Have you started your 2022 business planning yet? Make sure you listen to this two-part series first. Today, Brett Jennings is a HomeLight Elite agent, one of the top 1% of agents on our platform. But ten years ago, his team hit a ceiling. They had a strong first year, then didn’t grow at all the next two years.
This week on The Walkthrough, Brett shares the one-page strategic plan that helped him break through that ceiling and more than double his business. This is part one of a two-part series.
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Links and Show Notes
(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)
In a perfect world, your real estate business would be like a sports car.
[sound effect: sports car starting up and revving engine]
A well-oiled machine that starts right up, runs smoothly, goes faster and faster, and takes you exactly where you wanna go.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. And sometimes, this happens.
[sound effect: sports car unable to start]
Your business doesn’t start, or maybe it starts, but then you get stuck. You’re not going where you wanna go, or you’re not getting there as fast as you want to get there.
If that sounds familiar, you might need a new approach, one that puts strategy first and tactics second. Just ask Brett Jennings. He started this team 10 years ago and get this: he saw no growth for the first three years. Fast forward to today, Brett’s team and brokerage are experiencing tremendous growth. He’s a HomeLight Elite Agent, one of the top 1% of agents on our platform.
So what happened in those 10 years? How did he break through that ceiling? Brett’s gonna tell us today, and he’ll share the one-page strategic plan that helped make it happen. I’ll tell you where to download that in just a moment.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hi there. I’m Matt McGee, the managing editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Also, your host right here on “The Walkthrough.” This is a weekly podcast, we have new episodes that come out every Monday morning. This is the show where you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
If you want to get involved in the show, you can find me. You can also find my guest today in our Facebook mastermind group. Just go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, the group will come right up. That’s also where you’re gonna find the downloads that I’m gonna talk about in just a moment.
What would you do if your business stopped growing for three straight years? That’s what happened to my guest today. The Brett Jennings Group did 50-plus deals and more than a million dollars in GCI in their first year together. Year two, same results. Year three, same results. Didn’t matter what tactics they tried, and as Brett tells the story, they tried plenty, but no growth.
That’s when Brett realized it was time to put strategy before tactics — to develop a business plan that would allow his team, and eventually his entire brokerage, to grow year in and year out.
Let me give you some background. Brett formed his team, the Brett Jennings Group in 2011. The team is currently Brett, five other agents, and support staff. They’re on pace to do more than 120 deals this year and earn more than $4 million in GCI. As I mentioned, Brett is a HomeLight Elite Agent, the best of the best.
Brett formed his brokerage, Real Estate Experts, in 2019. They currently have about 60 agents and another 10 to 20 support staff. The brokerage is on pace to do well over a billion dollars in volume this year. That’s billion with a B, like the TV show. Even in Silicon Valley where they’re based, that is a remarkable number.
Now, since this is the time of year when you’re starting to plan for 2022, I’m thrilled to have Brett with me for the next two weeks because the big change in Brett’s business? It was a new approach to strategic planning. So, on today’s show, you’re going to hear us talk about the six components of a business framework called EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system. You’ll hear how the EOS taught Brett to crystallize his vision into a one-page strategic plan. And we’ll start sharing the eight questions that you have to ask yourself to create your own one-page strategic plan.
This isn’t just for teams, but if you have a team, let me suggest you gather everyone around and listen together before you sit down and make your business plan for next year. And yes, as I mentioned, there’s a bonus. You can download one of Brett’s old one-page strategic plans, and we also have a blank template to use yourself. You’ll find those later today in our Facebook mastermind group.
So without further ado, let’s get started. No one wants their business to get stuck like Brett’s did when he formed his team. So let’s hear how his business got unstuck with a one-page strategic plan.
Matt: Brett, you start your team in 2011, you’d already been a real estate agent for a few years by then. In the first year, I think it was, for first or second year, you do 50-plus deals, you do a million GCI, which is awesome. But then you get the same numbers the next year and the same numbers the next year. What’s going through your head at this point?
Brett: Yeah. That’s a great question. And the first thing that comes to mind is frustration. You set this milestone for a big goal and, you know, as real estate agents, once you’ve made a good income and a good life, then you start setting your heights on a higher vision and that was okay, the million dollars, you know, gross commission income. And I remember just feeling like I hit a plateau. I was giving it all I had but I just couldn’t seem to find, you know, that next level. I got stuck right there at that million-dollar mark. It was frustrating.
Matt: What were you doing on your own to sort of figure out why you had hit this plateau?
Brett: I was doing what everyone else in my current environment was doing, right? I was prospecting for new business. I was servicing that business, you know, working with buyers, trying to work more with sellers and buyers. And yeah, for whatever reason, you know, just by taking in the input of those people in my immediate environment, I had top agents around me, but, you know, I was just doing the same thing that they were doing, those other top agents, and I was getting the same results and I was stuck.
Matt: Was there a key moment that sort of changed everything and got you on the path to breaking that plateau?
Brett: Yeah, I do remember specifically, it was I went to a coaching event for Craig Proctor and it was about lead generation in business. In fact, Gary Keller, who is the founder of Keller Williams, spoke at that event. And I remember he stood in front of the stage and I have an audiographic memory, like, someone can say something once and I’ll literally remember their words verbatim. And what he said, like, just struck me because it spoke to me and where I was at. He said, “If you’re giving it all you’ve got and you’re just not getting to where you wanna go, you’re missing something.” And it could be a perspective. It could be, you know, a new environment. It could be, you know, a new something to go to that next level. And often it’s a coach, you know, or a mentor that can get you there. And so, that spoke to me. And so I ended up signing up for coaching at that event. The coaching, really the next coach I engaged with was the coach that really gave me the formula to break through that ceiling and any other ceiling so far that I’ve encountered or plateau that I’ve encountered in the business. And that really was this one concept of this one-page strategic plan.
Matt: There are a lot of agents who will succeed on the strength of their work ethic, on the strength of their personality. You’re saying that you learned at that point that it takes more to reach the next level. You need to have a plan in place.
Brett: A hundred percent. And so, yeah. And we’ll see in this industry, no matter what the geographic location and the price points are, it’s usually somewhere between 40 and 70 units, a solo producer in a real estate business, even with an assistant, you know, very rarely gets past that somewhere between 40 and 60 transactions. They just will achieve burnout. Yeah. That’s typically what happens. And so then they got to start to organize a team, and what my typical formula was at that point, I was going to workshops, and seminars, and things at that time. And I would go, and I’d get inspired by hearing from these top agents all of these ideas, these tactics that they would put forth. And I had a yellow legal pad and I’d write them all down. And I ended up with like 50 of them, you know, on my list that I’d try to organize in some fashion on my flight home, you know, just kinda recapping and try to go and implement all of these things. And that was kind of what got me to that plateau. And I was trying to do it all, really. It was like, “All these great ideas, if I just implement them all, my business will be amazing.” But that wasn’t what was happening. I was getting stuck. And so it wasn’t until we really found the one-page strategic plan and the model of EOS that really helped us get clear and break through.
Matt: You just mentioned EOS. Why don’t you tell listeners what EOS is and what it has meant to your business?
Brett: Yeah. EOS is short for entrepreneurial operating system. It’s based on a book by Gino Wickman called “Traction.” And it’s really about how to organize your thoughts around building a business. The challenge with most entrepreneurs is, you know, we all start out as what we’ll call tacticians, we’re delivering a service or a product. And then, you know, we fall into being an entrepreneur because we’re so good at what we do. We get lots of business and we need to start to build systems to deliver it, but that’s usually not our strong suit. And so EOS is short for entrepreneurial operating system. It’s not a technology or a software. It’s a framework in which how to organize your resources in business, and then a framework about how to create a vision. And then, you know, day by day actually work in what’s called a 90-day world in implementing big projects every 90 days to really get you to where you wanna go.
Matt: What are the pieces, the components of this EOS idea?
Brett: Yeah. The concept is, you know, at the core of it is your business, and it starts with vision. And by asking, you know, some eight key questions to really crystallize what it is you do and why you do what you do. And probably, that was the game-changing moment for me. Because I recognized I hit this plateau and I had an idea about, okay, I’m in real estate because some point I wanna make enough money to buy an investment property and retire from real estate and go do what I really wanna do, which was like life coaching, business coaching. And it wasn’t until we got really clear in grounding my purpose, which through these eight questions helped do it. It was really, like, why do you do what you do?
And what brought that all into focus was an exercise called the eulogy exercise, where you actually write your own eulogy. Like, you know, here it is, the end of your life. And, you know, the question is, you know, at church, synagogue, whatever, and, you know, you’re floating around in this presence in the back of the room, who’s there and what are they saying about you? Certainly, it wasn’t, you know, “He was so amazing because he sold so many houses.” And that was a powerful exercise. I really, you know, took it to heart and put my heart into it. And what I recognized that what these people were saying was, like, you know, I wanted to live, love, learn, grow, help other people do the same. And that was why I was interested in “retiring” and doing, you know, business and life coaching. And my mentor just put it to me because the next question, once you know what your real purpose is and put this at the center of your businesses, you know, if that’s who you really are, this person who wants to do this, what does your business look like if you brought all of who you are to everything you do? And the simple answer for me was, “I’d probably be coaching my agents more.” And I just didn’t have people that wanted to be coached at that time.
So, getting the core purpose down. What was interesting for me at that point was literally I did that exercise on a weekend when I was out of town. And on that Sunday, I got the first phone call from one of the agents who … I didn’t have the best agents on the team at first. He called and said you know, “I think I’m gonna leave the team.” And I was like, I got a pit in my stomach, oh. And then I got into the office on Tuesday morning because it was a long weekend after coming back, and another agent walked into the office and said, “Hey, I need to talk to you. I think I want to leave the team.” And I was like, “Wow.” And it was an aha moment, but I recognized in hindsight, you know, what God, universe, whatever you want to call it, had kind of taken my sandcastle and just knocked it down for me so I could recreate it. But that all happened spontaneously from just getting super clear on the purpose. And from there, I created a vision for the business. I wanted to create a business that was, you know, a real estate company, but really what it’d enable me to do was fulfill this purpose of coaching people, developing people. And when that happened, all the other components of EOS really start to kick into gear.
Matt: Okay. You just mentioned these eight questions and I really want to dive in with you soon on that, Brett. But first the EOS has more…you mentioned vision is one of these components of the EOS. What else is involved?
Brett: And that’s the starting component. What else is involved in EOS is data. So it’s getting a pulse on your business, like, basically knowing your numbers. So many of us in real estate, like, we just fly by the seat of our pants, you know, sell as many houses as we can, put the money in the bank and hope that there’s more there, you know, than bills come at the end of the month. But what we measure, we can manage. And typically, what we measure will grow. So it’s really getting mindful and figuring out what are the things that I wanna manage in my business? As a real estate agent, when you’re starting to grow a team, it’s three things. It’s appointments set, it’s appointments met, and the leading indicators is appointments set, met, and signed. So a buyer that committed to your listing taken. And so we create those scorecards, that’s data. That’s the second piece.
Process is the third, and that’s really starting to build systems. And as you grow your real estate business, if you have an administrative assistant and you’re gonna continue to grow, you gotta have her start to build systems and the process and how she does things or puts it together, so that you can deliver the same awesome experience, whether you’re doing 20 transactions or you’re doing 90 transactions.
And then beyond that, it’s really people because when we’re growing a real estate business, it’s about really people. And then the last piece is issues. As you go to build this business, you’ve got people, you’ve got process, you’re measuring what you do, issues are gonna pop up. Things break. You know, customers get upset. The signposts forgot to, you know, get ordered. And these point out holes in your process.
So it’s really about having all of these things together that on the weekly basis, you have a meaningful meeting to revisit your plan, and then look at like, okay, what are the issues, what are we running into while we’re, you know, trying to create this great business, and how do we solve for them? And so that becomes just a weekly conversation in the business. And this is kind of a simple framework for really putting that all together.
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Matt: So you get introduced to this EOS idea, Brett, what is the impact that it has on your business? Was it just creating a focus and giving you that framework that you needed to go to the next level?
Brett: Yes, absolutely. Beyond just creating a framework and a way to organize my thoughts and ideas around the business, the questions that are asked in getting clear on the vision of what I wanted to create, it’s really the power of the vision. Vision is where it all starts and ends. And that’s what, you know, I feel like kinda was the missing component for me because I was doing a lot of activity, taking a lot of action prior to this, but I really wasn’t clear on the vision. The framework of EOS forced me to get clear on the vision. And as soon as I got clear, like I said, and I kind of defined what my personal purpose was as it related to the business, what our business purpose was, all of a sudden magic started to happen. You know, I told you how I define that purpose for myself is, you know, live, love, learn, grow, help other people do the same. And I had the agents on my team who were with me at the time left.
Organically and spontaneously, literally like a week later, I got a phone call from an agent. He said, “Look, I’ve known you for seven years. I’ve watched your trajectory. You keep succeeding more and more every year. I’m a single dad. I’m just coming off a divorce. I wanna be a better agent. I wanna build a better life. I think you can help me get there. Like, you know, will you coach me?” And literally, that happened. About another 30 days later, another person just kind of showed up in my world. But that just, I think, goes to as a testament to the power of purpose. When you as the core of your business are clear on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you know, all of these unseen forces seem to kind of orchestrate things and put them in your path. And that’s really when things totally opened up for us. Like, we went from $50 million that year, you know, within 24 months, we were at $150 million. And really like surpassed all of our wildest expectations and continues to do so now.
Matt: All right. Let me jump in here. This is a good spot to recap where we’ve been and set the stage for where we’re going. Brett has been talking about EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system. It’s not software, sounds like it is, but it’s a framework for growing your business. There’s a website all about it. And I will link to that in today’s show notes so that you can learn more.
EOS has six key components. You heard Brett talk about vision, data, people, processes, and issues. I know, I know, that’s five. I messed up. I kind of guided the conversation in a different direction before Brett got to talk about number six, which is traction. In a nutshell, traction is about installing focus and accountability across your team so that you can execute on your plans.
Now, remember that plateau Brett mentioned at the start of the conversation, three years of no growth? When he applied EOS in his real estate business, that plateau disappeared. You just heard him say that their sales volume tripled within the first two years. As I said earlier, today, as a team of Brett plus 5 agents, they’re doing more than 120 deals and $4 million in GCI per year.
Brett also mentioned a couple of times that EOS asks you to ask yourself eight key questions to help crystallize your strategic plan. And I have a feeling you were thinking to yourself, “Matt, shut up and let Brett talk about the eight questions.” Hey, I hear you. That’s gonna be the focus of the rest of this episode, but listen, we’re not gonna have time to really give all eight questions the attention they deserve in just the next few minutes. So we’ll get started now, and then we’ll finish up the eight questions in part two next week. Sound good? Let’s get back to the conversation with Brett introducing the eight questions that will help you create your own one-page strategic plan.
Brett: The eight questions that really crystallize the vision in EOS are, first, like, what is your core purpose and core values? And for me personally, like, the most powerful part of that, it was doing this eulogy exercise, right? Like, start with the end in mind, go to the end of your life and what are people saying about you? And then you can back into really what are your core values? And that’s what I found was.
From there we ask, what’s our core focus? And for us, we came up with our purpose was a better life through real estate for our clients, our partners, and the agents we work with. And then a vision, what’s the vision for the business? And for us, it was to be, you know, the brokerage of choice for the consumers and agents in the markets we serve. And that we partner with talented agents, leverage them with proven marketing, personalized coaching, and administrative support, so they can increase their profitability and quality of life. So one core thing in that core focus, it has to be bigger than you, and it has to not be about you. That’s one kind of key thing about it.
Matt: Brett, when I hear core focus, core values, it sounds like a mission statement. Is it more than that though?
Brett: Yeah. So the difference… That’s interesting because, like, you know, I’d read business books before and, you know, you see companies with their core values on them. And when we actually did this process, what we uncovered and we discovered it really is a process of uncovering what your core values are. These aren’t things you can copy and paste.
Really there’s two types of core values. There’s core values, what they call embodied. Things what you already are. And then there’s core values that are aspirational. Really when you go to facilitate this process for yourself and your own business and what you wanna do, you’ll get together with the people in your team and you’ll ask the question like, “Hey, if we look at the best attributes of all of our players on this team, like, what’s awesome about so-and-so, you know?” And maybe it’s Michelle. “Michelle’s hardworking, she’s diligent, like, she owns it.” And we go through each team member and write down what are the most compelling positive attributes about them, and we start to distill these down and look… and actually, there’s even technology you can use, something called a Word Cloud, where you enter in the frequency of the words used, increase the size of the word. But what’s cool is you go through and you take these positive attributes and you find the most common positive attributes of your team members. And you look at those. And those are what are your embodied core values.
And then we ask the question if there’s anybody who’s come into your world and left. Either they left by their own choice or you let them go. What was it that they didn’t have, you know, that caused that relationship to not be right? Because ultimately, when you go to create a company and you find out what these core values are, there are things that you hire for and fire over. And so these people come into and leave your world because…and that’s why they’re core.
Matt: Brett, what would be a good example of a core value, right? Because, like, you know, everyone says, great customer service is a core value. Is that good, or does it need to be more than that?
Brett: It 100% has to be more than that. And here’s what I mean. Oftentimes, like, what we see espoused as company core values that you might’ve seen when you walked into Costco or somewhere else, things like integrity or customer service, these are things that I would refer to what we call platitudes, right? And platitudes are, if you can end the sentence and say, “Well, I’d hope so.” Like, for example, integrity shouldn’t be a core value, it’s table stakes. It’s I would hope so that you’ve got integrity because I wouldn’t even wanna consider doing business with you otherwise. And the core values are not for customers really. I mean, they become part of the value that you deliver to your customers, but the core values in this context, for the purpose of EOS, it’s really core to who you are. And as I talked about, these are embodied values. These are the things that you and your team are being. These are the awesome things. These are like the X factor, it’s unpacking the X factor of what already makes you successful.
And we find that out by taking your team, getting them together, and doing an inventory of like, what’s awesome about so-and-so? What’s awesome about Mary? Like, well, Mary’s hardworking, she’s diligent, she owns it. She’s exceptionally caring about people. And so, you do this kind of as what we call a 360 and do a round-robin with your team members. And you’ll see the things that pop up where multiple…there’s redundancy, where these things start to show up again and again, and then that blew up. Those are some of your core values. And then by the flip side, the other thing of core values are things that you won’t stand for, or you won’t tolerate. And so if you’ve had, you know, agents, team, staff that have come into your world and you’ve let them go, what was it about that person, you know, that they didn’t have? And, you know, that’s when you really get to what is core. And when you get clear on that, it’s powerful. It’s powerful. And then what you wanna do is just make that present for your people so that you continue to live into it, but also new people coming into the organization, see it, feel it, and live into it as well.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)
There you go. Such a great start to our two-part series with Brett Jennings, and we still have the rest of those eight questions to cover in part two next week. Remember, we’ll have two downloads for you later today in our Facebook mastermind group. So be sure to look for those. One of them is a blank template that you can use to create your own one-page strategic plan. And then the other is an actual one-page plan that Brett used with his team a few years ago. You can use that kind of as a guide or an example.
All right. Let’s do our takeaways segment. Here is what stood out to me from part one with Brett Jennings.
Takeaway number one, Brett was stuck. His team had a really good first year, but then they hit a ceiling, no growth at all for the next two years. Why? Well, Brett says he had a lot of tactics he was trying, but he didn’t have a vision and a strategy to grow his business.
Takeaway number two, Brett is using EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system to create a framework for growth. With EOS, there are six key components of a successful business. Real quick let’s go through those. Number one, vision. Where are you going long-term? Number two, data. These are the scorecards for your business. Brett mentioned things like appointments set, appointments met, clients signed. The idea is to take emotion and feelings out and build your business around objective numbers. Number three, processes. These are the systems that you use to run your business. Number four, people, great vision demands a great team. Number five, we didn’t quite mention this. I messed up. Traction, the discipline and accountability that allows you to implement your vision. And then number six in EOS is issues. What are the holes in your business and how do you solve for them?
All right. That’s takeaway number two. Takeaway number three, EOS asks eight questions to help you crystallize what you do and why you do it. We covered the first two today. What are your core values? And what’s your core focus? You heard Brett say that the answer to those questions, it can’t be a platitude like we provide great customer service. Things like that should be a given.
All right. Next week in part two, we will continue going through those eight questions. And Brett will walk you through how to create your own one-page strategic plan. So let’s listen to a preview of that.
Brett: The front side of your plan with EOS, your one-page plan, the front side is really your vision, the 10-year and the 3-year picture. It’s pretty far out in the future. The backside becomes your one year, and then what we call your 90-day world. So the 90-day world is really where the magic in this plan happens because people set goals, oftentimes, you know, they’ll set goals for the year, the problem is they never revisit their goals. They sit in a journal in a drawer or on a file on their computer, and they’re not revisiting them on a regular basis.
Matt: So that’s a sneak peek at part two next week with Brett Jennings. Also a bit of a teaser there about the download that you can grab in our Facebook mastermind group. To get those downloads or if you have questions for me or questions for Brett, you can find us in our Facebook mastermind group. Just go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, and the group will come right up.
You can also reach me by voicemail or text. The number to use is 415-322-3328. Or just send an email, the address to use is walkthrough[at]homelight.com.
That’s all for this week. Thanks so much to Brett Jennings for joining me, and thank you for listening. My name’s Matt McGee, and you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
Go out and safely sell some homes. I’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
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