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Episode 122: Using Technology to Get Back to the Human Side of Business with Justin Benson

Real estate is a fast-paced, constantly-changing industry and it can be challenging for some to stay on top. And in order to keep up or even outpace the competition, one would think that they might need to spend all their time working in the business.

Brian Charlesworth

Brian Charlesworth

Chairman & CEO

Brian is a highly accomplished entrepreneur, business builder, and thought leader in the real estate industry. With a track record of success in software, telecommunications, and franchise businesses, Brian has a talent for identifying and realizing business opportunities. Driven by his passion for technology, Brian is dedicated to using his skills and experience to bring about positive change and improve people's lives through the advancement of technology.


Using automation can be the answer to streamlining some of the tedious tasks that comes with running a real estate business.  By using technology, agents can free up more time for themselves and spend it on building relationships with clients to move their business forward. 

Brian Charlesworth joins Justin Benson, CEO & Principal at the Bara Agency, as they talk about Justin’s journey from being a computer nerd to building real estate teams from the ground up.  They also discuss how his company is helping entrepreneurs implement automation strategies to put more time back in their hands so they can spend it on what matters most.

Top Takeaways:

(05:57) The importance of grit
(07:07) The single most important thing entrepreneurs must have
(07:49) How Justin made the shift from building technology to running a real estate team
(15:35) What a Fractional Chief Technology Officer does
(21:29) The difference between having two systems that communicate together versus five systems that don’t.
(22:31) When to best introduce technology to a company
(25:07) What Justin loves most about Sisu
(29.29) How to help your transaction coordinator execute at a much higher level
(33:12) What should real estate professionals do today to take market share
(35:18) How to get way ahead of everybody else in this down market

Connect with Justin Benson

About the guest:

Justin Benson was always interested in technology and seeing what he can accomplish or solve with it.  Back in high school, instead of going to vacations like his friends did, he would spend money on taking computer classes and building his own stuff.  

In college, Justin tried to deviate from the path by getting a biochemistry degree. But eventually he got cold feet, pulled the plug, and started his own IT company that built cloud storage.  He and his partner ended up selling the business to a smaller IT Company, who is now known as Dropbox.    

Justin then decided to get into real estate when a friend casually asked him about building a real estate team. So instead of taking a month off for his honeymoon, he spent it getting a real estate license and proceeded to build his team. 

Today, Justin Bara is the founder and leader of the Bara Agency.  He has helped build hundreds of teams from the ground up, sold hundreds of houses, and created custom technology, systems, and strategies that their clients needed to scale along the way.

Episode Transcript:

Brian Charlesworth  0:35  
All right. Hello, everyone. And welcome back to the Grit Podcast. I'm Brian Charlesworth. I'm the founder of Sisu, and your host of the show. And today, I have Justin Benson here with me. And Justin started the Bara Agency recently. And well, how long has that been, Justin? When did you start Bara?

Justin Benson  0:56  
I've been doing this kind of work for a long time. But like officially, you know, hiring people and really going for it, you know, about a year and a half. 

Brian Charlesworth  1:04  
Okay, so it hasn't been that long. But you've accomplished a lot in that time. So, Justin has a background running real estate teams. He's a real estate guru as well as a nerd, is what how I think he introduces. Yeah, so I wanted to dig in. Before we talk about how you created the Bara agency and what you guys do. I'd love to learn more about like, how did you first become a nerd? Like, let's talk about the nerd side of you to get started here, Justin, but anything else you want to add? From? Just maybe a quick intro to your background?

Justin Benson  1:43  
No, not really. I mean, he kind of nailed it. You know, I'm just like a, I've kind of just been a secret little nerd my entire life. Funny enough. So like, when you say like, how did you get into it? I don't. In high school, when friends are going on vacations and stuff, I would take in computer classes, like the Ryback went out with the university, like, I'd spend money to go take computer classes, and I'd be building my own stuff. The Sport guy up front, basically playing baseball, and you know, football. But at night, I come home and like build computers. And I don't know, for as long as I can remember, it's just the stuff that I, if I get bored at night, and I can't sleep, the stuff I'm gonna look at on my phone is like, Oh, I wonder if I can get this little AI bot to do this thing. You know, like, it's just very intriguing and fascinating to me.

Brian Charlesworth  2:31  
Okay, so you've just always been since high school, or maybe even earlier, just always interested in technology, seeing what you can build what you can accomplish with it, what you can solve? 

Justin Benson  2:44  
Yeah, and I've tried to deviate from that path a few times, like I went to college, got a biochemistry degree, I have two parents that are like, serial entrepreneurs separately of each other, like, instead of flipping houses, they flip companies. So I was raised in a pretty weird background. And they basically said, our world is really stressful, this whole entrepreneur thing, you're really smart, you should like be a doctor or something, you know, it's nice to be steady. So go and get a biochem degree, get into med school, staring down the barrel at 12 more years of school, essentially. And I just, I got cold feet and pulled the plug, man like I just right before it was supposed to go down, I pulled the plug in me and a close friend started a little IT company called Link Technology back in the day. And we started at instead of going to med school, I built a little cloud storage company essentially backup forth with cloud storage when it was windows 98 servers plugged into the corner of our office then where that was like running all of our emails, and all that good stuff and power goes down to your building, then your email servers go down, right. So it was really expensive for companies to access their files remotely. So we built this little program that you could access those files remotely from, and we let the vision of what that software could be when my business partner at the time ended up getting this dream job opportunity to go work for Disney Studios. And he became a really high-up person at Disney Studios, engineering team over there. And little did we know we sold it to a smaller IT company here in Phoenix, and we had been building Dropbox without even knowing it. So looking back on my life

Brian Charlesworth  4:16  
That was pre Dropbox, pre Google. And, yeah, it's a real pain in that road. You may be a billionaire today who knows.

Justin Benson  4:25  
Exactly. And instead, I'm not but it's okay. When I mark it really great ideas. It's not just one person that has that great idea. But there is just one person that has the vision for where it could be. And we lacked the vision for what that product could be one day, you know, we were young 19 year old kids too.

Brian Charlesworth  4:44  
Yeah. So you know, I think I'm glad you brought that up. Because I think, you know, you said it's the vision. Everyone has ideas, right? And these same ideas. The idea of Sisu had been, I'm sure 1000s of people had had it before me. But then you talk about the vision to execute on that's part of it. But another part of it, in my opinion, is really just the execution piece, right? I mean, execution is everything, ideas really don't mean anything, right? Because everyone has 1000 ideas every day I hear 1000s of ideas. The question is, who's going to execute on those?

Justin Benson  5:25  
Yeah, exactly. I had grown up, I had this, like, I remember in junior high, I had this, Sunday school teacher. And I remember going here is like a kid. And if for some reason that's getting grained in my brain, I went back there a name of Kathy. And I said, Hey, Miss Kathy, I really want to be reading my Bible more, you know, like little Justin, like 14-year-old Dustin. And he turned around, and he goes, Well, are you? And I went, Well, no, no, I'm not. And she said, Well, then don't come back for me until you are, and went, Wow, that's, that was a mental shift for me as this as a young person to go, oh, just because I want to do it like that matters, not, you know, the execution of actually creating a plan and following through with it and having the title of your podcast, the Grit, to see it through, you know, I mentor it to the young younger guys coming out of college getting into business. And they always ask, Hey, what's the number one thing that you can teach me, I'm like Grit, the ability that stay in it when it's hard. Because if you go ask my wife, some days, I'll come home and say, I don't think I'm capable of this, I should just burn it down and go get a real job, basically, right. And then other days, I'll come home. And I think that I'm king of the world, and it just ping pong back and forth, you know, all the time. But the ability to stay in the game, when it's really, really hard and see it all the way through is monumentally important. And I see that atrophying in society more and more and more is, you know, we hire young people here, developers or whatnot. One of the things we're trying to instill in our employees over here, and it's our core value number one, is do what you say you're going to do. Basically, the summary of that is Grit. If we say we're going to do it, we're going to do it, you know.

Brian Charlesworth  7:06  
Yeah, and I mean, if you read the book Grit, you know, it's, it's all about, hey, you know, what, you fall down, it's about how you get back up. It's about what you learn from falling down. It's about what you learn from those mistakes you've made. So 

Justin Benson  7:21  

Brian Charlesworth  7:23
Yeah, totally. I agree. It's the single most important thing that an entrepreneur needs to have anyway. And, you know, I always say every real estate team owner is an entrepreneur as well. And a lot of them shutting down, you see a lot of them in the hard times digging deep and saying this one, I'm gonna take market share. So that's a topic I really wanted to talk about today. But before we go into that, you moved from building technology to running a real estate team. How did you get into that shift?

Justin Benson  7:57  
On accident, you know, I, after the technology company thing called Apex been run, built this fundraising company with a buddy, it's got Donald, and the day that I had exited that company, I was supposed to get married in a month from then so I'm gonna take the month off, go on a honeymoon, figure out what I was gonna be all over again, when I grew up. And instead literally that day, on my way to a brewery to go celebrate with them friends, my old friend John Glatch called me out of the blue and said, Hey, man, I do I know you're doing that, you know, fundraising thing, but have you ever thought about building a real estate company? And I like Chuck told me there's no that had never crossed my mind in the path of where my life could go. But in these clothes, like his daughter's, my goddaughter, his father-in-law, married my wife and I you know, so instead of taking a month off, I went, got a real estate life and came back from honeymoon started building that real estate team with John it was just, you know, me and him and our hoodies and board shirts like high fiving every time the phone rang making up excuses why we had to meet clients at Starbucks because our like crappy office was not good enough to meet clients at you know. So it was a fun journey from building that to operating in three states and some 1000s of houses. And it's it was a really fun journey, building that process together. And we're still dear friends to this day when we started Bara Agency Clutch group was client number one. So yeah, it was a really fun journey after that. Funny enough, the only reason I left that is because, me and some friends had this lifelong dream come true. got signed a little record label to write three records. So this little deviation in my life, I kind of did that. And I got, you know it, it didn't keep the lights on, you know, funny enough. There's not a lot of money even in millions of streams, I get royalty checks and basically just grocery money every quarter. Essentially. It's not life-changing unless you're really on the road performing all the time. And I got a young family. I just don't want to be gone all the time. So I started doing some consulting, and then what who was just supposed to be another consulting client ended up becoming a partner, and we built another real estate company, kind of around the military community here in Arizona. And it was a lot of fun in like two and a half years I went from just her and a TC to number one VA real estate team in all of Arizona, you know. So it was a lot of fun kind of taking everything that I learned in the first place that glitch group and kind of reproving it to see if it would if we just got lucky over here if that methodology actually did work in a repeatable process. So it was cool, proven some of that. So.

Brian Charlesworth  10:25  
So you've gone from Nerd, to realtor, real estate team owner, to musician artist. And fortune back to

Justin Benson  10:38  
Back so much money, right? 

Brian Charlesworth  10:41  
Back to real estate. And then all of a sudden, I think you were kind of like me, I mean, when I jumped into Spring’s real estate team to help her grow that she had a small team of five agents now 75 agents, but you know, I saw the problems, I came from a technology background, jumped into real estate and saw the problems. And that's how Sisu got started. So let's talk about how Bara Agency got started.

Justin Benson  11:07  
Yeah, um, like I kind of set on accident. After that second real estate company, I kind of took about six months off of life. And I just like hung out with my family, I had the fortunate ability to be able to do that. And in the middle of that kind of reset. John Clutch actually invited me out to this thing in Mexico, that Dan Beer and Kyle Whissel, were throwing big exp recruiting event deal. And I was not there to be a part of the recruiting event, I was there to drink margaritas by the pool and hang out with my friends when they were all done. And through conversations there, I kind of started talking to people about technology that I built for previous real estate companies I've been a partner in. And low and behold, you know, here's five more partnership agreement like offers from the large teams across the nation asked me if I would do it for them. And I was honest with them, I just said that, hey, the reason why I kind of left that last team is I just burnt out like burden building real estate teams like I was just very burnt out. So I was honest with everybody and said, I think I have like a year in the gas tank of like building another real estate team before I burn out all over again. But the thought crossed my mind, what they were looking for was not something I took for granted, was when I was a partner in a real estate company, if the technology didn't exist, we just built it. And if the integrations that existed between this technology, software's and the platforms didn't exist or fit our business practices, we just built new ones instead. So that was common place for me, like molding and shaping technology to the way that we operate, right? Like we take our standard operating procedure, not our system that by system, I don't mean technology. By system, I mean like your operating procedures for all the things that happen your company, take that use that as a guiding star, and then use technology to help execute on that system at a really high level, right? And bending and molding the technology is that exists to execute at a high level. Well, I found out that I had been living in my own little world. And that was not commonplace real estate industry. But that was not a thing. And what they were looking for was not you know, a COO or an integrator, somebody or somebody like that they were actually looking for like more of a CTO Chief Technology Officer. And the reality is that even the largest real estate teams don't have they're not SAS companies, there's not 40 hours a week worth of for a CTO and the salary expense of a CTO plus, you know, if they hired me as CTO, I can't do it all on my own. I'm like a kiddie coder. And I can get some stuff done in JavaScript, but I'm not going to be able to be a full stack guy, I need another developer along with me to help execute on my job. Well, there you go full time, you're staring down the barrel at 450 grand a year in salary expense, just that alone. And that's just not going to work. And there's not 40 hours a week of it. So we, I essentially said, Hey, there's a few teams here that are interested in this. I've never heard of a fractional CTO model in my entire life. I've heard a fractional CFO, I've heard a fractional CMO. And I was honest, I said, there might be a really good reason why I've never heard of this. And I'm just naive to the fact of the complexities that it would take to run something like this. And we gave it a go. I said, Let's just give it 90 days and see if it works. And at the end of this 90 Day experiment, if it doesn't work, we can all high five and say we tried it, and if not, if it does work, then this is going to be great for everybody. And you know, the end of that story is that it did work. And we raised a bit of funding around the idea of being a fractional CTO for large real estate teams. And now it's me in a team of eight people here in Tempe, Arizona, back-end developers, full stack developers, data scientists, and systems engineers, really handling the day-to-day technology stacks on not just the practical level of building stuff for people but also advising on, hey, this is the direction you should go. Because I've seen down the road over here, and this thing that you want to do is actually going to fall apart right here. And you don't see it yet, because you haven't gotten there. But I can promise you that that's going to happen. So this is how we should probably build it instead and kind of being that advising consulting voice of reason inside of these organizations as well. So,

Brian Charlesworth  15:20  
yeah, okay, so let's dive into some of the use cases. And you could be that from that first event, those first five people like, what is it they wanted you to do? And yeah, let's talk about that first. And then we can talk about how that's evolved. But like, what was the use case of, Yeah, I want you to be my, you know, my fractional CTO? What does that mean? Like, what were the needs? 

Justin Benson  15:45  
Yeah, I mean, the needs are like everything under the sun Tech Night. But yeah, where a lot of that stuff started in the very beginning with, you know, integration base, like the way that we formed a relationship with you guys is that John really wanted to use the Sisu, but he was running on a CRM that does not natively integrate with Sisu in some way. So I reached out to Zac, and you know, me and Zac. I was just pinging Zac with questions about the API over and over again, Zac was like, Who is this guy he like he knows what he's talking about. And Zac sent me the API documentation just kind of go on, like, I don't know, he's probably not gonna figure it out. But I kind of check the box. And what's funny is that we did figure it out, we built this really seamless, two-way sync between an outside system that integrates pretty flawlessly with Sisu. So it started with a lot of cleaning up inside operations, where there was a lot of redundancy in the organization where they're double, entering triple entering data and making sure that we clear up all of that at a base level system. And that really is just foundational. As far as a company is concerned, let's take all of your standard operating procedures and make sure that it's flowing correctly from technology system to technology system. And let's make sure that we're not needlessly introducing complexity to an organization because as an organization grows, complexity naturally happens. But the individual solutions themselves need to be as simplistic as humanly possible. So that way, as those solutions deck, and complexity is introduced into organization, if the complexity is comprised of simple solutions opposed to a lot of spider web, Frankenstein monsters, situations, you know, and then after we got clear of a bunch of that stuff that got into really interesting projects, like, I've used this one, I've actually demoed it for podcast, Zac, way back in the day, where we built this little, you know, you call AI bot, you know, there's a lot of that stuff happening right now, essentially, it was a little bot, that we had a client who a hedge fund was making, like 100 offers a day through them, right. So that was way too much, the staff. So we built a little bot that the purchase contract with uploaded, and the bot reads and conceptualizes all the data, writes an email, sends it out to the listing agent automatically with like a little giffy, and makes it fun with all the documents attached to it. And then, all of the data gets inputted into Sisu and their back end systems automatically, and files are archived into a Dropbox automatically, that happens from the moment that somebody clicks sign inside of Docusign. All of that process that I just talked about, was not done by a human, it was all done robotically with computers, you know, we have gotten into some pretty crazy edge cases in those regards. And now present day, we have way more of that. But on a practical level, the, you know, Sisu, for example, a really good example would be I run across people that have built these, like custom Google Data Studio, right, their smaller team build a giant custom Google Data Studio, and they really liked the malleability of what it can do. But the problem with building a really custom thing, especially a reporting tool, is that it's really intensive on the database inside to make sure that it runs correctly. And as you grow as an entity, it becomes very labor intensive to keep the data in line on your own little private database that you have going. And then maintaining the reporting engines that exist on top of that database becomes somebody's full time job to do that. Right. So what's fun is getting to advise people on why this custom solution doesn't work. And it doesn't a Sisu plug, Sisu actually was a tool for us to go oh, this is a solve for a bunch of our clients, you know. So like, selfishly, these two ended up helping us out because we went, Okay, this thing is a mess over here. We can take Sisu two and plug it into that instead and feed Sisu to the data. And then great if there is, I don't know, say they want a custom CEO dashboard that's going to get conceptualize all of the information in like a snippet. Okay, then we can build a custom tool that is pulling the data out of Sisu two to show it to them in a way that maybe is not native in Sisu, right. So we'll take the software's and tune it to the organizational need like that. So Yeah, so a lot of the things that I wish there was a straightforward, clear-cut answer to what it is that we have built, it'd be easier if we were a product company where it was, hey, here's this product that we offer. But it's not where true blue service-based company where anything that you want to build, as long as the API is capable of it, or the software is capable of it, we can build it for our teams.

Brian Charlesworth  20:21  
Cool. Well, I have a few questions for you. But one thing you should note is custom dashboards are something you'll be able to build in Sisu. here very shortly. So, anyway, so one of the things you talked about was, and I know, you talked about this all this time, which so do we streamlining somebody's real estate business. So we also talk about automating their business. And I know you do that as well with your AI bots. Right. So, I mean, we both see the same problem out there, which is, and I think, coming from a technology background and seeing real estate teams enter the same information into five different systems. I mean, that's the reality of that's still what most real estate teams are doing today, sending the same information into five systems. Well, Sisu was really built to eliminate that you should have your CRM and you should have Sisu, in our opinion, like that's all you need, and an E signature platform, right? But you have a lot of people come to you who are like, hey, I really want to do this, and they want custom things. But let's talk for a minute about the time that it saves. Let's say I'm doing 500 transactions a year. What does it mean to have two systems that communicate together versus five systems that don't?

Justin Benson  21:54  
Exactly, I mean, at that scale, it was specifically speaking to that 500 transaction threshold, that's a funny little threshold in the real estate world. It's not just like an arbitrary number, there's some baseline systems that will fall apart, if they're not designed correctly at that 500 unit count threshold there. And at that unit count, you are not looking for saving an hour from this task or an hour there, you're looking for five minutes here, three minutes there, 12 minutes there, because once you compile this time saving, you just found somebody's full-time job for a year in the midst of it. So I always say that companies are built with great people, that it's not the technology, it's built with really great people and a really great vision and systems to execute, right? What ends up happening is these really great people become really great at their job, and they get inundated with business, and the tidewater is up here, and they're all underwater, and they can't figure it out. That's when you introduce technology to help bring that Tidewater back down to your really amazing people, complete being really amazing people because that's the lifeblood of your company. At the end of the day, the technology is just the tool to help them execute on that at a high level. So that kind of get back to your original point, we have a lot of people that come to us and they say, Oh, we're using this thing and that thing and this thing and that thing and that. And it's just, I guess the best analogy that I have for it is, these teams have an idea of wanting to get to 1000 units a year, right? What they have built is essentially they had one little dinghy of a boat floating in the ocean. And they took this thing and just tied it on to the end of it and took that thing and just tied it on. And now they have this amorphous little blob floating, right? Good luck crossing the Atlantic Ocean with that thing, you will get swallowed by a wave and sink, and it moves real slow. So the idea of simplifying solutions down to your point, a CRM, a reporting engine and a transaction management system that really does outside of you know, your marketing stuff, you know, you still need websites, you still need to generate leads all of that good stuff. But on an operational basis, really great CRM, you need really great transaction management and you need really great reporting. Okay, cool. Sisu and a good CRM checks all of those boxes. And at that point, you're now designing a chip that is meant to cross the Atlantic or one that you accidentally tied together and duct-taped together, right? So we see so many time savings and organizations where it is painful switching systems and doing that stuff. I don't want to sugarcoat that migrating data from this old CRM to that one. It does cause a certain level of chaos initially in our organization, but we've never had somebody on the backside of that chaos. Get over here and go, Oh, man, I regret that I put all of that work into it.

Brian Charlesworth  24:35  
I want to go back, right? There’s nobody said they want to go back.

Justin Benson  24:39  
No, every single time they, I have to preface it with Hey, this is going to take logistically probably six months to a year of really focused intensity from your company and from you as a business leader to really get this stuff together. But after that is done. You're going to have a ship that can go the distance it was designed to get you exactly where you want to go. And it was built intentionally in that regard. Right. So that's the thing that I love about the Sisu solution to that problem is that, you know, you have the communication standpoint that needs to be solved great, something like Follow-Up Boss does texting and all of that stuff that you need email communication, you need a good CRM to manage the flow of leads, and disseminate that to your team really well, and then you need good reporting. And then you need a really great transaction management system. Okay, in two systems alone, we just checked all of those boxes. And we've removed so much complexity that it just need left an organization at that point.

Brian Charlesworth  25:35  
Yeah. So it's been interesting. I, we talked, I brought up the number 500. And it's interesting that you say that's a key number, I've had a few team owners come to me and say, I'm never going to be able to get beyond 500, just because my admin team is not gonna be able to handle this. And so I've always gotten them to commit to going all in with Sisu. And we've solved that. But I would say it even applies to like, let's say someone's doing 150 transactions. Usually, I mean, a lot of these guys are still using whiteboards. To check off, you know, managing that contract, closed process. It's crazy how I still see that whiteboards are in this in this game. But if it's not a whiteboard, it's a spreadsheet. And if it's not a spreadsheet, it might be Trello. And if it's not Trello, it might be Monday, you know, or it might be some antiquated system from real estate, it's been around so long that it, you know, it's just a linear platform where it doesn't give them swim lanes and the ability to really, really pick things apart. But I guess my point is, as I go in and meet with some of these teams, I find that they're spending 20 minutes on average every time they have to put that same data into a new platform. And that platform they're putting it into provides them with no reporting. So they don't, they don't have any way to know, you know, what's going on inside of there. They don't have any way to get automated information back out, you know, and so, what's your thoughts on, Like, how do these teams get beyond? Or any business get beyond using their employees to put the same data into multiple platforms? Because just that alone is a significant time savings?

Justin Benson  27:21  
Yeah, it's funny, you'd hit on like 150, you're kind of speaking to the different growth stages of a real estate company, right? Like, at 150. That could be one just Rockstar agent and a showing assistant. And a TC at that point, right? Like, that is possible to do that many transactions, they're not going to see their families ever, you know, which I know a lot of people listening to this will empathize with that. But that is possible. So at that juncture, what's happening is that every all that information just kind of lives in your mind. And in your TC’s mind and your showing agents mind and your team, right? It's not, it hasn't been put down on paper. But to break through that we have to be able to hire people and have systems in place in order for them to be trained on. So to break from that 150 mark, that is the introduction of systems and operating procedures do that really well. Okay, cool. 150, all the way up to 500. At 500, your team has grown so big that you are probably not even in production to some level as a real estate agent in your organization, or at least at some degree, your engagement and production has gone down. And now a big chunk of your job is coaching your team and your real estate agents, right. And your success as an entity relied on not your own ability to be a really great real estate agent, because that only got you to 150. Now, it really relies on you being a really great trainer and helping people grow and accomplish their dreams. And financially business wise, whatever that looks like, well, you get there, and there is no data to coach people on you don't know what they're doing on a daily basis, you have no clue what their activity looks like. And without that data, you can't set benchmarks for people to hit and help them grow and really be their coach at the end of the day. Right? That's a part of that deal is you know, as a coach, and I didn't love my coaches all the time, they were real jerks sometimes, right. But they pushed me to levels that I never thought that I could have gotten to and that becomes your role. But you'll never break past that 500 mark, if you don't have the, one information there to coach your team and get there. And then the second deal of that is some automation in place, because you'll bottleneck on the transaction management side. So you're only operational, if you don't have some really great automation built-in at that juncture, your only alternative is to keep hiring more transaction coordinators. And that gets expensive really fast on an overhead basis for real estate team. So now we need to introduce a little bit of technology so that way one transaction coordinator can actually execute at a much higher level. And now we have the foundation to break past that 500 mark.

Brian Charlesworth  29:51  
Yeah, well said. So this one thing you talked about on transaction management. I want to point out because I remember one of my wife's biggest challenges in growing up business, she had a few transaction coordinators leave. And it was like she was starting over. Because she didn't have that she didn't have the systems in place to just plug somebody else in. Right. And that's, that's really why sigh and that was a big part of what I wanted to solve because she would have to take, you know, 60 days, retraining somebody on all of the stuff that needed to happen. Whereas now it's just in the Sisu, checkboxes or swim lanes or whatever somebody anybody can come in, they can be assigned those tasks, and they can get those completed on a daily basis. Right. So now, she had a transaction coordinator leave last year, and it was okay, I'm gonna take this person, unplug it, plug in a new person, no big deal. And so, so anyway, I just want to emphasize the importance of having systems in place. So you're not left in a bind if an agent leaves or if a team or if a TC leaves, or even, you know, another admin, if as long as you have all your systems in place, even for things like onboarding agents, when you're recruiting agents, you need systems in place for that kind of stuff. So 

Justin Benson  31:11  

Brian Charlesworth  31:12
So, what would you add to that, Justin?

Justin Benson  31:16  
I think the only thing I'd add to it is if a transaction coordinator is listening to this, like don't take that conversation is like, you know, technology, replacing transaction coordinators, transaction coordinators are infinitely valuable to that's why it is so painful when a good transaction coordinator leaves because it leaves this gaping hole in your organization that nobody else can fill. So this is not a replacement for transaction coordinators, it's to take a lot of the menial administrative stuff off of a transaction coordinator. So that way they can do the human side of things, you know, following up with title companies, consoling a client after they just got out of their inspection period, and they didn't get everything that they wanted, you know, being able to have those human interactions and be present in those conversations, as opposed to just being inundated by a bunch of manual tasks that have to be done over and over and over again. And you're right, I mean, a checklist system is you don't really have a business until you have those operating procedures down in place. At that point, you just have a bunch of people with high-paying jobs because it's not replicable if somebody leaves. You have to spend an ungodly amount of time getting somebody back up to speed, and what should be there as well, for transaction coordinators are really bad at taking vacations because there's so much responsibility when you're a transaction coordinator. If there is a system in place like Sisu's transaction management software, somebody can just sign in is that TC and kind of execute while they're on vacation and not have to be bothered by the rest of it. Because it's all written down and notated and documented. It's just great culturally all the way around. But it is the non-sexy work of building businesses, building standard operating procedures, and getting them down in a technology that can help it, but it is infinitely important to be able to scale really well and have people enjoy their jobs at the same time. So

Brian Charlesworth  33:03  
Great. Well, Justin, just I know we're both don't have a lot of time left. So just I wanted to Yeah, maybe just ask you. Like, what advice would you have for everybody in the industry today? I mean, I know you were sharing with me that you had a few small teams leave when the industry started to change 90 120 days ago, and then you had all these big teams come to you and say, Hey, I've all the solutions. So like, what should somebody be doing today to prepare so that they're the ones taking market share when the market comes back to where it's really thriving?

Justin Benson  33:41  
Yeah, but momentum is a funny thing, right? Like, companies will rattle back on momentum when they feel like they're inundated with too much business, which is also a mistake, because momentum the hard thing that once it's generated, if you lose it, it's very hard to get it back, potentially. So you have to be really cognizant about how you're carrying momentum and two different market conditions and be thinking, like, how are we going to engineer momentum moving into the right and practically speaking on that regards, it's not doing don't stop doing the things that make you guys what you are at the end of the day, like don't pull back on this thing. There are things that you know, on a p&l standpoint, yes, it's probably smart to pull back on some stuff. And those smaller clients that left us it, I think that that actually made sense for them. And I had a ton of empathy for the reasonings for why they needed to go, but my advice to them on their way because they'll be back whenever the market, you know, turns it wasn't a bad circumstance that caused them to leave. It really was just market conditions. My advice to them like as they left, was to continue really focusing down on, like, double down on the human side of this business. Like, take your real estate agents, make their dreams come true. Give them and give them a vision for what kind of going back to the very beginning like give them a vision for what their lives could look like, and give them a vision for why it's worth it to become a really great real estate agent when times are hard, because if they can master it, like I was around, you know, on the backside of the 2008 deal, we were really great real estate agents because we learned how to become real estate agents and a really hard market, the people that stick to it in this down market right now, the people that actually keep going, are going to come out of the backside way ahead of everybody else because they will become better agents than they ever thought that they could be. So to summarize that, you know, Grit, keep the Grit going, you know, you keep going, like yeah, do not stop because you only lose when you quit, though. This will change. And this will pass. 

Brian Charlesworth  35:43  
Yeah, well said. Shifting gears for just a second. Just wanted to get more into your personal life. So I know you're a big golfer. Yeah. And you know, I know you played other sports. So like, what is it you like to do in your free time? 

Justin Benson  36:00  
Oh, geez, free time. I don't have a lot of it. Right now, we expanded by 1,000% Last year, which you can understand the CEO man like I didn't sleep for the past year and a half potentially. And I got a young family as well, I got an eight-month-old and a three-year-old. So honestly, if I were going to spend my spare time doing anything, I used to have this dream about traveling and going to all these places. But as I get older, I actually want to do that less. And I'd rather just, like, be home going on walks with my daughter. I know this sounds like Oh cute, or whatever it may be I'm just this is since like, I would just rather

Brian Charlesworth  36:32  
It is true.

Justin Benson  36:35  
This I don't know, I've had some stuff in my life happen where that really does mean the most to me, right? So I just really love being able to turn off and spend time with my family in that regard. And then outside of that hobbies-wise, yeah. And golf is the infuriating thing that the little OCD hamster that lives in my brain loves to, I'll never conquer it, it will frustrate me forever, but it is a puzzle that I'll never solve. And I'll continue to keep working out. So I, I found that thing in my life to keep, you know, venting that energy into at the end of the day. And then you know, music is still a very large part of my life. I joke a lot that I'm a musician masquerading as a business guy, you know, so that when things get hard or whatnot, you know, my guitar or piano that kind of becomes my journal, my outlet for that.

Brian Charlesworth  37:25  
I was gonna ask What instruments do you play guitar, piano, anything else?

Justin Benson  37:30  
Guitar, piano, singer-songwriter you know, I play drums just live my life. I'm, I'm mediocre at piano guitar is like my main instrument that when I feel at home at I actually feel really weird being on a stage without a guitar on me. I don't know what to do with my hands, whatnot. You have to learn piano as a songwriter. The piano is really the main way that you get the music into a computer to record so it's just kind of by necessity. But yeah, man, between the family and a little bit of golf here and there and picking up my guitar from time to time. I don't have a lot of time for you know, anything else outside of that my life right now. 

Brian Charlesworth  38:09  
Yeah, totally understand, totally get that. So what's the best way for people to get a hold of you, Justin?

Justin Benson  38:16  
The best way, you know people are thinking about it sounds intriguing. You know, they, they think that we can help them out then just going to There's a big button to book an initial consultation, all of those initial consultations are me in the company. So that's the book of time with me to kind of chat through what you're looking through, create a strategy. And even if we don't end up working together, my goal and agenda of those meetings is just to help leave people better than we found them, you know, so if I can give people advice to make sure we've had some people say, hey, yeah, we're not ready for you, we're going to come back in six months when we are. And then they've made a bunch of decisions that I wish they had not made. And we had to spend, you know, the first two months I'm doing a bunch of stuff. In those meetings, I do my best to try to set people off on a good path to so that thing doesn't happen to us later on down the road. So that's the best way to get a hold of us for the time being.

Brian Charlesworth  39:06  
I would like to add, I mean, now is a great time to get started getting all of your systems dialed in. So that, again, this is the best time to take market share is when things like this happen. The people that are dialed in where are going to be the ones that end up taking the market share. So, Justin, thanks for joining us today on the Grit podcast, and to all of our listeners .

Justin Benson  39:28 
Thanks for having me, man. 

Brian Charlesworth  39:30
Thank you guys for listening. And feel free to give us a review so that we can get more people like Justin on the show. And Justin, I'm looking forward to catching you on a golf course here in the near future next time I see you.

Justin Benson  39:45  
Let's do it, man. Yeah, you, me and Zac, it'd be a blast.

Brian Charlesworth  39:48  
Awesome. Thanks for joining me today, Justin. Have a great one.

Justin Benson  39:52  
Yeah, you too, man. Thanks.

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