For Episode 204, RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos shares his journey and thoughts on the state of the industry. I've had the pleasure of seeing Adam on conference stages, and his down to earth approach and demeanor is refreshing to witness. Listen in and see for yourself!

 

01:15 – Did Adam grow up in Denver?

 

02:25 – Adam and the local sports teams. Is it Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets and Avalanche?

 

03:35 – Was real estate on Adam’s radar while finishing school?

 

04:15 – Adam’s first career

 

05:25 – Adam discusses the importance of leadership in the military and law enforcement

 

06:25 – How did Adam first connect with Re/Max?

 

08:35 – Was Dave Liniger a mentor?

 

11:30 – What does a typical day look like for Adam?

 

14:05 – Adam discusses the Start with a Win podcast

 

16:05 – What is the biggest challenge for Re/Max in Adam’s opinion?

 

18:30 – Are we too concerned or not concerned enough about iBuyers?

 

22:00 – How is the Booj platform rollout going?

 

25:15 – What does Adam look for in future leaders?

 

26:50 – What one piece of advice would you give a new agent?

 

 

Transcription of Interview

 

Adam Contos: Let's put the human back in this whole thing and be the expert instead of letting somebody tell your story for you, which is what happens way too much in society right now. People don't control their own narrative. We need to control our narrative in this space again.
Bill Risser: you're listening to the real estate sessions. I'm your host, Bill Risser with Fidelity National Title Tampa district. Thanks for tuning in as we uncover the stories of leaders in our industry.
Bill Risser: Hi everybody. Welcome to Episode 204 of The Real estate Sessions Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you so much for telling a friend. I am excited about today's episode. I saw this gentleman speak at the Inman Connect event this past summer in Las Vegas, and I love talking to leaders who run big companies because it's just a little bit different. Realtors run their own startup, and that's important for them too. But today we're going to talk to Adam Contos, the CEO [00:01:00] of Re/MAX, over in Denver. So Adam, welcome to the podcast.
Adam Contos: Hey, thanks, Bill. Happy to be here and happy to spend a little time with your listeners.
Bill Risser: I appreciate it. So Denver, I know you live in Denver, you've worked in Denver for a long time. Can I assume you're a native?
Adam Contos: I am not a native. I was actually born in Ohio and then we moved to Virginia and then Texas and then to Denver by the time I was about four years old. So you could say I'm a native. I grew up here, but, uh, wasn't born here.
Bill Risser: [00:01:30] Yeah, I've got friends who've lived in Denver before. It's one of the most beautiful places in the country. But share with the audience may be something that we don't know about Denver.
Adam Contos: Oh boy. Yeah. You know, everybody thinks that we get these horrendous winters and we get a ton of snow, but we have over 300 sunny days a year in Denver and we have four distinct seasons. So, uh, it is truly an amazing place to live and to work. Everybody seems to be moving here right now. So the traffic is getting a little worse. Ultimately, we love being here and living at a mile above sea level has its distinct advantages when you go somewhere else to go compete in athletics or go for a jog on there on the coast.
Bill Risser: I grew up in San Diego, so when you make a trip to the, to San Diego in the summertime, you're just dominating. You say you're doing well as you're running up the beach.
Adam Contos: Oh yeah. Great. I mean, you don't run out of air ever. It's fantastic.
Bill Risser: That's great. Uh, I have to assume, I'll flat out, just guess that, you're in Denver now since you're a small [00:02:30] child, that for you it's Broncos, Rockies Avalanche, and Nuggets. Am I on the right track, or is there one team you like better than others?
Adam Contos: I'm a hometown boy here, so yeah, I like all those names, but ultimately the one that I do follow the most is the Broncos.
Bill Risser: Yeah. Rightly so. I worked for the San Diego Chargers for a few years back in the 90s, and I was actually at the Superbowl when Elway beat the Packers. That was a lot of fun. And then you've got to tell me the, does Denver still buzz about what Peyton did when he got there and was able to do, I mean, as an older, definitely not in his prime player? Peyton took you guys to the promised land.
Adam Contos: Well, it's, it's funny. Yes. I mean, Peyton Manning and John Elway, they're two hometown heroes here. Even though Manning came into the city a little later in his career, but, uh, he, you know, he worked with Elway together. Those two guys. You could, you know, you see him every now and then on golf courses or around the community, but, yes, they are very well looked upon by people around here. And when I go to the Broncos games, I wear a Manning Jersey, still a big guy in my eyes.
Bill Risser: So, like many of the guests on this podcast, very few knew a career in real estate was waiting for them as they entered college. Is it safe to assume that's the same for you?
Adam Contos: Yeah, absolutely. My first exposure to real estate was probably in the early to mid-eighties. My friend's mom was a Re/Max agent, and we used to sit there and flipped around the MLS books. But [00:04:00] that was pretty much the only exposure I had to real estate until probably about, I don't know, 18 to 20 years ago. So, uh, it was, it was a big gap, and I had no idea. I didn't plan on getting into this business originally at all.
Bill Risser: So in college, what was your field of study?
Adam Contos: I grew up the child of a law enforcement officer. My Dad was in federal law enforcement. His Dad was in law enforcement. All my cousins and aunts or uncles were in law enforcement. So we all wanted to be police officers somewhere. So I studied criminal justice, and that was the career path I originally took.
Bill Risser: in your history, as I did a little homework and research you are Marine Corps reservist, and you're also, you were with the sheriff's department in Douglas County and ended up running a SWAT team. I mean, so when you say law enforcement you were all in, correct.
Adam Contos: The law enforcement special operations was kind of a passion of mine. I wanted always to be the best of the best, which is why the day after I graduated high school, I decided I'd find myself a Marine Corps Bootcamp. So I wanted to do something as deep in the law enforcement as I possibly could and chasing bad guys and kicking doors and things like that were really one of my passions. And the brethren that comradery, things like that that you experienced with it as well as the drive to be the very best of the best was truly something I, I worked for every day.
Bill Risser: It's safe to say, you hear this a lot when people talk about, coming out of the military, which is part of your background as well. And even with law enforcement, that leadership is kind of baked into those careers. Is that a safe assessment of that?Adam Contos: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess ultimately you look at the situations that first responders, military people on critical incidents are put into and you have to develop a passion for problem-solving and decision making. And ultimately that's one of the key traits of a good leader, is a problem solver. Somebody who can come into a bad situation, earn the trust and confidence of people involved in that and make a decision to help move the situation forward. Kind of like real estate.
Bill Risser: You think about it, it's exactly what they have to do, right? If you can, if you can identify and help someone with an issue, you might have a customer for life?
Adam Contos: If you can focus on your decision-making skills and, and creating a win-win, uh, there's definitely a business take away from that one.
Bill Risser: Your first work with Re/Max was as an independent contractor, right? I'd like for you to share the details of what you did for them and I think this is about 15 years ago. Am I right?
Adam Contos: Yes. In 2003, I had a security consulting company that I had started. I've always been an entrepreneur. I had started an online business in the late nineties and then a security consulting company in the early two thousands and I was doing homeland security consulting, a lot of threat assessments, vulnerability assessments, and a corporate training for employees on how to prevent people from breaking in or victimizing businesses as well as victimizing the employees. So I had approached Re/Max with a real estate agent safety program that I had developed and they were very interested in it and purchased the program from me in 2003 and sent me all over North America teaching the course to real estate agents and brokerages.
Bill Risser: From that, from going around the country, you had to have caught the eye of someone at the company because it wasn't much longer after that that you end up starting in a business development role. They're kind of thinking in the western area of the country. Is that right?
Adam Contos: Yes. I had actually known Dave Liniger, the co-founder of RE/Max before I even started doing the security consulting for RE/Max and he really wasn't even the one who brought my program into the company. It was the CEO at the time, Margaret Kelly that brought my program into the company, and Dave had watched as I traveled around and did the public speaking. I did a 32 city speaking tour throughout North America as well as consulted with the franchisees that brokers and talked to a lot of agents. And over the course of the year that I was consulting for the company, the leadership team here had kept a close eye on what I was doing as I was touching a lot of their customers. And one day Dave called me up and said, hey, why don't you come and work for me full time.
Bill Risser: [00:08:30] Wow. So, that gets you started in the, really in a kind of a leadership role with the company. I'm just going to guess that because of your relationship with Dave, it's safe to assume that he was a mentor and played a major role in developing the skills you are going to need in the real estate industry.
Adam Contos: Yeah, that was one of the questions that I had for him when he invited me to the organization, as I said, well I'd, I'd love to, but will you mentor me in this space because you are the guy in real estate? And he said, absolutely, I would love to. So I became extraordinarily vulnerable and listened to every piece of feedback the man ever gave me and implemented it. And it, uh, you know, obviously worked out for me over the years, but 15 years of being mentored by Dave Liniger really is an amazing thing to experience.
Bill Risser: You talk about vulnerability, I have to ask you this question. You're a guy who you grew up, you know, these, you mentioned with your entire family in law enforcement, these are tough guys. Was it different for you to be a civilian in essence and, and know that you had to open up, kind of let someone else critique and criticize?
Adam Contos: After being on the Swat team and being part of realistically what is a kind of counter-intuitively a very vulnerable position in law enforcement because you debrief every single thing you do when you deal with a call, everybody sits around and you talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of that call that causes you to be willing to receive feedback. And I think that's something that a lot of society has to an extent, built a wall around and doesn't want to hear is somebody giving them honest feedback or even asking for it. So it's counterintuitive to what you might think, you know, being the tough guys and stuff like that out there. But ultimately you have to be willing to, to listen to what you did right, which did wrong, what you should do differently, brainstorming new ideas, things like that. And that's really the mindset that I've had ever since then. Because without that, you don't get to change. You don't get to be better or realize where you're slowing down your team or yourself.
Bill Risser: So imagine you're having these conversations with the people that are following you, with the young people you're hiring into these positions that you took 15 years ago. You're letting them know this is part of where you have to be.
Adam Contos: Absolutely, and frankly, our customers don't want to hear brokers, agents, the consumer, they don't want to hear, oh, I already know that, or you don't need to tell me I know what I'm doing. Things like that. Nobody wants to hear that. Especially in society now people want to know that you're open to listening to them, to hearing and caring about their opinion and accepting the feedback to appropriately build it into your life and your business.
Bill Risser: Well, you work your way through some regional positions, I think you've touched both coasts in your career with RE/Max and you become CEO in February of 2018. I love to ask this question of those in charge, what does a typical day look like for you? First of all, if typical is really a thing for you?
Adam Contos Typical is absolutely a thing for me. And I think what you'll find is a lot of people that are striving to be super achievers that, run businesses, have really created a structured lifestyle that creates success, have a typical day. And for me that that day starts at 4:30 in the morning. I have a little routine that I go through in the morning where I will listen to a broadcast by Darren Hardy. It's called the Darren Daily. It's kind of a, you know, a life lesson or an affirmation, but it gets you thinking about kindness and other people, business acumen and things like that. It activates your brain a little bit. Uh, hit the gym for an hour and I begin learning. I'll put on a podcast or an audiobook or something like that. And that extends for me basically from being at the gym to my house and then from my house to work. So, uh, I'll have a good hour and a half to two hours of education in before I even hit the office here. And then I'll start sharing with customers, interacting with customers for a period of time, and then work my way into some meetings and come out of meetings, get back with my customers. And I, I make sure I build those things every day. So I have to deliver value every day. I have to do things to learn every day. I have to work on my health every day. And then I make sure that I touch base with my family throughout the day and let them know that I love them. Um, cause you know, you never know when we're not going to get that opportunity. So, uh, those things are all very structured in my life.
Bill Risser: First of all. That's amazing. And I don't think I've heard it said that way before. So congratulations on creating, you know, this, um, this system for success I guess. I mean it sounds kind of hokey, but it's really what you, it's really what you've done.
Adam Contos: Yeah. It's funny you say that because I mastermind with quite a few other really high performing business leaders and entrepreneurs and it is kind of commonality amongst a lot of these folks. So it's like this, secret society if you will, that if you're willing to do these things, you, you can get what you want to get. And if you're not, then you know, you get what you get.
Bill Risser: Yeah, yeah. Once you get it, you get what you get. And I like it. That's perfect. One thing you do that is different than a lot of the other leaders in the industry is, especially at the CEO level, is you actually do a lot of talking about the brand and, you have a podcast out there now called Start with a Win. Can you explain the story behind that whole concept?
Adam Contos: Sure. So probably a year ago I was talking to my team, my communications team and we're talking about what would a podcast look like for, for me to do? And they said, have you ever done a podcast? I said, nope, never done one. But, but I would love to try and we took a look at that and thought, well what would we talk about? Well, it's all the stuff that I talked to them about every day anyway, which is these different concepts, you know, some of which we went through and getting up at 430 and why you do the things that you do and, and the reasoning behind some of that. And there are so many great ideas out there, but nobody shares those ideas. And once you start hearing those ideas repetitively, you start to build some of those success principles in your day. And that's what we want to do and achieve, is help people who can get tied up in their, you know, their daily grind, take a little break and have the opportunity to, to hear some of the success principles because you never know when you're going to give that little course correction that's going to make somebody's day or life better.
So every day we released, Start With a Win. You can find it on iTunes and Google Play or wherever your podcasts are found or StartWithAWin.com. it's starting to get some really good traction and we're getting some great feedback from people that are enjoying listening to the message.
Bill Risser: Yeah, it's a great show. I will definitely link out to it in the show notes. It's now on my regular rotation, so congratulations on a great idea and great execution as well. So very good.
Adam Contos: Thanks, Bill. And by the way, love your podcast also, I'm honored [00:16:00] to be on here and you have a great show.
Bill Risser: Well, thank you. I'm gonna ask you a few questions about what's going on in the world today of real estate. What do you see Adam, is the biggest challenge for RE/Max as we head into the 2020's?
Adam Contos: I think the biggest challenge for RE/Max is really the biggest challenge for all of our peers in the real estate space overall. And that's people losing track of what they're here for. And what they're here for is to serve the consumer. They're here too, to be great consultants, to build great relationships with the consumer, trust, and transparency, and to take that extra step to, to create an amazing experience for the customer during the real estate sale and purchase process. So really when you, when you think about that, a lot of people will do, if we, if we call the real estate transaction 100% of the process people will do, generally they'll shoot for 60 to 80% of the process and get it done. But let's say you make it to 80% you've done a pretty good job and you, give yourself a pat on the back. So now we're 80% there. It's truly the people who are going to excel in this industry that can add 30% to that. So take it to 110% that is where you're really going to find the magic in this business, and that's what everybody needs to be focused on because that's where the interruptions and the disruptions and the distractors and things like that are going to drag your business away from you is if you're not willing to put that extra 30%.
Bill Risser: I have to comment here. I, I've been telling people for a long time that if you're not creating such a bond with people that you've worked with, that if they see an advertisement or a billboard for a new iBuyer, let's say, that the first response of that person should be, oh, I should call Adam and find out what that's all about instead of going to the website. Right? I mean, that's the kind of level you're talking about when you're saying 110%?
Speaker 3: Exactly. Yep. Let's put the human back in this whole thing and be the expert in instead of letting somebody tell your story for you, which is what happens way too much in society right now. People don't own their own narrative. We need to control our narrative in this space again. Right?
Bill Risser: I think that that message could keep getting spread and you're doing it with your podcast, you're doing it with your company. I think it will help us all. So I have to ask the obligatory iBuyer question. Do you think there's too much, too little, just the right amount of attention being focused on them? Where do you see all this headed?
Adam Contos: The interesting part about the, iBuyer business model and there are roughly six business models in the iBuyer label or category if you will. Is that nobody's making money doing this, doing this right now. In fact, I have a funny story. I had talked to one of my peers in this space and he's doing iBuying and I said, how's this going for you? He goes, well, I didn't realize that our profit margin was the cost of a refrigerator. And I go, what do you mean by that? He goes, well, we had a refrigerator stolen out of one of our houses that we were flipping and because we had replaced the refrigerator, now it is a net loss, so, super-thin margins for the most part. And you know, you've got a lot of private equity money being thrown at this. So people were kind of playing it out. And what I see happening is I think there's a space in the real estate market for these folks to operate if they can sustain, and that space is probably massively overlapping into the for sale by owner or the whole wholesale market and they're going to find a place that they like. But ultimately what we are finding is that the average consumer wants to squeeze out as much profitability or as much return on that investment in their home that they've created because we know that the house is the largest investment that anybody makes in their retirement. So they want to get out of it what they deserve to get out of it. In order to do that, you need a good representative in the marketplace, a professional to help you negotiate that process and ensure that you're not putting too much liability on your shoulders.
And in doing so, there's a place for the Ibuyers, I don't know exactly where they're going to fall, but I can tell you that out of 10 and a half to 11 million transactions sides a year, there's going to be a place for them. It's not going to be as substantial as some people have said it is, but it's, it's an interesting business model to watch and it has gotten the attention of the public. So we'll continue to operate around it and beside them and, and help people have great consultation in determining whether or not the Ibuyer offer is what's best for them.
Bill Risser: There is a big spread between the projections, right? You have some that say it's going to be 30% of the business by 2030 but then Mike DelPrete shows up at Inman and says, well, Morgan Stanley's analysis shows 5%. That's a radical spread, right? And I guess the question really is where does that end up? If it's somewhere in the 10% range, that's just another form of competition, but not dramatically affecting what your good agents are doing right?
Adam Contos: And, where are they going to get their percentage of market share from? Is it coming from the FSBO market? If that's the case, they're really not taken a bite out of anybody's piece of the pie and they're introducing something, you know, another listing in the marketplace that has got agent representation at some point or is it going to be a combination of all of the different portions of the market and if that's the case, then ultimately we're still kind of dabbling in the, you know, the small gray area at the bottom of the market.
Bill Risser: The other big word that we keep hearing a lot about at the national level is technology, right? You've got companies like Compass, you know, with Robert talking strictly about technology. It seems like Gary and Keller Williams, they're doing, you know, their whole technology thing. I'd love to talk about what you did by acquiring Booj. I have some friends that are RE/Max agents and I know they were very excited earlier in August that they've begun their training now on the platform. I just wanted you to kind of share with us how that's going.
Adam Contos: Sure. In fact, we have a Booj training class going on here today at headquarters. I was just down talking to them. Booj is a real estate technology company, 100% real estate technology, servicing nearly 40 independent real estate companies around the country for over a decade. We noticed this company just five miles up the road from us and started looking at it and benchmarked them against all the rest of the technology in the marketplace and found out that these guys truly are top-shelf. I mean, they are the best of the best. So we went down the road of doing our diligence on this whole thing, looked at them for about a year and ended up acquiring the company and then doubled the size of the company to build out what we believe is the best world-class industry-leading technology platform that can be stretched globally. So this is something that's never been done. There's not been a real estate technology platform that has stretched globally and that's really what my stated goal is, is to be the global real estate technology leader with this. So we launched the first iteration of this. It is a foundation that we're building on top of and on top of. And on top of that. We continue to upgrade and update constantly. And it's super exciting. Everybody that's played with it so far and is starting to deploy it in their offices is really excited about it.
Bill Risser: There've got to be some unique challenges. You used the word globally twice. My first thought was, wow, you're right. First of all, real estate is done differently in other parts of the world. And so having a tool that can adapt, that's pretty special.
Speaker 3: Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously the first challenge is getting it throughout the US, to begin with, and then North America and then globally. But we've got some really, really smart people working on it. They don't let me sit down and tag code cause things would not move so hot. But uh, you know, realistically you got to start somewhere. We've planted the seeds in the US where we're launching region by region, by multiple states here and there. And then, once we get the US down, when we hit Canada, and we hit globally. And with our footprint in 110 different countries and territories, with this phased approach, we'll continue to build out, like you said, our global footprint. And yes, there are a lot of differences, but ultimately bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, you know, real estate agent information, consumer information, things like that. There are a lot of similarities as well.
Bill Risser: Let me go back a little bit to leadership and in your role, I would assume you're going to do the same thing Dave did for you. The next people that are coming along, and with your experience in the military and law enforcement, what are you looking for? What is someone doing or saying that you see that person and go, wow, he or she, this is somebody I got to stay in touch with and stay connected to?
Adam Contos: Yeah, I love that question because that takes me back to a speech that I gave on stage at our broker conference recently, to a thousand of our business leaders in our franchise network. And one of the things that I said in that was, a question that you have to ask yourself and what you need to ask the people that you are bringing into your business and that's are you coachable? And I, I look at that and that is probably the number one trait of a leader in my opinion. So if you're coachable, you can be molded to work in the environment and in the systems that are most effective in your business model. So, being coachable is transparent, it's being aware, it's being caring and it's always seeking knowledge in order to better yourself. So really that's probably the key trait that I look for in my leaders, all of my leaders in the organization here. Do you have professional coaches? Uh, I too have coaches and I'm also part of many mastermind groups. So that would be the number one thing that I would say,
Bill Risser: Adam, I've had you here the half-hour I asked of your time. So I'm gonna wrap it up with the same question I've asked every guest since 2015 and Jay Thompson and that's what one piece of advice would you give a new agent just getting started?
Adam Contos: New agent just getting started. Most people want to sit down and they want to take a look at what gadgets and gizmos and things that they can come up with in order to build their business. But ultimately they need to build their business by building relationships. And that's what I would say, that, you know, all of the tools and resources, the CRMs and the marketing pieces and everything else that we put out really ultimately should be designed to do. But there's still the great majority of that, that needs to be really perfected by this new agent. And that's the human aspect of it. They need to go out and they need to meet people. They need to, to deliver value. And as a result of meeting people and delivering value, they will create a reciprocal environment where those people that they meet and build relationships with or want to do business with. So, deploying gratitude, being kind and going out and making a difference for other people.
Bill Risser: Adam, if someone wants to reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do that?
Adam Contos:  They can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, at @remaxadamcontos or they can check out the podcast instead over at StartWithaWin.com.
Bill Risser: Adam, thank you so much for your time. I've really enjoyed watching you on stage. I've enjoyed listening to your podcast. I think you have a tremendous attitude and you just mentioned gratitude and kindness and for whatever reason, I just don't equate that with someone running such a large company and it's probably me, but I think a lot of people agree with me that you're, you're a breath of fresh air. In the industry and it's, it's been an honor to talk to you.
Adam Contos: Well, thanks for calling. I really appreciate you having me on the show today. And, the opportunity to, to share my thoughts with your listeners.
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