Podcast

Episode 104: From Being a Solo Agent to Running Multiple Brokerages with Vija Williams

Although Vija Williams was doing well financially running her own real estate team, she realized that she was miserable. She felt she had to do 17 different things to run a good team, but she wasn’t good at any of them. And her profit margin wasn’t high enough to support the number of staff she needed. So at 48 years old, despite having doubts about whether people would still hire her because of her age, the mom of three took a leap of faith and took on a role that she believes she’d be really good at, a leadership position in a corporate setting.

Brian Charlesworth

Brian Charlesworth

Chairman & CEO

Brian is an entrepreneur and business builder. He has built and sold companies in the software, telecommunications, and franchise space. He’s passionate about technology and focused on changing lives through driving technology forward.

 

 

Although Vija Williams was doing well financially running her own real estate team, she realized that she was miserable.  She felt she had to do 17 different things to run a good team, but she wasn’t good at any of them.  And her profit margin wasn’t high enough to support the number of staff she needed.  So at 48 years old, despite having doubts about whether people would still hire her because of her age, the mom of three took a leap of faith and took on a role that she believes she’d be really good at, a leadership position in a corporate setting.

 

In 2018, Vija Williams became the Director of Growth with Ben Kinney Companies.  For the last three and a half years, she has helped walk them through two acquisitions and grow the company from 1200 to 1700 agents.  Today, Vija is the Head of Industry for PLACE, a tech and business services platform for real estate agents.  Goldman Sachs, along with 3L, recently invested 100 million dollars into PLACE at over a Billion dollar valuation.

 

Brian Charlesworth joins Vija Williams as they talk about her journey from being a solo agent to being a successful leader, her insights on the value of leverage, what makes PLACE a very unique model, and why she thinks women from all industries become stronger when they come together. 

 

Top Takeaways:

 

(07:14) Why Vija felt miserable despite having a successful team

(08:48) How Vija decided to shift her career to running brokerages

(11:18) Why does the real estate industry need more women in the leadership role?

(12:38) How Vija manages to juggle all her businesses

(15:18) What it’s like to work with your spouse

(22:04) What motivates Vija

(24:54) What PLACE is all about

(25:34) The vision of PLACE

(26:45) The biggest challenge teams face as they’re growing

(28:39) Why every agent needs to get at least 4 checks for each transaction

(32:44) The three types of teams

(35:32) Who is the right person to control the client experience?

(37:31) What the future looks like for agents who aren’t on a team

(43:28) How the women’s group Her Best Life started



Connect with Vija Williams

Email: Vija@place.com

Website: https://place.com/

Website: https://www.herbestlife.com/

Podcast: Empire Building Podcast

 

About the guest:

 

Vija Williams always knew she would go into real estate but her path to it wasn’t as straightforward. She graduated college, sold radio advertising, and worked for some builders and developers prior to becoming a real estate agent.  She was 30 years and had her first child at that time, had her second child at 32, and her third at 39 years old.

 

She was making good money juggling her role as a mother and a real estate agent. But when the market crashed, it fried her and her husband to the point where they almost lost their house. Luckily they still had assets to sell to survive.  When the markets turned, she switched brokerages and went from being a solo agent to building a team.

 

In 2012, Vija met Ben Kinney and he started coaching her.  Her volume increased from 25 million to 70 million in just four years.  Although she was extremely successful, Vijya felt unhappy.  She wanted to try a leadership position in a corporate setting but she wasn’t sure if anyone would accept her since she was already 48 years old.

 

But with people supporting her, she was able to achieve her goal and became the Director of Growth for The Ben Kinney Companies.  Today, Vija Williams is the Head of Industry for PLACE, President of the Brokerages Division at Ben Kinney Companies, Co-Founder of Her Best Life - a national women’s group, and co-host of the Empire Building podcast.




Podcast Transcript:

 

Brian Charlesworth  00:34

All right. Hello, everyone. And welcome back to the Grit Podcast. I'm Brian Charlesworth. I'm the founder of Sisu, where we streamline and automate your real estate business. And I'm your host of the show. And today we're here with Vija Williams, I got to meet Vija at Spring's recent event in Mexico. And I actually met you before that at an Inman in Vegas at about midnight in the hallway. I don't know if you remember that. I do remember in the casino. Yeah, you and Ben were walking through the casino. And so anyway, at that time, Ben shared with me that you guys had just raised your 100 million dollars at a billion-dollar valuation. So congratulations on that. And I know that's public news because it's all over the internet. So I otherwise I wouldn't have shared that. But anyway, Vija is head of Industry for PLACE. She also owns a PLACE real estate team. And so we can talk about that a little bit. She's also the co-founder of Her Best Life, and I'd like to talk a little bit about that. And then she's also the co-host of the Empire Building Podcast. And so obviously, via you have a lot going on in your life. So that's kind of where I want to start. I think it's hard enough for a man to have four different businesses, let alone for a woman to do that. I know you're a mom of three kids. And so I just really want to dive into maybe a little bit more about your personal life. Maybe you could just tell us a little bit more about you. You've been on the road for the last three weeks. How do you do this? Like, how do you keep it all together? Because I think everybody and especially I think our listeners, a lot of them are in real estate, and real estate has a lot of powerful women in it. Right? So how do you keep it together? I think this is true for everybody. Like this is something and you know, I also live with Spring, who in Spring is my wife. And you know, she has a lot going on as well with multiple businesses. So

 

Vija Williams  02:37

yeah, well, I mean, first of all, thank you for having me. It is it's an honor to be here. And you know, really interesting story, by the way, going back to that Inman, where we met. I don't know if you knew this, but Ben and Chris had just gotten the news that day, that the wire that the 100 million hit the accounts, and it was closed. And so they found out at Inman, and it was really fascinating being there when it happened. And that was the day we met was the day it happened. And, of course, we didn't announce it for a while. But that's kind of cool to know. You know, it's kind of right.

 

Brian Charlesworth  03:11

Yeah, I happen to be there at that time. And honestly, you know, I've had a few conversations with Ben, but I've never really, like gotten to spend a lot of time with him. So yeah, I thought it was kind of cool that he shared that with us. And I always love to see entrepreneurs succeed and go to that next level. So it was a cool thing for me as well.

 

Vija Williams  03:30

Well, there's a lot of Bens in my life. So what who we're referring to is Ben Kinney, who is the co-founder and CEO of place, which is really where I spend most of my time. My husband's name has also been which is kind of confusing. I know. So if I ever slip into I tend to call Ben Kenny BK and I call Husband Husband like, gave women like husband, because I just can no longer have the word Ben in my phone. There are too many wrong texts that are that end up flying. So. So it's BK and husband to me, usually, but I slip in and out of it, I find. Yeah, I mean, I'm a second-generation real estate agent. My dad started a company back in the 70s. And it was really innovative in its time. They did builder services and sales for large Builders here in Seattle, where I am. And we know that builders have in-house sales departments, right? They have employees, and they, you know, it's kind of a different model than general resale real estate. And my dad formed the company and they became sort of a third-party contracted in-house sales and marketing force if that makes any sense. So builders who are kind of medium size and getting bigger who didn't yet have in-house marketing and sales departments would hire my dad's company and they became one of the largest new construction new build development real estate firms in the nation. My brother subsequently bought it from my dad, it's still going really strong. They sold 450 homes last year here in the greater city. that'll area and they do like 400 million a year in volume. So the really large presence, it's called a team builder. But that is all new construction. Right. And so I just had a love for general resale real estate, right? My new construction wasn't necessarily my path. And so I think I always have, looking back, I think I always knew I would go into real estate. But it didn't start that way. I graduated from college, and I sold radio advertising. I worked for some builders and developers. And it wasn't until I was about, I think, 30 that I got into real estate. The only reason I say that is because I think what makes my story a little different is that I look at my 30s. And I have my first kid at 30. I have my second kid at 32. And I have my third kid at 39. So I have a, you can do the math. Now everybody, do the math, I have a 21-year-old, an 18-year-old, those are both boys. And then I have a 12-year-old girl. And so I looked at my 30s and I was just like rocking and rolling and real estate. I was you know making good money. But I was kind of like your neighborhood real estate agent, right? I didn't work Fridays I sort of volunteered in the kid's classrooms, and I was what 90% of full-time real estate agents look like. And the downturn fried us, my husband was also in real estate and it really fried us we almost lost our house. And you know, both of us in real estate, we were just so invested in it. We didn't have enough reserves. And even if we hadn't had enough reserves, I'm not sure, we still probably would have been stressed, right? Because our transactional volume just went so far down. And so luckily, we were able to sell some assets, you know, to survive, basically. So sell a rental property and different things. And so when we came out of that, I think it was kind of a combination of that. And in the market turning that I turned a corner. And so I was about 42 I switched brokerages came to the brokerage I'm at now and went from being an individual agent to starting a team. And ever since then I went from like it. And that's when I met Ben Kinney, by the way. So I met Ben Kinney in 2012. And he owned the office that I was in and he started coaching me within, I don't know, a couple of months of meeting him, and the year I met him I did 9 million in volume. And with him coaching me I want to 25 million, 35, 48, 70 million within like four years. And I had a big team and was quite successful was running around the country, you know, speaking teaching all the things that we do you admin you all the things, and I was miserable. I just didn't like it I did not care for I wasn't good at the 17 things you have to do to be good at to run a team, you know, I wasn't good. I'm still not good at cash flow management, even in all the businesses I run, I have to schedule the time and force myself to review cash positions. You know, it's just not a natural state for me, I expense management, a lot of the back end organization stuff and you know, I think looking back, I was just I was probably undercapitalized. My profit margin probably wasn't high enough to support the amount of staff I would have needed for my particular skill set. I would have been better off with a co, a partner, I think who's better at that, live and learn. And so I, you know, it wasn't thriving and happy in that, although financially, I was doing well. And so in 2018, I went to the I just went up to Bellingham to meet with Ben Kenny, who's you know, by then a super close friend and advisor and mentor and I just said I'm not happy doing this. And I don't really know where to go next and what to do next. And I'm 48 years old, and I'm pretty sure no one's gonna hire me in corporate America not having really I mean, I've been self-employed forever, right? I haven't been in corporate America since my 20s and like 20 years, but I have this pole in this drawer. I think I'd be really good in a leadership position. You know, and I look at me, this was in 2018. Okay, so Ben and I must have met Brian. Oh my God, we must have at first it was forever, like five or six months. We just we've met weekly. We met weekly and that culminated in me, he just said, I really think you should run our brokerages. You know, we had six franchises at the time about 1200 agents. And I was like Ben, I haven't even run an office. How could you give me six brokerages to run? And you know, he said you understand the fundamentals of business really well, you're gonna have a staff of 50 instead of you know, you're not going to be undercapitalized. And I think that your skillset and your influence and the people you know, are going to lend themselves really well to this and I won't let you fail. I'm here for you. We're going to work together and so I just took a leap and sunsetted my You know, pretty lucrative real estate team. Those of us who have teams know I mean, if nothing else, it's pretty lucrative. And I went to work for them as a GM. I think we started off with my title as director of growth, walked us through, and figured it out a little bit. And within 18 months, I helped us walk us through two acquisitions. And we were at eight brokerages, which is where we stand now became the president. And we have about 1700 agents now. So we've grown about 500 agents, and two offices in the last three and a half years. And then my world blew up. It just blew up. I went from being a team Rainmaker, I have, I think, five or six businesses that I'm actively owning, or in leadership with, right, some of which we didn't even talk about in the intro. But you know, the only reason I share that is because I think that as women, what makes it different, cuz you mentioned, you know, the male-female thing. And I do think that it's undeniable that women have a different timeframe. I mean, we have biology, we have babies, and, and that happens at a certain age. And so I didn't even start anything I'm doing till I was 42. And so I think that sometimes, you know when I look back at age 48, I had that advocate, I had Ben right? but a lot of women don't have that. And I just want to kind of encourage anybody listening that if you think you have the skillset, and you're interested in getting into any type of leadership, real estate, the industry as a whole needs female leaders. And I think you'd be surprised at the reaction you'll get when you raise your hand and tap somebody on the shoulder, I think you'll be surprised at the reception you'll get because I would die to have more women tapping me on the shoulder, I'm constantly right now I just had a meeting before stepping in here, I have three leadership positions I need to hire for. And I'm just, you know, constantly lead-generating looking for leaders, right. And I mean, it would make my day if I got a phone call from someone I knew who said, hey, I'm interested in leadership, right? So I just think I wanted to share that because you don't have to be between 30 and 35. Or like, whatever that age is, you know, to go into it. So yeah,

 

Brian Charlesworth  12:11

I think that's a really good point to make here so often we think the perfect age is, you know, whatever is in our mind, right? It might be 25 to 35, maybe some people 25 Things that are way too young to start a business. But they're not right. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're 25 or 55, you're not too young, you're not too old to start a business, or to go, you know, aspire to do what you want to do as you've done Vija so, anyway, thanks for sharing that. So you have even more businesses than I thought. Yeah, so. So how do you juggle all of these? How do you do it? I mean, it's a challenge. I know, personally, that can be genuine, you do? 

 

Vija Williams  12:52

Yeah, I get asked that question all the time, in fact, is probably the number one question I get asked, I teach and speak a lot. And, you know, I, we have, I have other podcasts and everything. And I think that I have a couple of answers to that. Number one is nobody does it all themselves. And, you know, this is about leverage. And this is about learning how to hire and you know, utilize other people for their strengths. So I think that you know, I always use this analogy, I think of the President of the United States who's basically running and leading the country, right, you can lead a country even as big as the United States, but they also have hundreds of 1000s of people working, you know, for them on their behalf. So the question isn't how big of a world you have or want, you can have as big of a world as you want? The answer is you have to be able to fund that big world with leverage with people and technology. And so because leverage is also technology, I mean Sisu is also leverage, right? So Brevity is also leveraging technology and people. Yeah, so how I know and you know, I run my life almost like a stoplight green light yellow light, red light. How I know when I'm at a green light is not how big I am, I will never stop growing my world I will never stop getting bigger when I get to yellow light and I'm at yellow light Now full disclosure and you know, a little moment of vulnerability. I'm yellow light now is when I have too much on my plate. That's not bringing in the revenue to fund the leverage. That's when I'm at a yellow light. So as long as revenue is leading green light is when my revenues leading and I'm able to fund upright to fund leverage. So you know, for instance, I've got PLACE I've got brokerages which I'm transitioning out of President of our brokerages, I've got that I've got the team, I've got an investment company, my husband and I started an investment company late last year, and we're acquiring properties in different markets in the country. And that has its own unique sets of challenges. You know, we're trying to get lines of credits and contractors and whatever

 

Brian Charlesworth  15:03

Is this the first time you've worked with your husband or when you guys didn't know we've worked where you joined? Ben, were you working together? 

 

Vija Williams  15:09

Yeah, we've worked together. That's its own episode. Right? Yeah, the side note on that is, that we've been married 25 years. The side note on that is, that I think you have to be very clear about roles and jurisdictions, and strengths. And you have to have very healthy egos where, you know, you're both just super comfortable letting the other one shine. And my husband's amazing at that. He absolutely… We view this as Williams Incorporated. And there's just no ego behind who's the primary breadwinner personality behavioral styles, we just get who each other, you know, who each one of us is, and, and that's how we work. Right. And so, you know, I think that I think what happens is, is that you know, like, we have this investment thing and, and then you know, brokerages and whatever and where I am in my life, and you know, with managing all these entities as I'm finally at the first time ever, where I probably need a personal assistant to help me, Vija, navigate, calendars and travel in all the entities and the challenge with that is that no one entity is going to fund that. So PLACE isn't going to pay for me to have a personal assistant. The brokerage isn't going to pay for me to have a personal assistant, my team, I have partnered with my brother Paul, who's now Paul's actually the CEO of my team, not me, the teams aren't going to pay for me to have a personal assistant. So I'm at a yellow light right now because I got to figure out how to fund my big life, right? So I've kind of hit a little bit of a ceiling until I can figure out how to leverage some activities without driving me and my family freaking bonkers, which is kind of happening. And my employees and co-workers and I'm sort of like everyone's a little bit frustrated.

 

Brian Charlesworth  16:56

Okay, so I want to add to that, and hopefully, you're okay with it. Are you frustrated too? No, no, but I saw posts, I saw posts that you posted that I loved. Oh, are you okay to talk about that? Yeah. Okay. So you are also now adding additional commitment on that around health and running two marathons. So how did this come into your world?

 

Vija Williams  17:19

Well, I'm not running, I'm gonna walk-jog them, you know, hey, yeah,

 

Brian Charlesworth  17:23

Completing two marathons, which, which is a big thing,

 

Vija Williams  17:27

which sounds like the most insanely horrible timing, and it's either the best timing in the world or the worst time in the world, I don't know. But you know, here's the thing, we cannot do it all. And my health has taken a turn trying to juggle all this, I am the heaviest and most out of shape I have been ever, ever. And so I just am wired in such a way that I knew that I needed a deadline in an event. And, and I needed to box myself in with accountability. So I did sign up with a program, I believe run coach, I have a nutrition coach, and I have kind of two life coaches is in a big group. And I'm doing the Patagonian marathon in September. And then my friend, Sarita invited me to do the New York City Marathon with a group of people. And my husband is going to do that one. And that's two months later. And I thought, well, yeah, if I'm going to the big thing for me is the Patagonia one to be honest, like the New York one, is 60 days after that doesn't that just doesn't scare the Patagonia one scares me it's 20 it's actually 19 weeks away now. And I'm only on to my like, I have a long way to go. And I gotta try to finish it before the cut-off. That's my only goal. So



Brian Charlesworth  18:51

What is the date of September? Okay,

 

Vija Williams  18:55

So it's September something. Okay.

 

Brian Charlesworth  18:57

So I love that you're doing that you just gave me a little scare, because you said, Oh, it's 20 weeks away. And that September, I have a Spring signed us up to do a 29/29 which is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest. 

 

Vija Williams  19:12

I know that one 

 

Brian Charlesworth  19:13

In 36 hours. We're doing that in August. So 

 

Vija Williams  19:17

You do not have very long, not to freak you out. 

 

Brian Charlesworth  19:21

So So anyway, I wanted to bring that up. Because to me, honestly, health is the number one thing. And it's really easy when you have so many businesses to not focus on that. So I love saying you prioritize that. Because health like without health. You can't do any of this.

 

Vija Williams  19:39

Right? Well, and you're you know, yeah, Brian. And the other thing is, you know, what starts happening is you know, I'm like I don't have the stamina for my own life. Like, I'm like, I'm going to create this big life and that takes a lot of hours and a lot of energy and what freaked me out is I would get home and my family was getting the worst of me. They were not getting the best of me. I was leaving it all out on the court. So by the time I was rolling in, still 7 pm, you know, there wasn't a lot left. I mean, I was like, you know, to manufacture the energy to have good quality time with my kids was a challenge. And that's just not good, right. And so I think that we don't want to by nature, let other people down. We'll let ourselves down and not other people down. And I think that's for sure what I do. And so, my health to me, like, I would just in my head, I was letting myself down. I was like, Well, you know, I'm a little heavier, but I'm going to eat that thing anyway, and I'm going to get home and I'm going to comfort myself with food, or whatever your deal is, what I realized is that I'm actually letting my family down more than anything because I didn't have enough energy left for the most important people in my life, right, I was giving it to everyone else. And so I think that we say that we tell ourselves, our self-talk is like, well, you know, if I let my body go, or I let my health go, that's just that's on me. But you're actually I would say that your other people around you probably suffer as much as you.

 

Brian Charlesworth  21:05

For sure. I would say the best example of that is putting your mask on first when you're on an airplane, right? If you're not taking care of yourself, you can't take care of others. If you're not, you know if you're not in a position to be there for those people around you and to lead them like you can't do it. So anyway, I wanted to share that. And I love that you've made that commitment. And I'm pushing myself right now to my next thing. I just finished 75 hard and now I know I get that. So

 

Vija Williams  21:34

I did that a year ago. And I loved it a year and a half ago. I loved it. hated it. Loved it.

 

Brian Charlesworth  21:39

Yeah. Yeah, I know, I tell I committed Hey, this is my new life. So I'm going to do this every day. From this point forward. I've been really good about the exercise, but not as good about the diet.

 

Vija Williams  21:49

Oh, in the water. I think the water was one of the hardest parts for me.

 

Brian Charlesworth  21:53

Yeah, for me, that is something I do anyway. So. All right, so the last thing I want to talk about is a personal side before we dive into some of your businesses, I'd love to just learn more about what motivates you.

 

Vija Williams  22:07

So for me, it's a really easy answer. It's very internal motivation. I mean, it's, you know, I don't want to make myself sound like I like money. I'm motivated by wealth, too, but it's very, I have a really easy answer, I am motivated by reaching my full potential. And it, I feel like it's my lifelong quest to kind of push my limits as much as I can to hit what I can do. And in fact, it's actually turned into my it's my life, it's my mission statement for my life is to help others reach their full potential. And I don't know where that came from, I can't put my finger on it. I can't, I cannot describe it internally. I'm extraordinarily motivated and ambitious. And I, I don't know where it came from. But that's why that's what drives it.

 

Brian Charlesworth  22:54

Yeah, I love it. You know, I've, I coach some of Spring's agents. And I also do some work with her team leader. And what I've recognized, and I've noticed this, you know, even with my own team at Sisu, there are so many different ways that people are motivated. But I would say most people are actually motivated by fear, which to me is so strange because I'm not at all motivated by fear. But, to a lot of people, what I've noticed is some of these agents, they would rather make sure they don't have to pay $100 to someone if they don't accomplish something by taking them out to lunch or dinner, than just be driven to make that 10,000 Extra $10,000 commission by doing an extra transaction every month, you know? Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. It's, it's interesting to me. So

 

Vija Williams  23:46

I think you're right about that.

 

Brian Charlesworth  23:48

So, you know, and then there are those of us like you and I who are not motivated by fear. That's completely different.

 

Vija Williams  23:56

I think I think I am sometimes I think that, to me, fear motivations, short term, in the short term, I get motivated by fear. But the intrinsic motivation that really truly drives me every day is not.

 

Brian Charlesworth  24:11

Yeah, yeah, fear can be a short-term motivator, but it's not going to stay with you forever. You've got to have the passion behind what you're doing. Yeah. In my opinion. Yeah. Great. You need to find something else other than fear to motivate yourself. So you and Ben started working together. You told us the story of that you guys at PLACE maybe tell us a little bit about PLACE because as I look at PLACE, you guys are agnostic to brokerages, which I think is amazing. I think you have a very similar vision to what I have at Sisu as far as just streamlining and automating people's businesses and like you said, giving them leverage, right? So anyway, tell us more about PLACE because it's a very unique model. In two years. You guys got to a billion-dollar valuation, which is incredible. So congratulations. Yeah, I

 

Vija Williams  25:02

think you know, rather than making it sound,  this is what I'll say about it all. I think what's interesting about PLACE is that all good businesses solve important problems. And that's what makes them good. You know you look at Uber, right? You look at Tesla, right? We needed a car that didn't rely on fossil fuels. That's why Tesla is so successful. You know you look at Uber, right, it was bound to happen, that transportation had to get easier and more seamless. It was they were good problems to solve, right? PLACE is in that same boat. PLACE is... The vision of PLACE is it will be the Shopify of the home. I mean, that's really the simple way to say it. So the platform upon which everything home is based. And, you know, right now, where it starts really is the shopping, I think, the Shopify of real estate teams. And so it's a platform, not an expansion team, it's really a platform by which teams partner with so that they can accelerate their growth and streamline their growth, you know, good examples, kind of what you and I talked about earlier, now that I'm with PLACE, I just, it's like, it's such a different world had I have had PLACE back when I had my real estate team, like, I probably wouldn't be here talking to you. I don't know if that's good or bad. But, you know, all of the things that I struggle with, you know, we have like 20 staff accountants, now we have 550 employees, right. So we have like 20, staff, accountants, just dedicated to our real estate teams, we have a marketing and design department of I don't know, 30 people. Now, I don't even know how many probably more we have, you know, in-house legal and human resources, all of the things that teams really, you know, struggle with, we come and partner with them and handle with them. But I think that the biggest problem, Brian that I see with real estate teams, especially as they get big, is that the agent attraction piece seems like it's they'll all tell me recruiting, most of them can attract the right agents and at least get meetings, right. Most of them if they really put their mind to it could recruit whatever they needed to recruit, although that is a challenge that I hear from a lot of them that we help solve. I think one of the biggest challenges that teams face, as they're growing, is getting agents into productivity, getting agents selling homes, and, you know, markets come and go, and they all look different, like the last cycle, we're moving into the next cycle with the last one, it was really hard on buyer's agents very hard for newer buyer's agents to you know, get buyers in the contract, for instance. And as we go into the next iteration, it's going to be potentially canceled and expireds, again, you know, all the different things. So getting agents into productivity. So, you know, PLACE has solved that problem, we have incredible agent launches and Agent accountability systems and, and all of this kind of comes alongside the team operators, our partners, and works with them. So you know, they're places now I have five agents in launch right now, because we, you know, my team's with PLACE, and then I'm with them at, you know, in our regular meetings, and I'm overlaying my Vija-isms, you know, I'm overlaying you know, some things we say. So the stamp of being Vija real estate hasn't gone away. It's just completely I'm here talking to you, like, I am so calm, cool, and collected about my team. I have financial reviews, we have systems, we have our own dedicated staff, accountant. I mean, it's just a different, I have a whole back-end Business Services team now helping me run my team. So I truly think that a large percentage of real estate teams will end up partnering with us. I think the other thing that all of us need to be thinking about all of us is are we getting, you know, at least four checks for every Commission, we just can no longer think of real estate commission as our only income in real estate. So you know, what is your mortgage? Do you know, what a partnership looks like? What do your title and escrow, if you're in an escrow state partnership, look like? What about insurance lines, right, all of it. And what I'm hearing and seeing in my role as head of industry, I tend to go talk to the bigger teams and the larger teams and the big guns, but what I'm seeing is a lot of joint ventures that concern me, both for the team's revenue and for what they're giving away when they joint venture with the company that's going to go sell their loan. And in three months, their client is going to start getting messages from Rocket Mortgage, who's taken over the servicing, saying, Hey, Brian, do you want to use our Rocket Mortgage real estate agent and they're selling, you know, leads back and they're completely losing control of their customer when they're joint venturing with these mortgage companies who are basically going to, they're going to be advertising to these customers in three or six months when they sold out a loan to another real estate firm, right? So we're here to solve all that we, all of our loans were closing soon on a very, very large mortgage. I acquired one of the larger ones in the nation can't say obviously. And we are absolutely going to service all of our loans on purpose and brand, our real estate agents for life with that. We just truly believe it's very exciting. We truly believe that we're going to, we're here to protect and keep clients for life for all of our teams. And so, you know, I could not be more excited about PLACE. In fact, I'll be honest, I was begging Ben and Chris, last year, I'm like, I want to transition into PLACE. And both of them like wait, we need you to run brokerages. Like we need you over here. And I said, I understand that, but it's, I can't NOT be there. I can't, you know, it's everything. It's the future. And so we actually created this role for me, I proposed it to them. Ladies, listen up, I wrangled the two co-founders and the president of the company and force him to sit down with me and propose the role we wrote it went through metrics was completely driven by me because I just didn't want to not be part of the movement. So

 

Brian Charlesworth  31:03

yeah, that's awesome. So, man, you said a lot of things going on. But one of the things you said that really stuck out to me, you said, you know, are you getting four checks, really, for every transaction? So what are the four checks that you say, everyone should get 

 

Vija Williams  31:23

for more so so the commission Commission, which 

 

Brian Charlesworth  31:27

is your real estate commission, 

 

Vija Williams  31:28

Real Estate Commission, which I just want to side note, they are going down? There are they've already gone down, and I don't want to give numbers or anything. I don't think that's appropriate for RESPA purposes. But um, you know, most of us started our career, who've been in it for a while at one number, and it's just gone down. We now have you no big huge lawsuit in place where you know, there's a small there's a chance buyer, brokerage commission might go away forever, right.  

 

Brian Charlesworth  31:57

I saw that this week.  

 

Vija Williams  31:58

Yeah. Nevertheless, so we have real estate commission, we have mortgage number two, we have title and you know, West Coast can also add title slash escrow. Right. And I also think insurance signs, I think there's more. I mean, there's arguably, you know, we have big ambitions, but at least those four, and by insurance lines, I mean, you know, homeowners insurance, yeah, earthquake insurance, all that. And I think that I would say, I'm finding three kinds of teams right now. And all I do, Brian, I mean, I am constantly meeting with teams, that's really my world, right? All different brands, all different sizes, mainly bigger teams, you and I, both, we, you and I both. It's so funny, I don't we should, we should, I know we should talk more on the microphone, I'll have you on my podcast, I'm finding three types of teams. Number one, they don't have anything in place, then they know they need to, and they're just for, you know, they're insecure about their knowledge of mortgage or title, or they just, you know, whatever. So that's the first type of team, they all know they need to, they just don't have replays. The second type of team has, you know, anywhere from one to three core, or ancillary service contracts in place, right. And I'm thinking of a couple of people in my head. But when I drill down, I'm a little concerned with some of the numbers I'm hearing, you know, some of these JV. And also some of the control that they're getting or not getting, I talked to a very large at one of our largest teams in the nation. And they were kind of explaining to me that they did this JV and it's just the wrong partner, the partner is in a completely different state and didn't understand the majority of their buyers. And it's just it hasn't worked, right, it's just every area has certain needs. And every business does the third type of team. And really, I'm not trying to sound self-serving really not. But it's really the PLACE teams are the only ones I've seen with really good contracts in place with us. I mean, no other company that I know of, is literally going to own the mortgage company like we are. And so to be able to have direct partnerships and JVs with our teams, it's going to be the best that alone is. It's just not it's going to be hard to exist anywhere. We're at a billion-dollar valuation now. But that's, that's our, it's higher. And so it just takes a lot to be able to get to the point where you can acquire that. And so I think that a lot of people know they need to do this and are lacking the expertise, the contacts, or the ability to discern a good deal.

 

Brian Charlesworth  34:24

Yeah, that's great. I totally agree with you. Every team should make sure that they are getting paid those four checks. Yeah, absolutely. A big part of what Sisu was doing with some of the things we have going on with our client portal is also allowing you to jump into the home services businesses, and I think you and I both know that controlling their experience and the end is really the main value there. I think so many people think of it as there's an opportunity for me to make another commission check and it's more than that. It's controlling that experience for your client. And if you can actually do that the next step for they move into the home now what? What about getting all their home services set up or those types of things? And so those kinds of things are happening in our client portal now Vija 

 

Vija Williams  35:16

Yeah, thanks for saying that. Because really, the birth of all of this is a consumer experience. And I shouldn't have started it with the assumption that you know, the consumer has a loudly and clearly stated that they want that, that they want one-stop shopping. And thank you for Yeah,

 

Brian Charlesworth  35:32

Yeah. And there is no doubt in my mind that the realtor is the right person to control that experience end to end because they are the first person to partner with that client. So you know, there have been a lot of mortgage and title companies trying to do similar things and mortgage and title tech companies trying to do those types of things. And you know, it's

 

Vija Williams  35:54

Funny, you should say, 1,000%, our president Chris Stewart calls it you know, it being the tip of the spear, I use that I use it a lot. It's funny, you should say that I was in an off-record event. So I can't state who said this, but one of our nation's largest lenders, who also has started an in house real estate company, said when a real estate agent refers a lender, and this is their, these are their stats in aggregate, everyone's gonna have their own attachment rate stats, but they said when a real estate agent refers a loan officer, it's a 70% attachment rate or 70% chance that they're going to use that lender, so seven out of 10 people, a real estate agent referred to a lender will use it. Do you know the status when a lender refers a real estate agent? 

 

Brian Charlesworth  36:41

I would say 6%. 

 

Vija Williams  36:43

It's 10 to 15%. Okay, so I asked you who controls the customer? Right? You know, to your point, it is indisputable that the real estate agent controls the customer, which is why we're going to be the Shopify of the home. Because we believe that consolidation has already happened. And the future of real estate is teams. And so by having teams as the tip of the spear, into the consumer, we believe that we can get the TAM of the whole house and the whole total available market of everything, right. And so I couldn't agree with you more.

 

Brian Charlesworth  37:17

So it's amazing how in line, your PLACE vision is with our Sisu vision. We totally agree with that. So as far as teams being the future of real estate, so let's talk about that for a minute. Like, what do you see happening like this? And I think interest rates are it's starting to make things happen. It's starting to happen. Now. What do you see happening to people who are not teams? I guess I would define that as the traditional brokerage? Or the solo agent?

 

Vija Williams  37:50

Yeah, great question. There's always going to be a place for solo agents in our business. And you know, you don't want to there are some phenomenal solo agents that have a really big awesome business with sort of them and an assistant and maybe even a showing agent to help. Right, I would kind of consider that a solo agent. I think that's

 

Brian Charlesworth  38:09

kind of a team to right, because it is kind of a team, you have people that they are employing to help them provide better service to their clients.

 

Vija Williams  38:18

I think a solo agent with an assistant. Okay, that's fair, I think, you know, having a full-time assistant and being a solo agent, I still consider that a solo agent. But you're right, I suppose when you start adding. When Yeah, I think that's fair. I think that as the market is turning right now, though, we're already seeing it that we're going to start seeing one of the biggest consolidations that we've seen so far meaning agents that formerly you would not have guessed have, you know, would have gone with teams are going to start joining with teams. Here's the thing, when I was a solo agent, I was at a very large, independent brand here in Washington State in Seattle. This is back in the day before I started a team. By the time I paid all my expenses, and I did pay for some part-time help and whatever I was making, you know, 5060 cents on the dollar. So in other words, I had a large 50-60 % profit margin, right? That's huge. It was a solo agent. I had expenses. But you know, that's why, and I think a lot of solo agents think that they're at a 90% profit margin, and they're probably not they just are not adding up their cap or their split that they're paying to their company. They're not adding up, you know, the technology, the contract help the transaction coordinators, because it comes out of their check. So I don't think they're, you know, necessarily understanding it. When I look at what my agents you know, on average, if you say we're on a 5050 split on a team, they are probably netting a very similar amount to what I was doing as an individual agent with none of the stress in some cases, you know, half a lot of the lead generation is taken care of for them and they're just in conversion mode that they also lead gen don’t get me wrong but, you know, when they have a team around, they have fun, they have camaraderie. I 1,000% would have started on a team had I started in an era where teams existed. Right now I've started real estate. So I think that we're in for a consolidation like that. And I think that the level of teams I am now talking to for PLACE is extraordinarily high, very, very high volume teams that we're talking to because their next iteration is really kind of regional or national expansion, some of the largest teams in the nation we're talking to. So I think that the notion of trying to be a lone ranger in the world that we live in, and the way we're going, it's, you know, being in a team and being in a partnership is probably the best way for any of us to be successful. And I think that we're going to more and more move to that. I think COVID showed us that, you know, loneliness. And you know, being by ourselves just isn't, isn't necessarily what most humans want. Most of us want to partner up and thrive together.

 

Brian Charlesworth  40:59

So one of the things you mentioned earlier, and thank you for that. I totally agree with everything you say, Vija. But you talked about earlier, that getting agents into production is one of the biggest challenges. That's, I think one of the biggest differences between a team and a solo agent going to a brokerage. I mean, I'm very close to my wife's team, obviously. And I see agents come in all the time, that in their first two months, they have five, six people under contract, you know, and they're putting people under contract. I mean, they're able to do it on a team in that team environment, where they're getting leads, where they have the systems, where they have accountability, they are able to get into that production at the same level as someone who's been in the business for a year, if they go all in, right, if they take advantage of everything that teams providing. So it's close, we see it all the time because obviously, we measure that kind of stuff. But I just think it's such an unfair advantage to be on a team in today's world.

 

Vija Williams  42:05

It really is. And you know, and I think that you know, then we look at all the I think you said something interesting and good. And that is that the brokerage is probably no longer the entity to solve that problem. That per agent productivity problem that is now the team's role. You know, we all need to be at a brokerage. It's a necessary thing for state laws, you know, we all have to hang our license somewhere and transact somewhere, they have a huge purpose. Like we need brokerages they exist to, you know, get sued. They exist. It exists to give us

 

Brian Charlesworth  42:35

that makes me want to own a brokerage. 

 

Vija Williams  42:37

Yeah, right, super fun. But they're like, you know, I think of them like the windshield. You know, they exist to protect us to help process our contracts and everything. But it's probably time that we start being honest with ourselves and realize that they are not the solution to our biggest business-building problems, or they're the house upon which we live. But the teams are who are going to solve, you know, most of our, you know, how do we build wealth in real estate? How do we buy and invest in real estate? How do we sell two or three homes a month, right, that probably should no longer fall in the brokerage that probably needs to be the teams are proving that they're the entity that is really creating that.

 

Brian Charlesworth  43:16

Yeah, well said, I know we're about out of time here. And I have so much more that I want to talk to you about. So we're gonna have to do this again. 

 

Vija Williams  43:24

We'll do it again. And I'll have you on mine too. So

 

Brian Charlesworth  43:27

but one of the things I just wanted you to share, maybe you could just share, take a couple of minutes and share about your women's group. And maybe your podcasts, but it really your women's group. I want to know more about that.

 

Vija Williams  43:38

Well, thanks for asking me because that's a really important business. To me. It's called Her Best Life. So herbestlife.com We started out there's a group of 11 friends, all of us are women in real estate. And we just our lives changed by being in a tribe together. And we decided that we had the heart to share that with other women, how to build tribes, how to build networks, how to wealth build, not necessarily through real estate, but how to talk about money. The differences, some of the differences you and I talked about today, you know, the timing can look different from a woman's perspective, because of you know, having babies and everything. So we kind of did our first event and 20 I think it was 2019 Yeah, it was 2019 it was canceled, and 2020 because of COVID. And then we had our second event and 2021. And then we have our third event in Scottsdale this October. It's already sold out at 500 women. And we've just started a series of subscription plans that women you can get on our website and look at we have Her Rich Life, which is a wealth-building course we have a net worth club now where we all track a group of people track our net worth every month. We're going to come out with a couple of other things and I just really want to encourage any women no matter what industry you're from, to check us out because We really believe that we all are better, and stronger together when we amplify each other. And when we kind of operate together to create bigger lives for each other, so we love it very powerful women, we don't sing Kumbaya. Yeah, it's not really who we are.

 

Brian Charlesworth  45:16

Yeah, that's exciting. I remember a conversation in Mexico where you were talking about selling more tickets than you could have ever dreamed of. I think you oversold that first event. Without  

 

Vija Williams  45:26

We did. It was crazy. The need and the demand for even when we talk about businesses, solving problems, you know, you've created something good when you have an overwhelming demand for your service. So 

 

Brian Charlesworth  45:38

yeah. So how do people get a hold of you Vija if, like, if they want to learn more about PLACE or if they want to learn about being a part of the Your Best Life? Yeah,

 

Vija Williams  45:51

Yeah, I'm an open book too. I share pretty much everything Vija@place.com So via is a super weird name. It's spelled V like, Victor, I, J. A, which is super weird that J is like a y. So it's V-I-J-A @place.com. Also Facebook and social, you know, all the things.

 

Brian Charlesworth  46:12

Okay, so anyway, guys, I recommend you reach out to Vija. Vija has been, I've only spent a little bit of time, but it's quite a bit of time in Mexico with you. And it's been really fun to get to know you. So thanks for joining me on the Grit podcast today. It's people like you, I think that help all of us elevate our game. So thank you so much.

 

Vija Williams  46:31

Thank you for having me.






Elements Image

The best Sisu content, right in your inbox.

Be the first to hear about product updates, industry news, client success stories and more! All designed to help you grow your real estate team and business 🚀

Latest Articles

Episode 121: Powering the Real Estate Industry Through Building Wealth with Brett Tanner

Episode 121: Powering the Real Estate Industry Through Building Wealth with Brett Tanner

While top real estate agents may sell many homes, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have real wealth. In fact, many real estate agents tod...

Episode 120: What it Takes to Become a Million-Dollar Listing Agent with James Harris

Episode 120: What it Takes to Become a Million-Dollar Listing Agent with James Harris

There is no question that real estate agents who achieve million-dollar listing status are doing something right. But what exactly sets th...

How Top Side Teams Are Seeing 30–50% Increases in Business With Sisu

How Top Side Teams Are Seeing 30–50% Increases in Business With Sisu

Side is quickly becoming the next “big thing” among real estate brokerage platforms. See how two of their top producers are doing it with S...