Kati Spaniak has a goal for each of her Spaniak Team members – to help them become a top 1% producer like her. In our in-depth conversation, Kati discusses the importance of specializing geographically and how starting a Northbrook roundtable meetup group helped supercharge her practice. Kati also talks about how building a team took her business to the next level and freed up time for friends and family!
D.J. Paris 0:16
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real. My name is TJ Parris, I’m your host. This is the only podcast made by Chicago real estate agents for Chicago real estate agents. Today, we have an interview coming up in just a moment with Katie Spana. Before we get started, I wanted to, first of all, thank you, again, for continuing to send this podcast to other people in the real estate community, other brokers in your office, or you meet out in the field, telling them about it, sharing it on social media, really appreciate it. It’s why we do this, we do this to help the broker community become more successful by interviewing the people who are already incredibly successful. And we will continue to do this on through the end of the year and into the future. So we’re very, very excited to keep going and really, we’re very thrilled that the reception has been so warm, we weren’t sure that people would be as interested but I guess people are. So also we do need your help to help make this podcast even better. So if you if you’re a broker or realtor and thinking about, well, gosh, I really wish I had more skills around X, Y, or Z. Maybe you want to learn how to do an open house, maybe you want to run a better CMA or market yourself more effectively or get more referrals Right. Or even negotiate more, you know, more and more strongly. We can find people who are already doing this well in the industry, let us know what you would like to hear on the show. And we’ll make it a reality. So the easiest way to let us know is you can always email us or rather these even easier than that, go to our website, keeping it real pod.com There’s a contact form. Or you can email Jen, our producer Jen at keeping it real pod.com. But like us on Facebook, we’re at keeping it real pod. So find us, we publish every one of our episodes there, and you can share it with other brokers there too. So thank you so much for your continued support. As we wrap up the year, we have a few more episodes to go before the end of this 2017. And we’re going to make 2018 even more fun with the show. So more Carrie McCormick by the way she comes on once a month. And if you have any questions for a amazing top producer who’s been in the business for 18 years, she answers your question, so let us know what those are too. All right, gang. Thanks so much for being so supportive, and on to our interview with Katie span.
Today on the show, we have Katie spatty EQ of spinning a team. Katie’s vision is what drives her team. She has a marketing background and is excellent and understanding how to specifically position every listing that she takes her ability to be understanding and compassionate with her clients is one of her greatest strengths. She’s also able to see the bigger picture and recognizes what it takes to run a successful business. It is her marketing knowledge and expertise as well as her connections throughout that make her one of the top 12 agents on the North Shore. And I want to give a few more statistics. Katie is extremely humble, but I want to brag about it for a moment. Katie and her team have grown to be one of the we mentioned the top 12 agents and teams in the North Shore, which is an insanely impressive accomplishment. Also, she has grown to one of the top 120 agents in all of Chicago that puts her if I do the math right at about the top half of 1%. Or slightly better than that. So that’s that’s pretty amazing. And she’s completed over 175 transactions sold over 120 million. So we are thrilled to have
her on the show. Welcome to you very much for having me.
We are excited to have you. First question I typically always ask ask our interviewees is how did you get started in the business? You
Kati Spaniak 4:00
know, so I actually I did get started a while ago. Right? So I had a marketing design firm in the late 90s. And doing great was really successful. And then 911 happened and completely destroyed the business basically. So I ended up shutting that down. And my mom was a real estate agent in Northbrook. And so she said, Well, why don’t you come over and help me with my business? So I kind of took the route of Oh, sure. Let me go get my license. You know, I know how to sell I can do this. And so we partnered up for a few years. And then in about 2007 2008 I decided that it was just too much for me. I had three little little kids, and I couldn’t just could not do it. So I ended up letting my license expire and then actually decided to get back into the business in 2012. So my business really started again in 2012.
D.J. Paris 5:01
That’s impressive what you’ve done since 2012, only really five years back, I guess. So what do you think you did differently? Maybe versus other people that started back then that’s that’s Do you have any ideas of what you think propelled your success?
Kati Spaniak 5:19
Yeah, actually, you know what, I was super motivated. I decided that I was going to treat it like a real business. I wrote a business plan. I decided that I was going to be in the office every Monday, Wednesday, Friday after I dropped off my kids at school. And so I go into the office and I’d sit there and I’d open my computer and I’d think, Okay, what am I going to do today? You know, and I really thought about starting very small with the people I knew because I live in Northbrook grew up in Northbrook. And, you know, I decided that if I could sell 5% Of all the homes in Northbrook, it would be an incredibly high amount of homes. And I thought then why would I go anywhere else? So I started basically, with the 300 people that I knew, started writing them letters, I’d call them I’d see them out. I mean, I was probably maybe everybody knew that I was back in real estate. I mean, really, they knew. And so I would just connect with people. And then what I do is I’d actually see the houses that were coming on the market, and I would see a house on the street that came on the market that I knew somebody lived on. So I would just start proactively emailing those new listings to people that lived on those streets. And then I’d start to do just like market evaluations for people without them really asking.
D.J. Paris 6:42
I love that. So basically, someone’s home goes goes on the market and you email somebody you know, and say, Hey, FYI, so and so’s homes on the market. Yeah. Awesome.
Kati Spaniak 6:51
Yeah. And, you know, I sat open houses. I mean, I was an I, really my first listing. I went knocked on their door. It was an expired listing. And I did I knocked on their door.
D.J. Paris 7:03
Hold the cold mount. I’m expired. Oh, that is a tough knock.
Kati Spaniak 7:08
It was it was and I took the overpriced listing. I ended up I ended up losing the listing. But I did get a couple of great leads through the open houses. And so in my first year, I think I closed like, 4 million in my first year. Yeah, great first year. Yeah. And then my second year was 11, and then 24, and then 30. And so now I’m sort of building my team. So we’re, we’ve stayed 30. This year, we’re going to be about hopefully about 38.
D.J. Paris 7:41
Unbelievable. And by the way, my mother is also a Northbrook, born and bred and went to Glenbrook north and just went to her 50th wedding anniversary 15 high school anniversary. Oh,
Kati Spaniak 7:52
neat. I probably know
D.J. Paris 7:54
what she they don’t live there now. But but about 30 years ago, they moved but my mom you know is that’s where she grew up. And but it’s let’s talk about about the idea of of specializing in a geographic area, because clearly that work for you. How did you at any you’ve already given us some examples, but you know, how did you specifically get to know the Northbrook market where you just start? Were you studying the I know you went to open houses etc. and held open houses also. But were there were aside from studying the MLS. Are there other things you were doing to get active in the community?
Kati Spaniak 8:27
Yeah, I don’t I mean, definitely i i go to broker opens Of course. I spent a lot of time I basically what I did is I built my list around my kids school. So the parents the school and that was actually through St. Norbert church. My kids went to St. Norbert, so I got really involved in a lot of activities. I had served on the village board in Northbrook. So I knew a lot of people as well. And I just I really went on just a communication campaign with these people. I wouldn’t say it was a formalized, 33 touch I was sending them, you know, postcards every every month. But they just started to see me around. Oh, and the other thing that I did, which I love this idea, and I’d love to re integrate it is I did a roundtable I didn’t Northbrook roundtable every month. And so what I’d say is, hey, I’m going to be at Caribou Coffee on such and such day at 830 in the morning, and we’re just going to hang out and talk about Northbrook. And it really I mean, I got some really good leads from that. But it also made me start to really look like the Northbrook ask experts. All of my promotion was free. So I do like in the patch or just send out emails or invite people. And that was really great. I buy them some coffee, but most people didn’t even want me to they just wanted to come and connect. And it was really great. I mean, I you know, there were some pros and cons about it. If you get too many people, it’s hard to kind of have that small intimate conversation. So now I’d like to step in To kind of the next level have more like a discussion a monthly discussion about the real estate market in Northbrook or anything really in Northbrook, you know,
D.J. Paris 10:09
I love that. That’s that’s so brilliant. I just interviewed the episode isn’t up yet. I don’t know if you know, Amy Diamond, who specializes not in Northbrook, but in a in a different suburb, and then in northwest suburbs, and which, and sort of like your hyper focuses, and I think it’s Burr Ridge, but, or I can’t remember exactly, but what she did, and she did a little bit of a different version of what you mentioned, which I think was so smart. And this is many years ago, she was in a new mom. And so she put together I think if it was Burr Ridge, she put together a Facebook group that was like Burbridge mom news. And over time, now she has like 1800 people who have liked or have subscribed to that page. She doesn’t even know anyone who’s subscribed because it’s just, and she doesn’t even really promote her real estate as much. But she’s like, oh, yeah, this year, I got six deals just from people that were like, Oh, you’re the admin of that page. Right? I love the fact that you were doing an in person version of that book. It’s brilliant. Thank you. Thanks. And so I want to talk, I want to also talk about you building a team because that’s, that’s been in the what, in the most last couple of years, you’ve started that or more. Yeah,
Kati Spaniak 11:14
so I started, I got my first admin about right about the 24 million mark. And I love I mean, it, like changed my life, because she helped me with my emails, and, you know, doing contracts, you know, earnest money, keeping track of things like that, which I’m not really super good at the detail work. So I love that. And then I decided, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to start a team because I value my time. And I don’t think that a life as a real estate agent who’s going 24/7, sustainable. You know, when I really felt like, gosh, I need some time, because I was working a lot and wanted to start building my team. So I did start building my team in about 2015. And it’s been a I mean, it’s, it’s a long road, it’s a road to build a team. But I started with a couple of buyer’s agents. And I ended up moving brokerages at that time, and kind of stepped it up a little bit for myself started doing having a lot more goals, a lot more accountability for myself and those on my team. And so we’ve been through some iterations on the team, I feel like I’m in a really great spot right now. Because I have a very strong core admin group, which is super important. And now I really have a fantastic lead buyer specialist as well. And it, it allows me to have a real life. I mean, it’s, that’s really what it is, is that, you know, weekends and evenings, I’m very specific. And when I work on weekends, so like, I’ll only work until about noon on Saturdays. And I don’t work on Sundays. So I mean, it’s once in a while I’ll set an open house, and I do check my computer and things like that. And then weeknights, it’s very rare that I’ll go out during the week at night.
D.J. Paris 13:05
That That sounds like a really a really nice benefit of building the team that you want. And it clearly is working gives you better boundaries, I guess around this around this job we I was we always joke with oftentimes with people I interview who, who will say it’s been said many times on the show from many people is this is one of the least flexible jobs there is even though you’re technically an independent contractor for exactly those reasons, you know, your clients are not necessarily interested in what time you go to bed. And there’s always things things to do. So the fact that you have a team that’s been enabled you to better structure or not better, so much, but just more effectively structure. You know, your free time, I think is huge. What What lessons have you learned as building the team? I imagine?
Kati Spaniak 13:54
Oh, my gosh. It’s hard work. First of all, it’s hard work to build a team, you know, you have to have that vision. But I think I think what I’d say is probably the biggest thing that I did not do is you know, I’ve had people on the team that haven’t worked out and everybody that I’ve hired I’ve really liked, like personality wise. But what didn’t work out clearly was that our expectations were not on the same page. And our expectations were not on the same page, because I did not put them on the same page. I did not put them out in front. You know, I did not say this is what I expect you to do. And a lot of what was happening is I was giving away leads and people weren’t following up with them. Sure. And and so I really felt like I was actually literally losing money because I was paying for these leads and you know, cultivating these relationships and they weren’t closing but they their motivation was different than mine. They didn’t want to work full time. You know, they they were like, Oh yeah, they didn’t understand the significance of a lead. I it was I mean the reason why most of the people haven’t are not on my team anymore is really truly because my My expectations were not clear upfront. So I’ve got, that’s where I’ve gotten to another stage of my team where, you know, I can talk to somebody now about being on my team and say, you know, this is not easy, this isn’t, this is not easy, this is hard work, if I want my buyer’s agents to make at least $150,000, at least, like, if you’re not making $150,000, I don’t think it’s probably a benefit for them to be with me, you know, for me to have them or them to be here. And I know how people can do it, I know what they need to do in order to be able to get that kind of money. And all they have to do is do it. Some people just don’t do it. So my accountability has gotten higher, and my expectations has gotten higher. And it’s made it a better working environment, because everybody understands what those expectations truly are.
D.J. Paris 15:45
Well, I think that is so well said. And I also love something that’s very subtle that you said at the beginning of of talking about lessons you’ve learned, which was, we talked about team members that that haven’t worked out, and by the way, that is extraordinarily common, as you know, and that’s not it, probably any reflection of you, however, you made that really about a something that you feel you you didn’t do a great job of which was expectations versus saying, Ally really just maybe didn’t work as hard as they should have, which may may be the case, too. But I love that the responsibility there of you know, I probably could have been a better done a better job as a leader, which I always think is probably the sign of a really strong leader is taking that responsibility.
Kati Spaniak 16:27
It’s absolutely true. Because if we had had the conversation in the beginning, you know that I expect you to lead generate for two hours every morning. And they would say, oh, you know what, I’m not up for that. I would have said, okay, then we’re not a fit.
D.J. Paris 16:40
Right? Right. And I love the fact that you’re like I, I can get you to a minimum of 150,000. If you please follow these follow the steps in, you know, that’s a pretty simple proposition that I would think Most brokers would be pretty excited to hear,
Kati Spaniak 16:57
Well, it’s hard to actually find any agents is actually hard, you know, the people who are willing to work to put in the time to, because you know, this job really does allow for a lot of part time people, which is fine. But again, my expectations are full time and 150 is probably the minimum I’d like my agents to make, I really want them making 250. And based on the fact that we are in a higher price point, being on the North Shore, that is totally doable. And I don’t want my clients working 80 hours a week, or I don’t want my buyer agents working 80 hours a week.
D.J. Paris 17:29
Right? Because in your opinion, you don’t you feel that’s not sustainable over
Kati Spaniak 17:32
time. It’s not it’s it’s absolutely not. So So I
D.J. Paris 17:36
want to pause for a second because I think this is so important. If you are on a team, and or if you’re not on a team. But let’s just say someone who’s listening, we have 1000s of listeners who are many of which are on teams, you should ask yourself, does your team leader have goals for you for what they would like your production to be? Have they have they communicated that that is a great conversation to have with whoever is in charge of your team and to say, hey, what do we think is reasonable here? And then? And then the that’s that’s the one part then the second part is? Are you willing to do the work to get of course to get there it is that that team leader going to at least give you the guidance, and you have to do 99.9% of it. But are they going to give you that point zero 1%? Which is that here’s what to do, here’s how to do it now please go do it. And we will all come out ahead. I think that is that is really not not to be could not be overstated, and I suspect that most people have never had those kinds of conversations with their team leaders. So I think that’s
Kati Spaniak 18:37
huge. Definitely not. I really think that that needs if you shouldn’t be on a team, there’s no reason to be on a team unless you’re getting a ton of value from that team. Like, why would somebody want to be on my team, if I’m not providing them value, and early in the days, I did not provide a ton of value. You know, I we work together, they got my knowledge, I gave them some leads. But now I can absolutely say that being on on my team specifically is that there is a ton of value that’s given. And if you do, I always say in order to be successful, you have to do the activities and you have to do the education. If you’ve only got one, you’re not going to succeed. So you have to do both. And I can tell if somebody’s doing both, and if they’re doing both, they are going to succeed and we are providing so much value to our agents. That that that’s why I think that teams are the future of real estate is I don’t think there are many, you know, as we get more functioning higher, you know, sales and volume and number of transactions. It’s going to be hard for single agents who are running around dropping off listing paperwork dropping off booties to compete with somebody like me and I have a full time runner who can be it to a house and half an hour.
D.J. Paris 19:50
Right and and also I’m sorry I didn’t I didn’t mean to stop you but it’s like you’re so right and also, just even in a listing presentation. Let’s say you’re up against three other For brokers who maybe don’t have teams, and you’re saying, well, for the exact same commission, you’re gonna pay, you know, someone else who maybe doesn’t have a team behind them. I’ve got 789 people, however big your team is at that point. And here’s what they do. Here’s how each one of them is can possibly can potentially assist you. I think it’s a pretty compelling conversation.
Kati Spaniak 20:19
D.J. Paris 20:22
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, I interviewed somebody from Redfin, on the show, Alex harried who’s, who’s a really wonderful producer. And he talked a lot about this. And he’s like, this is the reason why firms like Redfin, who really have this T model down to a completely different sort of science. But he goes, when I talk to my, to my buyers or sellers, he goes, I explained this, you know, you get me for everything important. I’ve got 10 other people that are going to be walking you through every other step of it. And, you know, obviously, they they’ve had a tremendous amount of success recently, with a similar sort of idea. And you you think you have a very strong opinion, you really think teams are? I mean, you’ve already said it, but you really think teams are the almost a necessity going forward?
Kati Spaniak 21:08
I absolutely do. You know, I think that, especially as the millennials get older, and they are maybe doing their second sale, they really are going to expect an extremely high amount of service. And I don’t think they expect their agent to do everything, I think they expect that there would be a team supporting them. I also think that to get into the industry within the next five to 10 years, if you’re not on a team learning, you’re kind of floundering around and you might get some friends and relatives who are going to list their houses with you. But to make it a sustaining career that year over year, you know, you’re going to make at least 100,000. It’s very hard in this industry. And I think that teams are going to offer that structure and that ability for people that do want to get into real estate and maybe who aren’t awesome at paperwork, or who aren’t awesome as cold calling, you know, but they’re awesome at showing homes. And they’re awesome at negotiating deals. So I think everybody’s going to fall into kind of where their lane is in real estate over the next five to 10 years or so.
D.J. Paris 22:08
Yeah, I think that’s right. And I know that even all the top producers I talked to will mention like, Oh, I’m not really very good at x, y or z. So I just try not I have someone on my team that can assist there because I just don’t do a good job of that. So if somebody’s out there who is thinking of maybe trying to find a team, what how would you recommend they go about looking for that?
Kati Spaniak 22:34
Um, gosh, that’s a good question. You know, you can always start with some of the ads. Because the bigger teams are going to be running ads weekly all the time. You know, the bigger the bigger teams, I would just say, make sure you know what you’re kind of getting probably on the big teams, I think they can be absolutely awesome. It’s not as much of a smaller culture, maybe, you know, it all team can be any size, it can really be three people, I think, really, it’s know what you are looking for in your team, and make it very clear. Are you looking for more free time? Are you looking for more money? Are you looking for opportunity, and then go to that team and see if that’s a good fit, you know, it’s super important that I get people especially now when I’ve grown, I want my goals and their goals to be the same. And I have gotten people who I’ve interviewed who I’ve really liked. And I’ve said you know what, I just don’t think our goals are quite the same. And it’s not that they’re bad, or I’m bad or they’re not going to make it. It’s just that make sure that cultural fit is there for you.
D.J. Paris 23:42
I think that is really, really well said and I think a great place to sort of wrap up and and you know if there are buyers or sellers, you know who are interested in working with you and your team, what’s the best way they should reach out to you.
Kati Spaniak 23:58
So you can go to our website, which is spinning ACC team.com. We have a completely searchable website there which is great. And we connect with you pretty pretty quick you sign in, we’re going to be to within at least 15 minutes. You can also call us at 847-379-8813 or you can email me directly which is just Katie K T i at spammy ACC team.com
D.J. Paris 24:25
Katie, thank you so much for your time today. I think this is really really valuable. This team conversation I think is so important. And I really appreciate your your your thoughts on it.
Kati Spaniak 24:35
Well, thank you. This is really exciting. Glad I did it.