Times are a-changing, and so is Keller Williams

Do you remember the term Kodak moment?

This was the moment when all your family was seated around the Thanksgiving table, or your sister first got astride her little pink bicycle, training wheels removed, and grinned with all the self-assurance that she could muster.

The Kodak moment was the brilliant result of a determined advertising campaign, which ultimately brought photography out of the realm of professionals and into the hands of women, who became archivists of the family story.

Despite the very public demise of Kodak as a company, the legacy of their “Kodak Girl” advertising campaign can still be observed in remnants of scrap-booking classes and family photo-wall design Pinterest boards, which remain for the most part in the realm of the woman – usually the mother.

This morning I was listening to the latest episode of Gary Keller’s podcast Think Like a CEO, in which he and Jay Papasan discussed how Keller Williams is changing amid the swirling river of technology that is currently flooding the real estate industry.

Let’s go back to Kodak for just a moment:

What changed for that company? It was digital. Kodak was a large and profitable company when digital photography showed up on the scene. And they were doing what large and profitable companies typically do: focusing on their most lucrative segments and ignoring the low-profit, high-risk, so-called “emerging” areas of the field, such as digital.

While hindsight is 20/20, and most of us have the luxury of looking back (from outside) and saying duh, obviously Kodak screwed up there, if we ourselves work in large and profitable companies, we can understand that it’s quite possible to not see the forest for the trees in a changing environment, and that what happened to Kodak could very easily happen to our business as well.

Keller Williams is the leading real estate company in the world, and now that world is changing rapidly.

Some people were surprised when Keller abruptly shuffled his leadership, placing a cherubic millennial tech-ster into the role of President, and Keller himself re-assuming the role of CEO. What’s up with that?

Suddenly our leadership is going about in tech-slogan-ed t-shirts and gym shoes, perhaps with the addition of a jaunty blazer over the top, you know, if they’re going to be on stage in front of a few thousand people or something like that.

Some are looking upon this and saying what gives?

Gary Keller reminds us in the podcast that we are a time right now when KW owners and agents are making more money than every before, and understandably they are asking: why shake up a good thing?

And the answer is that the very things when have led us to success will be the things that will lead us to failure, if we are not purposeful about changing along with the rest of the world.

Keller took back the CEO role because the CEO sets the vision of the company. And he didn’t want anything (or anyone) to stand in the way of technology becoming the centerpiece of our company.

Today’s real estate consumers desire an end-to-end experience on a platform of technology. They want to be able to interface with their searches and sales in a simple and streamlined fashion, just like what they’re getting in retail experiences through Amazon, Instacart, and yes, Zillow too.

As we look around at other real estate mega-companies, like Realogy, whose stock tumbled nearly 60% in the last year, we see the writing on the wall. Real estate companies must deliver what the consumer wants, or find themselves consigned to pages of corporate history-books, alongside the Kodaks and the Blockbusters of the world.

It’s a good time to be standing with Gary.


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