throwing the enterprise into a sharp decline visible to all. The critical question is: How does its leadership respond? By lurching for a quick salvation or by getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place? Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4. Common “saviors” include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product, a “game-changing” acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions. Initial results from taking dramatic action may appear positive, but they do not last.
Charismatic visionary leader? Check. (Note that Gary Keller is not KW’s CEO. John Davis is.)
Bold but untested strategy? Check.
Radical transformation? Check.
Dramatic cultural revolution? Maybe.
Hoped-for blockbuster product? Check.
The only thing missing so far is a “game-changing” acquisition. Maybe that’s in the works.
In a way, that would explain all of the over-the-top rhetoric on display yesterday on Inman’s stage: it isn’t arrogance we’re seeing, but fear. It is possible that KW’s pivot strategy isn’t one born out of hubris, but out of desperation, a grasping at salvation, a silver bullet named Kelle to stave off the bad news….
If so, that is a tragedy. Gary Keller is one of the greatest leaders in the history of real estate. He deserves to go down as one of the visionaries who truly deserves the oft-abused term “game-changer.” I sincerely hope that he turns the ship around and reverses the decline.
Need for Introspection
As I mentioned at the outset, I really hesitated to write this at all. I know there are going to be people who think I’m just hating on Gary and on Keller Williams. That’s just sad and unfortunate, since I have enormous admiration for both the man and the company he built.
I wrote this because you, me, the rest of us can learn something from what we are seeing. Decline is hardly limited to just Keller Williams. So many companies, organizations, and institutions in the real estate industry find themselves in one stage or another of decline. The challenge for leadership is to identify when you are in decline, identify where you are, and think of ways to reverse the decline.
Collins tells the story of one such turnaround success story at Xerox. I urge you to read about it in full.
There is no reason why KW can’t turn things around. It isn’t too late. There is no reason why other companies in real estate facing decline, facing bad news, facing irrelevance and loss of value, can’t turn things around. They can.
But in order to turn things around, you have to first acknowledge that you are in decline, and identify where things might have gone sideways. Grasping at silver bullets is not the answer (that’s Stage 4, and close to terminal). Discipline and above all, introspection are necessary. Today’s mighty can fall, but then again, today’s mighty can also find ways to coexist with tomorrow’s mighty.
It doesn’t have to be that the best of all the years have gone by. It isn’t too late for introspection, for getting back to your core competencies, for a disciplined approach to changing market conditions. It’s not too late to turn around.
I hope for all our sakes that leaders find a way to do just that.
58 thoughts on “Stages of Decline: The Keller Williams Edition”
I worked at KW for 8 years, 16 months as a Team Leader (life expectancy for TL’s at that time was 14 months). You are 100% correct-the day in 2010 Gary walked out on stage to address the agents at Family Reunion he said” I won’t start talking until you idiots shut up”. The hubris you describe was on display. Next thing was the announcement that KW was aiming for World Domination shouted from the stage. They are on a decline and his ego blinds him to reality.
They need a full rebuild of he technology team, starting with Mr. Team. It’s hard to listen to him make a larger mess of what should be a simple product strategy.
I agree. Maybe what you’re learning is that products are not simple.
“Simple product strategy” is a farse. Technology is difficult. Extremely difficult. And when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of Agents and hundreds of different use cases and needs, the “simplicity” on becomes that much harder.
They’re in over their head and they won’t be able to win.
I’ve known Gary for over 22 years and he is acting exactly like he always has. He is a visionary, and he really doesn’t care what you or mostly anyone else thinks about him. Frankly, I don’t either. So like you, I hesitate to write this. I really do. I don’t have to defend GK; like most winners, the scoreboard does that nicely. KW is still growing at double, triple or ten-fold over competitors that are admittedly “knock-offs” or just bragging about growth that seems anemic in comparison. Have you seen the numbers? Record-breaking productivity numbers, and the agents continue making more money. This “article” shows that you are either a hater, or are completely naive about what is about to happen in the real estate industry…or, you’re part of the movement that wants to see real estate agents lose their ability to build a business and fund a big life. If it is the latter, your readers are supporting their own demise and you must think that’s pretty entertaining.
Well, in every post about Gary Keller, I take pains to point out that he’s been far more successful by every measure than just about everybody in the industry. He doesn’t need to care about what I think about him. His company might want to care a bit about what brokers and agents think, however. But, they don’t need to do anything either.
I have seen what numbers are publicly provided; what are you pointing to? I wouldn’t mind seeing these record-breaking productivity numbers. Please feel free to share.
As for my being completely naive, or something about real estate agents losing their ability to build a business, I’d appreciate it if you can clarify what you’re talking about.
You had to write something to get people to read your article and you picked your topic. I was front row, center stage and I have to say that GK did an amazing job and the CEOs/Founders who took stage after him was a let down. GK owned it!. KW is number 1 in almost every ranking. 50% of the agents who joined NAR last month were KW agents. Again, you wrote an article so people would read it. Looks like some did
Well said Dee Dee
I have to ask why is it that eXp’ers are the first to jump in on these articles? Judy and Susan? I’ve seen the view from both sides. Trump bashing is popular too..
The bias that Inman, and this writer consistently shows against KW, and Gary Keller is sad yet predictable. If you look at the ads that funded the event, and the coverage of those companies, it becomes crystal clear.
Don’t mistake passion for hubris. Gary’s vision is to fiercely protect the agent’s value in the transaction. It always has been and always will be. That’s a vision I align with and clearly over 186,000 others do as well.
The only consistent theme here, is how those at Inman have been consistently wrong about KW.
“When people disagree with me, it just means I’m ahead.”
Honestly, I came into this with zero opinion of GK but after watching that? Yes, I’d say “hubris” is a fair word to use here. No, I don’t think KW will be the company that revolutionizes the industry.
His whole argument seems to be, don’t buy your software from a third party and don’t let them have access to your data, just buy your software from me and give me ownership of your data. His vision of the future of the industry leaves no room for independent brokers who lack the resources and manpower to build, maintain, update, and secure proprietary technology, while also making the prospect of switching from one brand to another nearly impossible without having to re-learn your entire workflow and leave all of your data behind.
Think I’m exaggerating? Ask a Windows user to do nearly anything on a Mac. Worse yet, ask a Mac user to install a program on Linux (the horror!). Most people, especially those who rely on technology for their day-to-day business, will never switch platforms, regardless of how frustrated they get with their current one or how much the other has to offer.
That is ultimately the goal of creating a separate, closed technology platform, to secure loyalty by making the switch feel like a herculean endeavor.
Fortunately, there is a way that agents can own their tech, and their data, without being personally responsible for building, maintaining, and upgrading that tech. It’s called “open source.”
Unfortunately, embracing open source technology requires one major skill that many in the real estate industry seem to have lost somewhere between kindergarten and adulthood: sharing.
Gary Keller never valued his technology department and has greatly underestimated the talent and salaries it will take to be competitive in the tech space again. A Keller Williams CRM that will not integrate with any other technologies is useless and has been a major complaint since the 2011 eEdge. Real estate AI that like a really bad version of Siri 1.0 is never going to make it. If I want to know the definition of GCI I do not ask the Kelle app, I go to Google. Just my 2 cents, I was at KW for a decade. Jumped ship when GK started spending all his time on stage talking about eXp.
As an agent I walked out of an event in 2008. He was incredibly arrogant then. I, I, I, I….you get the point. In addition to that his black tee shirt was 2 sizes too small. Not impressed with his behavior while still recognizing his accomplishments.
It reminded me of Clint Eastwood talking to the chair.
BTW, I think this is the gutsiest blog post in the history of real estate. Let’s confront our future.
Just so you have some facts to elucidate Gary’s and my deliberate, forthright and provocative stances, I’ll share my local numbers with you.
It looks like hubris, yet I’ll give you some fresh productivity numbers from the #1 real estate office in Dekalb County GA, Keller Williams Realty Metro Atlanta, and let you gauge if Refin, EXP, Knock, etc. are at my level.
As you know, I am remarkable.
My hometown of Greenville, SC has a high quotient of remarkable people, especially now that The Notorious R.O.B. chooses to make it his home!
And, agent enabled tech is not going to take away my minimum 2-3 dozen sales a year at a $350Kish average.
Pay structure may change in some ways; so what, I’ll adapt.
I love my business.
Knock, etc. might be cool and provocative and game changing, however they have to make money in the long run.
Lets revisit these numbers in one year.
YTD 2018 through June KWRMA Decatur, GA
(headcount today = 240+ Realtors)
$327,741 Profit Share +15.5% over 2017
$351,561 Owner Profit +14.3% over 2017
$1 mil+ Company $ +13.2% over 2017
78% of agents closed at least 1 contract last month
The same staff of 8 has been with us for many, many years.
As we grow our costs are relatively fixed so every new agent is pure profit.
Rob – I know that you and Sunny have seen some broke-ass business models out there.
How do you think we are doing in Decatur?
I’ll run Broker Metrics for you next week and show you how Redfin and Knock remain ankle biters in the “greater Decatur” submarket.
By the way, I love the approach in your article.
Yet, Gary is rising to his singular challenge – no matter how you and Brad and others look at it, Gary has an unbridled pursuit at staying #1 and he bases that in his determination that the talented, enabled agent will always drive the fiduciary part of this business.
Certain submarkets and price ranges and property types will be more worthwhile for agent enabled tech models.
So, let them have the dregs, the distressed and the DIY know-it-alls.
Let ’em have it.
In Decatur and Intown Atlanta, most – not many – most of the busy executives and professionals who work at the CDC, or Emory or GA Tech or UPS or Spanx, need a fiduciary, and most hire established agents with demonstrable track records.
I’ve met a lot of functionary agents who can not spell, complete simple mathematical computations and many even lack emotional intelligence and self-control.
Many need a high dosage of Artificial Intelligence in order to even function, because they lack their own street smarts.
Many come across as woefully unprepared to be in my simple, yet not easy business.
Many of these will be hired by “agent enabled tech” and most will fail.
Welcome to the Pareto Principle.
I predict that in one year, the numbers will be flat for my market center and that the agent headcount in my office will reduce to below 200.
We will still be the dominant real estate brokerage in Dekalb County, Georgia.
I’ll close with this – Shaun Rawls told me in 1999 “the smartest agent in the deal does the paperwork.”
I’m always doing the paperwork.
No bot can be a comprehensive fiduciary.
Oh, this is going to be so fun, Lee 🙂
We can execute an NDA with you guys if you want to share the full numbers 🙂 2017 P&L and 2018 YTD of the same would be a good start. 🙂
Can I watch if I sign an NDA too?
You read my mind.
The varied opinions interest me. I thought this was Keller being Keller.
It seemed like he had things he wanted to say, but Brad wanted him to give shorter answers, which are good for Inman articles but dont allow Gary to finish his thoughts.
I laughed in spite of myself when Gary said that Inman “worshipped” companies. They appear to become fixated on firms that are backed by venture capital, and aren’t necessarily profitable. It’s a fair point.
Great observation, I don’t think Gary was given the freedom or enough time to finish what he had to say. Brad was a jerk, when you have the CEO of the largest Real Estate Company in the World as a guest, perhaps you should interrupt less and listen more.
That sounds reasonable.
Brad is a jerk and Inman isn’t worth paying attention to anymore. They haven’t been unbiased in a long time and they hate traditional brokerages. With that said, does Rob have a point? Time will tell, within a year or two tops 🙂
Mr Keller is a respectful genuine person who built an empire, before Zillow, Redfin or Exp were born.He knows one or two things on the real estate industry, better than we all can imagine.He is not afraid from competition why should he.
You have to ask why Mr Keller talks and behaves the way he is. It is not because he is arrogant, or because the success he achieved. It is because he is pissed off and shows it and he lets everybody to know on that.
He is pissed of on Zillow who is using the data that real estate agents are working very hard to get and sells them back in the name of “Premier Agent” program.
He is pissed off on Redfin who lowered the commission to real estate agents with their business model.
He is pissed off on Inman who basically writing every week, two or three articles on those companies, and gives them a huge stage by naming them “Disruptors”.
Mr Keller talks from his heart, but people do not like to hear the truth.He really cares on the agents deeply in his heart.He sees the horrible future real estate agents will have, in years to come, if agents continue with Zillow or Redfin.
People like to live in a hope that the tomorrow will be better. The media gives the people fake news telling them that, selling and buying a home without a real estate agent, is the future.
Let’s be honest with each other. The dream of many startups technology companies who are building platforms for the real estate industry, is to eliminate the middleman. Zillow founder achieved success in the travel industry, did he changed the way he thinks on real estate agents? I am not sure.With all the sofistiaed technologies out there, the last judge is the consumer.The consumer wants and needs the agents, do not fool yourselves.
So, you think it makes sense for KW to pivot to become a technology company?
What is the technology you are talking about? Can you be more specific on the technology you think they need to compete with those companies you wrote about?
The fact that Mr Keller made this statement means that, he realized that KW needs improvements with their current technology, but that doesn’t mean he needs to fear Zillow, Google , Amazon etc etc,,
I’m not the one talking about the technology; Gary is:
“We are a technology company. No. 1 that means we build the technology. No. 2 that means we hire the technologists … We are not a real estate company anymore,” Keller Williams co-founder Gary Keller declared today at Keller Williams Family Reunion in Anaheim, California.
What does that mean to you, Bert?
It remains to be seen if this is an Apple moment of hubris backed up by success or BlackBerry hubris followed by massive decline. The world awaits.
What we are really waiting to see is when and how deeply commission compression will affect the industry.
That means what I said. Mr Keller realized that KW needs improvements with their current technology. So he said that KW is now a technology company, so what! People are saying many things on the moment and really do not mean them. In my 35 years practicing real estate law, I have seen thousands of them.
Gotcha. So Gary didn’t really mean it when he said what he said. It was just to pump up the crowd a bit.
OK, that is a valid interpretation. 🙂
Speaking of bottom lines. I would love to see an assessment of whether brokers can survive with Purplebricks dream of $,3600 per side or the Trelora dream of $2500 per side.
I’m always hearing of how brokers have thin margins with the current commission structures. How does that get any better with the Purplebricks or Trelora models?
You must understand market investments trends.
There is a trend nowadays coming from VC to invest in, the real estate industry.
Many of those VC have no knowledge on their investments.
They are feed from many entrepreneurs with promises that, this specific business model, will make them billions.
If you`ll see the comparison graph of successful investments versus those investments who failed, you will realize that close to 90% of those investments failed.
There are lots of fantasies in people’s minds, but once reality knocks on your door, only then you wake up and realized you lost your money.
There are thousands of failure stories and very few success stories.
I admire Gary Keller.
I was at KW for one year and left in 2011 because I found the culture hypocritical. Daily office operations and procedures opaque. My concerns met with persecution.
Yeah, poignant … whatever.
The most telling was the technology KW boasted. The CRM, along with so-called drip campaign, and website in 2010-11 were awful then — even for a newbie like me to real estate and its technology. So I don’t see KW rising to the “technology” challenge in 2018.
I agree with you, it’s hubris.
Rob, you are such a predictable hater that after reading few of yours articals I know exactly what you would say on any KW topic . And again when you don’t have any arguments you ask for more clarification So funny … reminds me of bad journalism . Keep hating my
Man , few people understand geniuses , you are not one of them . Arrogance or not , we like the way Gary stood up to bullying , you all can write what you want .. few people here tried to explain what Gary did , but even Brad at the times didn’t understand what Gary was saying ..no matter what Gary said you and a like would have found something to pick apart and call “ dying KW” … you are notorious for certain things ?
When you say, “Keep hating my man…” is there some kind of breaking news here? 🙂 I kid! I kid.
Seriously, thanks for caring what I think at all.
I hesitate to write this.
I really do.
Isn’t this how most insults begin.
Similar to the phrase, “I don’t mean to be racist but…”
It especially pains me to write this after you’ve already placed 2,750 words into this article. (A little under 1,000 of the words were quotes from Jim Collins.)
Let’s start with Jim Collins then work our way through your article.
Who is Jim Collins in relationship to Gary Keller? Is he a credible author with a history of success in building world-class businesses from the ground up? Or, does he focus his energy on predicting the past with an article about things that have already happened?
Here’s a great article on Jim Collins ability to do nothing spectacular with his books but state the obvious while making loose connections to the past.
One of the reasons why I hesitate to write this response is from an appreciation for your work over the years. You’ve been a great voice of reason in our community and I hope, like your advice to Gary Keller, you’re able to “turn things around.”
Words have meanings, Rob.
It’s best we define the word hubris because you’re using the word incorrectly in this article. You’ll appreciate me placing the definition in my response for clarification purposes.
Google defines hubris as “excessive pride or self-confidence”.
I’m going to assume that this is the same meaning you’re using.
If that’s the case, when did Gary Keller show “excessive pride or excessive self-confidence”?
If you believe that Gary is demonstrating this in his performance, you must think the same about Brad, correct?
Isn’t Brad the person that asked the audience about the relevancy of Gary’s book?
Isn’t Brad the person that structured an agreement with Gary via email only to lure him to the stage to attempt to make him seem like he’s out of touch with the current state of real estate?
Isn’t Brad the person that interrupted Gary in a 15-minute whiteboard presentation that Gary practiced in his office for this very presentation?
It seems like you have a great ability to watch the video and only focus on Gary.
How would you have performed if the event organizer disrespected you on stage with no warning?
I attended a Keller Williams Family Reunion event where Gary spent 5 – 7 minutes praising Brad for the work he does for the real estate industry.
Where is the same respect to Gary from Brad?
Did you watch Brad’s interview with Redfin’s founder or CEO? Was it the same hostility?
My last point:
I missed your point in posting Facebook R&D expense. Based on your numbers, Zillow has a long way to go to catch up to Facebook.
Did you want your readers to compare Facebook to real estate companies? Have you seen Facebook’s market cap?
Now, when we look at Zillow’s versus Keller Williams we see a fair comparison. Both companies have the capital to match spends on R&D.
The only difference is that Keller Williams makes money on market share, not technology.
My question to you is, if Gary can reduce his agent’s expenses across the board by bringing all of the technology services in-house while maintaining their income, which company will be more attractive to agents everywhere?
Zillow doesn’t have a brokerage, so they’re not KW’s competitor. Realory has “bolt-on technology” and no plans of bringing R&D in-house.
The video you shared is another example of Gary Keller playing chess while the rest of the industry is playing checkers.
Oh by the way, if Gary was interested in quieting any rumors about other brokerages in the industry, what is the best way for him to have the most impact? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not on his turf at his events.
Another classic move from Gary’s vault. He went where the fish are versus waiting for them to come to him.
Really, this is my last point,
If you saw the sessions that followed Gary’s you’ll see the Gary outperformed the other panelist. The panel that followed Gary’s session began with 2/3rds of the panelist testifying how profit share impacted their lives. Glenn said, “I love it”. (It being Keller Williams).
Like I said at the beginning of this post,
I hesitate to write this.
I really do.
Well said Abraham.
I can only imagine what you’ve been witnessing so close to the inner circle.
I’m looking forward to jumping into the technology KW is building with both feet.
It feels like the start of a revolution.
Everyone gets to decide what side of history they will be on.
Wow…. Just wow…
I hate to write this.
I really do.
Isn’t this how most insults begin? Shooting the writer instead of focusing on the message?
It especially pains me to write this when Gary Keller needs no defending by anyone.
I wasn’t first row center stage like the guy who made the earlier comment and I’ve never met Gary Keller, but I watched and listened.
Gary Keller can say whatever he wants because he runs a fairly large company and there is no public shareholder accountability for his company’s decisions or performance – at least not in the same sense as RE/MAX, Realogy or Redfin – so he can get away with the outlandish comments that he makes. Those are the rules whether we like them or not.
Having said that, I agree with you, Rob – Gary Keller exhibits hubris pretty clearly. But even if there’s a day of reckoning for Gary Keller, it’s still a way off.
And who really cares?
Brad Inman is a topic for another day.
You’ve earned your bully pulpit. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the comment, Simon 🙂 Good to have you swing by.
It is a bit of a mystery to me why so many people feel that Gary needs to be defended, especially from me, when all I do is point out how amazing and successful and wealthy the guy is. That GK is arrogant can’t be argued either, even if you’re his biggest fan. No powerful successful people are free from self-regard and a bit of hubris.
As for the “who really cares” part, however, my point is that the rest of us should care because I think the decisions that KW have made, the strategy that is has chosen to pursue, lead to decline. I’ve stated my thesis on where on the 5 Stages of Decline KW is; the root cause of that bad decision is hubris, born of success. Other brokers, other franchise leaders, team owners, tech company leaders — they need to be a bit introspective and see where they’re at.
Thanks for the comment. Lots of thought went into it, and well-argued.
I’ll respond to this point: “If that’s the case, when did Gary Keller show “excessive pride or excessive self-confidence”?”
When he decided that KW was no longer a real estate company, but a technology company, that was when he showed excessive self-confidence.
His on-stage behavior explained how and why he reached that decision. It also showcased either excessive pride or deep-seated fear (depending on where on the decline curve you think KW is today) in small but meaningful ways.
Seriously, you’ve just announced that you are a technology company, but no one scares you? Not Amazon? Not Google? Not Facebook? EVERYBODY in technology is scared of those guys, but Gary Keller is not? That’s… excessive self-confidence.
Now, you keep saying that KW is a real estate company. Zillow isn’t a competitor because they don’t have brokerages. That directly contradicts Gary Keller at Family Reunion. So perhaps like Bert elsewhere on this thread, you just think he didn’t mean what he said. That’s one way to interpret things. I took GK at his word. (Oh, by the way, does KWRI have brokerages? I thought it was a franchise, no in-house brokerage like Realogy’s NRT. Is that not true? Does KWRI have corporate-owned market centers?)
As for Brad, well, sure, you can say he baited Gary and was disrespectful and all of that. To quote Gary Keller, “I don’t care.” The issue isn’t the circus on stage; the issue is the bad strategy resulting from overconfidence (or fear). If Brad tomorrow decided that Inman was no longer in the news/content business, but was in the homebuilding business, because “We’re Inman, we can do anything!” then I suspect I would say the same thing about them that I’m saying about KW.
Look, at the end of the day, I’m just some guy on the internet. He’s Gary %*#$@ Keller. He’s one of the GOAT in the history of the real estate industry. You’re a successful team leader with 24 sales all time. You’re out there hustling, in the trenches, working with real buyers and sellers. What do either of you care what I think?
So in the final analysis, I guess I’m grateful that you’re here at all. 🙂 Thank you!
Thanks for responding.
There are currently 45 responses/comments to your thread at the time of this rebuttal.
You used 379 words to respond to my initial response. Making your response to my response, your longest so far.
I’m also glad you’re here as well.
I won’t be able to go into great detail to provide you with a response because I’m heading to an open house.
I will be sure to answer any questions you had about my critique of your post in a later comment. (Hopefully, by the end of the day.)
I want to address two concerns I noticed in your responses. Let’s start with your response to me.
1) Why did you link to my Zillow profile showing my sales record? Are you attempting to reduce the validity of my post by assuming that I do not have enough sales history?
I only ask because you didn’t do the same to Haro or any other poster on this thread.
I find this method of debate strange…
I understand why you did it.
It would seem that you’re taking a page from politicians using smear campaigns when they meet a superior opponent. I would like you to know that I’m flattered that you felt it necessary to use this type of tactic on me.
(This is me tipping my hat to you.)
It’s only right that I address my lack of real estate sales since you bring this point to this conversation. I’m no lawyer, but TV court does the same thing.
Abraham Walker’s Real Estate Resume:
2008 – 2013 – Real estate agent in New Orleans, Louisiana
Aug 2013 – Feb 2014 – Real estate agent in Alexandria, Virginia
Feb 2014 – May 2016 – Team Leader at Keller Williams Realty Kingstowne
May 2016 – present – Real estate agent in Alexandria, Virginia
(The rest of my resume is available on my LinkedIn Profile, and I have a 10-minute long video in the bio of my website going through this entire process.)
My Zillow profile only shows my real estate sales history in Alexandria, Virginia. I’m not sure if it’s accurate because we place my transactions under my wife’s name in the MLS system.
Since I do not use Zillow as a form of lead generation, I ignore its existence except for my company profile.
Hopefully, that helps you understand my validity in real estate. I’m saddened you resorted to such measure because it helps other people see your character.
I trust you refrain from such measures in the future.
Life is full of all types of people.
Let’s jump into the 2nd thing I noticed in your response/
2. Why are you asking people, “why they care about your position” or “why they are defending Gary Keller”?
This line of questions seems odd to me because you know why people are responding on Gary’s behalf.
Gary Keller won’t respond to your post.
That’s the main reason why his followers respond to the post on his behalf.
Why should he waste his energy responding to someone that doesn’t exist…
You’re very influential to thought leaders in the real estate industry. Look at some of the responses to most of your post.
Aren’t you considered a voice of reason in the real estate industry?
Wasn’t that your goal when you decided to build this platform?
(You can tell you’re successful because of the companies that advertise on your website.)
If Gary Keller isn’t going to respond to your attack on his position, who is left to defend him?
Isn’t that what leaders have?
Followers to do the things that are not high on their list of priorities.
It seems that you would like to say whatever you’d like without recourse.
If that’s the case.
If you would like to speak without opposition.
You can follow Seth Godin’s model. He posts his thoughts every day on his website. By turning off the comments, he ensures that no one can oppose his ideas. It’s a very successful model.
If you won’t turn comments off…
You leave yourself no choice.
Now, I’m headed to my open house. I’ll be sure to come back and answer the questions you asked initial response.
Thanks again for responding. I appreciate your time and attention.
Well, I just spent the day with Gary. I’m also a student of Jim Collins. Gary knows he’s taking a risk. They’ve also studied hard.
This quote definitely applies:
“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”
I totally get why you and others feel this way. I really do. I also got to see inside all of what is being built and as an agent that has a business that does just under 500 sides (2017 and on track for in 2018), I’m really freakin excited.
What I saw today will likely save my business $60,000-$100,000 next year.
Frankly, I’m giddy.
Brad was kind of an ass the other day. I can see why some would say Gary was. That’s fair.
I wonder why Gary came to Inman after 15 years (+/-) of not going. What lured him? What did Brad promise him? It was an hour on stage and he could do what he wanted. Don’t think that happened. I wasn’t timing it AND certainly Brad was uncomfortable not being the center of attention.
And it seemed like 4 minutes before he brought up eXp. Well… guess there was an agenda.
Oddly – Inman rarely EVER talks about REMAX, REALOGY or KW in any favorable light – yet, the numbers seem to still say that those three organizations still DO the lion’s share of the business.
Inman is losing credibility before many readers eyes and fast. Predictable click-bait is a fair assessment of most of the articles.
It’s late. I’m tired. Had a great day helping to build the tech that’s going to fail so miserably. Frankly can’t wait to use such a loser product.
oh… and if Lee doesn’t see your message, I’m happy to send the P&Ls of that office…
odd that an agent would have access to the P&Ls from another office… that’s what happens in open books… profit share made that happen…
Oh, and that very same profit share, that led to open books, that led to uniform books and the transparent transfer of data… MAYBE, just MAYBE… that gave KW an asset no one else has to lay a foundation for the use of a very large set of data…
Nothing to see here. Move right along.
Thanks – send me his and send me yours too while you’re at it. I’d like to compare and contrast between two markets in the Southeast.
Plus, it’d be fascinating to know what’s going on right here in GVL. 🙂
You people spend way too much time over-analyzing a service industry ultimately reliant on human interaction. Do restaurants and dentists wring their hands just as much?
The “people” element of real estate will never go away. And the technology isn’t very complex.
The industry of consultation and analysis you’ve created is akin to new age self help. You’re creating problems to sell solutions.
Most of us in active production don’t care, as long as the check cashes. KW, like any brokerage, is reliant on local leadership and culture.
Claiming GK is our leader is laughable. He’s a commodity and likely easily replaced when his ego extends beyond his ability to provide an effective platform to support the efforts of the agents working under his name.
He’s not a leader, god or deity. He’s an entrepreneur with an expiration date, just like every other one of them. This dialogue is much ado about nothing.
If I could create problems to sell solutions, I’d create bigger problems than this….
It’s not analysis, it’s drama.
I thought Inman looked a little weaker in the exchange, Brad seemed to be more concerned with gaining control for his own ego. The reality is that Gary’s “education” via the flip chart was more interesting than Inman having enough time to ask/solicit mundane questions. In other words, the real action was watching Gary share his take on what’s going on with the industry changes and tech side, my feeling was “let’s hear what his take on this is and who cares about him sitting down with Brad so he could ask him how he wants to be remembered on his tombstone.”
Moreover, it was like a boxing match, Inman tried to throw jabs such as “the Redbook is no longer relevant, I heard you tried to work a a deal with Zillow, your model is to charge for training”, none of these blows had any sting as Gary pretty much fended them off and hit hard with “a little education is good for you, I am not concerned about KW Agents that left to start something else, our tech costs relatively nothing compared to what Agents are paying now, etc.”
My opinion is regardless of what level Gary is concerned about the likes of EXP, I get the impression that he is more salty than anything. Think of it this way, these EXP Agents were with him for a decade or more and received support, profit share and opportunity via an innovative model only to turn around and attempt to parlay their own ambitions into a Company which aims to stick it to KW. I am not making judgement on the playing field, everybody sticks it to everyone, just expressing why Gary may not want to acknowledge these guys.
One thing for sure is times are changing and so is KW, their are lots of Agents putting their money with a proven winner and other’s that hope the market will cooperate long enough for some start ups to get over the hump. I would think that out of all the new horses in the race, many are starting their own cycle of decline.
As an eXp agent and formerly an agent of the #1 market center in the world for KW; I don’t think that any eXp agents or the company as a whole trie’s to “stick it” to KW. KW is a great company and that has been mentioned many times at various times by eXp leadership. When Glenn Sanford created eXp he didn’t do it because of KW. He did it because he saw problems within the traditional franchise model that has existed for 100+ years. KW falls within that trickle down franchise model just as so many others do. I think perhaps so many KW agents have come over as they are already familiar with the model of residual income that they get in profit share. Then they look at a robust residual model with eXp and then throw in the stock awards and everything else we get and it just doesn’t make economic sense for them to hang their license anywhere else. So when they see the model perhaps it clicks faster for them than it may for others. Real estate is an will always be a relationship business and technology doesn’t change in how I interact with my buyers and seller but rather the back office is incredibly efficient which makes me a much more efficient agent and gives me back time in my day as I am not fighting traffic to a traditional brick and mortar. As agents utilize brick and mortar less and less I think it is harder for franchise owners to justify the fees that they charge agents. Ultimately the franchise brick and mortar model is what is broken and brokerages are only now scrambling around trying to figure out how to hold things together when the writing on the wall was there years ago. It is good that KW is trying to be more innovative now. With 170,000 agents I am surprised that it took them this long to invest in such technology. They as well as others will have to keep investing and providing more and more benefits to justify the brick and mortar expense to their agents.
But what did he see broken? I keep looking at eXp and saying what do they deliver. Gary delivers the cloud, the software, the band, the network, profit share, leaders in the industry. Most of the teams at eXp will pay rent now to have their own team offices vs having team offices in the market center. The one thing I can say I do like is one cap nationally if that is true. However, with that said how many agents will even benefit from that. To be eXp is just another brokerage. I have nothing bad at all to say about it. Just like I have nothing bad to say about C21, Re/Max, etc. Just other brokerages. We will have three to five major brokerage that are iBuyers in the future. Zillow will be a brokerage, Offerpad and OpenDoor will be brokerages. I know you will say that OP and OD are, but I am saying full blown brokerages that offer iBuyer side. So in short those are three of the five brokerages that will be around. If iBuyer is not a large part of the brokerage I do not care about technology, software, etc you will be out of business in the decade in my opinion.
It was reminiscent of Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch…not easy to make 180,000 KW agents the best of the business in order to dissuade the disrupters…a few business models have had their day in the sun…C21, Remax, CB, KW…and when you peak, sometimes it is hard to differentiate whether the light at the end of tunnel is an escape route or an oncoming train…it can make you crazy.
The interview at Inman connect was Gary being Gary and if you don’t know him I get how you would perceive him that way. If you know Gary, you know that if you do what you say and do it right he will give you his shirt off his back. He is a fighter who has been under estimated most of his career and still believes that people underestimate his passion and ability.
Brad invited him and said you can speak about whatever you want to, then proceeded to goat him. Gary doesn’t do well with someone that doesn’t shown integrity and will speak his mind. Inman has slighted KW for years and is completed funded by the same folks that Gary has issue with either using our data that we on the streets work damn hard for or companies that are the shiny penny that are new to the market and haven’t either been vetted or stood the test of time. At an agent level I have seen so many agents and mega teams through the years boast about production but when you look at their books there is no profit. Some of these startups aren’t in the business of profitability there are they to position themselves for a buyout and will and do take losses until that happens.
Gary & Brad have had history for a long time so what this blogger doesn’t understand is that Gary has his “One thing” and when he completes that he will assure that his company will follow through on that task and he will go to the next issue. What KW is doing right now is getting us ready to fight for our commissions and take back some of the power that our industry has freely given away. This giveaway started a long time ago with NAR giving away Realtor.com and continues at break neck speed today. Understand that Z will never go away but if their data only has 1/4 to 1/2 of the properties or sales the consumer will stop relying on it and their visitor count will drop through the floor along with their cap.
Gary has forever said KW is an education company disguised as a real estate company. Do you think that any of our education has stopped? The boots on the ground, KWRI, Mega Camp, Masterminds, regional education events monthly, training in each office daily, do you really think education has stopped? Gary’s position in our company is to see where the industry is going and guard our company against the overwhelming lack of concern from our real estate competitors about the loss of our data. If he has to go it alone he will and will have his army of 185,000 and growing each day to support and fight with him.
Finally, I am so fortunate to be invited to the LABS that Gary has been putting on to build this Frankenstein and I will tell you from an insider that the AI behind this is unbelievable and will shock the average agent in what it can do for their businesses. I would have paid for all of my transportation hotel rooms to be involved in this creation but if you know Gary he wants and demands that this is built by agents for agents and to that end KW pays for all flights, hotels and expenses to bring his agents down to these LABS to make sure every possible feature is added and not overlooked. I have always joked that Gary is a research geek which he would proudly admit that and for one that isn’t that that goodness he is because he has changed my life through the education and forecasting of the markets. Gary, if you ever read this, Thanks bub!!
That was a great video. I agree with 100% of what Gary is saying. The part I think is missing is how will this protect the agents from iBuyers. I know iBuyers have been here for a long time. Some of the iBuyers are finally getting some valid traction. Then How will it protect us from the low-cost low-value companies? I agree the technology, AI, software, etc is all important, but how will it lead to defending my business?
It makes no difference if KW considers themselves a technology company or not because the 5 and 6 percent commission will soon be a thing of the past, and realtors will go extinct to the extent they are inextricably licked to the brokerage brick and mortar model that has to charge it to pay for their leases and overhead. The 5 and 6 percent commission was not arrived at through some well thought out process. Sellers aren’t stupid, hardly anybody would elect to pay 8 percent to sell their home, no matter the shade of blue the realtors face becomes repeating “I’m worth it!” “I’m worth it!”, which is currently the number one chambered response to commission objection. The Just as it is not customary to pay 8 percent, 5 and 6 percent commissions will be a thing of the past when sellers can achieve an outcome identical to that of hiring a realtor, for a fraction of the cost. No seller wants to pay 6 percent, they do it because they have to. No agent can explain someone with a 500k home has to pay twice as much as someone with a 250k home, when there isn’t twice the effort. Overpaying at this scale is a social waste. Any fixed percent invoice is inherently flawed because the cost fluctuates and payment exceeds effort. When alternatives to traditional fixed commissions, like Homie, like Trelora, are national, its game over for 5 and 6 percent commissions. Nobody is going to pay 45 grand to sell their home when they can achieve the same result for 5 grand. This is 5 years around the corner. Agents have got sellers paying fixed commissions purely because its customary, nobody would reason themselves into agreeing to pay twice as much as the next person for the same amount of work – just cuz “I’m worth it, I’m worth it!!”
Goes back to the hilarity of KW rejecting ‘bolt-on’ tech. I love that when I open the KW app it says “Powered by Smarter Agent” and it’s a POS.
My mom Pat Fisher owned the Keller Williams franchise in Clearwater Fl during the early 90’s. She purchased it from a guy who cooked the books (shame on her for not seeing it) However she took a failing franchise and was turning it around when Gary and Mo the good Christians they claim to be sold it out from under her while she was in the hospital after returning from the 95 Vegas convention. They said she wasnt profitable enough even though she was more profitable than other KWs in Pinellas county at the time…They not only crippled her financially but destroyed her spirt…they killed the strongest most professional honest real estate woman I’ve ever met or was in the industry. Gary Keller is a lying blood sucking POS and is not to be trusted…Is this where I’m supposed to say ‘In my opinion”?
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