- Let’s dive in with Christy Belt Grossman
- What does your Real Estate Team Look Like?
- What are your thoughts on working with Family?
- What’s your whole AVA Christy?
- What does a day in the life of you look like?
- How do you plan to grow your real estate team?
- How do you handle the budget and P & L?
- What is the Best CRM?
- Is your Team in Coaching
- What Advice to you have for Someone wanting to grow?
Let’s dive in with Christy Belt Grossman
Lori: First of all let everybody know, I mean I already know how fantastic you are and a lot of things that you’re known for. But tell everybody on our call who you are and where you do real estate and what your role is.
Christy: I’m Christy Belt Grossman and I’m the chief operating officer of the Belt team and we are in northern Virginia or as of Christmas day the FAA now calls it the no drone zone. We’re about 15 miles west of Washington DC and my team covers Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties. Basically the suburbs of Washington. I’m chief operating officer the COO and I do everything you don’t. (Lori says “or I’m not supposed to do”)
Lori: You do everything us that the big agents are not suppose to be doing anyway right?
Christy: Exactly. Anything that’s not an income producing activity is mine. Actually I do some income producing activities as well but I want my mega agent only doing income producing activities.
Lori: Do you have … okay so let’s first say this, I understand that you work with a family team, is that correct?
Christy: That’s correct.
Lori: Okay, so how long has your team been in business?
Christy: I’ve been with the team for 20 years. It started out with my mom who founded the team as a solo agent, and she was the typical superstar agent back in the day and had a phenomenal business. My brother joined her just over 20 years ago and late in that same year I joined the team as well. We were a team kind of before teams existed, before people really knew what teams were. Now we’re a team of 10.
What does your Real Estate Team Look Like?
Christy: My brother, Terry is the CEO, or the [AnythingPopup id=”6″],he does listings only. We have a lead buyer agent and a showing partner. We’ve got 2 agents who both do buyers and listings, and we have a brand new agent that just joined the team at the end of the year. My mom is sort of, she does a handful of transactions a year, so she’s still a part of our team. I have a client here manager who does all of our listing management and contract to close. My 84 year old dad, who is our Belt team ambassador and he’s basically our runner and researcher. Then, myself.
What are your thoughts on working with Family?
Christy: It’s … you know what, it’s funny you ask that because you’re a family team as well, so I know that you get this. By the way, I’m happy to pretend it’s just me and you talking because I like to be in a wizard behind the screen. You know what, working with family is so awesome because you know … sharing values is really important and we talk about that when you’re hiring, you know we all go through that exploration process and [AnythingPopup id=”7″] when we’re interviewing people to make sure that we share values. With your family, you already know what their values are and that you share their values. You trust each other. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so well. That’s been a huge blessing to work with family. I think there’s a lot of family teams in real estate actually out there.
Lori: You know what’s funny, I’ll share this and I know that you’ll probably be able to relate to it. When Richard and I first got in, it was just the 2 of us, so as far as family goes it was a husband and wife, and then of course we hired everybody else outside. It wasn’t until really just about a year ago that we brought in my brother Jeff and my daughter Sabrina and now my sister Wendy. One of the things that I have found is … this may sound funny, but I’m more patient when it comes … I’m more patient with family. There’s something about the fact that I love them, that … I’m a very hard leader. You know, I press hard, I push hard, I’m intimidating, it’s just kind of how I am. I find that with family it softens me. Have you seen any of that in your? I don’t know if you’re the tough one or if there’s another tough one, but do you guys have any of that where you tend to be …
Christy: I don’t know that I would say that I’m more patient but I think I’m maybe more loving is the word, or more accepting. I understand where that person’s coming from in the family when I’m dealing with a family member. Terry and I work very closely together so I think I make allowances I guess, and I know how to communicate better with my family members because we’ve been doing it for a long time.
Lori: Well I think you just hit it. It is that … of course it is that we love them and care about them of course we care about the other people on our team as well. There is something to be said for knowing where that person is coming from, knowing their intent, understanding their language and their behavior and their voice reflection, all of that. There’s just a different balance of relate-ability in communication, I personally have found.
Christy: I totally agree.
Lori: Now, working with your spouse has totally different benefits and challenges
Christy: I was going to say, I don’t think I could go there. If your familiar with the [AnythingPopup id=”8″]. I know you are, I’m 1 with 2 asterisk on Vector 3, my husband’s a 9 with 1 asterisk so I’m not sure that we be a good working pair.
Lori: Same with family, and of course this goes, for anybody that’s listening, this goes for any any kind of behavior matches. We very much build our teams on the Keller Williams Recruit Select process and we learn behaviors and we identify what behaviors we’d like in a particular role and then we try to hire somebody that has behaviors that will excel in that role and then of course finding talent and skill set and all that on top of it. This is part of our general [inaudible 00:07:35].
What’s your whole AVA Christy?
Christy: I’m a 661 with 2 asterisks, 7 with 2 asterisks.
Lori: Got you. Okay, I know somebody else with a very similar profile to that. Do you, being COO, this is interesting to me because my COO has the opposite Vector 3 as you, what you just said your husband. He’s a 9 asterisks on Vector 3. Do you find in your role that that … I don’t know how it shows up in your behavior but if it with those double asterisks you probably move incredibly fast and are not typically patient. How does that show up in a COO role, running administrative operations?
Christy: Well it’s why in the early days of our team I was a little more stretched in my role because I had a lot more client interaction. I have no client interaction now. My clients are my team now. In terms of executing the systems, it was a little bit more of a challenge of the day to day and doing the systems over and over. The creating of the systems and the moving on to the next system and the next system and building it bigger and bigger, that’s where I’m in my happy place. I’m in a much happier fit in my role right now than I was early into our team.
Lori: Got you, yeah because your behavior … yours is very interesting it’s probably not a high jar match for any particular role, I would assume that Keller Williams has listed.
Christy: No. I’m a mismatch.
Christy: I’m on the island of misfit children.
Lori: Yeah, those are some of my favorites because you can fit into so many places and as long as you know your behavior and know your limitations and where you find joy then it sounds like you’ve adapted the role to match your behavior now.
What does a day in the life of you look like?
Christy: My primary tasks are leadership and accountability. Terry’s visionary, I’m the executor, so whatever he dreams up my job is to make it happen. On a day to day basis I’m also involved with hiring and training. I’m not super involved with that, currently our team has chosen to grow very slowly. We have a very seasoned team, we’re not a turn and burn team. I’m not spending inordinate amounts of time on that, but that is part of my role. Also, lead [inaudible 00:10:28] in terms of generating from our database and also online. Lead generation is my role. This year I generated over 5 times my income in GCI to the team. I’m also in charge of money, I like to call it anything that involves money, budgeting, P&L, all that kind of stuff. Lead disbursement and tracking and accountability with our buyer agents, I’m very much on top of that. Anything with systems and marketing.
Lori: Okay I have a million questions now coming out of what you just said. First, when you said money, is it you doing the P&L statements and all of that or are you working with accountants and bookkeepers and all of that?
Christy: I would like to leverage that. We haven’t moved to that point yet, so I am literally the one doing the P&L and I’m the one analyzing the P&L’s. Terry gets the monthly email from me with a summary of the P&L, I match it to the MRA model to see where we are or are not on track and then make recommendations. You know, IE for example, we’re not spending enough money on lead generation, we’re inhibiting our growth, we need to spend x amount on here’s my recommendation on what program we need to do. It may be, for example, our team we at one time were a team of 14, we’re now a team of 10 and I’m able to do more units with less people. I may say, you know, our salary … we’re over budget in salary and I think we can cut back if we hire more talented people, there’s an example. That’s kind of what my role is in terms of money.
Lori: Okay, so let me ask you this, what’s your guys’s closed production for 2015, what’s it going to be?
Christy: 67 million.
Lori: 67 million, which in your market is how many closed units?
Christy: Just over 100.
Lori: Just over 100, okay great. What did you guys set as a goal for 2016?
Christy: 2 million in GCI.
Lori: Whew, okay so that’s interesting, so your goal is built around your GCI, which I love and that’s personally how I believe goals should be set around GCI not units. You know, things change with average price ranges and target markets and what not. Okay so 2 million in GCI, which in your market though would be how many units?
Christy: It’s about 80-86 million so I didn’t do the units [crosstalk 00:13:08] off the top of my head but it’d be you know, similar.
Lori: The increase growth percentage, do you know that? Like how much that is gross next year over this year that you’re planning for?
Christy: I think it’s a 24-27% increase in units.
Lori: Okay I love that. It’s so interesting because I have been immersed in this business planning right now and I can’t … I love business planning and setting goals, I’m naturally goal oriented. However every year, I don’t know about you, but I run into this massive frustration of my brain says I want to double my production, I want to triple my production, I want to do all this whatever. But my … I don’t know what the word is, research shows that average businesses grow about 20% year every year. Right? When we’re planning for this astronomical growth we really have to have a plan for how we’re going to do that astronomical growth. Everybody just goes, oh my goal for next year is I’m going to do 200 million and they did, you know 50 this year but they don’t necessarily have a plan for how they’re going to get from 50 to 200. [crosstalk 00:14:19]
Christy: Action steps.
How do you plan to grow your real estate team?
Christy: Its actually a very conservative growth plan for our team. Like I said, we’re in a fairly … we’re not a team that wants to do 10 times more business next year. We have the ability to do that but that’s not what we’ve chosen to do, so for example, this year we did 67 million, about 1.65 in GCI. My ring-maker Terry, was out of production for about half the year, so that was just a choice that he made, a lifestyle choice this year. He intends to be in production full time next year, if he likes doing listings and that’s what he’s going to do. We also brought a new agent on in the Fall who is just gearing up to start producing now. That will be significant production.
We have other strategies in place in terms of probably adding another showing partner and different things like that. But no we haven’t talked about adding new lead generations for us. You know, its funny I was looking at my business because I spend a lot of time on the numbers just like you do and analyzing where things come from. I think it was 48% of our business last year came out of our data bank and I’m thinking you know, that should be double. We’ve been in the business for 20 years that’s something that we’re just not mining well enough. That’s a gold mine that we need to mine.
Lori: You know that’s so interesting when I interviewed Martin Bouma, who I’m sure you know, big producer. Our whole interview really became about referrals and how he works that database or data bank as you called it, of course many do. He talked about how just mining that, how just those referrals, first of all it increased his price range year over year over year which I just loved hearing about because all of the buyers that had originally bought from him but then moved up and then moved up again. Through all these years the price range just went up and up and up just from cultivating the relationships and working that database so I would think for somebody that’s been in that long that you probably really could do some good increases if you are aware that there’s more that can be done in there.
Christy: Yeah we have major opportunity there. For example, we’ve never done client events, so we will be doing client events in 2016 for the very first time after 20 years which is kind of hilarious. We’re back to the basics really in 2016.
Lori: Wow. That’s going to be fun to watch. I’m interested to see how you do those and what kind of events that you do and what the response is. I bet it’ll be fantastic. Now tell me about your lead generation online. You said one of your roles, one of your tasks is generating leads, so what kind of things are you doing online to generate leads besides referrals? What would be your other strategies?
Christy: I’ve been blogging for about 7 years. I blog on our local blog and I’m also a community blogger for the local patch newspapers and one of our online WUSA9.com which is our local news station. I do our newsletter, I do blogs, social media, I’m a big Facebook person, I know it’s kind of retro these days but I generate a lot of business from Facebook still. Really that’s just my online data bank, that’s the way that I think of it, its the way that I interact with people. Everything from you know, I give myself 10 minute treats I call them.
I have some tasks that I have to do as COO which are not in my you know, happy place where I have rote things that just have to get done. I think every agent has those tasks as well. When I finish 1 of those I take 10 minutes and do something fun. I’ll do, for example, I did … I stole from Ben Kinney [00:18:32] his little … he had this cute little video with a hamster dancing and I went on Fiverr and took 10 minutes and made a little video and then every day I took 5 minutes and private messaged my friends with a video and it’s really cute. I generated 150,000 in GCI just from doing that. Asking people were looking for buyers, or first listings because we have so many buyers we can’t find homes and it was a video about listings. Just little things like that.
Lori: Most of your … those type of online methods then it sounds like to me are more cultivating referrals through relationships that you already have, cultivating new business through existing relationships rather than going after …
Christy: Not cold, yeah so I would call it establishing our digital footprint. For example, we have 114 reviews on Zillow, part of my job was to put the system in place to make sure that we get those reviews. During my lead generation time I might be following up with clients who went to closing 3 weeks ago and haven’t put up their review yet, things like that.
How do you handle the budget and P & L?
Lori: Got you, okay. Another question that I had spinning off from something you said earlier, do you … since you are the one doing the P&L, which I’m fascinated by, I am assuming because you are the one doing it you probably have more of a grasp on your profits and your spending than most people do. Like in our case, it all gets subbed down of course to a … for us to a CPA bookkeeper, whatever. We look over it each month but it’s because somebody else is doing it, it’s so different than when I used to do it. When I used to have my hands all over it I was so in the moments and so aware.
Christy: Yeah I’m very cognizant when a decision is being made on spending money because I know exactly where it’s going to hit and what it’s going to look like at the bottom line.
Lori: Do you … I’m assuming you set a budget based on or pretty close to so you know what your marketing expense is going to be and your technology expense and occupancy. Where do you run into the most variables?
Christy: Well, so we’re shooting for the bottom line to be within MREA models so our goal is to shoot for 40%. This year we were at 33% and that’s in part because Terry was out of the business for 6 months.
Lori: But you were working through a 7th level model at that time which you know is lower than 40% right?
Christy: Exactly, which is 25-30 I think MREA says. In our area because we’re in the Washington DC area we tend to run high on salaries. We’re actually only a little bit over the MRAN models and we have adjusted for that under lead gen. We’re like maybe 1% high on salaries and then our lead gen is 1% lower. We’re a little bit off model in terms of cost of sale as well. That’s something that our team is working on right now so we have to adjust for that in our expenses.
Lori: You cut out for just a second, when you said you’re a little high on cost of sale, is that because of commissions with the team or referral fees? What’s causing the increase in cost of sales?
Christy: Commissions splits with our teams.
Lori: Yeah. I find that to be very common. That’s 1 of the chief skewers of P&L is the team compensation. There’s absolutely … I mean we all believe in following the model, we all believe in MREA however, you know Dave Jenks who co-wrote MREA told me once, you know once you master the models then you have a little more room for creativity and you can take a percentage from and add it to here. It’s not perfection, it’s a guideline, right?
Christy: Right. We figure as long as we come out the bottom line with whatever our goal is then we’re okay.
Lori: Yeah and I love what you just said, whatever your goal is. Somebody’s goal might be 40, it might be 35, it might be 30, it might be 25, there’s 7th level and that’s … so it’s your goal, exactly right and as long you’re setting it for that. Now how do you guys handle … I don’t know about you but the 1 that I can’t … I figured out a way to handle it but it was really tough is education. You know, we’re with Keller Williams and of course we have this massive amazing access to the top training and conventions and coaching and just everything you can think of. Of course those of us like you and me that are learning based and wired that way, we want to get out hands on all of it anyway. How do you handle that very very low education percentage that’s allotted in MREA?
Christy: Well you know, that’s a great question and I haven’t seen what that number’s going to be with the new MREA, if it’s going to be the same or if it’s going to be increased.
Lori: It has to be increased, it has to be.
Christy: Yeah because if you’re in coaching then that number’s just blown out of the water.
Lori: Well yeah and if you have any kind of team coaching yeah forget about it. For me personally, and I’ve shared this before, I couldn’t figure it out. Of course when I first got into Keller Williams I was completely broke anyway so we didn’t go the first year and the second year we were borrowing money to go. By the end of the 2nd year I figured out that if I teach and do my training’s and charge then I put everything that I earned into a separate account for education fund. That’s how we’ve always paid for family reunion, and mega camp and Master Minds and coaching. For the last 2 years 1 of my leaders on my team I paid for Mastery coach for him, which is a $1000 a month. That education budget we have to increase and keep other things as low as we possibly can, occupancy and of course lead generation is the one thing we don’t skimp on, that has to stay up.
It’s tough. You know how it is, you skew your P&L by a percent here and a percent here and a percent here and all of a sudden the only place it’s not out of is your bottom line.
Christy: Right, exactly.
Lori: Yeah. All right so as COO let me ask you and you answer this however … this isn’t on your sheet of questions I sent you so however you want to answer it. Do you have ownership in any way in your guy’s team?
Christy: I don’t, you know it’s interesting we’re having conversations about this, I don’t have ownership in the team. I do have … I will have equity if and when the team is sold if we decide to sell the team or retire the team. We’ve had that conversation. I don’t currently have equity in the team. I am bonus-ed based on profitability though, not a specific formula. The more that I add to the bottom line the more I make.
Lori: Okay, so would you say this is definitely … that you’re compensated as a definitely as an executive leader would be in the routine probably?
Lori: Okay. It’s interesting because I’ve been having this conversation with my team and with profit share and with the leaders and then when it comes to family you know, making it a family owned business and having them earn an equity. We’re kind of working on those same types of things. That’s interesting. What’s your biggest challenge with keeping your ring-maker on budget and on task? Well he’s my [inaudible 00:26:13] so that might be different for you then?
Christy: Yeah I was going to say. We’ve worked together so long that we operate very independently. We both just know what our role is and we do it. I don’t have to keep him on task. On budget is a little more challenging and that’s my job when I show him the numbers and just say, hey you … sometimes there are squirrels or shiny objects and he’s you know throws money here or throws money at this new lead gen technique and then I realize, okay we just spent $6000 and we haven’t closed 1 deal. Here are the numbers, you know what do you want to do?
Lori: Okay that sounds like just us. I don’t ask for permission, although as the ring-maker I don’t ask for permission, although I do … I’ll tell you what I don’t know if you guys are anything like us but Jeff is always in my head now. Like I hear him, like do you really want to spend that? I’m way more cautious than I ever was before knowing that his life matters and that you know if I’m not careful and I take the profitability out of the company now they’re all going to suffer from that. It has changed my behavior in spending. He will do that or he’ll come back and say hey, Lori you just spent $2000 on such and such, what was that and what’s the overall intent and where do we want to take that from exactly? You know kind of in a gentle [crosstalk 00:27:43].
Christy: He’s just asking questions to make sure that you’re being purposeful in what your doing.
Lori: Right, exactly. Without being accusing or attacking but it definitely causes me to be reflective and in advance think before I’m spending because of the work he does. Christy what’s your favorite systems as a COO? What do you use right now that you love?
Christy: You know, I’m really old fashion, I’m a top producer user. I am … if there is an activity I do more than twice I have a plan set up in top producer and I love top producer because I can check off activities and it triggers other activities. Everything in my life is in there. I’ve just used it for so long and I know a lot of people are not big fans. But a lot of the big teams are still using it and really happy with it and I’m one of those people.
Lori: Oh yeah, they definitely are. You know there is no perfect CRM, there just isn’t. Top producer has been a long time favorite because it was built for real estate. That was a big reason why so many people … I was on top producer when I first got licensed in 2007 and then as things started changing there was a time span there when it got really clunky and a little more challenging, slower. I’m sure that they’ve fixed a lot of that since that time frame. I believe that the best database is the one you’re going to use.
What is the Best CRM?
The best CRM is the one you’re going to use, the one you like. Like for me I'm on Infusionsoft because there were certain elements in that CRM that were offered that I couldn’t find anywhere else. But it is the geekiest, most complicated, it doesn’t come out of the box ready for you in an understandable way like top producer does. For the average real estate agent that just would not be … and even for an average top team, that would not necessarily be the CRM I would say, hey you need to get on this unless you’re at that level where you just want to track like the deepest of all tracking which is what we’re doing for multiple reasons. We needed a system that did that. But I think top producer is a great CRM for many many top agents and regular solo agents as well.
Is your Team in Coaching
Christy: We’re currently not in coaching. Terry was in coaching for a long time, his coach was Tony Dicello and so he’s in transition at the moment. In terms of learning, that’s how I know you. I’m everywhere and anywhere I can go to. I am blessed to be in the region next to Seth Campbell and so I am frequently at classes in his region. I’m actually you know, trying to do some outside of KW’s stuff as well. One of the things that I did a few years back was Tony Robbins Business Mastery, Terry and I did that together, which was phenomenal. I’m going to be up at MN Connect in January, I’m looking forward to that just to open my mind beyond KW.
Lori: Yes I think that is really important. I was scheduled to go to MN, we’re not going to go now some things changed but I believe truly that you need to get learning everywhere you can and there are just certain things and certain times and situations that are available that I believe we should all take advantage. Tony Robbins is on my wishlist, it’s absolutely one of the ones I think we should all look into. There’s a lot of great training out there. Keller Williams is the number 1 training company in the world is it? Is that the official title now? [crosstalk 00:31:37] There’s a lot out there and there’s a lot of great books, and there’s a lot of great trainers and yes. What 1 piece of advice would you give people that want to find success either doing what you do as a COO or in real estate in general? I mean you’re really kind of running the team so you’re doing big business yourself. What would you recommend to people that want to follow in your foot steps?
What Advice to you have for Someone wanting to grow?
Christy: You know, I was thinking about you know, what made us successful and I think what’s made us successful has been consistency, action, and mindset. One of the things that really hit home with me when I was at Mega Camp was Gary said make peace with the boredom of mastery. That’s a really hard one for me because my AVA is 1 or 2 asterisks on Vector 3, so boredom and me are not real good friends. I crave change. But I think that’s one of the reasons why my team’s been in the top teams in the country for 20 years is because we made peace with the boredom of mastery.
The second thing I think is mindset and action. Mindset is really important to me, I spend a lot of time being very purposeful in mindset. Whether that’s my morning routine, who I spend time with, what my self-talk is. Then action, I think in our industry there’s a lot of people that are learning and learning and learning but never implementing. Taking action I think is the biggest way to fail forward and fail and succeed fast.
Lori: That’s the … all brilliant, brilliant advice. I encourage all of you guys who are listening to reach out and find Christy Bell Grossman and send referrals to her team. Christy is speaking on a lot of panels these days and has been featured in them and is really one of the top top COO’s or everybody calls them different things, AE, COO, Operations Manager, in the industry not just in Keller Williams so she’s the expert that everybody wants to learn from when it comes to building out a massive and industrative team like this in the system.
Christy, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. Everybody can send you referrals and what is it, Virginia, DC? Virginia and DC?
Christy: Northern Virginia, it’s in the Northern Virginia. They can go to our website, thebeltteam.com and I’m actually teaching a new class around the country if they want to look for information about that to send their administrative staff to and that’s at the thebeltteam.com/megaea and (703)242-3975 they can give us a call.
Lori: Fantastic. I’ll make sure there’s a link to that, I haven’t actually checked that out myself so I will be looking into your training and I’ll include the link for everybody to get to it. Thank you so much for joining me it was truly a pleasure and I appreciate you giving of your time and energy and I will work to get this up to share with all of our listeners.
Christy: Thank you Lori, I appreciate all you’ve contributed to our industry, very powerful.
Lori: Thank you, Happy New Year, look forward to growing with you some more.
Christy: To you, take care!
Lori: Right, bye bye.
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