I recently read Rob Hahn's latest blog post, Keller Williams’ New E-Edge Program and Strategic Fit, in which he analyzes Keller Williams and their newest eEdge Technology Platform. Now, I don't know Rob personally, but from his education and experience he seems to be a really smart guy. I read his blog regularly and always seem to question his analysis of the issue he talks about. He brings up some very interesting points but like his old blog picture used to show he can be considered the grim reaper of the real estate industry. He always talks about the what if scenarios and worst case situations, at least that is how I would characterize his blog.
I take issue with this particular blog because of how he characterizes Keller Williams. As an associate who has worked for KW for the last 4 years in 2 different offices, I believe I have a better understanding of the company than he does. I feel that certain assumptions he makes based on his "research" are simply just wrong.
Here is a quote from his blog post and a previous article he wrote about a KW office.
"As we will see, the KWRI model – of which KW Premier is an example – is built around achieving and maintaining Cost Leadership, while offering a product to the general agent population that is comparable to that offered by competing brokerages. Almost all of its systems are inter-related, and that system is what provides it with the competitive advantage of Cost. (Emphasis added)"
I agree with this characterization and view of the company. In the next paragraph he says the following.
"Everything in the Keller Williams system, as I understand it, is built around the cost leadership vector of competition. For example, the profit-sharing up to seven levels of down-line revenues incentivized the agents themselves to recruit new agents into Keller Williams, minimizing the need for costly recruiting and retention efforts. The freedom that Keller Williams emphasized in all of its literature and marketing to agents also meant that the average brokerage (or “market center”) did not have to provide costly technology tools and the like. Each agent was free to buy and use whatever she deemed fit."
I think Rob misses the point and the value proposition of Keller Williams. I believe the best way to explain Keller Williams is to say Keller Williams is the foundation of your house. KW provides the tools & training to build a successful business. Thinking of it like a house again, you get to choose the materials you use, how you want to design your house and what you want it to look like.
To suggest that KW does not provide costly "technology tools" I don't feel is accurate. For many years KW has had a monthly eAgentC fee for $10 a month. This fee was created to provide technology services to help agents be more productive. Below is a description of the eAgentC mission.
- Protect and develop our Associates' fiduciary position in the electronic world
- Provide relevant technology research, training, and consulting for Keller Williams Associates
- Advance our Associates' industry leading position through targeted Internet tool development
- Pool our resources to bring associates better ROI than what they could get individually
The vision for eAgentC’s initiatives is directed by Keller Williams Realty’s ATC (Associate Technology Council). The ATC represents the voice of the agent in the development of technology tools.
Kelller Williams Agent's websites receive more traffic than any other brand (ok, I don't have the official stats for this one but it has been said by various "official" people in the company). As far as I know KW is the only major franchise that gives their agents a full functioning and customizable website with full idx (feel free to correct me on this). The other competitors give an agent a web page and not a full website.
This is where I think Rob is really misguided, as with the eAgentC technology platform, the eEdge platform was voted on by the Associate Leadership Council (ALC) which act as the board of directors for every office. The ALCs were given a presentation and eEdge was explained. Over 98% of the offices voted yes to have eEdge.
Rob also makes some other assumptions about recruiting and strategy that I do not agree with. Rob's assumption that KW does not recruit as much as other franchises is wrong. KW has a full time non-selling office manager (Team Leader) whose primary responsibility is to recruit. I think the difference is all the recruiting is done locally vs. nationally and KW does not have a franchise department.
Rob's assumption that this is a change in strategy, I don't see it that way at all. KW has been trying to do this for years and that is why the eAgentC program was started. At that time the company looked into making it's own contact management system but, decided to partner with Top Producer and create marketing material for the program. The program worked reasonably well until the guy that was the liaison, quit and started his own company MyRedTools. KW's value proposition has always been about the agent and I believe it is widely considered the first agent centric organization. People do business with me because of their relationship that have with me, not because of the company I work for. Most of the people I do business with never heard of Keller Williams, (I am in Suburban Chicago) and I never find that to be a problem.
Additionally, the $180 extra a year for the services provided is relatively minimal for anyone who is actually selling real estate. If it is that much of struggle, I might suggest an agent should consider another career. The eEdge fee is mandatory, while all aspects of the product will not be mandatory, all the agents transactions will be run through this system and in order to get paid, so every agent will have to use it.
So, in closing I think I have a better understand of the company and the product than the "expert" Rob Hahn. Does that make me smarter than the expert? In this case, I vote Yes, I believe KW was Notorious Rob-bed.
These are my thoughts and I would love to hear yours. Until next time, remember this time.
I am John Ziemba, enjoying my glass of Kool Aid