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Lots of companies talk the talk when it comes to collaboration, but how many really walk the walk? According to Tipper Williams, operating principal of Keller Williams Virginia Realty Alliance Group, it comes naturally at her firm because it’s part of the DNA of the Keller Williams brand itself. “I have found the support from this franchise to be incredible at all levels—there’s this great spirit of camaraderie we share,” she explains. Combine that with a profit-sharing system that allows agents a retirement avenue and the autonomy to approach real estate as a true business, and you have an environment where everyone can—and does—win.

Maria Patterson: How did you first get started in real estate?
Tipper Williams:
My background is in special education. My start in real estate came when I was purchasing homes to renovate and resell. We truly didn’t understand the process of real estate, and the experience didn’t feel good to us. There was an ad in the local paper for a real estate course. I thought taking the course would provide us with more insight into the real estate transaction and would benefit us in the future, so I signed up. I had no intention of getting into real estate, but the gentleman teaching the course was the president of a real estate company and convinced me to come talk to him. I started out doing phone duty and wound up being Rookie of the Year. Turns out, I had a passion for it.

MP: How did you go from there to leading the Keller Williams Realty Virginia Alliance Group?
It was a progression! I was invited to join another national real estate franchise, and, while there, attended a seminar. They talked about the idea that in order to be a successful business person in real estate, you had to leverage yourself. I walked away with the concept that you have to run your own business to be successful.

Eventually, I opened my own independent brokerage. From there, I recruited a great bunch of agents. I was solely unprepared to be a business owner. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned from those mistakes. I owned a mortgage company next, and between those two, I was completely burned out. Eventually, I sold both.

I then started doing consulting for individual real estate agents. They told me I needed to look at a new real estate franchise that was coming to town called Keller Williams. I interviewed for a team leader position and it seemed way too good to be true. At the end of the day, they offered me a position as team leader, and I took it. I figured if they could do 50 percent of what they said they could do, this would be the best company I’d ever worked for, including my own. They went above and beyond my expectations. They were what they said they were going to be—and more!

MP: What was it that really made Keller Williams stand apart?
Definitely the educational opportunities and the culture. The training classes, coupled with the systems, models and tools provided by Keller Williams was unlike anything else I had ever seen in our industry. I’ve been able to personally witness agents attend a training class, integrate the systems and models into their business, and reach a high level of achievement in a relatively short period of time.

Additionally, it is Keller Williams’ approach to business ownership—not just for the owner, but for the agent. When you meet a KW agent, our conversations aren’t just real estate conversations; they are business conversations. We are discussing business start-up costs, business expansion, budgets, organizational charts, job descriptions. This perspective matched what I had been looking for when I was an agent: how to run a big, successful business that still allowed me the time to live life without burning out.

Keller Williams’ belief system and philosophy is congruent with mine. I believe that it is more important to make things right, than to be right. I am proud of my affiliation with a company that lives this—from the very top of our company to the very bottom.

Last, but certainly not least, the collaborative environment that is purposely created within our company truly sets us apart. Together, we achieve more.

MP: You’ve worked in several regions for Keller Williams, correct?
Yes, I began my career with Keller Williams as a launching team leader in the Texas/New Mexico region. After completing a very successful launch, my operating principal assisted me in finding my next opportunity within the company in Denver. I was the general manager for a privately-held company that owned multiple Keller Williams Franchises throughout the United States. I was then transferred to the KW Virginia Region (home for me), and served as the regional director for three years and as the operating principal of the six Keller Williams franchises that I run today, with locations in Ashburn, Chantilly, Fairfax, Leesburg, Reston, Richmond and Winchester.

MP: How has business fared since then?
We experienced a dynamic turnaround since the beginning, which I attribute to our world-class leadership team and associates. Together we desired to create an environment of collaboration, high standards and ethics with the vision to attract other independent-thinking professionals that had high-achieving goals and were big thinkers. We grew bigger and more profitable because our agents’ businesses grew bigger and more profitable.

MP: How does Keller Williams help support your success?
Keller Williams supports the success of each franchise at a high level. It goes well beyond the technology and software programs used to ensure the smooth operations of each office, but more importantly, the profitability of each office. It starts with the predetermined way we agree to treat one another when we become a member of the KW Family. Even our CEO, John Davis, spends one hour a week on a conference call with every KW operating principal in the company discussing business strategies that benefit our agents and our offices. Many companies focus on just one group: the agents or the management. At Keller Williams, they are focused on both. MAPS Coaching provides the agents and the leadership team business coaching opportunities delivered by highly trained coaches.

The collaborative environment of learning and assisting one another goes from the neighboring franchise owners and their associates to the executive office of our CEO at Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI). In addition to the training, coaching and international training events provided to us by KWRI, two large events are held annually: Mega Camp (Austin, Texas) and Family Reunion. These national events are attended by more than 10,000 associates across the U.S. and internationally.

MP: Your firm has been ranked in the Top 100 brokerages. What’s the secret to your success?
This answer is multifaceted, and one is just as important as the other. The secret is really simple:

  1. Take care of other people better than they expect you to. My dad taught me the importance of taking responsibility for the outcome of any team you are involved in. Be loyal and compassionate, and never put someone in a position to fail.
  1. Have your heart in the game, not just your head. You have to have passion (heart) and focus (head) on the big goals. This means having patience and perseverance through the tough times, always revisiting your strategy and adjusting when needed.
  1. Make the right hire every time. I understand that when I hire someone, it isn’t just the person I am hiring—it is their family, too. Their family is behind the scenes supporting that individual—they, too, expect me to deliver on the expectations that were agreed upon.
  1. There is no substitute for talent, work ethic, and high standards. There is no deal worth my reputation or the reputation of the company. I will do what I say I will do, and that is what is expected at all levels in our company.

MP: What most attracts agents to KW Virginia Realty Alliance Group, and why do they stay?
In one word: value. In the absence of value, it becomes about the money. Value to the individual agent is defined in different terms, as they are individual business owners and have different needs. Taking care of our associates, both professionally and personally, is part of our culture—it’s a part of our DNA that is supported by specific models and the written culture that is displayed in every office.

Our offices work together to make big investments into our local communities and beyond. A great example of this is our corporate Heart to Heart program, where our offices have adopted a family that was affected by the recent hurricanes. We have raised over $130,000 to directly benefit these families. We also participated in Mega Relief Camp to physically assist families in the clean-up efforts after the hurricane in Texas.

Additionally, our agents raise over $180,000 each year to donate to our local communities, and to a fund specifically designed to assist our agents in an emergency. Our ALC (Agent Leadership Council) Culture Committee plans and implements the fundraisers throughout the year. We believe we should give where we live.

Part of our value is our unique ability to assist our agents in building a sustainable business they can expand nationally, locally or sell one day. They are trained to design their real estate company purposefully, with their future goals in mind.

Agents will tell you one of the greatest reasons of all to stay with KW Virginia Realty Alliance Group is their peers, our agents. They are the most incredible group of professionals in the industry.

MP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace? What sets you apart from the competition?
KW Virginia Realty Alliance Group typically holds the No. 1 position in marketshare for their respective territories (office locations) in both Northern Virginia and Richmond, and ranked No. 3 out of all brokerages in the state of Virginia.

We are different from our competitors. We are discussing how to build scalable and sustainable businesses internally and externally with our agents. We are masterminding, consulting and training with our agents with one goal in mind: the agent’s goal. Some other companies are interested in discussing commission structures, social events and leads that are generated for the agent. While that sounds good, most of our career-driven agents are more interested in building a business that is increasing their revenue year over year, while additionally building a portfolio of real estate investments that will eventually build a residual income for them.

MP: You came from an educational background and are very involved in training for Keller Williams. Tell us more.
Training is one of my most favorite things to do because it challenges and makes me better at what I do. I am honored to serve as a member of the KW Master Faculty. I specialize in the Business Planning Clinic that teaches the models that are the foundation of building a successful and profitable business. My students light up when they actually see how many leads they need to hit their goals—it energizes them, and that is when the real business discussion begins.

MP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
We are focused on expanding internally through our current agent base of attraction and externally through Gary Keller’s Mega Agent Expansion model. We will be implementing the technology that Keller Williams has announced, as well as increasing our local value determined by our ALC. 2018 is going to be an exciting year of new successes for our entire company, and, most importantly, for our agents!

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Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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