steven koleno

300 Real Estate Sales In His Second Year • Steven Koleno

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The fact that Steven Koleno has closed over 300 sales transactions this year (his second year doing sales) as a real estate agent is astonishing, however, it’s not surprising. In 2016, Steven closed over 1200 MLS rental transactions. He wanted to perfect that model before moving on to sales. Steven is currently the #13 highest producing agent in Illinois (out of over 60k brokers). In this episode Steve shares how he builds systems to become more efficient, effective, and how you can do the same!

Steven Koleno can be reached at 630-796-6500 and skoleno@worthclark.com.

The Koleno Group


D.J. Paris 0:00
This episode of Keeping it real is brought to you by Quicken Loans real estate professionals. When you work with Quicken Loans, you have an agent relationship manager available to you and your team. These dedicated experts are part of the agent relations team. They serve as your single point of coordination, so you can count on them to keep you in the loop throughout your client’s entire home buying process, call 888-980-2891 or go to real estate dot Quicken loans.com. Today, call for cost information and conditions equal housing lender licensed in all 50 states NMLS consumer access.org Number 3030. And now onto the show.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real the largest podcast in the country made for real estate agents, by real estate agents. My name is DJ Paris, I am your host and guide through the show. And we’re in December and it’s starting to get cold here in Chicago. Hopefully it’s a little warmer, wherever you are, as so thank you for continuing to listen and support our show. We have actually doubled our numbers from the since this time last year, I just looked them up, which is really exciting and cool. And we have sponsors and so we appreciate everyone who continues to listen. And if you want to continue to support our show, tell a friend if you know any other realtors out there that could benefit from listening to secrets of top producers like Steve, which you’re about to hear in just a moment. Please pass this podcast over. Anyone can find us on any podcast app, just search for keeping it real podcast. If you’re an iTunes person where their Google Play Stitcher, really anywhere podcasts are served. And also you can stream every episode. For those of you that aren’t really into podcasts, you can stream every episode right from our website, keeping it real pod.com. And lastly, join our Facebook group which is facebook.com forward slash keeping it real pod or just search for keeping URL podcast. And the reason for that is number one we post. We post every time we have a new episode. And you can obviously get you know notified when we have new episodes there. But also every single day our producer Liz comes out and posts an article that she finds online specific to helping you grow your business. We do that every single day. So guys go to facebook.com forward slash keeping it real pod and like our page so you can get those notifications. All right. I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday season. We’re going to crank out a few more of these episodes before the end of the year. But right now on to our great interview with the great Steve Kalina.

Today on the show, we have Steve Kalina. Over the past few years deep cleaning has quietly built a successful track record representing investors in their real estate transactions. Steve began his real estate career in 2006 as a real estate investor himself and spent the next 10 years specialising in the single family rental industry, from building his own leasing company of 60 rentals to later becoming responsible for the overall operational performance of 820 million in assets and 4900 single family homes as vice president for the largest publicly traded SFR REIT in 2016. His leasing career hit its peak when his team closed 12 153 MLS rental transactions, I want to say that again. In 2016, he closed 12 153 MLS rental transactions. He has been recognized by car as a top 1% producer for both rentals and sales. Steve transitioned to sales only two years ago in 2017. And this year, he and his team are on track to close 300 sales transactions. This is only his second year in sales full year in sales. We are so honored to have you on the podcast. Steve, welcome to the show.

Steven Koleno 4:14
No thanks for having me. Great introduction. Thank you.

D.J. Paris 4:17
Thank you know, we were really excited. And it this is one of those things where earlier just before Steve and I hit record, Steve says I do things a little differently. I’m not sure the audience’s I said no, this is exactly the kind of thing the audience wants to hear. So we’re so we’re so honored to have you. By the way before we get started every effort to follow Steve and all of his different efforts, go to visit him at connect with steve.com and there’s links to all the social profiles there as well. So Steve, tell us a little bit about about your journey and how you got into real estate.

Steven Koleno 4:48
Yeah, you got it. Yeah, I know the some of the numbers are a lot different than most people and you know, you only know what you know. So I’ll give you my background and I think some of it will help make a little more sense but I mean, started basically back in 2005 2006. So I was I’m an engineer by trade. So even though I’m an I consider myself an older man going to be 50 Soon around the corner, I have always bet had that technology, you know, side to me. So I was an engineer, I worked in a health care company as an engineer for about 12 years for a large healthcare company. And then in 2005, and six actually got a back in 2005, and six, we came across a i, it sounds weird, but there used to be something called Carlton sheets.

D.J. Paris 5:35
And we know who that is, by the way, for the listeners who aren’t familiar Carlton sheets is a real estate investor, really a trainer, probably more than anything. And if you’re somebody who’s in the investor space, you’ve you’re familiar, probably at least with his name, and maybe some of his courses.

Steven Koleno 5:51
Yeah, it sounds funny, because it’s, it’s almost embarrassing, right? It’s like he was a late night infomercial. And one night sitting there. As a younger guy, I came across it. I remember reading through it going, man, this just makes sense to me. It really does. And I talked to one of my buddies, a good high school friend, and he’s like, Hey, our other high school buddy, who I lost touch with, was doing it in Arizona. So long story short, 2006, five, started thinking about my license 2006, we bought 23 single family homes. So it actually started where we started buying rental property. I wasn’t planning on being a real estate agent, I was just going to see if I can buy a couple of rental properties with a high school buddy, I would do the legwork. He lived in Arizona, he would bring the finances because he made some money down in the you know, in Arizona when the market was peaking back into 2000, you know, 234. So we went ahead and started doing that. And by the fourth house, I soon learned even though I was still an engineer that I could make some real estate Commission’s if I just went out and got my license, so never really worked with the public at all. I never went never became a real estate agent for that. I just did it to help us buy homes. So 2006 We bought 23 homes by my 27th house rental that we bought, we brought in a couple other like high school friends more so investors, friends and family investing. And by my 27th rental, we bought single family rental, I quit my full time job in 2007. And long story short by 2009. We own 65 single family homes, which sounds great, but we all know what happened in 2009. So I went through some pretty tough times between 2009 and 2012. And although we had a very successful business, at that time, I got to be an entrepreneur, self employed. It all came to an end kind of in 2012 timeframe, where we just finally couldn’t do it quick. And it wasn’t that it’s the the unique situation with that is it’s not that we necessarily failed. It was the bank started failing. We had actually made at that time 3100 mortgage payments on time and had never been delinquent. And then the bank started calling our notes due and that just it was kind of crazy to think about it. But ultimately, yes, yeah, we would have come because as we started buying more houses and you start getting in 4050 units, you can’t put them on your credit anymore. We did some mistakes. Of course, early on, I wasn’t an investor, right. So you made all the wrong mistakes, putting it on your own credit, sooner or later, you couldn’t do that. So we went to commercial local banks with commercial, you know, credit unions, local banks, and those are all commercial loans. They’re not 30 year loans that are locked in. So they’ve got different rules. And we got caught up in some of that. And long story short by about 2012. We were exiting that after we fought hard to try to keep it keep it around but and then ended up going into I knew I could go back and be an engineer probably make more money. But I still had this passion for real estate. It changed my whole life. I mean, when we were you know, an investor recruited a rehab company and did all this stuff and rehabbed every house from 27 to I have bought with partners, of course, we bought like 73 single family homes in our life. So I don’t do that anymore. I’m completely out of that. But back into 2013 14 timeframe. As we’re starting to try to figure this out. We went ahead and landed a job with a large private equity company out of New York who is going to come out and buy 2000 single family homes. So now we’re on the other side of the downturn, there’s a lot of there’s some good pricing and now some big kind of private equity companies or Wall Street companies are starting to come in and possibly buy some of these right. We got in there to help open up the market and buy the 280 property they bought and we leased and did all that and that was my first you know, kind of leasing within the corporate environment. I’m they decided to pull out

and stop buying houses rather. So sooner than later here, I worked my way over to another company, which was at that time the largest publicly traded company in the world that did this. And they owned I think when I started there, they own 27,000 single family homes. They were, you know, be at publicly traded, and within a year there because I’m, I’m kind of a workhorse and extremely passionate and hard worker. I became vice president there and ended up running a team of 46 people. And we manage 4900 homes in three states with my biggest market being the Indianapolis market. One month, we actually leased 252 houses just in the one month and in the Indiana, it’s a big number, and I wasn’t the broker, I wasn’t the they weren’t my MLS transactions at that time. But sooner than later worked my way over to one more institutional company, where I was the leasing manager over multiple states. And some of those big, big numbers you mentioned at the beginning, were working for one of these large companies where I ran a team of eight agents, I had six assistants, I did all the MLS activity, negotiated all the pricing, did all the pricing and had a team of eight agents who would take anywhere from five to 800 rental leads a week and show them Yeah, so I but I was an employee, right. As I tell people, the numbers sound great. It helped my branding and everything. But I was still an employee, you know, barely making over 100 grand a year. And it’s just you got to learn these fantastic systems. So yeah, absolutely. Yep. So in 2007, so it’s kind of weird. So because as I was going through all that certain people, ex, you know, old managing brokers, if I had my license in between while I was an investor would always tell me, you should just become a real estate, a real estate agent, like you could be they saw it, and I didn’t, because I never worked with the public, they’re like, You should become a real estate agent, you can be a mega agent, your skill set your drive your passion, there’s people who don’t have that, who make lots of money. In real estate, you have that and it just took me long. It’s funny, it’s to help, it’s basically comes down to the health benefits, like for for ever with kids. And I had a new kid on the way like I just My daughter just turned seven. But back then she was younger, I just couldn’t make that because you you know, to start in real estate where you have no, even though I have been licensed since 2005. I never worked with the public. So I don’t have a database of past clients. I don’t have anything. So it’s still scary to get started that way. But I did have this amazing corporate experience with systems and processes and business planning and goal setting. And that part I had so 2017, I had the opportunity to where I’m at now I’m with a company called worth Clark Realty, it’s 100% Commission model. And they had a unique opportunity where they were going to they’re one of the top brokers in St. Louis, and actually in the country now, but they were coming to Chicago. And I became managing broker at that time of worth Clark Realty. And it gave me the opportunity to give me a little bit of a salary and go out and do all the sales I could do. And gave me some health benefits. It was a unique situation, and it was all I needed to kind of get started. So in 2017, we did that for only about eight months was a managing broker. And then my sales career really took off so so really starting in the second part of 2017, we closed 16 deals that was it right? I was struggling to get started. At the end of 2017 we It sounds goofy. A lot of my story sounds goofy, but we bought that mat with that Matterport camera. One day I was. Yep, one day I was coming home and I and WGN we had one of the top agents who’s usually on TV. And I saw that ad and I thought if I want to be one of the top listing agents, I have to you have to compete with all these other agents and offer this so we actually bought the camera my wife now does that. Basically full time does all our Matterport you know, obviously the floor plans and laser measures your walls, it’s just it gave me the confidence, I think because I didn’t have confidence going into the sales side as much as I did rentals. So because I hadn’t done it right. So but we got through our first 16 transactions kind of with the general public in 2017. And then it kind of all took off in 2018. We ended up closing 124 deals different you know, I think car had me at 118 or something a little different because some of those were co listed.

But yeah, and then this year we are we are on fire so we were We were just closed our 260 at the the year, we had in extremely good may where we close 45 deals. So we close yeah, it’s it’s not Steven think about I think before that month we had never closed like, we were 18 and 22 was just pushing the envelope. But uh, back about a year ago when I started going from 50 to 60. I kinda I was kind of, even though my wife was doing my marketing, I was doing all my own paperwork, had noticed no assistance. I did every listing agreement every back agent transaction. And then I hired one of the best things I ever did was hire professional coach. Back in the middle of last year 2018. About August, we had closed about 50 deals, I had about 6065 listings. And I just needed to do something to try to help and that’s all it took. I mean, a coach saw you in there like you’re doing, you know, even though you got business going there like you you’re not, you’re doing it all on your own, this is going to be easy to easy to fix. Yeah. So now I have three full time admins, a part time MLS assistant, my wife does all my marketing full time. Now it’s a lot different. But I don’t run a team we’re in we decided to stay individual agent, and pretty much just focused on the listing side where we just implement processes and systems for everything. And I work pretty much with not all but a lot of investors. Right. So I worked with some really large investors from my background.

D.J. Paris 16:29
Got it? So are you predominantly looking for opportunities and then presenting to investors? Is that a good chunk of your time?

Steven Koleno 16:37
Yes, yeah. So I we don’t do as much like you know, battling it, I don’t have a lead problems. And I don’t have some of the same problems maybe an agent does, because because of where my background is, and where I decided to focus. When I started doing this in 2017, because we came off those pretty large numbers from doing rentals. My goal was really to be one of the top agents in the country, you know, in five years or so I didn’t know what the goal was, but I was putting it out there. And I actually study I’m uh, I am honestly that huge. Like business strategist, visionary with the stuff like I am trying to do, every moment of my day is trained to be different than everyone else. And I studied it in you know, like, at that time, the top agent in the world and in the Guinness Book of World Records had close 5800 Like, if you look he closed 5800 MLS deals, one guy 73 years old with three assistants. And we don’t, right, we can’t get that we don’t know. But when you research it or listen to him, he basically created a technology that list a property for 65 He works with 65 different builders in Texas, and within 12 minutes the home hits the MLS, so he’s not going on listing appointments. He’s not right, he builds a relationship creates a system and a process. And then don’t that meets their need. Right? Not how we see through traditional real estate, but meets that need of those builders. So it’s I went out with that mindset going, how long is it going to take? It sounds weird? I know, how long is that? But I hear 300. And I’m it’s I’m just you honestly are trying, you’re just getting started? And it’s not I’m not saying that to be cocky. But my mindset is going how does this guy do 5800 And I can only do 300 It’s just all irrelevant. It’s all irrelevant. So my goal is always trying to figure out how to increase it more now. i It’s different, right? Like when you’re doing a business, because I study it a lot. There’s two different ways there’s emotional, and there’s transactional, right? So a lot of agents work the emotional their work in their sphere. I have never worked my sphere. I’ve never sent an email to a family member. I just, it’s uncomfortable for me. And, and I can’t I don’t have 1500 friends. So like when you start thinking that mindset, it was it was too small. And I didn’t want to do that. So I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. It’s just my mindset coming off of the background I had was just thinking bigger. So we kind of went out and started backwards. I said, Hey, I’ve got this track record of knowing systems. Let me go out and work the biggest clients in the world and start there and work my way down. And that is exactly what I did. I am a like a, I am crazy on LinkedIn like I I reached out to see I have no fear when it comes to reaching out to CEOs of big companies, private equity companies, because I used to be in there right? So that that confidence has given you me an edge to kind of work backwards instead of working from the one transactions here. Let’s work with the ones who own the most property and work our way backwards. You know, I haven’t gotten into builders yet. That’s one of my biggest things for next year. I want to start working that because I think my background would fit good. Just took my first couple REO listings. I’ve been working really hard trying to work with some REO broker or you know, banks and stuff and I finally got in sold my first REO a couple months ago just took my second listing with an REO. So obviously with the volume in the systems that probably fits more my mindset, but some people, but I can go the other way too, right? I’m a people person I’m excellent with for sale by owners and, and all of that too, because I can offer a different perspective than the average agent. So from more options for more, it’s just it’s a different approach. I think. Part of it being where I’m at, like the brokerage I’m at, you know, it sounds crazy, but like the brokerage, I’m at my cap is $8,000 a year. I kept February 11. And my broker has my Yeah, my broker has not made one more dollar off of me since February 11,

D.J. Paris 20:42
your broker is going to do?

Steven Koleno 20:45
So but yeah, so it is unique, but I did that on purpose, right? Like I put myself where my costs are low? Because I yeah, I know, I didn’t need the help of a big brand realtor just based on my experience, I knew I was going to probably do okay, when I entered. But yeah, I just kind of set myself up that way in look for those opportunities to offer my clients more value, easier technology, not technology, but easier processes, right, because I’m looking for the repeat business from people who have lots of potential business.

D.J. Paris 21:17
And you’re also looking in sort of the non emotional space, right? You just want to be able to provide opportunities to your clients. And the numbers either make sense, or they don’t versus Okay, now I’m going to have to convince so and so to list their home at a certain amount, when maybe they have an emotional attachment, or I have to convince them that I’m the better broker versus the Baird and Warner at properties XYZ broker. So it’s totally a different space. You’re,

Steven Koleno 21:45
it’s it’s a totally Yeah, it’s a totally different space. But I think the funny thing is, as I’ve talked to more people or more people find out about our story and want to know why they think you’re not emotional. And that’s the difference. Like I can compete with any agent at a listing presentation. Because you’d have those people skills, and I have the confidence to believe we are a better option than most. So I’m very competitive is the biggest thing. And I’ve been like that my whole life. But I think it’s because we’re so competitive. We try to I and and because I’m not under the traditional borders of a big brokerage say, I think that oh, freedom, they whatever. What is the concern holding you up? I don’t want a long term. You know, I don’t want a long term listing Well, we offer a happiness guarantee that allows you to cancel anytime you want. And we do we have that, right. So we offer all of that we’re in 2019, we’re offering a communication guarantee, if they don’t think we communicate with them enough, they can cancel anytime. All these different things you can do to try to find out with the clients, I think the best thing we do is we I learn in study what consumers pain points are. And I try to solve their pain point where in I like I mentioned, I’m professionally coached, but I even bump against my coaches because they still teach door knocking in a lot of traditional things that I get for a new agent starting out is extremely important. I understand that, but I don’t fit that mold anymore, either. And I do bump heads, trying to figure out you know, different strategies, but I guess I’m always just trying to separate myself. I’m trying to make the competition irrelevant, which is a book that came from but then I am trying to compete in the space of one point. I think we just went over 1.4 million Realtors this week or submit national or you know, the association. So

D.J. Paris 23:47
sure, well, it’s it’s great to because and I love talking to people like you. And number one because you’re unique and have this really interesting story. But this idea of systems in pain point you just mentioned something very important that you said I am always looking to identify and solve the pain points for my clients. And so this is always funny because I go to a lot of events with Zillow. And so they come to town and sometimes I get invited and that’s very nice. And I think that was the coolest thing ever. And I’m not a producing broker. So I don’t you know, I have a different perspective. I’m a marketing guy. But I said Zillow is brilliant because they identified a significant pain point, you know, 15 years ago and delivered it better than anyone else can and broker some brokers dislike Zillow, other brokers recognize that if this now frees up their time, that Zillow can do some of the work for them. Whether whether it’s accurate is another question. But you know, it’s Zillow created an amazing consumer experience to solve a pain point, Steve, I imagine you’re constantly looking for like, How can I create systems that will do similar things?

Steven Koleno 24:48
Well, yeah, that’s that’s an understatement. Like, as I’m talking to you, I have a huge board with it. I’ve kind of a mad scientist with this stuff. So but yeah, I don’t look at any of those companies as disruptors. I don’t look at an open Door who’s not in Chicago yet but, you know, going through putting offers as a district disrupter, I just don’t see it that way like they pay. You can go on their website right now they pay agents to bring them business, Zillow, Zillow still, you know, I know some some of the articles, you know, people are that they’re becoming a while right now they still work with agents. Redfin works with agents, all these comp not every one of them. But all these companies still mostly have agents at the center. So I don’t look at it as a threat when if a new open door comes out, or the next eye buyer that’s being announced every day, it’s just one more potential partner you can partner with. It really is. And that’s how we got started like those first six 816. deals in 2017, I didn’t have a sphere, I don’t door knock, I don’t do all that stuff, I had to figure out how to get business, I reached out to some of those players. And the one over the one I spent close 17 deals with. So and I would pay them a referral fee, I didn’t have to pay upfront for it. And now I joined I still join a lot of those. I’m like, if I mean home lights, a big one, I’m a big home light fan. And as you as your rankings go higher, and as your you know, you elevate as an agent, it’s easier to get those referrals from those companies, I can tell you that firsthand, because I can see the volume picking up as your numbers kind of go towards the top in an area. But yeah, I’m not afraid to partner with all of those people. We I just don’t see it as disrupting it. I just see it as another product. Good example. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to be mentioning individual names. But yeah, a company like compass, right? Always in the news. They have this new concept your program, right? Well, I don’t offer that I don’t have the money for that. But I can now partner with a compass agent, if it get a referral fee. So I think the part that we see a different and like if you saw my office, what I have on there is I’m trying to not be a salesman and trying to be like a trusted adviser, even if I’m not the best option. And that’s I think, where I see some of real estate going five years from now, it’s the same way travel agencies and stockbrokers. They’re still stockbrokers around, but you know, the trades of the world took away a lot of the business, but they’re still there, and the ones who have the elite skill, and that elite division will still be around, but you know, but some of the agents who can’t get up to scale quick enough, who can’t get that skill set, that could be a struggle over the next five years, you know, three to five years, probably sooner than that. But

D.J. Paris 27:44
yeah, and you know, to talk directly to the audience here, you know, Steve is creating these, these partnerships, where everybody benefits, so maybe Steve gets this crazy, big commercial lead, and maybe he’s not equipped to actually process it, because it’s outside of the scope of the resources he has. So he then, you know, contact someone like Marcus and Millichap or Cushman Wakefield, or one of these big, true crazy commercial people and says, I would like a referral fee. And, you know, all of our listeners can start creating those partnerships. And it’s, it’s huge.

Steven Koleno 28:17
It is, it’s and actually, that’s exactly how I pretty much that’s my one of my main goals moving forward is exactly that kind of be in center of that whole, the real estate universe there as a trusted adviser. And if I can’t do it, now, my backgrounds, you know, I’ve managed a lot of property, I’ve rented a lot of property, we’re now selling a lot of, I can help a lot of people, you know, but there’s think, you know, I am not a luxury agent, you know, like, if I get a list, somebody finds me, and it’s a 1.6 million, I may try, right, just to get into it, or I may just pass it to somebody else and make a pretty good referral fee on something. So I’m not afraid to do that

D.J. Paris 28:54
and do very do very little work for that 30%, or whatever the referral,

Steven Koleno 28:58
that’s exactly it, because sooner or later, as your volume gets up, and I still want to push my numbers, you can’t do everything. So you have to find those partners, but they’re critical. I mean, some of my top, you know, top, my top investor entity I work with, you know, I’ve closed 70 deals with, you know, I have other ones that close 12 I just we have a flipper out in the western suburbs, they’re probably eight or nine in the last 18 months or so. But it’s just those relationships that once you earn them, I don’t have to go do a listing presentation. Again, I do it once. And then my my focus is honestly, making sure my processes are seamless that I’m creating less hassle. We just had an investor who implemented a couple of weeks ago, we have to now start walking every prep. So I have to come up with a team of people who is going to drive each property every two weeks and and present it on a certain report. So we just as that happens, we just implement a process for it. We have process from you know, we’ve taken over 700 offers this year. I have a system anyone who’s put an offer on one of our properties, we have a offer platform we use a company called transact Li and we just it’s we just use it and they can submit their offers automatic complete transparency, my clients, the sellers, Dubai, everyone gets it within seconds of it being submitted. So we, but we did that on purpose, right? We’re trying to create more transparency, going actually going back to the pain points when you studied it, or ask or study or review, what people’s pain points are, people’s pain points are, they think real estate agents make too much money a lot. That’s what they say. They don’t know what we’re doing to earn the money. So you have to show them what you’re doing to earn the money. And they, and a lot of them, one of the biggest complaints people get if you, you could Google this, this is all over. They believe agents don’t communicate enough once they get the listing. So you have to just solve their pain points with that right or wrong, right? We could argue if it’s right or wrong, but if you look at the research, that’s what it’s saying. Yeah, I’ve

D.J. Paris 31:01
interviewed a lot of top 1% producers like yourself. And Steve is not only just the top 1% producer, he’s in the very top 1% of 1%. And what’s amazing is, sometimes when we ask well, what’s the differentiator? Now Steve obviously has a lot of differentiators with systems and process. But for more traditional realtors, oftentimes differentiators is communication. The main challenge that means challenge that as you know, it’s in this is whether somebody is a financial advisor, maybe an accountant, realtor, mortgage lender, insurance agent, that the clients all they want are the rather the number one thing they want, or the number one reason they fire a professional is due to lack of communication. And that’s just study after study after study. So oftentimes when I’m interviewing people like Steve, and more traditional realtors who play in in, you know, with that same level of volume, they say communications, everything, they they’re like, Oh, I call every client every week. And that’s their process. And that sometimes is their main differentiator between all the other brokers

Steven Koleno 32:04
that they actually that’s that’s probably the number one tip for a new agent, like you just said, because when you do study the pain points, the number one of the number one pain points is that communication. And if you could just implement a communication guarantee something in there that basically says I’m gonna call you every Tuesday at 1030. They may say no, they may say no to it, but you offer it, because now they know you’re a professional who’s going to handle this right? And, you know, and put, you know, put it down, hey, if if I don’t you have a reason to fire me, you know, this is it, but I’m going to do this, it’ll keep you on track hold you accountable to that. And it’s a great way to try to sell because agents still don’t do that. It’s a good way for a new agent to do it. It is absolutely amazing. Yep.

D.J. Paris 32:49
Well, and Steve and I full disclosure, we both work for firms that have similar commission structures. And, and so Steve, as your firm continues to grow, like like ours does. What’s amazing is is we have to have systems to so where we you probably see the same way as in some ways, you know, you’re broke, or at least from our perspective, since I’m in management, our brokers, our clients. And so we think, along the same way, as a broker would think to how often should I communicate with other clients? Well, we have 650 brokers at this point, which is way too many people, too, we never we’ve, we only see 1% of them, really. So we have to think, okay, and we have a system in place where each one of them is getting called every month until they like you said until they tell us okay, you don’t have to keep calling, but we just call them and literally what we say is, do we were just thinking about you, which is true. Are you okay? Are you happy? Are you getting what you need? By the way, here’s a couple of things you might not know about. And we’ll call you in a month. And it sounds simple and silly. But it really helps with retention. And for all the brokers listening, you’d need to, and I would do it far off more often than once a month. But, you know, have a communication strategy and policy that, you know, if we know that that’s the number one pain point, and it likely is?

Steven Koleno 34:01
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. Yeah, it’s still in. And I think that’s what’s going to happen more in the future. You know, people who are tech savvy and get it, you know, business will increase you’ll figure it out. But it’s still a people business, you still have to build it right. Like I found a way it’s not I didn’t create it, but I found a way where I don’t have to communicate as much because once you build that relationship, they just want performance. Right? And, and I love that that’s what I’m a competitor, like I said, so I want to be based on performance, I want you to compete me with other agents to do that. But it’s a different it’s a different struggle, right? Because it’s I’m trying to create processes and then somebody breaks my process and then it’s an assembly line and then you gotta fix that process and, and implement a new one, instead of trying to battle you know, where the next leads coming from. So I’m definitely in a good spot. But communication is huge. So

D.J. Paris 34:51
let’s, let’s talk if you don’t mind and I know again, you’re not as traditional of a broker as a lot of our listeners, but you But you do that too? I do. Yeah. And you do it quite well, of course, do you have any suggestions of a few changes that or maybe a different process or a structure that maybe some of our listeners haven’t yet considered? That are pretty easy? Or really, you know, easy to implement?

Steven Koleno 35:19
Yeah. Well, I’m I’m an open book. So, you know, everything I say may not hit people the right way. But we’re an open book with that. I hopefully this answers the question in the right way. And, and I hope it doesn’t come across wrong. I think people, I think agents need to spend more time improving their product, and their service. Everybody says they’re the best agent, everybody says, it’s just, it’s unbelievable. So everybody says that. But yet, as technology gets more, it’s harder to prove that. So I think like, our trick was when we implemented that Matterport, I’m telling you like, because you know, now we can do on a regular client, my investor clients demand different things. But on a regular client, you know, we do drone footage, professional photos, drones, we do the Matterport, we do the floor plans on every deal. And oftentimes, you know, my pricing might be a little cheaper to be competitive to get the listing. And I believe we’re offering and other people who offer all that are offering more than the average agent who’s not. So if you’re a new agent, you have to find a way to implement that it’s the same way I did I, once I got that it changed my confidence, because now I can go in and offer professional photos, drone footage, and that’s only a couple 100 bucks there, figure out the Matterport figure out a way or something similar, right, where you’re offering more, and then offer that communication guaranteeing that you have a better product right there, right there, even if you’re a brand new agent than 80% of the people out there. And in my opinion, you know, we might be favored this little if you’re at a brokerage, that’s not taking a huge percent, it helps

D.J. Paris 37:05
you now have it helps you have the ability to go in and and compete on price as well. And I don’t know whether you do or not. And I mean, probably in commission. So Steve has the ability because of the structure of the firm. He’s at just like at our firm, we have a similar thing where people can go in and our brokers aren’t worried about somebody saying well, Redfin is going to do it for one and a half percent. Because at a firm like yours or ours, like they can match that if they want to know that’s up to them. But there’s, there’s no freedom to do that. And and a lot of firms, of course, to take a percentage of every of every sale, they’re not going to be as keen, most likely to allow for that flexibility. So it in of itself that makes you inherently more competitive, right?

Steven Koleno 37:44
Yeah, in me telling you without going into details, telling you, I’m a competitor, I use everything in my arsenal. To do that. Everything I have all kinds of programs, I have auction plant, like like we were talking about some of the other companies, I have an auction platform that offers 0%, seller, paid commission, because it’s a 5% buyer premium. Any agent can join that right now, any agent can offer that. Now, I’ve only done two. But I am telling you, every time I meet with somebody, I tell them that because I actually make more commission on that if they did bad option than normal listing. But it’s another tool that nobody else is offering. Once you explain it, a lot of times, they just take my normal listing because you have to explain it all out in an auction platform. And that scares people. But just by having that I’ve only used it twice. That’s it. But I promoted as one of the services. So I think the difference is also options. As you as we start getting into a technology driven world, and people can now go to their, you know, Apple TV and select 20 million channels and it like people are okay with options, you don’t want to give them 150 million options. But you have to give them a in my opinion, you have to give them an option more than we’re the best. This is our technology and we charge five or 6% you just I think you have to give them more options nowadays. And I know giving them more options is the best ability to get more people talking to you. Even if they don’t use it, I don’t have a lot of people using my unique options. They still use my bread and butter, the one that you know, our traditional full service. But having those options to try to get the attention of a for sale by owner it’s way easier if you if you come through a different approach.

D.J. Paris 39:33
Can we talk about for sale by owners because without you giving away the secret sauce, which of course would not ask you to do but this is oftentimes new brokers and I think this isn’t as quite as popular as it used to be. But you know, it still is somewhat well known is that oftentimes people who start in the business, you know, they say well, you can buy a list of for sale by owners. There’s lots of services that will sell it for almost nothing. And it’s a you know a way to start con Acting people but these, and Steve, maybe they’re not difficult for Steve anymore because he has the process in place. These are very difficult phone calls, if you’re a new broker, these are these are these can be, you know, challenging calls. Can you talk a little bit about and again, without giving away what you know, your your competitive advantage, but maybe talk about how you guys think about those calls maybe differently than other brokers? Yeah.

Steven Koleno 40:22
So, like I said, I’ll be very upfront with you. So I really have never implemented a full strategy on that, because I started to, and they are so difficult, I can’t do it. Like me, personally, I can’t do it, it was too it was too hard. So when I came across was if you approach him from it, and I’m stuck, because next year, I’m implementing something bigger to get in front. And I can tell you part of what that is, I think might help but they’re tired people are exhausted those for sale by owners, when their property expires, you’re one of your one of 20. And they get mad by the end, if you’re the 12th person to call, they are pissed off. They are mad, I just think it’s a different, you know, it’s I can just see that it that’s a tough road to go and I get why agents do it. And you know, I’m professionally coached, and my coach still tells me to do it. But it is a tough road. And I tend to want to do the things I like to do, as my wife would tell me, I only do the things I like to do. And so I don’t focus too much on that. But I’m trying to focus on being different. So like one of my strategies, actually heading into next year that I’m about to implement is trying to reach those folks who are tired of all the agents bombarding them to give them options to give them options. And I have a whole I can’t get into that now, but a whole URL, a whole different strategy that I’m going to implement next year to try to just be different. And as some of these people are exhausted with the process, real estate agents, some of the processes they use, I want to look different, right? Like look at the community person, the the kind of the leader over here, who gives you a bunch of options, and I am not, you know, we’re going to do 300 deals. You know, Mike, if I don’t get that listing, it’s not life or death where sometimes for an agent it is right if you’re just starting out. And so I when you don’t have that stress, because not every deal is the end all it’s different to you’re relaxed, I am very confident when I go in, you know, we close 45 deals in May, after I did that we were extremely confident, right. So all of that helps but but when when I didn’t have that confidence 2017 And, and I went to do my first listing appointment, and I lost it and I and it was I lost it for the strangest reason. And it’s this is gonna sound bizarre from a top producer. It’s doing 300 deals, but 2017 I had my first listing appointment for a sale with the general public 2017 in Downers Grove. And I lost it because the guy asked me, I came in with my rental track record, and I was already into who was who, because of my rental stuff in Chicago, and he asked me who my professional photographer was, and because I didn’t have one lined up before I went for the appointment, I am positive, I lost it, because he saw me stumble over my words, and didn’t didn’t have it. So you bet I called every photographer in the world. The day after I went back, they sold it with a big broker, and it sold in six days. And that could have been my very first one. And I just learned quick, right? So you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna have photographers, I’m gonna have this, I’m gonna have better everything. I do not ever want to go to a meeting and not have the, the the proper response or the best response from somebody. And sometimes the response is, the best option does not mean if somebody says they want somebody to do an open house every weekend, I am not their best option, because I’m not a huge open house fan in my business model. Right? I just can’t, I can’t take that much time to do that doing the volume. So I would refer them to somebody else. And that might be somebody else in my office, and I’ll still cold list with them, and that type of thing. But But yeah, that’s kind of where I see

D.J. Paris 44:07
that. Yeah, no, that’s that’s true. And it’s, you know, it’s also a thing that I almost wonder if this would stop a lot of agents in their tracks. And you certainly have an answer for this, but it’s in the same, the same vein, which is brokers oftentimes, you know, when we talk about, you know, are they charging too much does the public feel they’re charging too much? I don’t know that it’s the public fields are charging too much the public feels like they’re not sure why they paid that much for what they got. Right. So which is a little bit of a different a different take on it, which is to say like I met a broker, you’ll appreciate this. years ago, she came to interview at our firm, she ended up not using our firm she was with I believe Berkshire Hathaway at the time and maybe still is and she said, Is it okay if I charge up 10% to my to my listing clients, and at the time I and I said well, at our firm you can choose choose whatever you want. And I said do you really think you can you charge an Out 10%. She goes, No, right now I charge 7%, which was still above, you know, the traditional pricing. And she goes, but I’m going to get to 10 in two years. And I said, I’m so fascinated, I said, Tell me, tell me how and why. And she looked at me dead in the eye and explained it for about 90 seconds, and it made perfect sense. And I went, she’s going to get to 10%. Now, whether that’s right or FERS, another question, and she ended up not choosing her firm, but I was like, I want to watch her trajectory, because she absolutely knew the answer to the question of why she’s worth 10%. And I thought it was really impressive. And I bet there’s a lot of brokers who maybe they’re charging 5% 6%, whatever, who really can’t even know how to answer that question about why they’re worth that amount. So even if that’s all you do, and I know Steve can answer that question, for sure. But I suspect a lot of brokers don’t know how to answer it. Just like who’s your photographer? Well, we have a lot of photographers, I could, you know, yeah,

Steven Koleno 45:52
exactly. No, I got you in it. I have a similar story. So at my brokerage, when I was the managing broker for a short time, when we started, we had an agent who, who was, you know, 3035 years in the business, and I think charging 7% and had some questions early on, which, you know, trying to understand our technology just to get it up and going. And I think she’s out of the business. Now. She retired, but I remember charging her charging 7%. And my mindset was so different. But we take everybody, so I said, What do you do for that, and she hurt hurt literally, she takes she’s was still taking photos with her iPhone and, and all of that no professional photos did no other marketing. She’s like chia, her answer to me, was I put it on the MLS, and I was doing everything I’m doing ever I’m running around, I have systems Matterport, and I’m charging way less. And I could see why we were going to be successful. I saw it, I’m like, This is why we’re going to be successful. New agents, you have to find a way not to be that agent times of change, you used to be able to get away with that. New agents just find it focus less on upfront about trying to find the lead, make your process and what you offer the best, you could be new and offer a brand new, shiny object, make sure it’s shiny, make sure it has what the pain points are for the clients. Then when you talk to your fan fans, or family and friends and all of that sphere, it’ll be way easier because you do you’re offering something better, I think, I think coaches managing brokers, everybody is that we have to find a way to improve the product to the consumer, before we start talking to people, and we’re not expert ship. Like I think that’s one of the biggest things I see people missing, that I live in breed with. I mean, I do this 16 hours a day and love every moment of it. I’m a workaholic, if you want to call it that I don’t look at it as work. I’m one of those people. It’s, it’s it’s what I want to do, right? I’m doing my dream job period. Anyone who knows me sees that. And I think sometimes based on the volume and the numbers, people think it’s all computers, and you’re just I’m very much a people person. I’m just trying to do it with folks that you know, higher levels up who might have more access to properties who needs solutions like us? Right? They don’t need somebody telling them they’re the best charging 6%. But they need somebody to say, Hey, I’m gonna sell 70 houses this year, can you help me? And that’s who that’s what you want. But it’s still a people business, I still gotta get in front of them. I still got to know my stuff. I still got to be an expert in my field, and kind of go from there. Well, wonderful. Well, I

D.J. Paris 48:33
think you’ve said it all. And this is been really great for our listeners to understand that focus on a number of things, obviously process, right? Where are you being inefficient. And, you know, Steve talks about having assistants, you know, a lot of times brokers don’t realize who go gosh, you know, I can’t really afford to hire a full time assistant, you might be able to because there are what’s known as virtual assistants as well. And they could be from another part of corner of the globe, who might charge a bit less than, than people here locally. And there are these are people also that you can hire that have been doing this for other brokers across the country, and who already have processes in place, you can leverage their process for maybe a fraction of what it would cost here. And that is a really popular thing right now. So even you know, whatever you’re doing in your practice that is causing you to be inefficient, there are options, and not it’s never been more affordable. And also, I love the idea of coaching. You know, Steve, you talked about that, like you’ve just done what a handful of transactions and you’re like, I need to hire a coach. Because oftentimes we’re we’re like little too close to our own business to be able to step back and say, Oh, maybe you shouldn’t do this, or you should do that. Can you talk just a little bit about how before we wrap up how coaching has really impacted you?

Steven Koleno 49:48
Yeah, oh, absolutely. So in the weird part of this, like, remember, I came I was an executive manager at really large real estate corporations, right. So I knew it I had assistants, but I got 252 53 deals and had a bunch of listings. And I still didn’t hire my first assistant. It doesn’t make any sense, right? I know I need to but you got so caught in the fast growth of your your business. And I love being the salesman. I don’t love hiring people, right? So I am horrible at only doing what I like to do. Hiring the coach makes you accountable to your own goals. It is unbelievable. I told him what my goal is. And he holds me accountable to it. And they’re uncomfortable calls, if I don’t do what he told me to do, I immediately within hiring, I hired a full time admin did not come from the real estate backgrounds unlicensed, trained her. She’s fantastic, because of all, you know, all the volume we’re doing now. But she doesn’t know any other way. Right? She didn’t come from a real estate. She only knows our way. I actually, you didn’t know this, because we’ve never talked, you know, other than a couple minutes before the call is I do have a virtual Isa, they work five days a week full time, I pay a lot less for them. They work from three to midnight, five days a week and on weekends to cover. So I have like 16 hour coverage five days a week for all my big clients and a lot we take a lot of offers. So I constantly have to have those submitted in certain ways in certain systems. And, and then obviously, my wife does all our marketing, social media stuff and does a lot of our Matterport. So we kind of got set up that way I immediately created an LLC. Now I have a 401k The whole thing is crazy. But it’s all from coaching. Even now some of our lead generation, some of our follow up systems, I don’t have to generate the amount of leads that you think I do too, because of our clientele but but I have systems for all that I have automated different systems that do that I don’t do automated dialing and bombard you know, for sale by owners like we talked about. But

D.J. Paris 51:53
when I tell ya just it just doesn’t work. And it’s and it is

Steven Koleno 51:57
and when I get leads in, but I got to respond to them fast. And like I said, I’m a study or have kind of the craft and one of the little sidebar, there’s a guy, I don’t remember his name Rogers slack, I think or something in Florida. You’ll read about him next year, because he’s going to be the number one team in the United States. He’s going to close 4000 deals. And he was a used car salesman when he was 68. I think he’s 72 now and he went from not being a real estate agent for 68 years to having a team that’s going to close 4000 deals. And he does it all by now his strategy. I watched one video on him a couple of weeks ago. And his strategy is he just buys realtor.com leads in mass volume and responds to them within two seconds. And he just he created it doesn’t matter your age, he created a system that fit the need that allowed him to do that same way that guy in Texas did it. One of the easiest things for new folks that I knew agents that I watch, especially because I was managing broker is transaction coordinators. Now there’s so many companies that my coaching does it this the other company I use transaksi does it you can get a transaction coordinator for $250 or something in that realm that you pay only if it closes like you can everybody can have an assistant, and you only pay when it closes when you get your nice big commission couple 100 bucks comes off, and you have a full time transaction coordinator. Everybody should do that immediately.

D.J. Paris 53:25
I’ll I’ll tell you. So this is funny timing. So at our firm, we have like 650 brokers. And we’re so you know, you know, a thick headed, it didn’t occur to us to create for our own brokers a transaction coordinator platform now we were still helping people, of course, and we still do, but if somebody really wants someone else to take over from list to close or from purchase to, you know, from contract to close, we’re like, because because we were our brokers were starting to use some of these services. We think that the greatest thing ever, and we’re like, oh, maybe we could offer that because we’re, you know, pretty thick headed. And then we we just launched that a few weeks ago. Well, what we did is we pulled our brokers to understand their pain points and say, hey, if we were to offer this service, number one, would you pay for it? Number two, what would you pay for it? And you know, and like not 87% of our brokers wrote back and said, yes, we’ve been waiting for you guys to launch this. So we just now launched it. But yeah, you know, there are a million companies that do this. And that’s where we got the ideas. We saw all these companies popping up online. And so if you’re a broker out there, and you’re not using a TC transaction coordinator, just Google it, there’s a million options. And yeah, for two or 300 bucks, gosh, they’ll do just about everything for you. And they do it well.

Steven Koleno 54:34
Yeah, yeah. And that’s that’s that’s like that for me, based on the volume we were doing when when that happened. That was life changing. Like that was because I was stuck. I couldn’t sell more than this. Like I was struggling going okay, I can see how I can get to 80 by myself, which I know that’s but I’m like there’s no way I’ll ever get over that because you can’t but once you brought that person in and they started doing every DocuSign they started doing all my paperwork. They started to iPhone cuz once again on the things I love to do that you’re good at doing. And that’s, that’s really the trick of the business. And we always hear people say that, but I even me coming from a corporate background and pretty knowledgeable in real estate, you know, based on my background, I couldn’t hold myself accountable to it, I, I had to hire the coach to do it. And it’s, it was a game changer for me. And now we’re at numbers, I would have never thought I would be at this fast. I thought I’d get here someday, I just never thought I’d be here this fast. You know, this was the five or 10 year plan, not the two year plan, you know, but

D.J. Paris 55:32
that’s amazing. And everyone, by the way, we should we should mention that Steve does, of course, work with traditional clientele as well as investors. If there are any buyers, sellers, renters investors that are looking to work, Steve with you, what’s the best way they should reach out to you?

Steven Koleno 55:48
Yeah, so we have a website I just created, have people reach us easier. So you can just go to connect with steve.com Something easy to remember, we operate as the Colino group. So you can go there. Or also, we have like a community website called LNI. Residential, but connect with Steve is the easiest way if you just want to reach out. I appreciate that. Yeah. Wonderful.

D.J. Paris 56:09
No, we appreciate you being on the show. And Steve, this was so interesting. So this is really funny. So it Steve said, we’ll just say this as as a kind of behind the scenes thing. So and Steve sent over his bio, I looked at it and I go, Well, maybe he missed type the numbers or because I didn’t I don’t look anyone up ahead of time, which I should do. And I said to Steve, oh, these numbers, right? He goes, yes, they are. And I can’t wait to explain how it works. And you did so so well and elegantly. And it’s such a refreshing take on traditional brokerage and how you’re doing things in a way that is really inspiring and so exciting. So I think all on behalf of the listeners, we’re gonna be excited to watch your continued continued ascent. And you’re already now one of the very top producing brokers in Chicago, including all the suburbs. And that’s just within a couple of years. I mean, that’s just beyond remarkable. So congratulations.

Steven Koleno 56:59
I appreciate I appreciate you. I’ve avoided trying to because I’m not sure what I could offer the value like we talked about before, but I hope some people get some things out of that. I know the numbers might not necessarily relate, per se, but I’m hoping that there’s things in there that a new agent can maybe grasp onto right? Because I was there I like I said two years ago, I’m struggling and I lost my first listing because I didn’t know what photographer like don’t let those little things make you look like you’re you’re you’re not the right person. I was probably the right person at that time. But I wasn’t prepared at that time. So now I feel like I’m more prepared for you know, whatever hits Yes. So

D.J. Paris 57:35
well, that’s that’s perfect advice. If the Boy Scout Motto right? Always be prepared. That’s a good one. So anyway, on behalf of Steve and we thank the listeners for continuing to support the podcast couple of quick notes. If you’re not already a subscriber, whether you have an iPhone, or an app or an Android device. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play really anywhere Stitcher, Spotify, anywhere podcasts are served, just search for keeping it real podcasts, you won’t have any problem finding it. Also, you can stream all of our episodes right from our website, keeping it real pod.com. Last thing, please everyone who is listening, follow us on Facebook. Not only do we promote, of course of our podcast episodes and links to the shows, but every single day, we try to give an item of value to our listeners, we find an article online that was specifically designed to help brokers grow their business, and we promote it there. And we just do one a day. So we’re not going to bombard your Facebook feed and show you pictures of our dinners and things like that. It is literally just going to be things that you find helpful. And of course, you continue to tell a friend right anyone else, you know, that could benefit from listening to people like Steve, obviously let them know about our show. And that keeps our numbers up so we can keep producing these for you. So Steve, thank you on behalf of the listeners for taking an hour out of your day, which I know you do not have. So thank you so so much. And we’re so excited to continue to watch your growth and on behalf of Steve and myself. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you guys next time.

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