Karen Cooper Empowering Women in Real Estate Shares Team Strategy

team strategy May 12, 2021

Kim Hayden: Hi, and welcome back to the resilient realtor. My name is Kim Hayden. Your host. Super excited today because we have a lovely gal with us that is just running circles around many women. Karen Cooper has been in the business 19 years. She knows. She remembers the days of when we would run those ads in the newspaper.

We'd have to get out there before social media and such, but this gal has been able to. You transitioned through the times of real estate and perfected her marketing to the point where she's grown, not only from a single person to 35, women's strong on our East coast and, and here to guide and lead and teach. She even has a membership available for people.

Now that you know, we have an 87% washout rate in real estate. This is a woman you definitely need to be following. Welcome, Karen. So excited to have you here. How are you doing today?

Karen Cooper:  Thank you so much, Kim. I am so happy to connect with you. I loved getting to chat with you beforehand and we have a lot in common

We've been around for a long time.

Kim Hayden: It started when we were 12.  Real Estate is a great opportunity, especially for women who are looking to kind of equalize or level up their revenue as an industry to be in.

First, take me through your length of time in the business where you started, what got you excited and, and kind of give us the background and then we're going to go into some strategies for those women. 

Karen Cooper So I like to say that I have held, um, and I kind of have, um, every position there is in the real estate industry.

I started out 19 years ago. I was on a Rainmaker team, you know, that traditional team where the split is  like teeny, teeny tiny and the Rainmaker provided all of the leads.  I became a listing specialist on that team. I learned a tremendous amount, but like a lot of people on those style of teams, I outgrew it after a certain point.

Then I became an independent agent. Did that for awhile, and then I had the opportunity to become a managing broker, which was interesting because I was working on my worker's license along with who is now my business partner, just because we both were really interested in education and we thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more.

The owners of our company, It was the Century 21 franchise came to me one day and said, look, I'm sure you're not interested, but we're growing and we want to, you know, now have a managing worker here and would you be interested?  I said, yeah, because I was burned out. I had completely burned out myself.

I was doing all the wrong things in terms of trying to control everything like we do as women, I think. I moved into the managing broker position. Put my sales career aside for two and a half years to do that, learned a whole lot, including I am not built to work for anyone else anymore.

Then from there, my business partner and I got together, six years ago, we formed the platinum group real estate team. We started out with just a small group of about a handful of us, and now we are 35 women's strong. We serve the entire Northern Virginia area a little bit into to Maryland and West Virginia as well.

Last year we served 525 clients with their real estate needs.

Kim Hayden: Amazing. So where does that put you in rankings out there?

Karen Cooper: We're about the third. We're about the third highest producing team. We are very different with our team. We call us a hybrid team because one of the things coming out of a Rainmaker style team, you know, where all the business was happened in the Rainmaker's name.

We knew we didn't want that because we wanted agents to come on our team and stay. We didn't want it to be that training ground where people came, they learned and they left. In order to do that, we don't put all of our business in one person's name. Our agents do their business individually.

When you do that whole ranking thing, it's a little complicated because we don't show up that way. But when you look at the kind of overall we did about 226 million in volume last year, so we ranked it up. 

Kim Hayden: That's amazing. You, you mentioned a couple things let's, I'd like to tackle  Listing Specialist.

Because you and I started real estate back when a lot of our efforts were boots on the ground and, and we get out and meet people.  I know that COVID's put some, kinks in that. I find that a lot of people, it seems almost like that's a soft skill. Like that's a skill set that's been lost a lot.

Can you share with me what you think are some of the biggest challenges facing new agents today to propel a move them into the listing space?

Karen Cooper:  I think that the listing side takes different skills than the buyer side. I think, especially when you are brand new agent, and I remember this myself, one of the hurdles that you can have is, you know, when you're helping someone to purchase the home.

Buyers for whatever reason, seem a little bit more willing to work with an agent who's new or newer, but when it comes to selling home, especially depending on the market that you're in, right? If that market I used to specialize in unique or unusual homes, historic homes, farms, things on acreage they don't want someone who's only ever sold one house before they need the agent.

Who has the experience and who has been around time and again. I think that that's definitely a hurdle of getting that experience for brand new agents. The second thing I will say about that is I think as agents, as women, as people, we are always our own worst enemy and we overthink.

They're not going to want to work with me, or they're not going to want to hear from me. We talk ourselves out of it, I think, more than anything else. Whereas I think if we kind of moved forward a little bit more confidently than we would have more opportunities.

Kim Hayden: Amazing. And do you subscribe to that list to last or business doesn't have listings that may be listless?

Karen Cooper: Pretty much my kind of saying that I say a lot is whoever owns the listings owns the market. You do need to It's great to be a buyer's agent and it's fun, but it's also,  hard. Like it is hard work physically to be a buyer's agent and drop everything and run.

I'm a mom. I have three sons. Being a listing agent actually works so much better for me. I can control my schedule, my life a whole lot better than I can if I'm a buyer's agent.

Kim Hayden: A lot of people come in as a buyer's agent, the way you did, do you feel that that may have actually stopped you from becoming a listing agent as quickly, or do you feel that that was a benefit coming on as a buyer's agent?

What are your thoughts about your path?

Karen Cooper:  I was actually not a buyer's agent for very long. The team that I was on, you had to basically compete to have the ability to take the list. There were very few of us able to take the rainmakers listings.

I had only been there for a few months before I realized that was something I wanted to do. I  jumped the hurdles to get to do that. I don't regret the way I went about it. That path.  I only had a few months where I was really sort of the dedicated buyer's agent  and,  I needed that experience.

Definitely for me, because of the type of team that I was on, it was, I felt like it was easier for me as a listing specialist at times. When I started, it was 2002, I would go to one, five, six, seven, eight listing appointments a week. So it was really like, you can hone your skills, like no other.

While I stayed on that team for a really long time, and I made that Rainmaker a lot of money,  I also built a tremendous foundation, not only in terms of my skills, but just in terms of my business, because as a newer agent, I never would have had those opportunities if I'd been on my own.

Kim Hayden: I totally understand that I was fortunate because when I started real estate, I started in a new community.  I was new. We were all new. It was easy enough to kind of get up and running. Being involved doing the mom's group and, and the community craft fairs and the pumpkin giveaways and everything else you can imagine.

 I understand you had mentioned just a moment ago, burnout. I hit my seven year mark and I was burned out. I was tired. I think that most people don't realize that every listing appointment is a job interview. You go on one of those a day, two of those a day, three of those a day .

We were selling a house every third day. I get it. Tell me a little bit, what were some of the signs that, that you, in hindsight, and some of the things that you would tell your former self in order to circumvent that burnout.

Karen Cooper:  I remember I would sit at my desk sometimes in the afternoon if I wasn't out on appointments and I would fantasize about what it would be like to have a nine to five, you know, where I just show up and at a certain time. And then I leave at a certain time and then. And the paycheck,  I would actually fantasize about that kind of life.

That was sort of one of the signs for me that, something is kind of a miss. I hated it when the phone rang. You know, that's, our lifeline in sales is you want your phone to ring, you need your phone to ring, and of course back then we didn't have the messaging.

I don't even remember that we text messaged all that often. When my phone rang, I actually dreaded it because I just did not have the bandwidth to take on anything else. It was my own fault because I say that I'm a recovering control freak because I was,  hesitant to hire someone to help me.

I only had an assistant at one point part time because not that I was necessarily concerned about committing to paying someone full time, but because I didn't want to take the time or I didn't think I had the time to train someone. I can do it faster than I can. So I'm just going to do it, but really in hindsight, thinking about it, when you hire someone in the beginning, it is going to actually be a little harder because to do it right, you need to train them.

You need to take the time to make sure that they're gonna do the things. Because otherwise you're not going to utilize them. You're just going to burn out and that's what I did.

Kim Hayden: Yes. I, I totally totally agree with that. I was a mother of three kids, myself, raised them all in real estate. You know, it can be a lot, especially when you want to be part of their school activities and you want to be the girl guide leader and all these other things.

I understand that. Absolutely. What are some of the things? What would be the first thing? When we talk about, uh, the being a listing specialist and ensuring that you've got control of that market and then ways to offset burnout ,or feeling lost within the system.

If you had to pick three things that you would offload and how would you offload? 

Karen Cooper: The first thing that I usually tell people is the easiest is a runner. There are a lot of things that we do, in our job that does not have to be done by us that requires running from place to place.

You gotta go make a copy of the key, and then you gotta go put on the lock box and then you gotta put up the sign writer and then you got to drop off the brochures. And, you know, there's a lot of that kind of stuff, and that does not need to be done by me. Having a runner is, a great way to sort of ease your way into the, having help.

It doesn't necessarily feel as stressful, right? There's a low threshold for training. So that is probably one thing. The next thing that I would say is transaction management. Nowadays, you know, the transaction management companies are all the rage and you can play.

Pay a flat fee and somebody manages your transaction for you. And it's amazing. And we didn't have those services then.  I wish we had, and  I think that that's probably a no brainer because again, there's a lot of communication. There's a lot of staying on top of deadlines. There's a lot of, you know, order this order that, that, again, isn't necessarily my highest and best value.

For a third thing, I sort of struggle because I'm still a recovering control freak. So I don't know that I can give you a third, but those are the two primary ones.

Kim Hayden: What about social media? Social media seems to be the one that a lot of people struggle with.

It's about the always changing algorithms, the time to sit down. You know, they say schedule all your social media in a month. In one day. That's not really true. Right. You're doing good if you can sit down once a week and do it for the week. 

Karen Cooper:  I have hired people before to help me with social media and it didn't work for me because I felt like it didn't feel like it was my voice.

For me, I actually do a lot on social media, a high percentage of my business. One of my pillars of my business is social media and I needed it to feel authentic to me. We have an employee that does it for our team, but when it comes to my personal social media, the real, the social media for my personal real estate business, I still do all of that.

Kim Hayden: All of that. Where do you get your ideas for social media?

Karen Cooper: I get a lot of ideas from other agents. There's people that I love to follow. Like one who is just a real standout is Jason Cassidy. He is an agent with compass in California and he just has a really interesting, especially Instagram. Just a really interesting feed. I like the way that he presents his listing things. I like his stories.  I really liked to follow him. Not that I'm ever going to grab somebody's stuff and do it exactly that way, but I don't feel as guilty, maybe taking inspiration from someone else.

I also like to follow women who are business owners, but in different industries, because I think one of the things that we do in real estate, Do the same thing over and over again, that everybody has done for decades. We don't tend to go outside of our box very often, but actually a lot of the marketing techniques that other businesses, particularly I find like multilevel marketing type businesses do, some of those women, their social media feeds,  I really get a lot of great ideas . Having a women's group in real estate, having a coaching business as well, it gives me some content ideas that I can use.

So that's another, another place that works for me.

Kim Hayden : Amazing. When we look at the, the statistical fail rate, which is 87%, What are three things you would tell new agents that are a must do an investment, a way to be part of that 13%.

Karen Cooper: The number one thing is you have to put together a database.

I think that, especially when people are brand new, there is a misconception that your database in real estate is made up of people that you have done business with. You know, you and I are both Brian Buffini fans. It's the people in your database are not necessarily the people that you've done business with.

It's the people who will be a cheerleader for you. It's the people who will think of you and refer you to people that they know. It's more about new agents, they just don't prioritize putting together that database because they don't see it as leads.

The second thing is you can't be a secret agent and again, a lot of agents do this. I'm going to tell people one time that I'm in real estate and they're going to expect you're going to expect them to remember.

I quote a stat all the time. That is super old. That probably isn't even accurate anymore, but it really stuck with me. And I think it was from NAR and it was that people forget you're a realtor every 17 days. You have to be telling them again and again, and again. Unless they need you right that second, when you happen to post the one time, or you happen to say the one time that you're in real estate, they don't remember.

A few weeks later or a few months later when they actually need your services, you're not going to be the first one that we think about, even if they're your friends, they think of you as Kim, their friend, Kim, the leader of the girl scout troop, not Kim, the realtor, right?  You have to you, and that takes courage.

It takes courage to put yourself out there. It takes courage to talk about yourself. It takes courage to let people know because there's a high rejection rate in sales. I think that is one of the things. The third thing is, especially when you're brand new, You have to do anything anywhere.

You know, now I'm all about boundaries and I'm all about specializing, but in the beginning, I don't think you have that luxury in the beginning. You need to take every opportunity. Working with rentals, I would drive an hour and a half for a showing. I was at the office every single day. There is a massive upfront load of work cause you have to get the momentum going.

Then once you get the momentum going, you have to keep focused on your marketing to keep the momentum, because otherwise you're just starting and stopping over and over again. And that is no way to live.

Kim Hayden: Absolutely. And I totally get the do anything anywhere, anytime, I remember those days. 

Anywhere, any time, anything. 12 years later and you're transitioning into setting up a leadership basis and some coaching, even if at that point in time, it wasn't formalized with the fee. It still was building reputation and experience and content. So let's let's transition. This is one of the things I talked to a lot of women about is that once we hit that 10 year mark, we need to be ready to jump and jump into coaching because there's not enough women in real estate, in the leadership space.

Be it brokerage owner or makemake a team runner or the coaching sphere up over the six figures. There's a lot of people that are doing coaching, but they're only pulling in 40, 50,000 a year. We all know that you got to get to that six figures in order to truly be moving up. We see, Cardone's and the Robbins and they'll spend a quarter of a million dollars just on their Facebook ad campaign.

How are you going to compete? Walk me through your thought process when you started with on this journey of coaching and leadership and what are your thoughts around new agents or agents in general? Should they be in a type of coaching? How often should you be shifting or switching your coaching up?

When we take a look at your personal revenue, how much of that should we be reinvesting into leadership and coaching? 

Karen Cooper: I'm so glad that you're bringing this up because I think it's really, really important .

Then I'll tell you sort of my journey with that. As a new agent, yes, you do need coaching. I had coaching from the very beginning and I had coaching from my team leader, my team leader, payed for a coach for me, a coach that she was using. She also paid for that person to coach me. Then even times when I wasn't paying for a coach. You can have a coach and you can have a mentor and it can be somebody that you don't even know.

It can be somebody that you don't even pay because there's wonderful resources like you. There's podcasts. I mean there's so many resources out there that if you don't have the funds right that minute, that should not be the reason not to invest your time, right. There's an investment of time into yourself, improving yourself, moving your business.

I am all about that and we have to be able to do that. We invest about 10%. of our revenue goes into that. That just kind of feels like a comfortable number. In terms of changing coaches,  I have changed like who I have sort of followed or who, you know, in the beginning when I was being coached by someone that has changed, but I don't think that there's necessarily a rule about that.

I think it's based on what you need at the moment and kind of who cause you're going to grow and evolve. So maybe that coach can grow and evolve with you or maybe not.  For me, I started out in this space seven years ago, I was a managing broker and I was horribly lonely.

That is one of the things that I find that a lot of women suffer from in our, in our industries. We feel isolated because we're around people all day long. We work with people all day long, but they don't understand, you know, our family, our spouses, they have no clue. We do every day, my mom would call me and say, so did you sell that house today?

I'd be like, mom, that's not really how it works, you know? And so they don't understand. As a managing broker, it was like, 10 times worse because nobody wanted to talk to me because either my agents were calling me because they had a problem or if I was calling them, they thought they were in trouble.

Part of my job was recruiting. Other agents didn't want to talk to me because they didn't want me to try to recruit them. It was a very awkward thing. I got this idea one morning in the shower to build a community of women.

I cannot be the only person who feels this way. There has to be other women in the industry that are feeling this need to connect with other people. And so I got this idea. I immediately bought a web web address. I immediately like did all these things and I created the group empowering women in real estate.

It was a good five years before anything was ever monetized. I was several years in before the thought of even monetizing anything ever came about it. It was really just my therapy. I mean, I'll be honest, like within a year of starting the group some really difficult things had happened.

My mom died. I started building this team,  went through a lot of things and I wrote. I blogged posts in this group every day, six days a week. Four years. And a lot of times it was about business. A lot of times it was about personal and there was often a crossover because of the things that we deal with affect both areas of our lives.

So that's really how the group started. We grew into this wonderful community of women and we've had, you know, in-person meetups back when we used to do that and do all of these things. I would have people who would come to me and say "Will you coach me, will you be my mentor?"

So ultimately it turned into a podcast and it turned in, which is my favorite thing in the world. I enjoy so much. And then it became my coaching program and I basically took my superpower is packaging things, systemizing things. So I took this program and I packaged it and turned it into a monthly membership program.

 I teach that to other women in real estate. Some are brand new, some have been around for 20 years, and it seems to work

Kim Hayden:  I  interviewed a gal who won the gold medal medal in Rio for wrestling. And she said, no matter how good you are, there's something you can learn from it somewhat from a coach.

If you go back and you look at the Rio Olympics, you'll see the Canadian gold medalist that won the wrestling and she put her coach up on her shoulders and ran around. Her coach was tiny, but this was the coach that led her to the gold medal. I think it's really important.

Quit trying to know everything. It's okay.

Karen Cooper: You won't. I remember there was a period of time in my career where I kind of had that attitude myself, where I was like, Oh, you know, I've sold this many and I've done.

I don't need to learn anything else. I don't have time to learn anything else. But the thing that I have learned now, 19 years in is the longer you're in business, and the more successful you are, the more you actually need to learn. And the more coaching you actually need too, because like you said, you can't know everything.

Tom Ferris has this. He calls them fading winners. I think we've all probably seen them in our local market. I certainly have where you have the agent who's like, the number one and they're super successful and they do all this business, but they keep doing things the same way.

They've always done forever. There's certainly something to be said for doing what works, but you can't have your focus so narrow that you're not also looking to innovate and you're not trying new things.You and I have both been around for a long time in. The way we do business is very similar.

You still have to know the contract. You still have to understand how to negotiate. You still have to know how to provide a high level of customer service, but what's changed is the way that we market to people and the way we market our listings that has changed dramatically in the last,  five, 10 years.

So if you aren't staying on top of those things, then eventually you will plateau and you will start to go down. If you're not paying attention,

Kim Hayden: I find that social media and the, the CRM evolution and the AI evolution,  has not negated the traditional means of integrating within your community, but almost.

It's expanded the way you greet people, but it's almost a twofold work space. You're still having to do that physical presence. You still need to be physically present because if you're going to farm an area, if you're going to be a listing agent that farms an area, some people are really good at.

Starting from the buyer's side and then turning all those buyers in and building a business that way. If you want to accelerate that and you want to be in the listing side as quickly as possible, it takes an act of farming. That seems to increase the workload because we're now having to use two different types of platforms.

Karen Cooper: Honestly for me it feels more natural and comfortable. I do geographic farming.  I actually farmed my entire zip code. It's where I live. It's  where I grew up. I average about 25 to 30% of all the business that happens in this area as a result of my geographic farming.

If they compliment each other, I tell people all the time, don't do farming. If all you plan to do is send like three, four, five postcards a month, because not only is it super expensive, but it's super boring and who really wants to once that, right? You need the multi-pronged approach where yes, you're doing postcards, but you're also visible on social media.

You're also visible in the community, whether it's sponsoring events or just being out there, living your life in the community, supporting local businesses. To me. Yes, you're doing more, but it doesn't feel harder. It feels like a natural integration. Maybe that's because I love where I live.

I'm obviously very passionate about my community if you just picked. This is why I tell people, Don't pick a neighborhood to farm because it's got the best turnover rate and you think you can, right? Because then you're not going to have that connection. And it will feel like really hard work.

But if you are farming in an area where you live in the area where you love and the area where you're already active in the community is so much.

Kim Hayden: Absolutely. Absolutely. Who do you listen to on podcast? Where do you go to fill your head?

Karen Cooper: So I love the empire building podcast. I'm actually one of the hosts of that podcast is, The top Keller Williams team leader in our area.

That's a great one.  I love the Ed Millette show. He has wonderful guests on his podcast. He just interviewed Jamie Kern, Lena Lima this week, who was the founder of cosmetics and, you know, she sold her business for like a billion dollars. It was amazing story.  I listened to books on audible every day while I am getting ready for my work day.

Right now I'm listening to the 10 X rule with Grant Cardone. It's about my third, listen through that book.  I tend to find ones that I like. That are really helpful. Another book that has been really impactful to me is called the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It's all about habits, and systems, love that book.

Kim Hayden:  So amazing. If you were to give yourself advice, when you first started out, what would that advice be?

Karen Cooper: I did get some advice when I first started that I have repeated over literally over and over again. That advice was to treat everything as an appointment.

Everything is an appointment and especially as I became a mom, You know, all my kids were born while I've been in real estate, That became even more critical. So it's okay to say, I know,  I'm sorry.   I can't meet this evening. I have an appointment. The appointment is your kid's baseball game.

That stuff was always really important to me. Another tidbit of advice that I've used again and again and again, is when it comes to be scheduling your time. I hear agents all the time, especially, they're so excited, somebody calls and they want to see a house or they want to talk to about listing the house.

They can, yes. I'd love to. When do you go or when would you like to meet some mistake that you can make. Because even if you have nothing else going on in your life, they're going to pick the one time that you have something that's happening. Number two, you're kind of setting that expectation that they can call you and you will do anything at the drop of the hat, right.

That you've got nothing, you know, any other professional has a schedule. So I really, for my entire career, when somebody wants to me today at four or tomorrow at 10 or whatever, you give two options, 99% of the time, they're going to pick one of your options, right? Then you can control your schedule.

Kim Hayden: I was trained at a very early age on open, close, open questions, closed questions.

Closing is like, if you don't excel at closing,  which is better for you, the somebody else controls you. Yes. It's really important. You have covered so much ground. Like I can absolutely see why you are moving into the coaching space and the leadership space.

We need more women to take strong and there's room for all of them. There's room for Lee Brown. She's hilarious. There's room for all of us, because when I look at the top 30 coaches for real estate in North America, out of the top 30, only six are women. So there's room. 

If you had to put a quote for yourself every morning on your bathroom mirror, what would that be? 

Karen Cooper: Let your faith be bigger than your fear because you know, I think we're all, at least I can be really driven by my fears and I can really quickly talk myself out of things usually because I'm afraid of it.

So I have to go forward, even if it's with blind faith and, uh, that will take us further.

Kim Hayden: Absolutely. Well, Karen share with us everywhere that we can find you learn from you and listen to you.

Karen Cooper: Where I would love to connect is to have you join my community on Facebook, which is Empowering Women in Real Estate.

We also have a website of the same name. My podcast is of the same name, my favorite place, social media wise to kind of play around and connect with people is Instagram. And my profile there is Karen.w.cooper. And if you have a client who is moving to the Washington DC Metro area in Virginia, My team is the Platinum Group real estate team.

Kim Hayden: Amazing. I hope everybody caught that. I'm never too busy see for your referrals. As you said, don't be a secret agent. Put it out there, always open, open for business, but definitely guard your time and your worth.

Karen, thank you so much for your time today. We all know in the words of Brene Brown, God, I love that woman. That time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. When you share it with someone else, it is such a treasure and a treat. So thank you, Karen.

And thank you for taking time joining us on our journey of helping to level out the playing field, helping to celebrate the women who are willing to step out of their own way and onto their path of being an agent of change. So until next time, check us [email protected] or Hey. Stop on over and check out Karen, talk to you soon.

Bye for now.

Thank you for joining us today until next time. Be an agent of change.

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