As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Beer. Known as a disrupter in real estate, Daniel Beer is the founder of Agent Academy and CEO of Beer Home Team powered by eXp Realty. Dan’s trademarked 5 Day Blitz™ home selling process helped produce 268 homes sold and over $211 million in sales in 2019 alone. Beer Home Team is ranked as one of the Top 50 Teams in the nation per The Wall Street Journal and Real Trends. Other recent awards include being recognized as the 831st fastest-growing private company in America across all industries by Inc. 5000. Agent Academy is now the platform Beer uses to teach others how to duplicate his success and build a strong profitable real estate business.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Like so many other people in real estate, I joined this industry because I needed a change. My first job out of college was as a financial accountant for a big aerospace company. I was collecting a check, and I felt like they would pay me whether I did the work or not. There was no passion and no motivation. I left that job in seven months. The corporate environment wasn’t for me.
I decided to get my real estate license to help my dad sell his home, but quickly realized this would not be a temporary move. I found my passion. The world became my office. Building new relationships with new people became a part of my job and because this industry is 100% results-based, I found my motivation. I am constantly learning, growing and evolving to help people complete some of the most important transactions in their lives.
Q. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
This mistake was hard to laugh at when it happened, but it makes me crack a smile now. I entered into a partnership because I was familiar with the person and the person appeared successful. I didn’t have a clear understanding of how this person did business. It was a mistake that cost me time and money.
When I think back to that moment, I chuckle because it never would have happened if I’d had my current mindset. I value the demonstration of ethics and a willingness to help other people grow more than the appearance of success. I always tell young agents looking for a brokerage to remember compensation is important, but you want to find a place where you are surrounded with agents who are doing everything you want to do and who are encouraged to help you grow faster and become more profitable without unnecessary trial and error.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Legendary San Diego Realtor Gregg Neuman unknowingly gave me a real gift of mindset — the mindset I needed to make a shift back in 2008.
Picture me at a conference feeling really great about the fact that I was selling five or six homes a year. In walks Neuman with a speech that knocked me off my pedestal and shifted my thought process. He said something like, “If you’re not selling at least 24 homes a year, which by the way is only two a month, which also means you’re failing 28 days out of 30, then I don’t know what you’re doing.”
In an instant, I realized I was not even scratching the surface of who I could be and what I could do. I began searching for information that put me on the path of meeting the people who would mentor me, guide my growth and help me build a business.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When I started to build this company, it was purely about business. I was trying to survive and ensure I could pay all of my employees. Over time, I realized a business has to be more than that. We adopted a set of core values — gritty, learning-based, leaders, innovation and a mindset of abundance. I merged those five values with the business models of realtors I’d observed across the country. Our purpose became more than selling homes, we wanted to impact our community. We were no longer solely focusing on the million-dollar homes, we wanted to help as many families as possible in the best way possible. That purpose has served us well and propelled our success.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
This pandemic is a glaringly obvious example of how I’ve led my team during uncertain or difficult times. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. When our governor ordered the shutdown, we didn’t know when we’d be able to show a house in person again. It’s one thing to go through a recession and another to be unable to do your work.
I gave myself time to be scared — to process what was going on, then we had an all hands on deck meeting. I told my team that we had a choice. We could lean all the way in or lean all the way out. Those who chose to show up the next day were dedicated to doubling down on activity. That meant being innovative and showing our community that we cared and we were willing to find a way to serve them to the best of our ability.
We checked in on as many people as possible. These individuals connected with our company at some point in the past, but we weren’t reaching out to talk business. We were contacting them to see how they were doing. In many cases, we spoke about family and concerns. If someone asked us about real estate, we gave them a confident and honest assessment of what we were seeing.
People wanted to see leadership in action. While enduring a turbulent March and April, we focused on community. We bought gift cards from local small businesses to infuse them with much-needed cash. We gave those gift cards to members of our community so they could treat themselves and have a moment of joy, no matter how small.
As for our business, we were innovating quickly. We turned to technology to help people who needed to buy or sell their home. We used 3D images, video chat, as well as live streams and drones to show homes to clients who were in more of a rush to purchase. We didn’t see the fruits of our labor until May when our business increased by 70% from the previous month. When restrictions loosened, new clients sought us out because they knew we would never stop working. At one point, we had 70 homes in escrow in one month. During pre-pandemic times, we carried about 30 to 35 homes in escrow per month.
Instead of using the stay-at-home order as a vacation, we were able to double down on our core values of showing grit, learning, leading, innovating and a mindset of abundance.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Giving up was never an option. I allowed myself to process the fear and concern for my team, but I never considered stopping. If you add up the agents who have come on board with us, the 16 employees and all of their families, that’s about 100 people who depend on my leadership and vision. I promised them a dependable livelihood, and I will always work hard to ensure that for my team and their families.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
A leader’s most critical role is to have a vision, create a plan and communicate it confidently so that people in the organization can operate without paralyzing fear.
It’s hard for anybody to accomplish much when they’re filled with fear or uncertainty. I’ve noticed it a lot in the community. New clients tell us they’ve asked agents questions about the pandemic and the impact on the market, and they get passive answers. They choose our team because we succinctly and confidently tell them what we have observed and how it relates to their needs. They are confident we will be honest about what will and won’t work.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
I work hard to make sure each member of my team knows I care about them individually, along with their families. The best way to boost morale, motivate and engage a team is to be human. It can’t all be about the business. I did a lot of one-on-one check-ins. I didn’t focus on numbers. It was, “Hey, I see you. How are you? How are you feeling?” People tend to feel alone in difficult times, and I let them know they weren’t alone and I was going to make every possible investment and decision to protect us all.
Communication is key. You can’t assume your team knows you care. You have to show them you care, and often that means making the time to really speak to them and answering questions honestly and sincerely.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
The empathetic delivery of the unfiltered truth is the best way to communicate difficult news to your team and customers. You can’t sugar coat things. During the start of the stay-at-home order, I was honest. I told my team and our community what I did know and what I did not know. I didn’t know how the market would fare, but I knew I was going to work as hard as possible to make sure we were ready for whatever came our way.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future is always unpredictable, but a true leader is always learning. I surround myself with some of the best real estate agents in the country. We are part of a collaboration group, and we share all of our knowledge with each other.
It is key to surround yourself with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. They may not have gone through the exact scenario you’re experiencing, but they’ve been through enough highs and lows to remind you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Our group knew that being shrinking violets would not get us through a difficult time. I listened to them and applied their knowledge to my team, and we excelled. Nothing seems impossible when you are part of a group where everyone will share everything they know with you and you do the same. Leaders are never afraid to learn and leaders are never afraid to share.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
My number one principle is collaboration. Support makes getting through turbulent times so much easier. I have always consistently surrounded myself with excellent leaders. When we needed each other, our network was already in place.
The ability to collaborate during turbulent times begins long before that moment of trouble. You always need to be working on building and nurturing those key relationships. If you wait until the storm hits to seek out these people, it’s too late.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
I’ve seen leaders freeze, stop communicating and create a leadership gap in the middle of difficult times, and that only makes things worse. A lack of communication allows your community to come to their own conclusion about your plans for the future of your organization. That leads to chaos.
During trying times, you have to lean all the way in. That means being active and over-communicating with your community. That reduces confusion and keeps them present, instead of looking for someone else who is communicating their vision more clearly.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I can not emphasize enough how important communication is. Double down on one-on-one communication with your base so you don’t lose traction during a difficult situation. Let them know that you are there and ready to work in their best interest.
Your goal is to stay visible and present. You need marketing to do that, but you also need to lower the cost. Go to your vendors and renegotiate your contracts to maintain your presence while lowering overhead costs.
Ultimately, you have to be ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked with possibly fewer resources.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Collaborate. Great leaders don’t magically have an encyclopedia of knowledge in their minds. They are always learning and growing through a collaborative process with like-minded people. I have always aligned myself with people who have already accomplished the goals I have set for myself. We exchange knowledge and ideas, which helps us maintain optimism and create an effective plan to guide our teams.
- Communicate vigorously with your community and database. Once you have your plan, you have to articulate it clearly. Leave no room for confusion or assumptions. Let your team and your community know you are all in.
- Rally the troops. Don’t assume that your team knows you are all in and dedicated to making sure you all survive the storm. Speak with your team members one-on-one. Ask them about their fears and concerns. Share yours with them, but also let them know that you have a plan and you are ready to execute it with them.
- Prepare everyone to double down. Most difficult times feel like the end of the world when they are happening. Once you rally the troops, you have to be clear that the team won’t weather the storm if everyone doesn’t work as hard as possible. You may not see the results immediately, but you will get a return on that investment.
- Inspect every dollar. You have to be more accountable than ever. During the start of the pandemic, we stayed visible and present through marketing, but I was able to reduce the cost that came with it. That gave my team the budget to innovate and invest in the technology needed to change how we sold homes, and it also allowed us to give back by helping some local small businesses.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is “choose your hard.” It is hard to go through tough times and double down on your work. It’s even harder to go out of business, go bankrupt, or lose the family home. It’s hard to eat well, it’s even harder to suffer from chronic ailments fueled by poor food choices. Look at the cause and effect of any situation, then choose your hard.
How can our readers further follow your work?