#SP200 Leader John Davis, Keller Williams Realty co-CEO
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.
An operational wunderkind whose consistent results catapulted him up Keller Williams Realty’s ranks, John Davis officially became co-CEO of the world’s largest real estate brand on Wednesday at the firm’s annual Family Reunion gathering in Las Vegas.
Under the guidance of Chairman and Founder Gary Keller, Davis and fellow co-CEO Chris Heller have led the firm since early 2015. Davis focuses on growing the global franchisor’s market share and Heller oversees the firm’s efforts to transform itself into a technology company.
The firm has flourished under Davis’ leadership. It closed 2016 with nearly 155,000 agents, a 15.1 percent jump from the previous year and more than any other real estate brand by far. Transaction and sales volume saw similar jumps over the same period — transactions shot up 15.9 percent to over 977,000 sides and volume leapt 19.6 percent to $273.6 billion.
These accomplishments helped make Davis and Heller the 12th most powerful leaders in 2017, according to this year’s SP200 list.
Davis answered some questions from the Swanepoel T3 Group on leadership, presented below as a Q&A.
Briefly describe your career trajectory.
About 20 years ago, I was fortunate to get to work for Gary Keller. He first hired me and started training me for a mortgage company he owned. A few years later, I transitioned to real estate sales. I then had the opportunity as a team leader to turn around one of our struggling market centers (it became the third-most profitable office in our company).
And from that experience I was given an even bigger opportunity — to turn around a struggling region. About five years ago, Keller Williams executive leadership team asked me to launch a company-wide growth initiative and lead our company’s regions. I became president of Keller Williams in January 2015.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in the last year, why?
The production gains we’re helping our agents achieve! Through our “Growth Initiative,” we doubled our agent count in five years. This summer, we launched a career growth initiative — based on the same models and tools — to help individual agents boost their production. And the evidence is showing up in the numbers. In fact, in every month since we launched, we’ve set all-time monthly records in every production category we track.
What’s your mandate as KW co-CEO?
I’m honored and privileged to get to co-lead this great company with Chris Heller. We’re true partners. And we have complementary portfolios. He’s taken the lead with our technology, for example. I’m really focused on growth, agent production, and the training and tools we provide to help our people get into business with the right talent. My “mandate” is simple – to make people’s lives better by helping them achieve what they want to achieve!
Routines you practice to stay on point as a leader?
For me, it all starts with mindset and wellness. I begin every day with exercise and movement and make sure I’m eating well. I try to spend as much time as I can with people who give me energy rather than deplete my energy. And I make a point of giving thanks and making sure I’m giving myself the time I need to reflect and recharge my batteries.
Who have you learned the most about leadership from? What did you learn?
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to learn from a lot of great mentors and coaches – including of course Gary Keller, who has the best mind in real estate. I’m immensely grateful not only for the opportunities he’s opened up for me, but also for his vision and for constantly challenging me as a leader to think bigger and act more purposefully.
Your purpose in life on your KW profile states: “Help people get what they want.” What do you want, how are you going for it?
I sometimes joke that if I ever write a leadership book it’s only going to be two-pages long. The first page will ask, “How do you know if you’re succeeding?” And the second will say, “If your people are getting better.” Our company is built on succeeding through others. We truly believe in “TEAM,” that together everyone achieves more.
I just want to pay it forward. Behind every one of our numbers is a person. And I want to help them get what they want. The most effective way to do that is to help them fund their lives so they can create opportunities for themselves and their families.
John Davis’ desk at Keller Williams Realty’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.
What did you learn in your athletic career that you use in leadership now?
Growing up in the Vail Valley of Colorado, my best sports early on were hockey and skiing. In high school, I gravitated toward football. I was lucky to get to continue playing in college. And after that I got paid to play. As any of our agents and local leaders who take part in our weekly leadership calls knows, I draw a lot of lessons and examples from sports.
Yet I’d say the biggest impact on me as a leader was developing the mindset of doing things for the team – showing up every day, making sure I was prepared, and bringing the energy to help the entire team get better.
A really cool thing about team sports is what it does for confidence. If you work hard and get results, your confidence grows. And then you can translate that confidence to other people. When teams are functioning at a high level – respecting each other, communicating well, and everyone’s getting stronger and better … there’s no limit on what you can accomplish.
What’s at the top of your to-do list this quarter?
Our focus this quarter is building momentum for the next quarter. According to “traditional” real estate thinking, the fourth and first quarters are the slowest of the year for brokers and agents. We’re turning that thinking on its head. By focusing on the activities we know generate results, we’re taking territory and helping our people create opportunities. We just completed our best fourth quarter ever (with agent gross commission income up 21 percent over the previous fourth quarter) and we’re building on that success in this quarter.
What are the biggest trends you see in the industry right now?
From a market perspective, we’re still seeing tight inventory, particular for affordably-priced homes. Builders have been building more, but they’ve mostly concentrated on higher price points. The luxury market seems to be balancing out, though we’re still seeing strong sellers’ markets at lower price points.
With respect to agents and how they run their businesses, we’re investing heavily in technology and innovation. We’re building tools to help agents expand market share while creating more meaningful experiences for consumers. We see a lot of opportunity with augmented reality, virtual reality, smart homes, and home improvement technology to name just a few. We’re really excited about all the new platforms and tools we’re rolling out.