Welcome to Lockbox, a podcast providing real estate professionals with action items for success. My name is Jeffrey Brogger, and I’m going to be your host. I’m the founder of two real estate marketing and tech companies Steezy.Digital and

In this podcast, you’ll learn from top 1% real estate and mortgage brokers the exact secrets to their success.

Welcome to Lockbox.

Show transcript:

Jeffrey: My name is Jeffrey Brogger, and I’m here today with Kirk Pugh. Kirk, thanks for being with us.

Kirk: Thank you, Jeff. Absolutely.

Jeffrey: So why don’t you tell us about who you are? Where are you from?

Kirk: My name is Kirk Pugh. I’m located in Wilmington, North Carolina. Most people are familiar with Wrightsville Beach.

I’m part of the KBT Realty Group. It’s myself and my partner, Becky Brown, are the principals in the KBT Group, part of the Keller Williams Network.

Jeffrey: Awesome. And we’ll talk about your current career, but what got you into real estate, initially?

Kirk: I moved to Wilmington from Sea Island, Georgia, about 20 years ago, and was sort of retired at the time. I was in the hospitality business for 25 years prior to getting into real estate. Didn’t really have an opportunity in that field here and got into real estate as sort of an investment alternative to traditional investing stock market and those sorts of things.

So for the first seven or eight years in Wilmington, I guess you might call an investor a flipper, accumulated some rental property along the way. And 2008 happened to our industry and the financial industry and decided it was time for me to go back to work and got into general brokerage back in 2009.

Jeffrey: Interesting. So then you’ve been in general brokerage since then?

Kirk: Yes. Hard to believe it’s been twelve years.

Jeffrey: Right. And so similar to me, you started your real estate career as an investor and then you became an agent or broker later.

Kirk: Yeah. I was one of those guys that didn’t need Realtors and didn’t want to have a license and poopooed the industry for quite a while.

And then as I got more and more into it, discovered that there was as much of an upside to the brokerage business as there was to the investing side.

Jeffrey: So why not do both, right?

Kirk: Right.

Jeffrey: Awesome.

Kirk: Well, after 2008, you couldn’t pin a value on anything very well as an investor because values fell in our market from 2008 all the way through the end of 2011, didn’t really stabilize until first quarter 2012. And so my investment activities between eight and twelve really stopped and got in general brokerage midway through that time period and started building that side of the business.

Jeffrey: Sure, were you able to hold on to those investment properties and those stocks and wait out the storm.

Kirk: Well, I’ll tell you, no is the answer – the short answer. I had 37 rental properties in May of 2007. By end of 2011, I was down to a handful, but probably my single greatest business accomplishment – despite my pretty successful career in hospitality and pretty successful career in general brokerage – I walked away from what they call the Great Recession and everybody that I owed money to got paid.

And I didn’t hand keys back to anybody.

I didn’t lose anything in foreclosure.

I liquidated a lot of stuff, including my investment accounts and 401ks and those sorts of things. But I came out of it broke and healthy in about 2011, 2012.

Jeffrey: Well, that’s admirable.

I’m kind of the same way as I built my own marketing agency in the real estate space and built my businesses in my 20s.

I’ve racked up debt and gotten to points where it’s like, oh, my gosh, Is this heading in the right direction? And sure enough, stick to it.

Yes, everyone’s going to get paid back.

Yes, it’s going to work.

Yes, I can make this happen.

And then sure enough now today, like sitting pretty, credits recovered. Life is good and things are moving forward in the right direction.

So I really admire that in you. And no shame in anyone who had to declare bankruptcy or do what they had to do for themselves and their family during that time. But I’ve always just really tried to pay back my debts. I always pay back your debts.

And that’s just something that my father taught me.

Kirk: Well, something that’s the way I was raised as well.

There is no judgment, right? I mean, there were a lot of terrible things that happened to some really good people during that time period, and there were some people who took advantage of the system in the time period.

But whatever, I worry about putting my head on the pillow at night and sleeping well and I can.

Jeffrey: That’s right.

So let’s talk about transaction volume today. I’m curious. I want to talk about where you’re at today. And then I have some follow up questions that might be able to help my listeners.

So go ahead.

Kirk: So I started my career with Coldwell Banker back in 2009 as a solo agent. My last year with Coldwell Banker, I did 77 transactions without an assistant, without a closing coordinator, without a marketing helper, sort of blindly buying some leads from – I was one of the first guys in the country buying leads from Zillow – was with a lead generation platform called Zurple for a while, which has made a little bit of a resurgence.

But that last full year, 77 transactions just about killed me. It doesn’t matter what the per transaction value was, but that’s a lot of administrative work to do for one guy. And I had come out of sort of a terrible period of years where I was forced to sell off stuff at losses just to pay back the banks. Right.

So about 2009, 10, 11, is when I decided that in order for me to sort of build a bigger business and recover, I had to learn how to leverage.

I had to learn how to build a team, and I had to learn how to do more faster at my age at the time. I’m 57 years old today. So in 2009, I was 45 and really starting over professionally, which is a scary place to be. So I left eight and a half years ago, left Coldwell Banker to join Keller Williams, which, as most people know, is a pretty team-centric organization.

I built a team and failed miserably at it. The first go around didn’t really know how to leverage talent, didn’t have enough trust in the people that I put around me to actually do the work that I hired them to do and sort of regrouped and started a new team or started rebuilding.

And I guess it’s been six years now, almost seven years that we created the KBT Realty Group, and I took a couple of top producers, one of whom is no longer a part of our team. But we took a couple of top producers, one a native to Wilmington. I’m a 20 year resident, and we started really looking for talent.

And once we found talent, we tried to figure out where we could put it. We knew we needed talent. We just didn’t know always how we were going to use it.

Jeffrey: Right.

Kirk: And so yesterday across Keller Williams network and now across a bunch of brands was Pie Day. Right. So you invite all your past clients, and a Facebook memory popped up our first Pie Day, as a team, we ordered 61 pies, and we thought we’d really done something.

We closed 61 transactions! We have 61 past clients that we invited to collect pies.

And this year across the company here locally, we ordered almost 3000 pies, so we’ve had 15% to 35% growth year after year, depending this year, we’re up about 44% over last year. We’ll close just under $90 million, which in our market, with an average transaction at $328,000, is a whole bunch of deals.

We’ve built pretty solid foundation for the business. We could virtually triple our business without adding much more support staff: probably some fill-in contract-to-close people, and maybe another seller services coordinator or two.

But the infrastructure for what we’ve created with the team now can support a much bigger business, which we anticipate having. We also have a developer side, so that’s a different entity. But we’re getting ready to take on a pretty large project.

Jeffrey: Got it. Makes sense. Yeah.

Kirk: That’s kind of fast forward. I mean, that’s the two minute Cliff Notes version or the 45 second Cliff Notes version of the trajectory of the team. So we’re pretty excited.

Jeffrey: Twelve year career and a six year team building experience.

Kirk: Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Jeffrey: I think a lot of my listeners have experienced the trial and error of building a team. And you mentioned it perfectly like not trusting talent enough to be able to actually hand off the tasks that you hired them for. And really, it’s a piece of humble pie to swallow, but it always comes back to the leader and the training and the systems that are in place. So that’s been an experience for me when I was a recruiter at Cutco, and they had incredible systems and training. So I didn’t even really have to worry about that.

We just followed the script all the way through the sales presentation. And then when you became a manager, you followed the script for management. It was just like 70 year old company. They had it figured out.

But then I stepped into business and I had to kind of realize that not every business has those systems in place. Right.

So if you’re the leader, especially if a start up or a brokerage of your own, you got to create those systems. And that takes time, and it takes focus and dedication.

I can’t remember what personal development speaker told me this, but it was do it once so that you never have to do it again. And the concept is, yes, it’s not easier. It’s faster to do it yourself right now and just get it done. It might take you 15 minutes for whatever task you’re thinking of. But then it might take you an hour and a half to script out a standard operating procedure and shoot a video recording you doing it and really just drill down on a training for that 15 minute task.

But if you do it once like that, you never have to do it again.

Kirk: That’s right. Yeah.

Jeffrey: And so that’s something that has really helped me to build and grow. So you’re at about 90 million a year now, 300ish transactions. That’s awesome.

That’s definitely top in the nation.

And I’m curious what advice you would give to a broker who’s hovering around 60 million. Maybe they’re doing 150 or 200 transactions in their market, and they want to continue to level up.

What advice would you give them at that stage in their journey?

Kirk: Well, fortunately or not, we’ve made a lot of mistakes.

So my initial thought process years ago was we just need more, more people, more brokers, more agents, more and more. And what we found out through trial and error and failing was that more is not necessarily more.

Sometimes more is less. And we top-graded many of the agents that were on the recruiting $10 million producers. We’re recruiting the guys that are doing a million to 2 million to 3 million a year that only need systems, models and processes in order to take that $3 million production and turn into nine.

And so we’ve had some success with that. And as I coach all of our agents, there’s only two ways to increase your business. Either do more or increase the price point at which you’re doing the same. Right.

So we have been sort of hyper-focused on both getting our lesser producing agents into better production and getting our top producing agents to focus and be intentional about the price points that they’re going after for both buyers and sellers.

Jeffrey: So my first question, based on your answer, top-grading is a term from Scaling Up.

That’s how I remember it. Is that a book that you’ve read and implemented the teachings from?

Kirk: I’ve read so many darn books… maybe.

Jeffrey: It’s the sequel to The Rockefeller Habits. And then the next one was scaling up, where it kind of expanded upon just really why some companies grow and make it and others don’t. And it goes through like people, cash, systems, like just the four different steps.

And top-grading was a concept.

So I just wondered if you had gotten it from Scaling Up, but that concept of taking your current talent and then supercharging them with a couple of simple systems or habits or areas of focus.

That’s something that I know every broker would be excited about if they could turn their lowest producing agents and double or triple their transaction volume. That would be incredible for a lot of brokers out there. So you mentioned two areas of focus, right? Price point and transaction volume.

Kirk: Right.

Jeffrey: So if they want to do the same transaction volume focus on price point, and then if they want to be doing… if they have the capacity to do more transactions as well then great.

Kirk: Yeah. The way we built the infrastructure of the team is that the focus of the agents is doing what they should be doing, which is building relationships and having conversations with people about buying or selling real estate.

And so in my role, I’m still a producing agent, although that part of my role is becoming less and less as the years go on. So my personal mission is to just take those agents, and I meet with every one of our agents twice a month, and we start our budget building process in October of every year. We do goal-setting with our agents in mid to late October, early November, we build our budget for the year based on the cumulative total of each of the agent’s goals.

And I’m pretty clear with them their goals are not my goals. Their goals are their own goals. It’s my job to hold them accountable to themselves. And so when I have an agent that talks about wanting to increase… I have a first year agent that’s going to close 48 transactions this year, first year out of real estate school, and his average transaction is about $250,000, which is below our market average. And he works as you can imagine with a lot of investors. And he said, I’d really like to increase my business from I don’t know what he’ll do this year somewhere just under 10 million. I think, he said, I’d like to increase my business. I’d like to do 15 million next year. And how do I go about doing that?

And so we started looking at the activities that he’s going to use to achieve that goal next year. And a lot of it is very targeted and very intentional. Farming neighborhoods where we know the price point is in the mid threes, as opposed to the mid twos. Targeting sellers – well sellers and buyers – geographically and economically.

So we take that individual approach with each agent depending on what their goals are and how they can best achieve it.

Jeffrey: That’s great. That’s great coaching and management. When you are able to sit down with your agent and create a custom plan for them based on your experience and make it simple, distill it down to one or maybe two key activities to focus on for the next year and then hold them accountable and check in with them a month or two later. Hey, how’s that farm list going in that neighborhood in the mid threes? What questions are coming up? What objections? Are you doorknocking? Are you getting objections that I could maybe help you with… and following up with them?

That, in a nutshell, is how I was taught to manage back at Cutco. And then nowadays how I manage my team and it’s effective. So I really appreciate you sharing that and bringing it to everyone’s top of everyone’s mind.

So I’m curious about your entrepreneurial journey. It seems like a career in hospitality that then transitioned into real estate investment that macroeconomics couldn’t control that. But you still continue to persevere through that difficult time. And then now you’ve had success in essentially a third major career, which is real estate brokerage.

So what’s the single most important action that you focus on on a daily basis that you would attribute most of your success to?

Kirk: Pretty simple, right.

I answer my phone. I return emails. And, like grandpa said, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

And I preach that religiously to everybody on the team. That doing what you say you’re going to do and doing it on time, or when you say you’re going to do it — and communication, answering the phone, returning calls, returning emails, returning texts is 85% of the battle. The skills we can teach, right? The math behind evaluating a real estate transaction, the math behind evaluating value, the math behind helping somebody build a development project. Those are all teachable skills, but we can’t teach people to be responsive.

And so in my hospitality career, there was a sign over my desk or behind me above my desk that said “Yes is the answer, What’s the question?”

And I take that same approach in real estate. We can do anything. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost you money or it’s not going to be painful or it’s not going to be difficult. But I believe firmly that we’re Realtors, that we’re a service profession, not a sales profession.

I don’t think we sell anything.

I think we provide knowledge and insight, counsel, local expertise, resources, and as long as we communicate well about doing those things and we are timely and effective at it, I think that’s the bulk of being successful in this business and any business.

Jeffrey: I think you nailed it.

My favorite client, Aaron Taylor, the real estate guy out in Vegas, he has a similar transaction volume and price point as you, and he says when he’s asked for an agent training, what are your tips to agents to increase their business?

He says, “Pick up your phone!”

I mean, I’m even house hunting right now in Southern California for a house for my wife and I, and I have my license, so I just call listing agents directly. I get so many voicemails. I leave so many voicemails. I don’t get calls back. It’s incredible that in and of itself is huge.

But then doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. And the emails, the emails for me have been a system where I respond to text and calls very quickly, but my area of focus has been email, and so I’ve had to put systems in place to be able to more effectively comb through, eliminate junk, focus on priorities, have, like, different folders for VIPs, and I really had to focus there because deals fell through the cracks. I lost money by not replying to email, which is like to me, that’s a secondary form of communication.

But if you don’t communicate to others how you communicate, then they won’t know that they’ll send you something urgent and important to email. And you’re like, oh, I can respond to email in a 48 hour period, and it’s fine.

Two days go by and you lost the deal.

Kirk: Right. Especially in this market. Yeah.

Jeffrey: So important to stay on top of that stuff. So now I want to talk about the business generating sources. So first, I’m curious about the difference between referral to lead generation sources or, like, new business. So do you have a ballpark of your ratio to referral to new business?

Kirk: Well, we’re pretty fortunate – well I consider as fortunate – our business breakdown is not quite 50/50 buyers and sellers, but it’s pretty darn close. We’re a tiny bit buyer heavy, but it’s almost an equal part of our business to the seller ratios. We know we track our incoming referrals, Keller Williams, I’m sure every major brokerage has a referral network.

We have a team of people led by my wife, who’s our director of lead gen, but I have two internal sales associates that work with her. My wife, at this point is wearing a couple of hats. She is managing our broker-to-broker referral network, which is driven mostly through social media and now probably as much through direct contact because of our past history with different brokers around the country.

So last year, our internet lead gen and broker-to-broker referral accounted for about 20 or this year – sorry year-to-date – about $22 million of our business.

So it’s a healthy chunk. We, like a lot of brokerages, I would imagine, have seen our internet lead gen conversion rates go down. I think for a couple of different reasons. There’s a lot of competition out there and the consumer, I think, gets kind of click happy, and they’re registering for multiple sites and getting multiple points of contact with different teams, different brokerages, different agents. And I think their mentality might be who’s going to respond the fastest.

We try to be that person.

But I know back ten years ago, when internet lead generation was sort of an emerging thing, we were crushing it. I mean, our conversion rates were huge because we were so responsive and nobody else was. Today, it’s speed to lead. And lots of people have figured out that you need to react quickly.

We think we do.

But the big question mark out there every day is for internet lead gen, is it really wise to invest our money there, or should we take that same dollar and invest it in… We have a lady, we call her the “Care Bear.” Her only job really is to have a sort of a systemize program for making contact with our past clients because we know that’s where the money is. Right? And so her only job is to love on our past clients and make sure that we’re top of mind with them.

And it begs the question, why chase after these internet leads at a one-and-a-half to 2% conversion rate when we can just call the people that have already done business with us and ask them for more business. But we have systems and models built around both sides of that lead gen.

Jeffrey: Yeah, absolutely. And my follow up question immediately to the referral to new business was what systems you have in place to increase the amount of referrals? You mentioned “Care Bear,” the system of reaching out to and providing value probably by little pop-buys or gifts, things that are in that system. That then remind that past client of you. And then there’s a call to action in place I would imagine of like, hey, if you know, anyone buying, selling, referring. Is that kind of how that system works for the referral side?

Kirk: Yeah. And multiple client events throughout the year. Personalized thank you cards for agents that are sending us their referrals. We don’t do a lot with sending out the sort of generic copy-paste-click: Hey, I’m so-and-so in Wrightsville Beach, we’d love to have your referral business. We think it’s more about building the relationships.

Jeffrey: Right.

Kirk: Frequently we get these big national events where we gather thousands of agents together. A lot of times, there are multiple networking events built around these conferences that aren’t part of the main sort of program, if you will, and we find those to be more valuable for us to build those relationships than sometimes the event itself.

Jeffrey: Got it. Yeah, that makes sense. And then focusing on the online advertising. Lead generation for real estate is one of the most searched phrases out there. Everyone’s looking for lead generation, new leads. And I’m a digital marketing strategist, so I would love to dive in a little bit deeper on your online systems. And then that question of like, should we still be spending with a one or 2% conversion ratio? Do the numbers still make sense? So are you okay to dive into that a little bit?

Kirk: Yeah, sure. My wife is the expert in that area because I’m not. But we do it, right?

So we’ve hung out with Zillow and we’ve fired them and we hired him back. And recently, right now, we broke up with Zillow again. But we have participated in many of the paid lead gen programs out there. And OJO comes to mind, Opcity, I don’t know. There are dozens of them. We tend to stick towards the referral fee-based programs now because it’s similar to how we model our business.

We lead with revenue.

Nobody in our company has a company credit card. We pay with debit cards, so if we can’t pay for it, we don’t buy it. And I kind of feel the same way about leads. If we’re successful converting one of those referral-based lead sources, then the referral company gets paid. And if we don’t, they don’t. So we tend towards that more so than we do to a Zillow model. Although I think I heard recently they’re going to a referral-based model also.

Over a period of four or five years, we built a database 15 or 16,000 people through pay-per-click campaigns with our lead gen platform that we use primarily today as a CRM. We’re no longer paying for new leads. We’re simply working the database of existing leads that we have, and we are very good with our systems and models around maintaining communication over long period of time. We’ve had conversions of somebody that’s been in our system for six years because we stay in touch with them for that long.

So I don’t know. Everybody’s always looking for the shiny thing, and I’m guilty of it. Occasionally I’ll get something either through social media or directly to me in my email that looks intriguing or some online marketer that does a really good job of promoting him or herself as the next great thing.

Jeffrey: Right.

Kirk: And I can’t say that we haven’t made some financial mistakes in chasing the squirrel down the path. So I don’t know. We get organic leads now based on our optimization on Google that is through Google Verified and Google Certified. And I don’t know what all the terms are because my marketing director tells us what we need to do there, but we’re starting to see some real meaningful traffic through that type of online marketing.

And we’ve got this database, right? 15,000 people that we try to touch at least four times a year on the phone. We touch them at least two to three times a month electronically, whether it be through text or email. And of course, everybody in the database is on some kind of a property search. So we’re hitting them 40, 50, 60 times a month in one way or another.

But I think the personal touches are the most effective. The conversations.

Jeffrey: Yeah. Absolutely. And you mentioned a lot of different systems that you have in place, a few that I’m particularly curious about. You mentioned some remarketing, and I know that on Google – I don’t think that you can upload, like, a custom audience, like on Facebook and then remarket, right. So are you doing remarketing on Facebook/Instagram for that database?

Kirk: We do targeted remarketing on Facebook, and we do targeted remarketing on Google through people who have already opted into our platform. So we can take that list of people that in our system, they have a little green flag next to their name, and we know that we can talk to them and send them stuff. So we retarget to get reengagement on our platform in that way. So that when they’re shopping at Amazon or they’re looking for shoes or they’re looking at Fox News or CNN News, depending on which way you go for your news. They’re seeing our name and information, and they’re seeing marketing from us on websites other than our own.

Jeffrey: Right? Yes. You’re doing display ads on Google and then remarketing in that database on Facebook. Nice. And like I said, you mentioned a lot of other different systems that are in place. I know a common one nowadays is YouTube, for inbound traffic and for search that falls in the search engine optimization realm of, like, Google My Business, Google, and then YouTube. So do you have some things set up there for, like, out-of-state buyers on YouTube or anything like that?

Kirk: We don’t. And YouTube is sort of an area of focus for us in 2022. Just we’re in the process of hiring a former investigative reporter for one of our local news stations, who’s a very talented person, to be our sort of real estate news reporter that will continue to build out our YouTube channel. We know what videos on YouTube get us the most action, and those tend to be sort of neighborhood – it’s not an expose, there’s a word for it – but just general interest news stories about neighborhoods that are not necessarily real estate specific, but just talking about lifestyle and amenities and location relative to other attractions in our area, primarily the beach. And we know those get a lot of views.

We haven’t gotten skillful enough yet at figuring out how to monetize YouTube. But for us right now, it’s a building process where we’re just trying to gain exposure and gain views.

Jeffrey: Yeah. Absolutely. So many things to do, right?

Kirk: Yeah. Right.

Jeffrey: Yeah. So with that being said, I’m curious where you think the industry is heading. There’s a lot of things going on like Zillow now pulling back from purchasing homes. And I heard that was largely due to supply chain issues, although I have an inkling that their automated valuation method for being able to instantly value a property and know that they can make profit on it without seeing the property is probably a part of it too, because a lot of times estimates are like 3% to 5% off the actual CMA from an agent. But with supply chain issues, everything going on. Zillow is pulling out.

That’s a big deal, right?

Because this whole existential I-buyer problem has been like a focus of the industry. Oh, my gosh, the robots are coming to replace us.

But I’m just curious what your 5-10 year projections are for the real estate industry and kind of where things are heading.

Kirk: Well, specific to I-buyers. I mean, as a current investor and a former active investor, if you’re starting with a 7% to 11% margin on a property that may or may not need repairs and you’ve never seen it, that’s a pretty skinny deal to me. If a human being came to me and said, I want to buy property where I’m going to forecast 11% net, I’d say you’re out of your mind – 11% is well, I didn’t realize it had lead pipes underneath and your 11% gone.

So I never had a lot of faith in the I-buyer program to begin with. And it doesn’t surprise me at the magnitude that Zillow and some of these others are doing it, that they’re finding out they can’t make any money on it. In general, the way the industry is going, we’re fortunate I guess in a way, that we’re a small market.

Our MSA is only about 300,000 people. I don’t have that many… there’s not much of a discount brokerage presence in our area yet, although they’re all around us in some of the larger cities in Raleigh and Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston Salem. I feel, like many people that I listen to, that there’s continued downward pressure on commissions from a real estate standpoint… from a brokerage standpoint. And that in our area: 300,000 people… we’ve got 3300 licensed agents in our area. 50% of them will do two or fewer transactions this year. And so the 80/20 rule definitely applies here. It’s probably more like 90/10.

I think that this market will probably cause – we’re in an industry that over ten years has a 70% attrition rate to begin with. I feel like this market will force some of the hobbyists out of the market, and our Association used to bill dues monthly. They’ve just changed that policy. They’re billing 100% upfront for the full year, which I think will cause some of the hobbyists to say, I don’t really want to write that check for eight or $900 all at once, $75 a month I can deal with, but I’m not writing a big check so that I can help my brother and my sister who might or might not buy something this year.

Jeffrey: Right.

Kirk: Back to your entrepreneurial comment, our focus right now is creating alternative revenue streams, not big ones. Well, one of them is big, but we’re looking at how can we create ancillary but related businesses to support not just our company, but our clients. Right.

So we have a joint venture with a homeowner’s insurance company that’s been established in our area for over 100 years. We’re looking at doing our own mortgage bank. We’re looking at a property management arm of our business because right now we simply refer that business out when we could be capturing it and retaining those clients on an even more personal business relationship level.

Kirk: Back to your entrepreneurial comment, our focus right now is creating alternative revenue streams, not big ones. Well, one of them is big, but we’re looking at how can we create ancillary but related businesses to support not just our company, but our clients. Right.

So we’re looking at ways that we can expand our revenue and not rely 100% on commission income from general brokerage, because I think the industry will evolve and there will continue to be pressure on commissions. And there’s a lot of us and out of 3300 people, if you take 1650 of them that are all doing two or three transactions a year, that takes a lot of transactions out of the pot for the people that do it full time as a professional.

Jeffrey: Certainly does. And you said a couple of things in there that I thought I could get the words out of my mouth. I’ve said, the real estate industry as a whole, the 80/20 principle is more of a 90/10. I’ve said that for a long time and with my agency, that’s why I really focus on top 1% agents and brokerages, because I don’t want to set up systems and drive potential home buyers or home sellers that are about to complete the largest transaction of their life to an agent that’s inexperienced, and that does one or two deals a year. So I started that vision of mine four years ago and ended up being successful because when I drive home buyers or home sellers to experienced brokers, they have the systems to support it.

They take care of them.

They get repeat business through that.

The lifetime value is higher, that clients happy.

And I feel good about it.

Kirk: Right.

Jeffrey: So, yes, I totally get what you’re saying there. And with the commission pressure coming down, it also comes down to value, right. Because so much is now being automated before the transaction, for example, on the buy side, especially nowadays, a lot of clients are just sending homes and they’re like, hey, I just need access to this one. We’ve already searched it. There’s less driving around for the buyer agent. So the roles are evolving, but it still comes down to the value of what you’re offering that client, right. And helping them to not get into a bad deal or sell at the top dollar that their house could actually achieve if it’s marketed appropriately and set up for a proper listing. So I’m with you on that.

I’m curious. You mentioned you read a lot of books, and I see some of the background there. What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life or career?

Kirk: We’re currently – as a team – we’re currently rereading The One Thing. Let me look up here and see what I’ve read recently.

Jeffrey: I’m sure the Millionaire Real Estate Agent, right?

Kirk: This is next on my list.

Jeffrey: Nice.

Kirk: And we’ve been having multiple conversations with our CPAs about how do we ensure that we’re not… it doesn’t do you any good to make a half a million dollars if you’re sending $400,000 of it to the government. And how do we position our businesses to help legally, it’s tax avoidance, not evasion. Right. So this book was recommended to me this Tax Free Wealth by Tom Wheel Bright. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but that will be one that I’m going to study pretty hard.

What else?

Of course I wouldn’t be Keller Williams if I didn’t have The Millionaire Real Estate Agent on my bookshelf. I like some of the old school books. I like Who Moved My Cheese and a lot of them. Simon Sinek is somebody that I’ve read a lot of in the last 18 months just because I think he’s cool and I like his style.

Jeffrey: So I’ve read Lead With Why. Do you recommend anything else from him?

Kirk: Yeah, but I’m terrible because I am old and I can’t remember nothing. So I don’t remember the titles. I just know I’ve read probably four of his books in the last 18 months.

Jeffrey: Nice. Yeah. I like his style.

Kirk: I kind of go in, and like attending a seminar, I read a book, and if I take away three or four things or one thing out of an entire book that sticks with me and I implement, I figure that was a successful read. So I kind of go through them pretty quick, and once I put them down, I remember the one thing that I need to remember and the rest of it’s kind of background.

Jeffrey: Yeah. Absolutely. So is there a question that I should have asked you or anything that you’d like to expand upon from earlier?

Kirk: Well, tell me a little bit about who’s your audience, so I can help understand what kind of benefit I might be able to add.

Primarily real estate professionals across the country?

Jeffery: Sure. So Lockbox is a podcast providing real estate professionals with action items for success. And that includes real estate brokers, mortgage loan officers and real estate investors. So we’ve had both commercial and residential guests. We’ve had mortgage and real estate guests. We’ve had investors. So really, it’s just the whole real estate world.

But I focus on interviewing top professionals and then distilling down their action items of what created that success so that my listeners can duplicate it.

Kirk: Well, I would say to your real estate professional audience, people that are looking to either build a brokerage or build a team: systems are… we identify… we did an off site once a year, where we go – my leadership team and I -we go sit in a nice room somewhere and have lunch, and talk about what are we doing well and what are we doing poorly and what should we continue doing? What should we never do again? What should we do more of? And we also try to identify the greatest weakness of the team every time we do an off site, which was in late October, we did our last off site. For each of the first four years, we identified our greatest weakness on the team as being poor communication not to our clients, but amongst ourselves.

Are we communicating the vision of the team?

Are we communicating our values to the team?

And are we living those values?

This year, this past October and the October before were the first two years where communication was not our biggest issue. And so as a key to success, I would say building effective lines of communication. I’ll tell you what the one great thing for us that has come out of Covid was, we said, okay – although we were deemed whatever they call it… “necessary industry” … in our area and we’re allowed to continue working – not everybody was really comfortable being in the office every day. So we implemented a Monday through Friday Daily Huddle on Zoom from 8:15 to 8:30 Monday to Friday. And in that time period from March of ’19, I guess when Covid had started – or March of ’20, we actually developed better relationships and had more effective communication with the team because we saw everybody every day for 15 minutes.

So I think communication is key to success and then being in the moment, being present for your clients.

What are some other keys to success for us? Really, it comes down to being of service and this is specific to our clients, but it sounds simple and stupid to say, but I’ve already said it once.

Do what you say you’re going to do, do it when you say you’re going to do it, and communicate, and that’s success.

That’s what has driven our success.

Jeffrey: Makes sense. And I appreciate you sharing that, and on the communication point, one of my early mentors said – and this always has stuck with me – the number one reason why any relationship fails, whether it’s in business or in life is lack of communication. And I heard that, I don’t know, twelve years ago as a Cutco rep, and literally to this day, it still rings so true. And I’ve experienced it throughout the last twelve years. So yeah, really, communication is so key.

And like you said, there are pros and cons with Covid, and one of the pros has been the adoption of Zoom and certain technologies. And like you said, that daily huddle 15 minutes is so simple, but to just increase that communication on a daily basis between the team, it has apparently done wonders, because then since then, that’s not been the biggest flaw of the team as identified by the team. So that’s great.

Kirk: And after 18 months, we finally had an AHA moment and said, you know, we should record the daily huddles and put them on our intranet. So that when somebody has a question about dual agency, we can refer them to our video database of our Zoom meetings, where we talked about dual agency for 15 minutes one morning.

Jeffrey: Do you have them transcribed as well?

Kirk: Baby steps. After 18 months, we literally about a month ago started archiving and recording and archiving all of our daily huddles so that we have records of all the meetings that we have. And we also involved our team for the longest time, it was just me leading the Zoom meetings, and after about six months, I’m like, I’m out, I’ve got nothing left. And then we spread the wealth among the leadership team, but it was still sort of it got to be a little bit routine and the effort sort of waned some.

And then we said, Well, why are we limiting the leadership of the Zoom meetings to just the leadership? Let’s get everybody involved. So now everybody on the team, whether they be an admin or an agent or a member of the leadership team, leads a Zoom meeting roughly once a month. And to do something once a month well is a lot easier than to do something 25 times a month well. So we found them to be more valuable, and it’s also engaged the team more and brought us even closer and more tight knit than we were in the past.

Jeffrey: That’s awesome. If I could just add a little value, the next step I would highly recommend would be use something like and have videos transcribed. Just get an automated transcription. It doesn’t need to be the human one, but it’s super cheap. The AI is great and it’ll have some typos. But what that does is it’ll create this intranet that is much more searchable based on the content of the video, not only the title.

Yeah, that’s helped a lot with my own. I like the second brain idea, and as I built my agency and build info products and I was shooting a lot of video is easy for me to create. But then how to make that searchable and valuable to those who want to then find… it’s kind of like the blog post, if it’s texted out, people can search it and find it online. So same idea.

Kirk: There you go.

Jeffrey: Cool. So, really appreciate having you on. How can listeners contact you?

Kirk: Email is Kirk at kbtrealty dot com and my cell phone number is 910-622-3478, and I’m one of those guys: you see people post all the time that they’ve got 400 emails and 500 unanswered text messages. I’ve got… where is it?

Jeffery: Zero?

Kirk: Nah, I had 0, 45 minutes ago. I’ve now got twelve texts and 14 emails, but in ten minutes, that will be down to zero again. So I do return calls, and I do return emails and text. And if anybody is coming to the beach, we’d be happy to meet you. If just nothing else to make another connection with another agent from somewhere else in the country.

And if you’re relocating to the beach, we’d love to help you do that, too.

Jeffrey: Awesome. Well, I appreciate having you on. Kirk Pugh, everyone. I really appreciate the knowledge that you dropped of growing your brokerage and having some really effective systems in place now, after having a team for six years, you really focused on increasing that communication between the team, having systems that support them and really, overall, having a high productive team rather than having a ton of agents that don’t have a lot of support and aren’t producing a lot.

So I commend you on that.

And I think that this episode – there’s a lot to learn. So I encourage my listeners to always go back, listen to your favorite episodes on Lockbox and listen to them two, three times, so that you can really get the message.

So thank you so much.

I hope you have a great day.

Kirk: Thanks, Jeff. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Jeffrey: You too.

Thank you for listening.

If you want to accomplish your real estate goals, then I highly suggest downloading my free ultimate real estate goal setting framework. The link is in the description of the show, and it will help you break down your annual income goal into the amount of phone calls, appointments or open houses you need in order to achieve that goal.

Thank you so much.

And we’ll see you next time.


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KBT Realty Group is ready to help you list and sell real estate in Wilmington, Leland, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Southport, Ocean Isle and the beautiful southeastern North Carolina communities of Pelican Reef, Landfall, St. James. That is just a start. With more than 100 years of combined real estate experience in the Wilmington metropolitan area, we are certain that KBT Realty Group has an agent that is an expert in selling – and has buyers ready to make an offer. We have the expertise to help list and sell single family homes, condos, manufactured homes, investment property, and land. READ MORE .