Victoria and Craig Brashears are a husband-and-wife real estate team from Lee’s Summit in Missouri, and one of the authors in our new real estate business book, Becoming A Local Leader. This book features stories from 22 top producing agents and teams, who through their story, share some of their strategies on how you can build a business through relationships and referrals and how you can become a leader and a top producer in your geographic area.
One of the things that you’ll learn and get from Victoria and Craig’s story is, if you’re going to sell in an area, if you’re going to be a leader for that area, if you’re going to build your brand in the area, you better love that area. In order to love that area, you need to know your area. You need to be involved in the area. It’s really exciting to see that come out in their chapter and for them to explain to you how they do it so maybe you can think about how you can take some of their lessons and apply them to your business.
What is the main message that you want agents to get from this book? What do you think is the main thing you want people to get from it?
Victoria: I would say, for us, we feel like being authentic. When we started in real estate, we knew that the community was really, really important to us. You hear agents all the time talk about “coming from contribution”. That’s a buzz phrase.
They often show them their listings. They often show them sharing information that’s important to them. But if you’re not a buyer or a seller, is that pertinent? We felt like Parkbench really hit a niche for us and we watched it play out because we not only knew the community we lived in, we went out and found more.
In that process, we’ve learned so much more about the community, and it was no longer about us. It was truly about the community. It was truly about the people. It was truly about the leaders. It’s really about the business that made that community special. And so, when we were able to talk about it, it was very authentic.
Craig: I think that in a way, COVID kind of helped a little bit because there are so many people who are really down on the big box stores and all corporate. When COVID shut down all these local businesses, people knew that they saw a ball game and saw PTO meetings. They were losing their businesses right and left, yet these big box places were staying open.
It kind of really got under the skin of a lot of people to where they were all out supporting local. “Let’s support this local business instead of going to the big box store.” But we were already doing that. At that point, we were already focusing on local businesses so it was kind of like, “See, we told you.” kind of thing. Do you know what I’m saying?
Realtors talk about being authentic, they talk about contribution, but do they really mean it? Do they show it? How does an agent know whether they are truly living authentically and coming from contribution?
Victoria: It’s funny because in the book I had mentioned it. I think we really do take the tortoise and hare approach to what we do. I am going to talk to you. It’s my goal to talk to you to get your contact information and to get a lead. Yeah, that’d be great. But is that truly my goal? Or am I asking about you? Am I building a relationship with you?
I had an email today from a past acquaintance. We have communicated with her for three years and now she’s moving. We send out mailings and the mailings follow the same pattern as our Parkbench sponsored site. We just share information. It’s not necessarily hardcore, very soft sell. In that information, she said, “I love that. I love hearing how you guys are doing. I love the updates. And just FYI, I moved and here’s my contact information.”
That’s a relationship. Did I know three years ago that that was going to happen? Not only did she give us her updated contact information to stay with us, she said, “I’m still renting. But one of these days, I’m going to reach out to you guys to help me find a home.” That’s great. I love that. But our interactions with her have been about her. Not with a secret motive in the background.
That’s just something that happened today. I think that for us, we do not have the short-term transactional mindset. Yes, we want the transaction at some point but we focus on the relationship. I think that that is a key differentiator.
Craig: There’s a lot of those agents. They want that immediate gratification right now. We’re long-term. Relationship building versus instant.
It’s amazing, the mindset of some, where they really don’t seem to care. But I think there’s a good number of agents that do, but they have this fear of failure, they have money problems, and they go, “How do I think long term and do that but still make enough money to support myself and my family?” Can you relate to that? What advice would you give an agent to make that transition and really have faith and go all in?
Victoria: I would say exactly what you just said. It is scary. We are right there with you. It is scary but it’s a leap of faith. It really is a leap of faith. I will say that making that commitment that first year with you, we didn’t do an interview. We didn’t do it until it was about three months out before we were supposed to re-sign and it’s like we’re either going for it or we’re not. And we went for it.
I, in my head, thought I’ll be okay if we just break even with the investment to sponsor the website. So many blessings came from the relationships that were built but also the business that came from it. We were able to see results within two months. I did not have that on my calendar. I expected that whole first year to just trust that it was going to happen. I’ll tell you what- it happened.
I think that it is scary because it’s not the model that agents are often taught. It changed our mindset about working with other agents as well. I love the agent to agent. How can we help each other? I think that this has helped my mindset overall in business. It’s all about how we can help each other.
That helping, whether it’s connecting somebody over here with somebody over here, or whether it’s finding a vendor for somebody that says, “Hey, you need a dog walker? I know somebody.” and sharing that information.
It’s connections. I mean, that helps us in life. Period. Just take the leap of faith because it works. It works without you having to worry about it. It really does. But it’s scary. It’s very scary.
Craig: There are so many programs out there for agents. We get bombarded with emails all the time. “Hey, sign up for this and get these leads and all this.” We get them all the time. People sign up for this one. “Oh, it’s only going to cost a couple of hundred dollars a month or whatever it is.” They don’t see immediate results. Boom! It’s out there onto the new one.
I even heard about Parkbench from somebody. It was like, “Hey, what do you think about Parkbench?” They call us, we tell them about our success. But then you look around and they don’t reach out because they’re not following the plan.
You have to have faith. You have to follow the plan. Relax. Let it come. It’ll come. When it does come, it’s got to be ready for it because it’s coming. So, we stuck with it. I mean, honestly, when we were ready that first year, we didn’t do anything, it was time to re-up. I’m looking at the money. I’m like, “Hey Vic, we got to react.” It’s like, we’re either going to do it and be all in or we’re not cutting a check this year. She talked me into it. “Now, let’s do it.” So, okay. Let’s do it. I’ll do it. We’ll do it one more year. We did it and it’s like, okay, you’re right.
Victoria: Yeah, and it’s fun. It makes our job so much fun. It’s so fun. Our sales tripled the year that we truly took it seriously. Tripled. That was amazing.
Let’s give people some context into both of you. Why don’t you give people a background of who you both are, how you got into real estate, and what are your tips for couples who want to do real estate together?
Craig: I was in the event industry for 40 years. I knew a lot of people. I dealt with a lot of people. In and out a lot of houses, new construction, and construction sites. I mean, I’m pretty knowledgeable, pretty handy around the house. There’s nothing I can’t do as far as building houses. Whether it’s roof, electrical, plumbing, whatever, I’m going to do it. I don’t have to usually look at YouTube to figure out how to do it. I’m good in that area.
When we sold our house and moved, we weren’t agents. And then, going through the process with the agent, he was watching me interact with him when we’re looking at houses, what I saw that he didn’t see. When we were all done, he said, “Have you ever thought about a career in real estate?” I looked at him and I went, “You know, actually I have.”
I’m nearing the end of my career and looking for that next chapter in my life that will take me into my 60s and 70s. It’s not so physical. So, I got my license. She got it with me. She had a really great career herself.
We’re two different people. She is bubbly and talkative. She can make friends anywhere. I can do that as well but she is in marketing and talking to people and building relationships. For me, I’m looking at the computer screen. I’m looking at this contract. It’s 28 pages long and there are 16 of them. I’m going to mull through them and I’m going to get them right. My goal is to get into compliance the first time and I pride myself on that. It’s the contracts. She hates contracts. She doesn’t want to look at them. I do it all, but she does marketing.
And then, as far as listing and buying, she is more of the listing agent because she can go into a home and see what it needs to get it ready visually and what will work. Well, I hate that. I’d rather go show people houses in remote areas and gravel roads and in areas where I don’t want her at because there’s a safety issue. So, I’ll go out and show all these houses, all these clients, and all these areas and crawl into attics and dungeons and look at homes and point out all the things I see wrong. She doesn’t do that. Well, she will. But sometimes we go together.
So, listing agent, buying agent, contracts, marketing- I stay in my lane.
Victoria: I think that’s the case. Most married couples are opposites, for the most part. We try to just focus on our strengths that we both bring to the table. I try to not cross into his lane. He tries to not cross into my lane. And then, we practice grace and forgiveness when we do.
Craig: Sometimes like bumper cars, we’re doing this. But at the end of the day, we share the same bed so we’re good.
Victoria: I would say taking time out to remember that you’re a married couple, not just partners in business is huge because it can be all consuming.
In your story, you talked about how you moved to an area. That’s another common thing. Realtors move to an area, they don’t have connections, they don’t have a sphere of influence, they need to build their brand, they need to build equity. How did you guys overcome that? What advice would you have for other agents who are in the same position?
Victoria: Basically, you start with experience to overcome that and realize these are things that other people need as well. No matter what community they’re moving to or from, whether it’s across town or across the state line, you still have to plug in and engage.
Walking through that ourselves, I think, gave us empathy and understanding of the need that other people would have in doing that as well. If you’re a seller and you’re moving to another location, you don’t know. Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. What are the areas that most fit your needs? Where’s your new grocery store? Where are you going to get your hair done? Where are the parks for the kids to go to?
I mean, those are important things to look at and think about. As agents, we try to focus on those just as much as three bedrooms, two baths. I think coming from that place, that was a huge help for us. The equity we got was through Parkbench as we began to explore. You just naturally meet people. You naturally find out. “Hey, here’s where I like to go to have coffee.”
People like to share. “Well, have you tried this place? What about this place?” “This is a cool event happening.” You just find those things out. When you’re talking to people and you’re engaging in that, you also find out the other stuff that you need as an agent to build that equity, build those relationships, build that network.
What advice would you give to a new agent who wants to build their sphere of influence database? Who have been some of the most important relationships for your business that you would say, “Hey, make sure you cross these people off and have at least one, if not two or three people, in these categories quickly”?
Victoria: Yeah. There are so many. But as an agent, if we’re speaking specifically to an agent, obviously, you want to know vendors. Those people live in your community as well. Other than the lenders and the inspectors and the title and those people, what if you need a painter?
I mean, really, that was a good place to start. And so, as we’re talking to people, we try really hard to gather that information from people. Who did you use? Why did you like them? Why didn’t you like them? That’s what I would say. Start there. You know that’s your immediate need. And in the process, people can share their experiences.
I think in this day and age, we have a tribal mindset. People like to share their experiences. And I agree with you, everybody has value. It’s not just a matter of what I need from you right now. It’s long-term. And everybody has value. So, even if it’s something that you don’t even think is on your list that you need, there’s value in that. You’re going to find somebody who does need that.
If you would come from that mindset of what is the value, find out the things that are special about that person and you will be surprised how many people all of a sudden you have on your list to tap into. But I would say start with vendors.
Craig: We have two vendors that are now our clients. One, we needed tile work done. We actually interviewed him. He moved to Colorado but now he’s back. He’s looking for a house and we have been looking for a house.
We also have a loan officer, a lender, that was actually right now looking for a house for him and his wife. They’re downsizing. They need a place for their mother-in-law as well as for her mother. And then, they’re going to sell their house. These are vendors. This lender knows hundreds of agents, but he’s using us to help them find a house and sell their house.
Victoria: The value was the focus. Many agents might disagree with us on this but we did not go into building the relationship with those people for what we could do for them. We wanted to build that relationship with them, one, we did an interview with and two, because of the quality of their work, because of the reputation behind their name, and to know more about them. Value, I think, is a keyword there.
One of the things you talked about in the book was people don’t want to work with robots, they want to work with people. Perhaps you can share some of the things you’ve heard from clients, some of the things you’ve experienced that make you know that homeowners want to work with a good real estate agent. What are your thoughts on what consumers want?
Victoria: I’m old enough to remember the dotcom thing. I was in the marketing world for years and we’ve watched the technology through the years. People were a little scared so I’m glad I had that in the back of my brain to remember because people thought we’re going to lose that interpersonal relationship.
What I learned from that is exactly what you said, people want people. Because we’re local, some people like that even more. If you do not have somebody that knows what they’re doing, experience, and knows the ins and outs, it’s a scary transaction. I don’t care how much research you do online.
There are people that we’ve worked with that I thought they’re not really going to need or understand or value the service that we bring to the table. We find the exact opposite. They like having somebody there to explain the process. There are times where we’re looking out for what could happen.
Right now, we just went through a crazy frenzy and a lot of people were purchasing homes with no inspection. Having somebody to guide them through that, pros and cons of that. I can tell you. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you know that sometimes there are title issues if you do not have somebody that kind of knows the ins and outs of that. I think they’ll always be people that take advantage of the online, whether it’s because they think they’re saving money or whether they think that gives them all the information they know.
I will guarantee you. If you are not using a local licensed agent, you are not always going to have all of the information. You don’t have somebody fighting for your best interest. You have an order processor. That’s their job is to get that done and get the transaction closed. At the end of the day, which would you rather have? I believe, more people would rather have somebody on their side advocating for them, processing for them. And that’s what we do. If you don’t want that, then probably we’re not your agent.
Craig: Communication is key as well. We’ve had clients say, “Well, I reached out to three agents, and you were the only one that called me back.” That was a $325,000 sale. Well, I’m the only one who called her back. Or, “Gosh, I can’t get a hold of my agent on Saturday, or whatever, Sunday. After five they shut their phone off because it’s valentines.”
Well, that’s great. I’m glad for them but if you text me at 11 o’clock, 11:30 at night, I’m going to text you back. No problem. That’s just me. If I’m sitting up at midnight writing a contract, I’m going to send it to you in an email. I’m also going to text you, “Hey, I did send your contract. Please confirm.” I expect an answer and if I don’t get it I’m calling you. I’m emailing you. I’m going to bug you until I get an answer. We’re not that way.
If somebody communicates with me, text, phone, email, whatever, I’m on it. I check my email probably once every five minutes. I kid you not. I’ve done it three times since I’ve been in this interview.
So, anyway. That’s just me. While other agents you won’t hear from for a long time. That’s not us. Communication is key in this business. You got to be on your game.
Now, there are lots that agents can get from this book. But when you thought about being a part of this and writing a chapter, imagine yourself when you started your real estate career. What do you think you would get out of this book? Why do you think agents should get this book and read the stories from all these different local agents?
Parkbench is not down the beaten path. People choose Parkbench because it works. It was more of a vision they had. I don’t know why. I know for us we know that we want to come from a place of contribution. What we’re seeing over here is what everybody is being told to do and what they are doing. So, we were outside of the box and that’s a scary place to be. But here’s the cool thing. I cannot wait to read the book because I know every single agent, whether they’re the big money-makers or rainmakers, they all have a different goal. They probably have utilized Parkbench, every one of them, differently. Every one of them has had a different story but they’re staying with it because whatever their goal is, they probably are very aware of their own personal goals and patterns and Parkbench is working for them.
Probably none of them are doing it just because it’s a dollar sign. There’s something more, I think, inherently that you do Parkbench for. I would say that alone, read it. Read that every single person that has a story in Parkbench, it’s a different story. But the common denominator is why it’s working for them and how it’s working for them.
That is got to be exciting because as an agent there are many people that will come to you and say, “Why are you doing that?” And I’m talking specific to Parkbench. For us, people say how are you staying so busy? Why are you doing that? They don’t get it because it doesn’t follow the pattern of what they’re being told or what agents have gone before them have done. And your story will be different than any of the stories in the book. But if you truly don’t get scared that it looks different, be different. Be who you want to be. Stay true to your own goals. Watch what happens.
If people resonate with you guys and they want to connect with you, they want to build a relationship with you, they want to learn from you, how can they get in contact?
Victoria: You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Craig: I’m really active on Facebook. She hates Facebook. I follow the 80/20 rule on Facebook. I don’t know if you know what that is but it’s 80% personal, 20% business. And on the business page, it’s the opposite, 80% business, 20% personal. I follow that to the T.
I’m on Facebook constantly. I know what’s going on in people’s lives. I’m not just like, “Oh, yeah you’re my Facebook friend. I haven’t heard from you for five years.” I’m like, “Well, I know what’s going on.” If Johnny got his cast off last week, I probably already knew it. I stay in their lives. I’m on Facebook constantly. Sometimes too much, but it works.
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