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A Powerful Story of Redemption and Success
Tracy Cousineau and Jason Williford are partners in one of Atlanta’s most successful real estate companies: Real Estate Expert Advisors. In 2017, their team sold over 550 homes for $136 million in volume and over $4.6 million in GCI.This year, they are on pace to serve over 700 families, putting them in rarified air in the real estate community in Atlanta and beyond.As clients of ours for the past five years, Tracy and Jason have given us the opportunity to, and honor of, watching them grow their business into the amazing, client-oriented sales machine it is today.But it hasn’t always been this way. for them.Tracy started as an agent in 1999 and experienced some great success between then and the downturn in 2008. In fact, at one point, she had 18 new construction neighborhoods that she was selling in the Metro Atlanta area with a large number of agents manning those communities.She was doing really well.Tracy and Jason met towards the late-middle of the mortgage crisis and unfortunately, things weren’t going great for either of them.As Jason put it: “We were broke, both of us, when we met. We both went through times of financial hardship. Lost everything. We both lost everything that we had. We'd had enough of being broke so we went back to work 1,000 percent in to win it...November 2011.”
Through a tremendous amount of grit, determination and a willingness to implement success strategies in their business, they steadily grew their business into the powerhouse it is today.Here’s what the progression of their business looked like since then
2012: 46 homes sold for $4.6 million in volume
2013: 89 homes sold for $13.4 million in volume
2014: 124 homes sold for $28.4 million in volume
2015: 220 homes sold for $56.4 million in volume
2016: 296 homes sold for $76 million in volume
2017: 552 homes sold for $136 million in volume
Today, they have a business that gives them the freedom to travel, spend time with their family and even give back to their team and their community on a regular basis.
What changed for them?
What started their meteoric rise was nothing more than a whole lot of hard work, a willingness to keep on pushing forward and a commitment to implement and execute at a super-high level.But what’s kept them building and growing consistently - year over year - are the processes and systems that are the backbone of their business .According to Jason, it’s all about: “systems, processes, procedures. You have to be systematic for one. If you're gonna take it to [another level] you always have to be systematic period. Even if someone is at 400 homes [sold] a year and they want to get to 500, you have to get more systematic. More process driven. More procedure driven.”Since we’ve had the pleasure of working with them in 2013, here are the systems, processes and programs that have had the greatest impact on their business:
Recruiting and Hiring
Through a lot of trial and error and lots of lessons learned, Tracy and Jason have mastered the entire hiring process.As Jason has learned: “It’s not just hiring the masses. It’s doing really great at the interviewing process, attracting the right people and [subtracting] the ones that aren’t the right people. We’ve been hit upside the head with a 2x4 no telling how many times. We even lost 75% of our sales force one year. What you learn is not to make the knee jerk reactions. You just freaking go get it and that's what we did.”
As a result of their commitment to doing a great job of building an amazing culture, learning how to identify the right people for that culture and hiring the best people for the job, they’ve built an amazing team of staff and sales people that serves hundreds of families a year in their marketplace.
Inside Sales Department
One place that becoming experts in hiring has really helped is in building their inside sales department (which is really a call center based on the large volume they do).Through the first 4 months of 2018, they had already sold 175 transactions and although they don’t attribute all their sales to the call center, 166 of them were from appointments set by the salespeople that work there.
“I don’t know of a better system [for generating sales] than having a call center with ISA’s who have the right scripts, the right dialing system, the right texts, the right email drips going out, etc.” said Jason.They believe that having a call center and a seller-focused CRM brings “a ton of value to our external and internal clients [read: agents]” in the listing process.Their results are the “proof in the pudding” that having ISAs truly does add a tremendous amount of value in growing a real estate business.
Listing and Buyer Systems
Jason and Tracy love differentiation. In addition to bringing massive value to the sellers and buyers with whom they work, they also provide listing and buyer platforms that are vastly different from - and superior to - the other agents in their marketplace.“There’s something like 55,000 real estate agents in Metro Atlanta/Northern Georgia alone”, says Jason, “and we got ahead of the curve [and differentiated ourselves from them] by rolling out and implementing everything we learned from you guys on the listing and buyer side.”Jason believes that their commitment to being innovative and implementing value-based and differentiated listing and buyer systems has not only put them on the map in their market, but also has helped them beat out their competition on a significant number of listing and buyer opportunities.Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the last couple of years, they’re finding that agents in their area are trying to roll out programs that are similar to what they offer; not so much to be copy cats, but more so because what they’re doing works so well.The combination of the inside sales call center and the proven listing system helps them capture a significant number of listing opportunities in their area; significantly more than many agents in their area.During our interview, Jason pointed out that with inventory being snatched up so quickly in the Metro Atlanta area, he’s hearing from friends of his that work for other brokerages that “[they’d] do anything to have a listing appointment right now or that ‘[I] haven't had a listing appointment in two months’. These are [top-flight agents} that also sell eight to ten million dollars a year in business, so it's not like they're [weak agents] who only sell a home or two a year.”
Jason acknowledges that the hard work he and Tracy have put forth, their willingness to follow proven systems and their servant-minded approach to helping sellers (and buyers) has been a huge part of why their able to list and sell so many homes.He also knows that having the right systems, a great, seller-focused CRM, hiring the right people and delivering tremendous value play a huge part in the success of any company that lists and sells more than 300 homes per year.
Life is Good
What’s great about all of the hard work they’ve put in is that setting up their business this way has given them the opportunity to enjoy a great style of living and an even better quality of life.For example, through the first 4-plus months of 2018, Tracy had listed and either sold or put under contract 91 transactions for $31.7 million in volume.But, with the support of her administrative team and the sales people in her call center, she’s been out of town for work or pleasure 30 days over that period of time. She gets the chance to do what she loves - getting face to face with people - and lets her organization take care of their clients for the rest of the transaction and process.The best part of it all, though, has to do with what I mentioned earlier in this post: helping others improve their lives. Because their business affords them the time to do it, they invest a lot of their energy into making other people’s lives better.“We love growing people, that's where we get fulfillment from” says Jason, “you know what Zig Ziglar says: ‘We're in the transportation industry we take people from where they're at right now to where they want to go’”.
They’ve created a great life for themselves so that they can help others do the same.Contribution is the greatest form of personal fulfillment for leaders like Jason and Tracy.Hard work pays off, no doubt, but you need to combine it with smart work, too. Tracy and Jason worked super hard, but they also were smart in what they did and how the did it.Most importantly, they never gave up and now, they’re being rewarded handsomely for it.