About This Episode
Before entering the real estate industry, Michael Valdes, president of eXp Global and chief growth officer of eXp Realty, worked in finance. Prior to joining eXp Realty in May 2020, he served as the former Senior Vice President of Global Servicing for Realogy Corporation. In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a SUCCESS magazine podcast, he shares the story of how he successfully opened over 20 countries across the globe and managed to make them flourish both locally and globally.
It was the height of the pandemic when Michael joined eXp, and right off the bat, he set an ambitious goal to open five countries in the last quarter of 2020. He managed just that and more, starting with eXp South Africa.
How did he manage this rapid growth that led the company to become the 9th largest brokerage in South Africa, a country of over 5,000 brokerages, and replicate that success in 20 countries across the globe, just in the past two years?
Michael clarifies that this success is not his alone. “First of all, it’s not me,” he shares. “It’s always the team you surround yourself with in order to achieve anything.”
With the ideal team, solid leadership, and a model that aligns with eXp's overall vision, while also embracing the local nation's culture and native real estate landscape, the launch of eXp South Africa was a "perfect storm" in the making.
“One of the things I’ve learned is you could not take a US model and try to plug it in to other places in the world,” Michael says, “because it wasn’t gonna work.”
After researching the market and its competitive landscape, he and his team developed the eXp model specifically for that country. South Africa already has an incredible real estate industry, and they are one of the few countries who license agents—something that Michael found rare outside of the US. Companies there were also already familiar with the multi-level concept of revenue share, which made it easy for that model to be adopted and embraced in the country.
eXp South Africa was not a franchise—they established an actual corporation, making it a legal entity in that country and a true South African company. They also immediately assimilated into the community and made a point of giving back to it.
“That’s what allows us to really, truly be a local player with a global footprint,” he says. “What we’ve done has never been accomplished. In fact, we grew so quickly and organically,” Michael shares.
What makes a great leader?
For Michael, what makes a great leader is someone with great vision and great humility. “And it has to stand side-by-side,” he says.
The message that eXp has is about gift-giving: when you give a gift, whether they accept it or not, appreciate it or not, it is not about you. It is all about simply reaching out a hand, sharing, and helping others.
When looking for leaders to lay the foundation of a new company in a new country, they look for people who understand that vision, believe in that vision, and know that the vision is something bigger than themselves or any individual in the team. It takes a lot of humility to accept that you are not the source of the vision but are of service to the vision by being of service to others.
According to Michael, a great leader knows how to connect with people (both the staff and the consumers—in this case, the agents), inspire them, and get actual results that are reflected in the numbers, as well as the atmosphere of the organization.
He shares the four metrics they use to measure the health of their global companies: agent count, revenue, transactions, and NPS (net promoter score). Of these four, the NPS is one of the most important.
“Because then, ‘Are you growing?’ is great, but are you growing in a manner in which the agents are also happy?—because that’s your messaging,” Michael says.
When your stakeholders—your consumers and your employees—aren’t happy, your growth won’t be sustainable. They will end up leaving. “It’s not just about recruitment; it’s about retention,” he adds.
They try to keep both agents and employees happy by maintaining an NPS of 70 to 80—once the score drops below 70, all the red flags are rung and leaders are tasked with finding out what is going on.
It isn’t comfortable to hear negative feedback, because it makes us feel like we’ve failed or lack something, but Michael tells us to appreciate those comments. Don’t see it as mere complaints, but an indication that your stakeholders cared enough to bring their concerns to your attention, and that they trust you enough to believe that you are going to do something to fix things or make it better.
Being a leader means being of service to others.
The importance of timing
When entrepreneurs create something, momentum and timing are important, because, as Michael says, “What you’re building from is what your next chapter is.”
The idea is that you show that you have great strength in what you’re doing, and that your message is resonating around the globe. Back when eXp was still limited to the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, that messaging was an English-speaking story. Now that they are operating in 23 countries and 12 different languages, it has become a true global story.
“Now this story is multilingual, multicultural, and multi-geographic—And now you have a true global story that happens,” Michael says.
Trust and relationships
As they say, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and a moment to lose it.” That is why building trust and relationships are important in business.
It is important for entrepreneurs to be genuine in what they do and in their actions. “More than what you say, it’s what your actions are,” Michael says, “Because that is what speaks volumes.”
How can you become genuine? By knowing, understanding, and believing the messaging that you and your brand or company are spreading. Businesses have the power to change lives and make an impact, no matter how big or small, on our stakeholders. That human aspect of business is what makes work so worthwhile. It is also a heavy responsibility to bear.
“Because now you are sort of responsible for people in a way that is greater than yourself,” Michael says.
He shares a story of an agent who approached him, thanking eXp for changing her life and saving her. As a cancer patient, she had difficulty paying the medical bills and getting health insurance, but the model has helped her get insurance, and the revenue share was more than enough to pay for her operation.
“I think of that woman so often, she felt she was alive because of the model that we’re now responsible for expanding,” Michael shares.
It is easy to get jaded and bombarded with keeping the numbers up, that we forget the human aspect of business. But at the end of the day, it is the relationships we’ve built that define whether our businesses will succeed or not.
In a shifting market comes greatness
A lot of us are afraid of what’s in store for 2023, not just in the real estate industry but in all industries across the board. With the threat of what could possibly be a global recession, those fears are understandable.
However, Michael encourages us to look at it as an opportunity—because history has proven that in downturns, greatness can happen.
Because we are not as busy, with business being slow, we are able to get the time to stop, pause, and think about our progress so far and where we want to go from here. We are able to see what is actually going on around us and within us. We have the time to work on our craft and our professionalism and to build relationships that are more than one-time transactions.
After the last great recession, companies such as What’s App, Skype, and eXp were founded. “So, you have these amazing companies that came out of downturns—and opportunities come out of that,” Michael says.
This last quote is something that left a great impression on me during our conversation.
“In a shifting market comes greatness. So, I think people should not be afraid. People should be embracing this and looking for opportunities that will exist—Or even better, go create them.”—Michael Valdes
Tune in to the podcast to follow along and learn more from Michael Valdes.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.