Achievement, as many a scholar has said, is often a matter of synergyâ€”of producing a whole significantly greater than the sum of its individual parts. For Rob Talbot, CEO and partner of Keller Williams Realty â€“ Antelope Valley, thatâ€™s the secret to the firmâ€™s success. The Palmdale, Calif.-based brokerage, first in marketshare in its north-of-Los Angeles region, is committed to putting its people first. â€śWhen people pull together in a shared culture of respect, caring and support,â€ť says Talbot, â€śsuccess becomes the natural result.â€ť Itâ€™s a view that began with the agencyâ€™s operating principal Sam Rafeh, who founded the Antelope Valley franchise in 2003â€”and itâ€™s a view that continues to inspire a new generation of agents. In this exclusive interview, Talbot shares the companyâ€™s unique approach to life, and the values and strategies they draw on every day to maintain and motivate growth.
Barbara Pronin: Rob, letâ€™s begin with a recap of your career path and how you came to lead Keller Williams Realty â€“ Antelope Valley.
Rob Talbot: I was born near here in Thousand Oaks and grew up in the Antelope Valley, northeast of Los Angeles, where my parents could afford to buy a home. Itâ€™s a great area that has grown substantiallyâ€”and is still growingâ€”and it gave me the chance to try my hand at several different careers. I started in construction, bartended for a while, and eventually owned my own nightclub. It was a great way to learn about people and it taught me a really valuable truth: that people buy into you, as a person, before they buy your product. Thatâ€™s important to realize when youâ€™re in sales. Just about the time I was selling the nightclub, my wife, Wendy, was selling new homes, and I got my real estate license to help out with some income after our second child was born. I wasnâ€™t sure Iâ€™d stay with it, but I found I loved the business, and my entrepreneurial spirit really kicked in. I had some early success with a couple of real estate companies in spite of some tough times, but it seemed to me that Keller Williams, with its focus on training, coaching and teamwork, would give me the opportunity to become the entrepreneur I wanted to be. I came to Keller Williams â€“ Antelope Valley in 2012, where I quickly determined that Samâ€™s philosophy is closely aligned with mine. Sam is still very much involved in the company, and Keller Williams provides the models, systems and, most of all, the culture that helps to develop and really stimulate agent growthâ€”not just as a business professional, but as a person.
BP: How many agents and offices do you currently have and what regions do you serve?
RT: Our office, which is centrally located in Palmdale, houses some 325 agents in about 15,000 square feet. Most are active, although many of our agents work remotely much of the time. Originally a farming communityâ€”where the antelope actually roamed at one timeâ€”the Antelope Valley has seen huge population growth over the past several decades, and today, we basically serve a large inland area reaching from northern Los Angeles County into parts of Kern and Ventura counties and into the western tip of the Mojave Desert.
BP: How would you describe your firmâ€™s positioning in the marketplaceâ€”and what sets your firm apart from the competition?
RT: We are No. 1 in sales units and volume, No. 1 in agent count, and No. 1 in marketshare, and when the (2015) numbers are in, we think weâ€™ll have had our best fourth quarter since 2009. In my view, thatâ€™s a direct result of our culture. We are, first and foremost, a community of agents, with a focus on training, mentoring, and coaching. In fact, Keller Williams was nationally recognized last year by Training Magazine as first among its top 125 training organizations. Additionally, here in the Antelope Valley office, self-improvement and the sharing of ideas are mandatory, and we are very much a faith-based company. In order of importance to us is God, family, and business, so that we are focused on growing and evolving, becoming better people, better parents, better spouses, better friends, and better siblingsâ€”and, in the end, better advisors to our clients. It also helps that Keller Williams has the outstanding business models and cutting-edge systems we need to help us stay ahead of the market. The combination of all these factors is what keeps us top of mind with buyers and sellers.
BP: How would you describe the current market conditions in your area?
RT: Itâ€™s a wonderful climate, and a great time to be in this business. There is a lot of activity because low interest rates and stable home prices are attractive to both buyers and sellers. We did over 2,000 transactions last year and weâ€™re projecting Decemberâ€™s figures will reflect our best year-end in the last 10 years. The truth is, the market is so good right now that Iâ€™m surprised more people arenâ€™t rushing into the real estate business.
BP: What has been your approach to growth, and is that changing as the market continues to rebound?
RT: Our belief is that weâ€™re either growing or dying, so we are wholly focused on agent support and individual success. Our goal is to help every one of our agents become a better person all around, because becoming the best person you can be makes you a better agent and a better member of the community. Itâ€™s important to us to give back to the community as well, both as individuals and as a company, working at homeless shelters, sponsoring 5K runs, and contributing through our KW Cares program to a broad spectrum of charitable organizations. People first is a growth philosophy that will never change, at least as far as weâ€™re concerned. Itâ€™s part of the synergyâ€”and the source of energyâ€”that keeps us No. 1 in the marketplace.
BP: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing your firm and its agents?
RT: As a company, our challenge is to keep expandingâ€”and to find enough of the right kind of talent to grow with us. But the nature of a challenge really doesnâ€™t matter if people see and live up to their own potential. We want our agents to be committed to empowering themselves, focusing, prioritizing, and learning something new every day. If the passion is there to be the best, if we embrace it and focus on it every day, any challenge can be turned into opportunity.
BP: Where do you see the greatest opportunity for increased business?
RT: Apart from personal growth, the greatest opportunity for increased business is very likely in making best use of technology and social media. Each of our agents has his or her own mobile app, which helps them stay in front of the crowd, and much of our training highlights the kind of social media marketing that draws and maintains clients. In general, we conduct 20 – 25 classes every month here at our headquarters to ensure that our agents are on the leading edge in terms of market knowledge, technique and customer service.
BP: How are you attracting and retaining top agents?
RT: Weâ€™re in a people business, first and always, and we pride ourselves on being intuitive talent scouts. Often, new and experienced agents come to us because of our reputation and standing in the region, but we also pursue exceptional people who we think we can take to the next level. We have high retention rates because we see results, and because we are responsive and high-energy in our approach. We offer our agents low fixed costs, high commissions, and a profit-sharing program. We have a benevolent fund to help any agent who faces unusual need. We also have a very active agent leadership council that acts much like a Board of Directors, addressing the issues we need to focus on and helping to guide our training program. In all, this is just a great place to work. Itâ€™s fun, itâ€™s exciting, and itâ€™s rewarding on many levels.
BP: In your opinion, what is most critical to your firmâ€™s success going forward?
RT: Maintaining our commitment as individuals and as a company to keep learning, keep growing, and keep meeting and exceeding our potential is most critical. Someone a lot smarter than I once said, â€śI stand tall because I stand on the shoulders of giants.â€ť We believe that to be true. Working together, everyone achieves more. Itâ€™s our teamwork approachâ€”our determination to see that all of us succeedâ€”that will ensure our growth going forward.
For more information, please visit www.AntelopeValleyKW.com.