Today is the 5 year anniversary of the day I signed on to Hawaii Life as Broker-in-Charge of the Big Island.
If this were a marriage (please restrain from snarky comments) my official anniversary gift would be wood. Wikipedia defines wood as: "...a hard, fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers (which are strong in tension) embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression. In a living tree it performs a support function, enabling woody plants to grow large or to stand up by themselves."
5 years ago, Hawaii Life Big Island was a seedling, searching for roots, water and a little bit of sunshine. A difficult task in 2009 - the economy had crashed, real estate trading was nearly non-existent and short sales ruled the day. The sunshine peeking through the clouds offering the possibility of growth and warmth was website leads. People - real buyers - were on www.hawaiilife.com looking at property and asking questions.
Back then, our email responses were long - ridiculously long. Full of comments like, "I understand you might not be ready to reveal your true identity..." and "we know you might be a few years away from buying property..." But so little real estate was trading that we actually had the time to thoughtfully and extensively respond to the simplest of inquiries.
We were also willing to drive all over the island - distance was no problem (despite gas prices being close to $5/gallon) and who cares if they were asking us to preview a $5,000 lot in Puna? A deal was a deal. Lucy Clark R(B) (now Principal Broker at our referral company, Real Life Hawaii), Jan Nores, R(S) and I spent a lot of time and put tens of thousands of miles on our cars. What other option did we have? We were unwilling to move away and there were no other jobs.
Jan, of course, was the first agent to turn a $600k web lead into a $2M+ purchase, a testament to her lifelong-honed skill of "relationshipping" (and insightful understanding that fielding web leads is like internet dating, at some point you have to either break up, or get married!). Jan is still one of our most successful web lead salespeople. Roots.
One of my favorite memories of "the early days" is meeting Pam Deery, R(B) on the courthouse steps in Kona. I had a (web lead) buyer from Oahu interested in her short sale listing, we were at separate Brokerages working together to stay a foreclosure and make a deal happen (we were successful). Pam and her infamous attitude "Will Work for FUD" joined Hawaii Life shortly after we closed that transaction.
Today, Pam is one of our most successful Brokers, having sold nearly $47,000,000 worth of property with Hawaii Life. That's a lot of collaborating, hundreds of happy clients and thankfully, more than enough "fud" to go around. She also has one of the most persistently optimistic attitudes I've seen in this business. We could all learn a lot from Pam.
Over the years, we've been called many things: a "tech" brokerage, a cult, weird, a flash in the pan, upstarts, inexperienced, innovative, creative, supportive, destined to fail. Some of these descriptors I took very personally - some were indeed, directed specifically at me.
One of the first, and most important things I learned from our Principal Broker Matt Beall, R(B), was to stop obsessing about what others thought of us, stop spending time paying attention to what our "competition" was doing, and just put my head down and go to work. That simple piece of advice radically transformed my business and is one of the solid foundations upon which the Big Island still operates.
We've grown from that seedling into a strong, organic grove of wood. Five years later, we enable 60+ Brokers and agents covering every geographical corner of the Big Island to grow large and stand on their own. Collectively we've sold over $525 Million worth of real property, and assisted roughly 2500 people in one of the most important financial transactions of their lives.
In five years, I've collected a few additional job duties and titles: Statewide Director of Sales, Broker-in-Charge for Oahu, and spent two years as the West Hawaii Association of REALTORS®' President. We've also hired and organically grown additional leadership in Margaret Reynolds, R(B) and Julie Keller, R(B), currently serving as Big Island Brokers-in-Charge. There is no way we would be as strong, healthy and upright today if it weren't for these two incredible women.
Friday on Oahu at the Broker's Round Table, I was asked by Pacific Business News if technology has changed the way we recruit new agents. My answer: "We don't recruit. Just like buyers (web leads) find their house online, our agents find us." Not a day goes by without an inquiry from an agent wanting to work with Hawaii Life. Certainly, we are resisting compression.
Yesterday I spent the day online, tending to our roots: fielding web leads. However, now I am able to communicate with customers, clients and prospective buyers via live chat. In five years we've gone from book-length email responses to quick, short replies in real time. People - real buyers - are still on www.hawaiilife.com looking at property and asking questions. There's something super comforting in realizing "the more things change, the more things stay the same." ("Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - Alphonse Karr).
It's been a challenge, an honor and a pleasure, Hawaii Life - and I can't wait to see how the next five years unfold (minus the three months off I'm getting in 2015. #justsayin'). Happy Anniversary and thank you for the opportunity to fully participate in one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.