How Keller Williams expansion team CEO is betting on talent

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How Keller Williams expansion team CEO is betting on talent

Chris Suarez of KW’s Xperience Real Estate has hired heavy-hitter Holly Priestner for talent acquisition and picked up a new 16-member expansion partnership


The way Chris Suarez, CEO of Xperience Real Estate sees it, one of the most important things he can do as a Keller Williams national expansion team CEO is bring new players into the industry. “If we don’t start looking and thinking about attracting new players into the industry — then we will be out of the industry too,” he told Inman. Keller Williams, Swanepoel 1000’s no. 1 real estate franchisor, first introduced expansion teams in 2013, and Xperience started as an expansion team within a year of that. Suarez describes the Keller Williams expansion team, as when a highly successful and profitable real estate agent takes systems, tools and models that have led to success and partners with other agents either locally or in a new location, allowing that new partner to use the same systems for their business. He seeks out successful talented new team members (or whole teams), and if he has his eye on a new location for his expansion team, Suarez will approach the office owner and talk to him or her about the idea of them having some agents for his team in their office. As he puts it, “we are a guest in their house,” so it has to work for both parties. The Keller Williams expansion team has undoubtedly become a more ambitious animal over the years, with “mega” expansion teams going beyond acquiring individual agents to forging mergers with high-performing teams, said the Xperience CEO.The CEO just announced Monday the expansion partnership with the Charlotte Mabry Team in Chatanooga, Tennessee, a 16-member team, which did $68 million sales volume and $2 million annual GCI in 2017.Brokerages typically run off of a franchise model receiving a small percentage back or selling a business platform, argues Suarez. “Gary Keller looks at some expansion teams poised for growth and believes we will see them grow to hundreds or potentially thousands of partners over the next five years and ultimately bring in more revenue to the bottom line than many large brokerages,” he said. Suarez said he is looking to partner with 100 agents between now and the end of the year and expects that to be done in 10 more cities.

Focusing on talent acquisition

A key part of that growth is talent. With the aim of consistently getting and vetting talent and coaching these agents, Suarez has just hired Keller Williams corporate big hitter, Holly Priestner. Priestner, formerly a VP of Keller Williams Realty International, will lead talent acquisition and branding, partner engagement and talent development, consulting for real estate teams joining Xperience. The senior executive, who personally recruited Keller Williams’ chief innovation officer, Josh Team, will be based out of Austin, and she will also serve as Xperience Real Estate’s regional director for Central/West Texas. Priestner, who describes Suarez as the top thought leader on expansion teams at Keller Williams, said, “People are the no. 1 asset in any industry, in any business — real estate is no different. We continue to see gaps in what is offered for talent and organizational development in our industry, which hinders sustainable and scalable growth.” Having a consultant on Suarez’s team focused on people solutions will be a game-changer for the teams who partner with Xperience, she said. Suarez, who believes other expansion teams will follow his lead on a talent acquisition hire, has been refining the expansion model over the past couple of years with his own organization. He does training for the Keller William MAPS Coaching program, Build Your Business to Expand, teaching the online expansion course weekly since 2017. Suarez has, so far, expanded his business into 25 cities across 10 states with 40 agents. Xperience is headquartered in Portland and has a presence in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and Tennessee as well as in Texas, and Suarez owns the master franchise for Costa Rica. In total, the team closed $145 million sales volume in 2017 and generated $3.7 million in gross commission income (GCI) in 2017, making it one of the fastest growing Keller Williams expansion organizations. Suarez expects this to grow to around $350 million in 2018 and $8 million in GCI.

It’s not just about getting bigger

Expansion teams aren’t just all about getting bigger and adding people to drive production, Suarez cautioned. They can equally be about being more productive with the agents you have, a key driver for Suarez with his team members. “Currently, our agents are seeing an increase of GCI of almost 60 percent over last year this time, an increase in volume of 47 percent and an increase in unit count of 37 percent,” he said. At the same time, Xperience has increased its agent growth by about 5 percent, from 40 agents. One approach that has helped with agent productivity is finding an agent’s best skill through a system Suarez calls Lead Gen Levers. These are activities such as open houses, FSBOs, expireds, door-knocking and circle prospecting. Team agents choose one of the five “levers” to focus on and then follow a system of specific activities each week that Suarez has found will lead to specific results. “We want each of our agents to get incredibly efficient and effective at one thing,” he said.

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