Editor’s note: Published by the residential real estate strategic consulting and information firm Swanepoel T3 Group each January, the Swanepoel Power 200 (SP200) ranks the real estate industry’s most powerful, influential leaders. It also recognizes leaders in several subcategories, from technology execs to social influencers.
The SP200 rankings reflect a rigorous, careful evaluation process supported by data and a detailed methodology. To help make its selections, the Swanepoel T3 Group maintains a robust database, with stats and information on more than 3,000 real estate executives and leaders. It spends hundreds of hours poring over data, debating internally and verifying all candidates before settling on its list each year.
In the wake of the release of the 2017 list, the fourth, on January 9, the Swanepoel T3 Group is profiling leaders and executives included on one of the 10 2017 SP200 lists.
Ben Kinney, 38, runs a growing Bellingham, Washington-based real estate empire, Ben Kinney Companies, which includes an international brokerage (with 1,200 agents), a 65-agent real estate team, a training organization and four tech companies, including the popular agent blogging platform and community ActiveRain.
A humble, straightforward entrepreneur building a comprehensive real estate business piece by piece, Kinney bought his fifth tech company last week, Blueroof360, which provides websites and CRMs to brokers and agents as well as property reports and comparative market analyses. The tech will integrate into other platforms the Ben Kinney Companies own.
Kinney, who already owns a brokerage in London, is in the process of expanding his brokerage footprint to Vancouver, and continues to grow his Bellingham-based real estate expansion team to more cities and states.
The team currently has a presence in Bellingham; Kirkland, Washington; Tacoma, Washington; Everett, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Seattle; Denver; Austin, Texas; and Napa, California. Read more about the growing power of teams in the 2017 Swanepoel Trends Report.
His vast, and growing, real estate operation landed Kinney at No. 163 on the 2017 SP200 list, four slots up from the previous year. He also landed a spot on the inaugural SP200 Emerging Leaders list, which recognizes 20 real estate leaders aged 40 and under (as of Dec. 31, 2016) poised for significant industry roles.
Kinney answered some questions from the Swanepoel T3 Group about his trajectory and leadership style, presented below as a Q&A.
Briefly describe your career trajectory.
I was a cable guy until 12 years ago when I became a real estate professional. I now help others run businesses I own while having no title.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in the last year, why?
I am most proud of the opportunities we have provided to our 100 W-2 employees and 1,200 1099 contractors and how their lives are changing along the way. Because of their success our businesses generate enough profit that we can generously donate large percentages of our profit back to our communities’ nonprofits.
What are some leadership tactics you use that get results?
People are not equal. It’s a tough statement but I try and stay focused on my top 20 percent of leadership. Finite resources, you know? I only have so much time and energy and I want to give that to positive and talented leaders who are going to make a difference and keep us in line with our mission, vision and values.
Honestly, holding people accountable is exhausting and at the end of the day is really impossible. Instead, I spend all of my time finding people who want the same things in life as me and who are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal. Don’t hold people accountable. Hire people who have a history of being accountable.
Who have you learned the most about leadership from? What did you learn?
I am an avid reader, so there are many authors who have influenced me, but I would have to say Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Gary consistently focuses his coaching on not what I am doing but who I am doing it with. Finding talent is my “One Thing” because he taught me that is the secret to success (Gary Keller, founder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty, and Jay Papasan wrote the book “The One Thing,” which came out in 2013).
Ben Kinney’s desk at Ben Kinney Companies headquarters in Bellingham, Washington.
What’s at the top of your to-do list this quarter?
Continue to find the most talented and motivated individuals who want a big life and can visualize an even bigger world by working together. Hire the most amount of the most talented, gritty, aggressive, humble, and intelligent people I can find.
If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?
Be a comedian. I once had an old girlfriend tell me I am not funny. It’s irritated me ever since. I might have to try stand-up comedy at least for one night.
Highlight of the last year?
We recently solidified our mission, vision and value statements last year, which I’m incredibly proud of. They are:
- Our mission: “delivering the dream of homeownership everywhere.”
- Our vision: “Dominate markets, make millionaires and give millions.”
- Our values: “The success of our businesses will be determined by our ability to maintain our H.E.A.L.T.H. (Hard work, Extraordinary Results, Accountable in all Things, Leaders Only, Teamwork, Humble.)”
These are our driving force, our guiding light and gives the company a laser focus. This was our focus and our big win in the past year — clarity on our mission, vision and values.
Favorite relaxing activity that’s not hanging with family?
Hunting, fishing, hiking, traveling, learning German, and reading as many books as I possibly can.
What are the biggest trends you see in the industry right now?
Real estate agent expansion teams will disrupt who makes the most wealth in real estate.
Tech companies focusing on demystifying the transaction and providing the services with or without an agent involved.