Having the right team of people in your real estate business is a huge factor in achieving success—especially if you work virtually.
This is part 1 of a 3-part series on team building. And in this episode, Chris Arnold sits down with 4 members of his team to discuss the experiences they’ve had. They also talk about the bond they’ve developed and how that saw their remote business through a decade of tragedies and massive wins.
Tune in to know how Chris and his team have lasted this long.
Team Building Masterclass – The Secret to Achieving Maximum Impact in Your Life and Business – Part 1 of 3
As always, we are excited that you are with us. We have something special for you. I don’t know so far that I’ve personally ever done a series, but we’re about to begin and embark on a three-part series. It’s going to be on team building. It’s been interesting. The one thing that I find that I get the most compliments about when I talk to people in the tribe or people in multipliers or wherever, they always come in and say the same thing, “Chris, you have such an incredible and amazing team. How did that happen? How were you guys able to put that together? How is it that you guys have worked together for so long?”
I sat down with some key leadership and directors in the company. I asked this question, “How have we, as a remote real estate team, survived for almost a decade when a lot of businesses don’t last that long? Particularly when a lot of teams don’t last that long, how in the world have we done it? How have we done it remotely?” We sat down. We had a heart-to-heart. We had never sat down and answered that question. It was a powerful conversation. There were some moments where there were some tears that came out. It’s one of those things that we never sat down to ride out. What was it that we did that enabled us to get to this point?
If you’re tuning in, this is what you’re going to get. I don’t care if you’re a solopreneur, you have 1 or 2 people on your team, or you have a big team. I’m going to tell you a few things that I know that we all have in common. First of all, there’s a deep belief that we have that teams, not individuals change the world. I love what John Maxwell says, “One is too small of a number to achieve greatness.” If you look throughout history, all the great things that have always been accomplished have happened through a team.
The other thing I can tell you is if you’re reading and you deal with massive turnover, which I see a lot within our industry when it comes to teams. Meaning that there’s constant hiring, firing, and letting go of people, that slows the growth of the organization. If you constantly have to replay seats, when you finally get someone trained and put in that seat, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get to where you want to go.
The other aspect that is important, I know I get a lot of value out of this, is when you have the right team, I know for me, it’s like having a second family. I know people nowadays throw that word family around quite a bit, but I mean that in the truest sense. I don’t know what my world and life would look like without the family that I have via working together. They know everything about me. I know everything about them. There is a lot of joy to be able to go on a journey with a group of people rather than to do that isolated and alone.
I know that the number one driver for just about everybody reading is freedom. I know a lot of people asked, “Chris, how is it that you’re able to live in Tulum, to be able to work virtually, and have this work lifestyle business?” That’s an easy question for me to answer. It’s because of the amazing team that we have built over time. We wanted to have a heart-to-heart on how in the world we have made it for ten years. We sat down, hashed this out.
I sat back and listened. As I have on the show, I’ll do some quick intros. I’m not going to give you positions. At this point, we have journeyed through five companies together. That’s how long we’ve stayed together. We’re on our fifth company, but we have Krista, Sierra, Grace, and Scarlet. These are four of what I would consider the most important people, a part of my leadership team and my directors.
We’re going to come on and honestly, it’s going to be like story format. What are the stories that communicate the fact on how this has worked as long as it had? We want to do this from the heart and hope that our story, how it is when you listen to stories, that there are some things there that you can take and implement into your life or say, “I’ve been through that or experienced that. That’s a valuable piece that I’m going to be able to think about as I continue to grow my team.”
I’m ready to jump in and get started. As we do the three-part series, each series is going to have about three points and three stories that we’re going to go through. I’m going to kick it off with the first one. Let’s get down to the meat. That is how in the world was this team formed. I know a lot of people will go, “Chris, you have an amazing team. Where in the world did you guys come from? How did you find everybody?” We have an interesting background on how that occurred. I’m going to kick it over to Sierra. Sierra, how is it that years later of we’re together, if we go back to the genesis, how in the world that we all meet? How did this team form?
When you have the right team, it’s like having a second family.
It’s very interesting. We were all at another company. We were at a virtual real estate company that helped real estate agents and investors build a business virtually. We were all virtual assistants. I was the team leader at that company as the key assistant. A lot of these people in our company were on my team there, but you came along. We figured you were another client signing up. I was assigned to your account because you wanted a little extra, so I was put there.
Our other team members all had different interactions with you. Scarlet was a client success person at one point and check-ins with you. I believe Alan was doing the same temporarily. Grace was doing the calling. Krista was doing the calling, but all of them had an interaction with you at some sort but not working directly. You and I started to work together. The company that we came from was a disaster company. It was very uncomfortable. There was always tension.
The leadership was messed up. There was a lot of empty promises, berating publicly when you didn’t have a client increase their hours or you weren’t doing more to make the client spend more money, to be completely honest. When I was assigned to your account, I thought you were another client. You and I started to work together. We started to become closer. You asked me if I wanted to work with you directly, which was a huge thing. Honestly, I thought it was a conversation at first, but you did tell me you were going to have a conversation with the owner of the company and see if he could bring you on full-time.
I thought it was just you and I talking, but you followed through. That was something we hadn’t seen at other companies is following through, keeping promises. You made me realize that I had these talents and skills that I feel like we’re taking advantage of in that other company. I trusted you. As you and I started to work more, the more I started to communicate to these people on my team that there was a safer place to go. There was a better place to go where we were going to be able to utilize the skills that we have. It wasn’t just a money game.
Let me insert some context right here as well. If you’re reading, I had never hired a VA in my life. We’re talking about a moment in time where I’m running a brick and mortar office. The idea of hiring somebody that was virtual that I had never met, to me at that moment, was like a black hole. I thought in order to minimize the risk of that, I would go to a third-party company who had already trained up these VAs. As you’re reading, to give you some context, this is my first step experience into the actual VA world for the most part. Keep going, Sierra, because a lot of people are like, “Where’s the context? Where are you on this?” Sierra was the first VA person that I ever hired. I was so nervous about it. I couldn’t understand the world.
I don’t remember the first call you and I had where I had phone issues. I couldn’t get on the conference line you wanted me to get on. I felt so horrible that I was late. It was our first interaction. I was five minutes late. I was like, “This is starting off wonderfully.” Look at us now, years later. I remember the pressure in that situation. These women were amazing. They were my teammates there. One thing that I knew coming over and working with you, Chris, is this was a different situation. I could trust you. You had already tapped your words. You had already gone to bat for me. You went above and beyond. In terms of making me feel comfortable and valued, to be honest, you don’t get that in the VA world a lot.
When I went over to your company, we started to find holes in the process. My first feeling was, “I know who could fill that hole.” That’s what I did. I went back to our team. I started to pull them in and put them in spots. We’ve all evolved and changed roles over the years, but this is our core team. We all came over here, and they come over here on a face that this was going to be a better situation. It obviously has. We’ve been here so long.
The thing that I take away from that initial part, as I sit back and observe that transition is, and I’ll use Andy Stanley’s words. I believe that leadership is stewardship. We’re accountable for the way in which we take care of the people. I remember, Sierra, you and I having conversations where the guy that you guys have worked under at points would have you guys in tears.
He was like a dictator. For myself, one of the things I began to learn through that overall process. This is one of the things I would say is the first point if you’re reading this whole process is, if you want to have a team that stays together long-term, that’s got to be a team that’s based on promise-keeping. It’s doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.
As much as that sounds simplified, I’m amazed at how many people that I run through to the industry that don’t call back when they say they’re going to call back, or they don’t show up on time when they say that they’re going to be at a particular place. What created the initial bond for us overall is that there was a sense of promise-keeping because, Sierra, you guys had come from a world in which there were a lot of broken promises. It was almost like a broken home and workplace.
I had girls on there all the time. On my team calls, I tried to be different with my team, open and honest. If they had a problem, I tried to address it immediately. It was a lot of going to bat for them. When we had our company calls, there was a lot of crying. I had grown women coming to me crying because they were so uncomfortable and they were so talented. It’s not one of those situations where you’re like, “We’ll quit.” I didn’t want to lose them. They were valuable people. They had amazing skills for an owner to treat somebody like that, to where they don’t even want to be there. That’s heartbreaking. I see it a lot, honestly. It’s bad leadership.
You hear a guy that did an incredible job of assembling a talented group of women but didn’t have the overall leadership to maintain and to keep that talent. As we always say, there’s one thing to attract talent. There’s another thing to be able to keep it. I remember, Sierra, the real tipping point was when I told you I wasn’t going to call this guy who, again, everyone was a bit intimidated by. I called him and I said, “I want Sierra to come work for me directly.” At that point, you’re the number one person in his organization. That was going to be a difficult conversation.
I told him, “Tell me how much I need to write a check for. Whatever the amount is, whatever you tell me, I’ll write a check.” He came back literally a day later and named a price. That’s what gave you that ability to move outside of the agreement that you signed, that you would not compete in any way. From there, that’s where the migration started to where he lost all of those great people simply because he didn’t provide great leadership.
I remember being so shocked that you did it. You made that phone call. I trusted you. We had worked towards that relationship. I knew you were going to, I had faith that you were but I still was so incredibly surprised that you did it. Have you ever had so many buy your way out of something, which is a very interesting experience?
I remember you calling and that was the first time I ever saw you cry. You were so grateful to be freed. If you’re reading and what you take away from that, a lot of times, what bonds together a team can be a difficult situation, suffering, pain, or brokenness. If you look at the story of our team and where it began, it started out of coming out of a difficult situation. That was the first bond that bonded us together. All of these great women that I have on like Krista, Grace, and Scarlet all came from that environment. All I had to do from a simple standpoint was come in and say, “I’m going to keep the promises that I make to you, guys, and I’m going to lead you well.”
That’s where it began. That’s the beginning of the story. Let’s go on to the second point, answering the question, how in the world have we survived for several years remotely? Let me throw this out, by the way. As I’m talking with Krista, Sierra, Grace, and Scarlet, I’ve never met any of them face to face. A lot of people are blown away by that. The fact that I fundamentally trust them with my business and my life, they know everything about me.
I know everything about them. We’ve worked together that long and never met each other face to face. The second thing that has tied us together is that we care about the totality of each other’s lives. I remember a saying that, “If you want to impact somebody’s life, create loyalty, and come in and do for others what they can’t do for themselves, there are three ways in which you can do that. You can come in and affect somebody’s health, their wealth, or their family.”
“If you touch one of those three areas in somebody’s life, you get a great return in the sense of the impact that it will have on them.” I wanted to get back, and we asked ourselves what would be a great story and example of us as an organization, not just coming and working together, but caring about the totality of each other’s lives. I remember as we were talking, the story of Margaret came up as an example of that. Krista, you want to talk about that story as a quintessential example of our culture and the extent to which we go through to make sure that we’re taking care of each other in every aspect, even far outside of business.
Margaret was a team member of ours. When I think of Margaret, I think of this beacon of light. The phone calls with Margaret, we’re always giggling and happy. She was truly a joy to have on our team. Unfortunately, Margaret started getting sick. At the start, we’re like, “This is horrible.” We did phone calls and gifts. Even people who weren’t from our old organization stepped in and sent cards or coloring books to bring a little bit of joy to her life while she was feeling so bad.
As things progressed, Chris asked, “What more we could do?” As usual in this business, everybody’s 1099, so there are no benefits. One of the things that Margaret was struggling with is she wasn’t getting the care that she needed because she didn’t have insurance. We said, “Can we get insurance?” The insurance broker laid it out, nobody’s an employee. It’s all 1099. They found something for us. We had two other team members who were able to step in and take the insurance as well. We had to meet certain requirements and able to get insurance so Margaret can start getting the treatment she needed.
It’s one thing to attract talent. It’s another thing to be able to keep it.
Unfortunately, it had progressed too far and we did lose Margaret. It devastated our team. It rocked everybody’s world because she wasn’t just a voice on the phone for us. She was part of our family. We lost one of our family members, but there’s not a lot of businesses that set back and say, “What more can we do?” Most of them like, “If 1099 can’t work, they can’t work. We’re not going to pay.” No, we kept paying. We got insurance because that’s our culture. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t met face to face, but we are family.
I don’t think that you can separate the two. I don’t think as a leader that you can lead your people well if you’re primarily focused on the fact that your only position in the job is to make sure that they get a paycheck. If you don’t care about the totality of people’s lives as a whole within your organization, I don’t think that you’ll ever build a great team. Unfortunately, a lot of companies treat employees as being expendable. They don’t step in and understand what’s going on in people’s lives and more importantly, step in and do whatever it takes to remedy a situation.
With that example with Margaret, we’re talking about it, and as you guys will hear our story, there’s a lot of difficult times. We started off with a difficult time where Sierra began where these ladies initially came from and a broken environment. Another example would be of Margaret and that bonding us together and caring about the totality of someone’s life. Even unfortunately, in that circumstance, we lost a team member.
Sierra, that’s not the only team member we lost. We lost another team member as well. Do you want to touch a little bit on that? As people hear this story, you began to understand that. I heard someone say and it hit me, “A healthy life is not the absence of crisis. A healthy life is honestly getting to a crisis as early as possible because they’re going to come.” You might as well face them head-on, deal with them, and get what you need in order that you can continue to mature. Do you want to talk a little bit about the other aspect of that and a sense of what we’ve been through as a team that has bonded us together?
There are two ways that tragic loss can happen within a company. We have experienced both, which is horrible. With Margaret, we had the ability to work with her and give her that state. The craziest part about Margaret’s story, which I want to add before I go in there. One is that Margaret was declining so fast, but she wanted to continue working. She would not walk away because, as she explained to me, it was like a break from experiencing it. It was destruction.
She loved our team so much, those daily interactions. She would tell me it was helping push her forward. That’s a beautiful thing. In the case of Margaret, with time, we watched it happen. Our other death within the company was just as horrible, but there was no time leading up to it. We also had a team member in Maureen who passed on a conference call. There were no massive health issues. She had a couple of things happened, but she was also very much more private.
We were not prepared for that loss emotionally at all. There was no preparation in any way. She passed on a conference call. It had all of us very shaken up that we lost another valuable person that’s not even a team member, it’s our family. We lost another family member, but this one was so sudden that it not only affected us on that emotional level where we lost our family but also on the business side. We were not prepared.
That was another additional hit trying to scramble to figure out where everything was. What did we do? How do we mourn her properly together as a team being virtual? How do we show support to her family? What do we do? With Margaret, there was much more leading up to it than on Laurie’s case. That hits us just as hard. It’s another thing we’ve had to overcome, but it allowed us to create a tighter family with the people we have and continue to have that relationship, but also on the business side.
I hate putting the two together in a conversation, but it’s reality. It’s allowed us to prepare because you never know what could happen. We have to prepare on all sides because a loss is not a loss just for us, the family or the company. If we can’t pull it together as well, there’s potential we can’t get through this and support the team members that we do have. It affects everything.
Let’s move to this last point being radically transparent. If you guys are reading, I didn’t write any of these down. I posed the question to Krista, Sierra, Grace, and Scarlet, and I said, “How have we survived for this long?” What you’re reading is all of the things that they said. I wrote them down and organized them. Another one that came out was radical transparency. Grace, you said this when it was the idea that we have a culture in which you don’t feel like you have to hide a culture in which you feel like you can say anything that you need to say. It’s a judgment-free zone.
I pose the question again. I said, “If people are reading, what is the story that represents radical transparency? How open could you be within a culture and not feel judged? How open could you be about something maybe that you are feeling that maybe in other cultures you wouldn’t feel like you had the ability to say?” Grace, what’s that story about radical transparency?
At our company, there’s so much that we can engage in, and we did not get a chance to in our previous company or any other businesses that I’m aware of. Radical transparency is one of them and not feeling like I had to hide. About 2019, somewhere towards the end, as much as I loved what I do, I started growing almost resentful. I was super disinterested in certain tasks. All of a sudden, I was growing irritated and agitated, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I was growing distant from my actual job or interest in my actual task. Around January 2020, right at Kobe Bryant’s passing.
He’s one of my favorite athletes. That hit even harder because I looked around and went, “What am I doing with my life in general? If I already feel like I’m not happy at my workplace, why am I still here?” Falling out of love with things that I’d always enjoyed for some strange reason. The only conclusion that I could come up with was, I’m not doing something valuable here, or maybe this isn’t as valuable to me as what it should be.
That felt almost weird because that ultimately meant I need to get out of here. That becomes a conversation of you having to go to your upper manager where your team members that say, “I need out. I can’t do this anymore.” Another company I probably would not have felt very comfortable trying to go and have a conversation about potentially quitting, or either that person would probably try and beat me to the punch and fire me and go, “No problem. If you feel like you’re disinterested here or here’s not where you think it’s going to be very valuable for you, you can go ahead and leave.”
That was not the case here. Thankfully with our culture, we don’t have to feel like we have to hide something. Even if it’s something that feels slightly uncomfortable or it’s a decision that maybe is only benefiting us, the individual. I ended up having a call with Sierra. I’m like, “Sierra, I don’t think I can do this anymore.” She’s like, “Are you sure?” I was like, “Yeah. Here’s how I’m feeling with certain tasks or the projects on my desk in general. I have no interest in them.” There’s no drive. I don’t feel like I’m fulfilling anything.
I was super lost in their purpose. I’m like, “Is this all even worth it anymore?” Having that ability to go and talk to Sierra about it was not something that I’ve had at other companies. Sierra was like, “Let’s talk about it openly. If this is something that you truly think will be best for you, let me help you talk about it out loud.” From Sierra, I ended up talking to you, Chris, about it.
Sierra, what was that conversation like for you? Grace had the ability to call you and say, “I’m not happy. I don’t know that I want to be here anymore. I don’t know that I’m fulfilled.” Talk a little bit about that specific conversation.
Me and Grace’s relationship is so much deeper. Did I give you your first job, Grace?
Yeah, real job.
I hired her at the other company. I’ve watched her grow and do these crazy things. Going from always bubbly but not confident to watching somebody whose personalities change and evolve. She became like a woman, so cheesy and stupid, but I watched her grow up. Her having the ability to call me and be honest about it means a lot to me. She was that comfortable that she could say, “I don’t know what to do.” The thing is it wasn’t this calm, back and forth.
A lot of times, what bonds a team together can be a difficult situation.
There was a little attitude and frustration. It was a little bit different, but we got to the point on that same call where I was like, “I’m going to support you. No matter what, if that’s what you decide, we’re going to support you, but you need to be sure.” We talked about different positions she could move into or what she could do. We paused it. That’s where we left at, Grace. We paused the conversation and you were going to take some time and I was going to think of either another solution or another way to help or get you out of here comfortably. We couldn’t have paused it. That’s when you took control, Chris. You jumped in, and you said, “No, let’s figure this out. It’s something else.” It’s very interesting.
Grace, back to you. At that point, you and I had a heart-to-heart on the phone. What happened from there?
Yeah, that was surprising to me. Prior to Sierra giving me my first real job, I don’t work random jobs that 18, 20-year-olds work because I didn’t need anything consistent. I had never had a situation where like the owner of the company, our actual boss. “Let me extend this olive branch to you, regardless of what you decide. I want to talk you through it.” At this particular point, it was a conversation that I was having with myself inside my head. I wasn’t quite making sense.
Having a conversation with Sierra, I started being able to process it. When you reached out and go, “Do you mind hopping on a conference call? Let me talk you through it and whatever you decide, I’m okay with it, but I will want to help you move into whatever that next thing is and whatever it’s going to be best for you.” That was nothing that I was expecting at all. I was totally expecting to get on that call. I thought you were going to fire me or something like that. I was like, “Okay. He’s going to help me process that.” I never had a call like that. It meant more not even on a professional level, on a personal level.
After that, what we ended up doing was we brought in a transition leadership coach to be a soundboard for you to help you figure out whatever it was that you were feeling. At that point, you started working with Terry Walling.
Yes. Thank you so much for that. Something that I was not expecting was to go from a conversation of feeling I wanted to quit to get into a conversation about, “Let me help you process this and connect you with someone that can help you walk through this process. You don’t have to talk to yourself about it. You have a soundboard from a person whose specialty is helping people navigate transitions in their life.” That was super new to me, nothing that I had ever explored before.
I remember by the time you got to the end of that, you started to get some clarity. Obviously, that clarity is why you’re still here with us. You decided to stay. What was the transition for you? What was it that you walked away from that situation going, “I felt like I was unfulfilled and maybe this wasn’t the place for me,” to now, “I want to continue to make this my home?” What happened?
I was working in, especially working through Terry. He sent me down and walk through like past, present, future. “Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be? Let’s talk through where you have already been.” I slowly learned that I do enjoy helping people. I did enjoy working with my team members, but maybe there was a slightly different way that I could go about it. I wasn’t communicating that all of the time.
If I did communicate frustrations in my life in a general, professional, personal, I would do it after I was already bubbled up with agitation. He helped me resolve the fact that it’s okay to communicate, smile here or there, almost like boundary lines. Here’s the expectation, what you would like, what you would prefer. You’re entitled to be able to determine that for your environment as well. That’s not something that I was used to experiencing.
I am sometimes the type of person to go with the flow to avoid any issues or creating any tension. That helped me to end up saying was knowing that it’s okay. I have a safe zone of communicating that this is something that I expect, or this is something that I prefer communicating boundary lines like that professionally and personally.
After all of that story and however long that was, we’ve continued to work together for years. I know myself, Krista, Sierra, and Scarlet are so grateful that we’re all still working together and we navigated that particular challenge. I want to recap the things that we wanted to say in this first part of the series. It’s a few things. Number one, understand that as you grow and build your team that you’re going to have tragedy and suffering. Understand that we have found that to be honestly the catalyst for what is created greater bonds between us and what we believe is kept us together for so long.
Those are to name a couple of tragedies. We’ve had even bigger ones and bigger challenges that have come down the pipeline. I have found that every tragedy that we get through and get to the other side continues to strengthen and solidify the team to where we honestly become more united, regardless of what happens. The three things from a leadership perspective I hope you read is, number one, if you want to build a team, one that lasts long-term, particularly you as the owner, you have to be a promise keeper.
That’s down to every little thing that you say I know for myself. Do I always get it right? No. If I missed it, I make sure that I apologize, but I always am so conscious about the fact that if I tell someone in my organization that I’m going to do something, it doesn’t matter how small it is, I want to make sure that I follow on that because I want our ladies to live in an environment in which they feel like promises are kept because that’s no different than at home.
For any of us being raised in a home, what we probably wanted more than anything when it came to our moms and dads and our family as a whole is we wanted a family that we felt like we could trust. They kept their promises. Whether it be dads that showed up at football games or moms that picked us up from school on time, it was always about promise-keeping.
The second thing is making sure that you care about the totality of the people on your team. You’re responsible for every aspect of their life. I always remind myself, and I know I have a faith perspective, but I don’t think God cares much about my P&L. What he measures at the end of the day is how much better are the people in our organization for the time that he’s given me to steward them?
That’s what true measurement is. If someone comes and works with us for 1 or even 10 years, did they leave as greater people than when they began. If they had that means that we truly cared about the totality of their lives. Lastly, I don’t think you’ll stay together if you’re not radically transparent. That is one of our core values.
If you don’t feel like you can say what you need to say, and there’s not a sense of a judgment-free zone, then I don’t think that you’ll ever have the effective communication that you need to have in order to have the difficult conversations. The story of Grace is an example of her ability to trust radical transparency and a no-judgment zone is what kept us together. In most circumstances, someone like that would have probably walked out the door, and there wouldn’t have been much of a conversation about it.
Those are the first three things we wanted to share with you. Stay tuned. We will go into part two next episode. As a reminder, as always, if you have an interest in radio and you feel like we can help you out, and you’re looking for a marketing channel, as I always remind people, you don’t just get me. I’m not the smartest person. I was smart enough to put smart people around me. Grace, Sierra, Alan, and Oshan and the rest of our team is a team effort and helping all of our students get up their REI.
I know a lot of what they tell me is, “I got a lot from REI Radio on setting up radio, but I also learned a lot, Chris, by watching how your team interacts. That was a learning experience within itself.” As always, you can check us out at WholesalingInc.com/REIRadio. Until next time, we will catch you soon when we add more value.
About Chris Arnold
Chris Arnold is a 15-year Real Estate veteran who has closed over 2500 single-family real estate transactions in the DFW metroplex. Chris is the founder of multiple companies that are managed by a US virtual team, which allows Chris to run his organizations while living in Tulum, Mexico full time. His passion for leaders has led to the creation of Multipliers brotherhood which serves the top 5% of real estate entrepreneurs out of the US. Most recently Chris has launched his REI Radio coaching program. This program is designed to teach real estate investors the marketing stream that everyone knows about but NO ONE is doing!