Incredible and fascinating discussion with Jeremy Spann! We talk about his journey into highly valuable real estate, how he’s stood out, and how businesses can help themselves by solving unique business problems. We cover a variety of items that you are sure to absolutely enjoy.
Super excited this week. Once again, we just continue to have just a great lineup of guests and some just amazing people to speak with. And so I’m really, really excited to welcome Jeremy Spann to the show. So Jeremy, he’s got a pretty fun and exciting background. So he was a former US Marine. He’s worked for the city of Fort Worth right here in Texas. He’s owner of the Old School Pizza Tavern. He’s a managing partner of Stoneburgh Management. I mean, the dude’s busy as you can tell. And he’s a global real estate advisor with the Spann Group at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s and I’m really excited because I love plugging fellow podcaster. So he’s a fellow podcaster as well. I would really love for you to check out his show. It’s called the Winning Strategies Playbook. Jeremy, I just want to welcome you to the show, man.
Yeah. Thanks, Aaron, for having me on and accommodating my schedule. I know we had a little bit of – my schedule a little all over the board this week, so I appreciate you reset me to be able to come today to do this.
Yeah, no. It’s the way it goes. Especially you and I seem to have similar life goals in terms of we just like to stay busy, doing a lot of really fun and interesting things. And that doesn’t leave a whole lot of dead space, right?
No, no, no. I’ve often heard that the definition – if you really want to know what an entrepreneur is, just look up all the characteristics and symptoms of being bipolar and that pretty much describes the same thing. And like you said, I stay pretty busy just mainly because I want my wife to be married to me. So if I didn’t have things to do, I’d drive her nuts.
Right. That’s awesome. Oh, man. I mean, how have you been? Like the obvious question aside from how you’re doing, but how has your world been since the COVID pandemic punched everybody in the face?
Oh, man, So one of the sayings that I use a lot of times is everything that’s a blessing is a curse and everything that’s a curse is a blessing. It’s unoriginal. I actually got that saying off of a documentary about Garth Brooks. When he said that, I was like, oh, wow, that actually makes a lot of sense, right?
You’ve taken that.
Oh, man. I steal things all the time, right? If they’re not copyrighted, they’re going into my book, Aaron. But I kept calling 2020 is the post pandemic riding, protesting election year trifecta of 2020. And a few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a friend of mine who’s a retired four-star Marine General John Allen. And he goes, “Well, don’t forget the hurricanes and fires too.” And I was like, oh yeah. How can we forget all those?
You can’t forget that.
But for us, it’s been really good. One of the main things was we had been trying to take our business model to where it is present day for a year prior to the pandemic. But you know how it is in business, if you’re dealing with an antiquated industry that this is the way it’s always been done, it’s hard for people to grasp. And then in the middle of March, everybody was like, oh, okay, well, that makes sense. So I was like, so it literally took a pandemic to launch my business to levels that I didn’t even realize I’d be able to hit, that I had 35,000 foot goals of getting to, but man, it was a long tread. And then all of a sudden, overnight, it was there because the pandemic forced the world to think different. And I’m very, very different about anything I do.
No, that’s cool
Yeah. It’s been really great. I think probably what it did for me as well more than anything is I think as entrepreneurs, we get so busy trying to create and build things that we lose perception of the things that are closest to us and most important because we take them for granted, right? And I’m fortunate to have my wife, not only as my best friend, but as my business partner. So we never escape each other. I mean, we’re 24/7, everything. And it just really made me think with her and my daughter and my friends and my other family, it’s what was really important.
And I think during the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, everybody was looking out their window in their neighborhoods and seeing all the fake parenting that was going on, right? Or that’s what I called it. It was fake parenting because now they’re out there throwing the balls with little Johnny and having tea parties with little Susie and walking in the neighborhood. And a friend of mine got really been out of shape when I said that. And I said, “Look, man, I say it to be funny, but it’s not fake parenting if you continue to do it after everybody gets back to go into what they were doing before.” Then it’s not fake. So I think, you know, I mean, without the political things that go into, that surround COVID-19, which there’s a ton of that, I’d say that the pandemic was really God’s way of saying, “Hey, look, people, it’s time to pay attention.” And that’s the way I took it. And we’ve been very, very fortunate.
Yeah. No, I mean, it’s been an eye-opener for sure. And specifically in the context of business and also family too. I think you hit on a number of topics and I hope even if it’s “fake parenting”, I hope that the time that people had with each other in a more focused way, when the weather was nice and everyone was getting outside and all that stuff, I really hope that people hold onto that and remember that. And maybe there will be a little bit of a relapse but then maybe there’ll be this beckoning to return to that at some point. And so maybe it won’t take another pandemic to motivate and inspire parents to be more engaged and more involved with their kids.
And then kind of pivoting now over into the business side of stuff. Yeah. It’s funny that you say all that because I feel like that’s been a theme for a lot of businesses. So there’s been tons of businesses that have struggled really bad. There’s others that’s been status quo and there’s been others that have just taken right off. And so I love to get a little bit more detail with you in terms of what specifically changed in your business that you had been wanting to implement, that now, thanks to pandemic, it’s like, okay guys, we’re forced to do this now?
And leading into that, I think prior to the pandemic, businesses were in three categories, right? They were doing really good. They were barely holding on. And then you had the middle group, which was, hey, what do I got to lose to try something different? And so a lot of businesses that shut down and that’s not inclusive of retail and restaurants. I mean, those businesses are being decimated across the country in some states more than others due to the politics of things. The restaurant industry, for example, doesn’t have a lot of hot markets. And so something like this is just – and we haven’t seen the end of it. It’s going to continue to devastate it.
But outside of those two industries is you have a lot of companies that are going to go, “Well, there’s the pandemic, that’s why I went out of business.” You’re like, well, no, I probably should’ve gone out of business about two years ago. You just have a good excuse, something to blame it on, right? So it’s personal accountability which is one of the things that the pandemic allowed us to really exercise on is to look at people and say, “Look, this is about being accountable.” And then you had businesses that were healthy, that were naturally going to succeed pandemic or not. And then the ones that we were in the middle of like, man, we’ve always wanted to try things, but either you’re scared or you don’t have the money, or you don’t have the time, or you’re worried about this or that, where an idea after March 16th or prior to March 16th, people will be like, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of.” And then after March 16th, it was like, “Well, what do you got to lose?”
Right. You either do this or die.
Oh, yeah. And for us, so you mentioned, so Stoneburgh Management does one set of things, Old School Pizza Tavern in Arlington, I mean, it’s pizza and beer and across the street from the University of Texas at Arlington, 45,000 college kids. So it’s really Marine proof, right? Pizza, beer, college kids. I mean, you got to go out of your way to screw that up. And trust me, I can give you almost ten years of stories of what I did to try to put that thing out of business and it didn’t work, right? And actually out of that, Aaron, do you want to come back to it? It’s a really good success story on Old School and what its future is?
So I’ll start with the bigger ones. So Spann Group at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. So Sotheby’s is the largest global luxury brand there is when it comes to real estate. But it’s really funny because when people hear Sotheby’s, they go, “Oh, you only sell million-dollar houses? And I’m like, “No, only about 20 of those sell in Fort Worth.” So luxury is an experience that you can deliver to clients. Well, when you look at it, as you kind of go back in history a little bit in the real estate industry is prior to 9/11, people used real estate agents because they had to. They didn’t have access. Only I call it the Martin Luther schism that happened in religion, right? Until you made it where only priesthood read it, now everybody has access and that was your Zillow, Redfins and realtor.com and all these came out.
So agents have control of what people could see or not, right? And so when technology entered prior 9/11, it was like, “Oh, wow, I can go on the internet and look at stuff.” Well, then 9/11 happens, right? And the world is – not just us, but the world face financial hardships. And this was really the time for what I’ll use the term loosely is professionals in the real estate industry to step up and say, hey, listen, now that people have access, we really just need to show them that trust and we care about their financial interests. But then as you see, after 9/11, the ramp up to the bubble in 2008, it was not the case. People were trying to make easy money. And I always tell people, I’m like, there’s a thing called quick money, but it’s never easy money, right? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, guess what? It’s a duck. And so the barriers of entry for this industry are incredibly low. I mean, I know in Texas you got to pass 100 multiple guess tests of which, I think, you only got to get 70 right. And you have a 25% chance of getting each of those 70 right.
Just go back to when in doubt, see it out.
Oh, man. I mean, literally. Literally, right? I mean, dude, an ASVAB is harder than a real estate exam. You don’t need to study for an ASVAB. And so these are the barriers of entry and people are just jumping in it because they want the side hustle or the easy money, but they were jumping into it for the money. So when people jump into things for money, they’re typically thinking about their own money. And so then 2008 happens, right? And I mean, I don’t have to make sausage out of that. I think we all know what happened after that.
So here’s a chance for agents after 2008 to really establish trust with the consumer again. And I believe that they again failed leading into the pandemic. But one of the interesting things about the pandemic, though, was the pandemic exposed a gap, right? And what I mean by that is we hear all these technology disruptors. Well, they didn’t work during the pandemic. So technology was not as strong as what people thought. And so you got technology is not as good as what we all thought it would be and then you got real estate professionals that have been just doing a horrible job maintaining the trust of the consumer, that now what I believe will happen in the next five years is 80% to 85% of people in the real estate industry will no longer be in the real estate industry. And it’s not just because of the trust or the lack of performance or the disruptors in technology. Two things occurred during this, and I make jokes and this sounds a little unprofessional. You got some 17-year old kid sitting in his mom’s basement, drinking Jolt Cola and watching Pornhub and coding all the time that just went, “Well, there’s a gap. I bet you I can write an algorithm that will fix that.”
So now I believe that the pandemic is going to force – and I don’t know what it is. This is just an assumption. But some form of technology is going to happen that’s going to wipe out that 80% to 85%. Because, really, in any market, 10% of the agents do 90% of the businesses. It is. So how are the other 90% of agents can survive? Because they’re not going to be needed.
Well, the other thing that happened was because of the lack of maintaining of trust of real estate professionals for the consumer is we still had people that were using real estate professionals because they didn’t have time. We didn’t have a thing called time on their hands, right? Well, guess what everybody had for about 60 to 90 days starting in the middle of March of 2020? They have time. So now you’ve got people that have an element of something that they didn’t have before that was forced on them to where now they’re going, “Hey, let me start diving in and see why do I really need a real estate professional to show me how to go do this?”
So I think that combination of learning how to learn on the internet with things with people that now have time and that combination of a technology component, if both of those will comply and it’ll almost – I don’t want to say you’re never going to get rid of the shoe leather on the ground as a friend of mine said on a podcast some time ago, but you’re going to lose a lot of the people that were in there for the easy and side hustle. So for us now, I came into real estate with my wife dragging me, kicking and screaming. I didn’t actually get licensed until the beginning of October 2016. And there’s a long story leading up to why that happened. And then, I mean, no good story ever started with I was eating a salad, right?
We got to hear it now. You’re killing me. Let’s go.
Yeah. I’ll tell you about the leading up to it. But what I want to focus on in my first 90 days in the industry, my wife’s been in the industry for 20 years. Her mom’s been in the industry for 45 years. My wife has a law degree and I had finished my MBA at TCU a couple of years earlier. And so I got into it to really help her while I was Stoneburgh Management, done a bunch of different things and I was trying to get it to go a direction. So I was like, “Hey, I’ll do that until I get this off the ground.” But what I saw was that lack of trust. Barriers of entry are low. If you’ve ever heard of Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Five Forces is something fascinating. You could google that. It kind of tell you about an industry by answering a few questions.
And so I looked at my wife in December of ‘16, and I said, “In 24 months, we’re going to be number one in this company.” And she was like, “Well, how’s that?” And I had only done about a million in closings in my first 90 days. She’d done about five. So we had about six million in closings, which is twice as much as a top producer in Fort Worth, right? And I was like, wow, that’s top-producing. I don’t even really think that. So I was like, man, we’re going to build a business where trust is the currency of business. Because I said, at some point, technology is going to catch up and being that people have access, so now they don’t have time. So they don’t have time so they try to rely and trust a professional who’s failing them and trust. We’re going to survive through all of that because people are going to come to us based on trust.
Now, naturally, all the rest of it – having everybody on our team at a minimum has a degree, a college degree, which you don’t have to have, but it teaches you. I think it gives you – I could do a whole episode of what I think a college degree means or not, especially since I dropped out of high school. But my wife had a law degree, me having an MBA is we looked at things much different. And so as we were leading – and we were doubling business year after year, and then the number one guy in the company left in 2018 to go to a competing company. So by default, we were number two right behind him. So we went to number one. So I fulfilled my prophecy. Hey, listen, by an inch or by a mile, winning is winning however you got there, right? Because if we were third place, we wouldn’t have got there.
So long story short, from 2018, we entered 2019, and man, we are rocking along and we were getting the business because people were coming to us. There is at one point – I think it was the second or third quarter in 2019, we had clients that came to us that said, “I’m firing my agent. I’m coming to you because I just want somebody that I trust. I don’t want you to tell me what I want to hear. I want you to tell me the truth. I want you to tell me what do I need to know, what do I not need to know. How do we move this forward?”
So in 2019, what I wanted to do, because we had a fantastic team, right? Everybody is kind of like a recon team in the Marine Corps. Everybody knows each other’s job, but everybody specializes in something to be a little bit better at it. Whether it’s the land nav guy, the sniper, the comms or whatever, right? Or the slack man who’s just carrying all the heavy stuff till it’s not heavy and then it hasn’t switched packs to somebody, right? That’s what we built it around but the real estate industry was still very antiquated where the worst thing I ever did in branding was calling it the Spann Group from the very beginning because people have this assumption that they had to get a Spann, right? And so I wish I would have called it something different.
That’s why our website is myexperiencedrealtor.com not spanhgroup.com because I wanted people to realize it’s like, hey, I’m really good at solving problems. I’m really good at financial analysis and I’m really good at generating leads. But man, I couldn’t even tell you what’s in a contract. I’m not a detailed guy. So we built it around where we wanted when a client came in, that normally when you hear about a real estate team, you just kind of get poured out to whoever’s available and they go do it. We were like, no, you’re being brought into the process where you want to be introduced to everybody, but you might be dealing with Lyn or you’re going to be dealing with Lyn when it comes to this. You’re going to be dealing with Michelle that comes to this and Laura in this and me with this and so forth, so forth.
But people are like, “No, I came to you because I hired you. I want you to show me. I want you to do this. I want you to do that.” And it was just a lot of resistance. Because people were like, “No, I came to you because you’re my guy.” And so it was really hard making the handoff, right? And it wasn’t a handoff to punch it out to somebody else. It was the handoff so that way they could be surrounded by this loving team that cared about their interests. But people resisted that. And then when, when the pandemic happened, we couldn’t meet with clients face to face so we had to start doing it on Zoom. And that’s when it clicked. I said that’s how the handoffs going to happen. So we did that at the same time the last couple of years, I have a saying in business: Business gets complicated when you complicate it, right? Look, you want it to be the Jeff Foxworthy’s Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader easy to understand, right? And you remember that show?
Those are hard questions, by the way. That’s unfair. What the crap, man. That’s hard.
But it is. But to make something that the industry has complicated over decades…
Yeah. No, it’s true.
…takes a lot of work to force it to be easy. And so now it’s just as smooth as can be. We have clients that go, man, we’ve never seen anything like y’all.
That’s the opportunity. You saw that as an opportunity and you decided to jump in and be like, hey, this is a stupid and heavy and complex process. It doesn’t have to be. We can simplify it for our clients so they have a better experience.
Yeah. And especially when you’re dealing with an industry that has such low barriers of entry, that a squirrel in my front yard probably has an IQ more than some of them out there. And I can tell you, and it was funny when I landed, Lyn who works on our team, picked me up from the airport. And we were joking that if we didn’t have to deal with the insanity caused by the real estate professionals on the other side of the deal, we would actually have 50% more of our time because that’s how much it drags out.
I could see that. I can totally see that.
I got to make a whole podcast series of just stories that people just wouldn’t believe. An agent crying on the phone going, “We have to make this deal close because I have to pay my rent.” And I’m like, “What? Are you representing you or your client?” So anyhow, without going off on that soapbox, we were able to simplify the process that now when a client reaches out or a potential client reaches out, even past clients reach out because they want to buy again, I get on the phone and I go, “Hey, let me walk you through this process.” And then I give them the layout of the process. Pretty quick, just takes a couple of minutes. And I say, “And here’s what else we’re going to do. We’re going to send you a link to Culture Index.”
Culture Index takes only about six to ten minutes to take. When you take it, it kicks out a result that shows us how you process information. So I’ll use an example. My wife and I are very, very opposite. Me? Give it to me in three bullet points. I’m going to make a decision yesterday. I just want an 80% solution. I’m going to move on. My wife, on the other hand, she wants all the details, all the documents, all the I’s dotted, all the T’s crossed. And she wants to have time to process and think about it. She’s a historical thinker; I’m a deductive thinker. And so when you’re presenting information to two of us, that’s two totally different ways to present information.
And Aaron, the importance of that is this. Unanswered questions lead to confusion and confusion leads to fear and fear doesn’t get anything done. But clarity leads to agreement, agreement establishes trust and trust is the currency of business, not money. And that’s what gets things done. So when you’re communicating with people, it’s a lot like foreign languages, right? People go, “Oh, they’re in America. They should speak American.” Well, if they don’t understand the language, doesn’t matter how much you yell at them or slow down, they don’t understand. They just look at you and go, “Wow, they’re talking really loud.”
No, you just need to talk slower and louder, right? It’ll probably work.
And so for us, Culture Index allowed us to become translators and speak each of the client’s languages.
So now the gap of confusion is shrunk. They’re getting it. And I tell clients on that first phone call, “Look, our goal is that you will know as much about real estate more than us at the end,” that people go, “Oh, well, why would you give away that power?” And I’m like, well, if they understand and have that much clarity and that much agreement, we move faster to the process, which gives them the warm and fuzzy out of that. And so once they take the Culture Index, they drop in the group thread. That’s one of the things we start. We over-communicate. So they drop into a group thread, “Hey, you took it?” Lyn sends them a link where they can schedule a Zoom call with us based on the availability of the calendar.
And then we get on a Zoom call and I go through the introductions. Then everybody talks about their roles and processes. And it was just really funny because by the end of it, they’re like, “So what do you do? Why are you here?” And I’m like, “Well, I’ve done my part. Here’s the team that’s really going to take care of you.” And then we were able to operate efficiently, stronger, better, faster, smarter. And we had that trust because we wanted people to go, “Well, we want your advice on stuff.” We have a saying: We provide, you decide, right? I’m going to give you the advice, but it’s your money, you decide. But what good is asking for advice if you’re just not going to take any of it. So with that being said, in 2020, we turned down over $4 million worth of deals.
Because people didn’t want to participate. And I was like, okay, well, I’m sure there’s somebody out there that’s a better fit. And people were dumbfounded. They were like, “What? You’re just going to say no to that?” I was like, “Look, man, I’m doing pretty good, right? I don’t have to take deals.” That deal is not going to help me pay my mortgage, right? I got enough retained earnings from being really smart in business that even if I didn’t – like when the pandemic hit and our team was scared, I said, “Hey, look, we’ve done so well in business the last couple of years. Even if we didn’t sell another deal in 2020, for the rest of the 2020,” and this was March, “everybody’s still getting paid.” And they were like, “Okay.”
So we reduced that anxiety, confusion, that fear and they had clarity and agreement and the team, they took it and ran with it and we hire for fit and we hire the right people. It takes us a long time to add somebody to the team because I would rather the team suffer by not having another person there to help until we find the right person. Because I think anybody – whether you’re young in business or you work in an industry or whatever, one bad employee can cause or can wreck all kinds of havoc. And so we’re just not going to do that. So we hire for fit and everybody’s got a say because everybody’s got to work with that person, right? So if one person goes, “Man, I’m not going to be able to work with them.” We’re like, “Okay. Well, guess we won’t hire him.” Because everybody’s got to be able to get along, right? Because if there’s drama in the team, who’s the recipient of that drama? The client, right? And we just didn’t want that. So we hire for fit. We hire right. We use Culture Index, bunch of other stuff.
No, that’s good. That’s good stuff. You’ve cracked a little, but on like a six-pack worth of different topics, man. And I want to go back and address some of these. So one of the things that you talked about early on, and I instantly thought of like Carvana, right? Carvana has changed the way that that car dealerships work. Now you can shop for your vehicle online. You can get it dropped off at your door. You can do your trade and you never had to set foot inside of a dealership. You’re not having to go through all these crazy negotiations with guys at the dealership and just wasting a whole ton of time and feeling like you’re getting screwed. And that’s a trust business too, man. Because there’s some amazing sales guys out there that do a phenomenal job. Unfortunately, the industry as a whole gets a pretty bad rep.
But that was what I thought of when you said this consolidation of technology. And so as like the Zillows and Redfins and realtor.coms of the world become more robust, and like you said, you’re saying you don’t know about this. I’m curious if you have any other insider information or if that’s just your hunch, but it will be really interesting to see how that plays out over the next couple of years, where you could theoretically do everything from your couch. Like you could do a virtual showing. You don’t even necessarily have to go see it. I mean, I’m a huge fan of go walk the ground, smell the paint – hopefully you’re not smelling the mold – and doing your own due diligence. But I do think there’s a day coming where that is going to become more normal and kind of to your point, it could potentially wipe out a large part of the real estate agent workforce, or at least cause them to modify the way that they go about doing business.
And then the second thing that I had for you was – that was really more of an observation. That’s not really a question, I guess. But to kind of dovetail off of that too, you mentioned about it’s a very high trust business. Trust is currency. I could not agree more. I mean, that’s how I do business. That’s how people find me, right? They want to trust the consulting and the business advice they’re getting is coming from a good place. And so how do you go about building trust? How have you been able to bridge that with people, especially when they don’t maybe know you? I know it’s going to be a lot of referrals, but what else are you doing to help create bridges of trust?
Yeah. And that’s a great question. And it’s really kind of funny as it’s somewhat of a hybrid answer. This thing right here, technology, even the very Zoom that we’re on and social media, which we could go on forever on that, is communication became different. Because communication was redefined as instead of having dialogue, I’m just going to say what I want to say. And if I don’t like what you say, I’ll just delete your response or whatever, right? And I watched this with my daughter, right? I mean her and her friend sat on a couch – my daughter’s turning to on Friday. But years ago, they’d be sitting on a couch and they’re texting each other. I was like, “You could slap each other yourself.”
Yeah. What the crap, man?
But it’s just they think different and see different. But because technology has so many distraction buttons, these younger generations have not really learned the skill sets of communication, right? And so I was like, man, how do we create that dialogue? And so that’s what we were doing. One is if you can communicate with someone and that’s the biggest thing right there, right? The goal of communication is if you and I can communicate so incredibly well that we establish an enormous amount of trust. I cannot agree with you on something and we’ll be okay, right? And what have we seen in 2020? People that are not agreeing and they’re clashing, right? I mean, there’s so much disinformation out there.
Being a retired police officer, being a Marine, being a business, when the riots were happening and a lot of people going, “What’s your personal feelings on it?” My response was, “It’s personal.” And because I’m not going to have conversation with someone that if I agree with them, oh, we have lots to talk about. But if I don’t agree with them, then either they don’t want to talk or it’s going to become very contentious very quick. I’m just not going to participate in that, right?
And so I was like, how do we do that? So that’s why having Culture Index – and if somebody is not willing to take the survey, we don’t take them as a client. And people went like, “What? How do you not do that?” I was like, “Look, survey only takes like six to ten minutes.” It’s Marine proof, right? And so I’m like, “If you’re not going to take the survey so I can communicate with you better the way you prefer communication, you’ve already indicated what you’re going to be like to work with.” Another saying that we have – I got a lot of sayings. I keep a list of them – is we’re not in the convincing business. And here’s why. One, I don’t have the time and energy to be convinced. And here’s the deal. If you spend time and energy trying to convince someone that doesn’t want to be convinced so they’re going to be convinced, no, right? And that’s what I call we have to have the value exchange with clients. In other words, I got to want to work with you and trust you, just like you want to work with me and trust me. One side is lopsided, you’re in convincing business. And I don’t have time and energy for that. You don’t have time and energy for that.
That’s our core value. As long as we got that core value, then your financial interest is always going to be more important than ours. Because guess what? If we’re doing what we’re supposed to, our money is naturally going to follow. So I don’t even think about it. I couldn’t even tell you what’s in my bank account. I couldn’t tell you what we make in a given year. I just know it’s a lot. And I’m not saying that to be yay me. I just know because I bought a second home in Colorado and I would’ve been able to do that if I wasn’t doing really well.
People are like, “How much money do you make?” I really almost don’t even know. I couldn’t tell you the dollar figure. My wife is the budget nazi. She could tell you because she’s a numbers person that just tracks everything. But at the end of the day, I was like, I’m not concerned. I know that I’m going to get paid because I’m doing the right thing. And I’m only working with people that want me to hustle for them, that want me to go out there and be a mediator for them. And they know that I’m going to look after them. My part’s going to naturally follow. And that’s trust right there but it was with communication and dialogue, right?
And so that’s how we did it. But what’s even better is this. So one of the keys to that is social media. So we don’t use social media to advertise in the sense of paid for advertisement. Actually, people would laugh if they realize that on my social media, no matter what it is, if a post is made, there’s a 95% chance that it was a 5’10” black guy out of Nebraska that did it because he’s the younger brother and my college roommate who runs all my stuff. Only 5% of the time am I on there. So he’s taking those stories and he’s telling them. So it’s kind of like Toastmasters. Have you ever done Toastmasters? Tell me what you’re going to tell, tell him, tell him what you’re told, right? Or if you work in Corporate America, have a meeting about the meeting that had the meeting and have a meeting about what happened at the meeting.
And so for us, he’s pushing that message out, right? This is what we did, this is how we killed it. This is what we did for the clients. And we’re capturing those client testimonials, pushing those out. But man, it was really impressive where the clients were advocates for us because of that trust. They’re like, “Oh, man, dude, you got to use Spann Group.” People are like, “Why?” And you’re like, “Man, you’ll never meet anybody you trust anymore.” Not they’re going to get you the best deal ever or they’re going to save you money or make you money or whatever else, it was like these people will care about you and your money. If you agree to follow the process, they’re going to take care of you.
And then it went on from there. And then what it did is it became so efficient that it finally created the amount of time I needed to be able to start my podcast. And so there’s two elements of how we make money in real estate. By us representing people, buying and selling real estate here in the West DFW market, but also in referring people to other agents across the globe. And they haven’t released the numbers for 2020 yet. But in 2018, 2019, we were the number one producers for most outgoing referrals. And those agents, that didn’t cost the client anything because those agents pay us 25% of their commission.
Well, when I first saw that, when I first came on to Sotheby’s and I saw the power of the network, I thought, man, but this doesn’t work if you refer them to somebody that falls in that category I was telling you about, that people are tired of. So I spent the last couple of years interviewing, flying around, building processes to vet agents in other markets. And as a matter of fact, leading up to the pandemic, the 12 months before that, I had thrown a hundred thousand miles a year – traveling, interviewing people. Look, just because you do the most business doesn’t make you the best, right? And so having a process to figure out who was who in each market, that when people came to us and said, “Hey, my mom needs to sell her house in Denver” or “my dad needs to buy a house in Nebraska” or whatever, we were putting them with the right people. They came back, they literally described, “It was like working with you guys.”
And so that started to build it up. But I was like, man, how do we touch more people? Plus how do we touch more people without selling them? Because we live in a day and age, nobody wants to be sold, right? And so my social media guy created the website, myexperiencedrealtor.com. And it’s like, okay, well, how do we get people to go to the landing page without selling them? And I’ve been wanting to do a podcast for a long time. And I said, I want to do a podcast. And then people will go to the website, click on the Podcast tab to find out more information about the guests. But was really funny is – our 16th episode will drop tomorrow, we drop every Tuesday – that you have people go, “Man, you never talk about real estate.” I was like, “Well, I don’t have to. All somebody’s got to do is google me and they’d realize I’m in real estate.” I already realized I’m really good at what I do. I don’t have to sell them on the real estate aspect and just got to give them a reason to tune in.
So the reason to tune in was to capture great guests that would have great stories and great content. And then the trade-off for the guests is it gives us a platform to push whatever widget, service, nonprofit they support or whichever. So they get some value exchange for them and then a value exchange for the consumer who’s listening to these podcasts, that when they go to the website to click on Podcasts, they’re like, “Oh, yeah. Well, trust is the currency of business in real estate. Let me click on this.” Name, number, email, where you want to buy or sell. Boom, lead generated, they get it followed up right away. We expected that we’d be 30 episodes in before we got our first lead. We were 11 episodes in and got two leads.
Oh, that’s cool.
And so it was working because people are like, “Man, you wouldn’t be able to bring on these types of guests if you weren’t an honorable person.” Because who wants to come risk their reputation having something put out there on the internet? Because once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. And so when you tell your kids, don’t send photos to the boyfriend or girlfriend because they’re out there forever. So now people, it’s just sort, man, just snowballing and just going really, really great and business coming in. So those two aspects of work really, really well. And it allows us to, again, be able to establish that trust with the client.
So now let’s say I’ve got Joe Schmoe out of Jacksonville, Florida, say clicks on it and go, “Hey, I heard the podcast and then I landed on your page to find out more information about Vincent Hancock with gold medal in two Olympics, and I saw that you did real estate. Can you help me out?” I’m like, “Absolutely, man. Let me run you through our process. And I’m going to send you a Culture Index.” Because here’s the deal. Does that agent want to work with a client who’s a pain in the ass? No. So if somebody’s not willing to follow the process, then they already indicated what kind of client they were going to be. So now they take it and I’m able to tell the agent, “This is this person’s preferred communication style.” All right. Don’t force them to make a decision if they’re built like my wife. Or if they’re built like me, don’t give them time to think about it because a squirrel will run by them and they’ll get distracted and think about a Ferrari next or something. I don’t know. So I know that’s probably a lot more information than you want.
No, it’s good. No, it’s good. You’re kind of helping to reinforce a point that I regularly make with folks, which is, you’ve got to give people an opportunity to get to know you. And so if you got the likable guy or gal factor going on, and I’m talking to you and I get the sense that, hey, this person seems like a pretty upstanding person. They seem like someone I can trust over time, right? You might trust somebody pretty dang fast, but maybe it takes a little bit more time for you to completely warm up. But you can create that time. So podcasting is a great outlet for that. There’s a hundred other ways to do that too. But I mean, I echo those same comments because it gives people a chance to get to know you and then they feel like they already know you before they’ve even talked with you. And so now you’re kind of behind because now you’ve got to get to know them a little bit. And that’s a great spot to be in.
And so it creates opportunities for that trust to be built, and especially right now, when it is a lot more challenging to go fly out and go work in a certain city or a certain state. I mean, everybody’s laws and rules right now are a little bit different. And so kind of to our earlier discussion, it’s forced the issue right on top of us to make some of these changes. I’d like to kind of take a right turn here. And I’d like to understand a little more about how has Old School Pizza Tavern been? What was the story there?
Yeah. Man, so originally when I built the restaurant, I had very good friend of mine I was in the Marine Corps with. He had an unfortunate incident and went to prison for a couple of years. And when he got out, I moved him to Texas and I said, “Let’s start a business.” Here’s the deal. There’s two types of people in this world. Those have screwed up and those had been caught, right? Everybody makes mistakes, right? And it was a very unfortunate situation. But man, when you go from being a decorated Marine and he was a police officer after he got out of the Marines to going to prison and you got to prison as being a cop, this is not good. And so when he got out, moved him here and he couldn’t get a job, save his life. And I’m sitting there looking at somebody going, man, here’s somebody who has served their country and their people and made a mistake and there’s just no forgiveness, right?
So anyhow, we opened up and it was called Old School Pizza and Suds at the time. And the reason I evolved at Old School Pizza Tavern is because people either called it Old School Pizza and Subs like sandwiches or they thought suds was like a potato and it’s not. It was just another form of beer, another name for beer. And so he spent eight years with us and then had decided to move on, made some decisions to move on. And I built the business for him. And matter of fact, we’re in the process of him buying the business and then it didn’t work, right? Again, can’t be in the convincing business, right? People have to do their part. And here it was, he was a good man, but I can’t imagine how I would feel about life after I’d been in prison for five years, right? So I’ve since kind of gotten over some anger issues I might have had about the whole situation myself when he left.
But the funny part was is a couple of years before he left, we had another guy that had gotten out of prison. He spent seven years in prison. And the day he got out, his first job came to hiring on to work for us as a dishwasher and he worked his way up to manager. He had since left, but when the previous GM had left, I was like, man, and I wasn’t involved in business. I don’t know, dude. I never made a pizza. I know that this is actually buying things. And so I called him and then both he and his wife had previously worked for us, Jeremy and Alex. And I said, “Hey, man, I don’t know what to do here. Can you come in and help me?” And he goes, “Well, I’ve got a job, but I’ll help you any way I can, but Alex is not working. She’ll come up.” And she’s a gem. She’s awesome. And then he was still helping on the weekends. And I finally said, “Man, how much money do you need to make?” And then he told me, and I said, “I’ll make that number.” I said, “Come work for me.”
So in August of 2019 – or I’m sorry, in April 2019, he came back to us full-time, took over as general manager. Then fast forward, 12 months later into March and the pandemic hits, right? This guy and his wife and his family, when the restaurant industry is being decimated, he stepped up. He stepped into the role, he did whatever it was going to take and he just killed it. He killed it. But again, you’re dealing with someone who had been to prison before. And so at one point, we had some friction going on and I was like, “Man, what’s the problem?” And he goes, “Well, I trust you, but I don’t know if you trust me.” And one of the very first things – and I think there was probably some of that knee-jerk reaction of I’ve been to prison, the owner of this is a retired cop, he doesn’t trust me. And I said, “Jeremy,” because his name’s Jeremy too. I said, “Hey, man.” We saw the pandemic coming, right?”
On that Monday, I called the banker and I said, “I need to withdraw them on money from my account.” Not because I’m going to go make a run on the bank. Just because I felt like we might have to pay for things in cash. And so I had. We were due for taxes. We were due for all kinds of things. And I said, “Move it all over one count because you pick it up Thursday.” And so I said, “Jeremy, go down there and pick up all the money.” He goes, “Well, what about the TABC taxes?” I said, “I ain’t worried about. We’ll catch up on those later.” And he goes, “They’re going to shut us down.” I said, “Brother, the whole country is getting ready to shut down. They ain’t worried about a little Old School Pizza Tavern over here in Arlington. We will do the right thing.” And so he went, so he had, it was like 30 grand. I said, “Keep it in your safe at the house because I don’t want somebody breaking into the business.”
So now, this was in I think it was May. And he was just like, “Man, I just don’t know if you trust me. I said, “Hey, man, let me ask you.” I said, “Who owns this company?” And he goes, “You do. And I said, “So the money that comes through those bank accounts, whose money is that?” And he says, “Yours.” And I said, “And how much money did you go take out for me?” It was 30 grand. And I said, “Where’s that at?” And he goes, “In the safe at my house.” And I was like, “If that’s not a demonstration of trust to have 30 grand of my money sitting in your house, I don’t know what the hell it is.” So he was like, “Well, damn, I never thought of it that way.” And we’ve had already had a good bond, but when it kind of had that aha moment for him, I was like, “Look, man, I care about you. I care about your family. We’re going to do whatever it takes. I trust you. Trust me.”
And so now leading up to it, and it hasn’t been easy, right? I mean, this year, we’ve done almost 40% less in sales than we did the year before in an industry that normally operates 3% to 5% margins. That’ll give you an indication of just how tough the industry is. And he’s kept it open. And so me and Laura, my wife, who’s also a co-owner. We sat down about six weeks ago. Because we own the real estate as well. I said, “Jeremy and Alex have really – I mean, man, they’ve killed it. And they’ve been there for us when the previous administration walked out in the middle of the night. And I know that they want to buy it, but I know they don’t have the money to buy it. What are your feelings on if we 100% finance them, sell of finance for the business?” She goes, “I’m good with that.”
So June 1st, we will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Old School Pizza Tavern. I called him and I said, “Hey, you need to make a big celebration.” And he goes, “Yeah, because it’s 10 years.” And I said, “No, because that’s when we’re going to formally and officially announce you as the new owner.” And he goes, “I don’t have the money to buy it from you, Jeremy.” I said, “Doesn’t matter. I’ll carry the note for you.” Because this guy showed up. And it’s yet another example of when I tell people, look, it doesn’t matter what your past is or what you’ve done. If you’re willing to do whatever it takes, someone will reward you for that. And it really is not me rewarding him, it’s a meritocracy. He earned it.
And so now here it is, a guy had been to prison, worked his way up from dishwasher to general manager, will own his own business because he proved that he was an honorable, trustworthy, incredible man, who he like me outputted his coverage with his wife and they are awesome and they’re just good people. And I tell folks, I’m like, look, yeah, I do really well in life, but I dropped out of high school. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. Actually, funny enough, I couldn’t read till I got in the Marine Corps. People were like, “How’s that even possible? You have to take ASVAB.” Like you said, man, if you go down the thing with C, man. I mean, I got lucky, I answered a lot of questions right. I had a GT score I probably didn’t deserve. It was above 110. I don’t know, man. I got lucky, I guess.
But what it was is I was dyslexic and nobody in the 80s knew what dyslexia was, right? So here was one from high school dropout, then I learned how to read my work recognition. And then I went through this trajectory of doing different things in life that I just tell people, go, look, yeah, everybody has an opportunity. I don’t care who you are. It just means you may have to work more, work harder. And look, I’m not the smartest guy. I’m not the fastest guy. I can’t jump higher than everybody else. I’m pretty good swimmer. But instead of being swift and deadly, now I’m slow, fat and harmless. So I probably just look like a floating buoy out there in the water now.
But what I tell people, but one thing people can’t do, and this is where you can make this decision. You can decide to outwork everybody else. You can decide to put in that effort more than everybody else. And so now I have people come to me and they’re like, “Hey, I’m thinking about getting a real estate. Will you give me all your secrets?” And I was like, “Hey, look, man, in the last four years, I’ve invested over 20,000 hours of time.” That’s not an exaggerated number. Over 20,000 hours of time. “I have reinvested over a million dollars of commissions that I’ve made over the last four years and three months to put back in the business, to grow to where it’s at. I have sacrificed. And you want me to just hand that over to you? No. Go figure it out yourself.”
Now, if you come to me and say, “Can you give me some advice on what I can do to be successful?” Then, yeah, 100%. I’ll do that all day long. But if you think I’m going to break down scientifically, the secret formula has done all this, then I’m going to need you to reimburse me 20,000 hours and a million dollars’ worth of money. Because guess what? Most people aren’t willing to reinvest that in themselves.
And that’s the key to people. I was like, “Look, just don’t listen to the haters. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Just get up early.” You and I have discussed before the call. I get up at four o’clock in the morning. There’s no one on the planet that hates getting up at four o’clock in the morning more than me. I can’t stand it. But I get up because I have a plan, I’m going to execute the plan. And time is not a commodity that you can’t buy more of and we don’t get a refund on it once spent. But that’s something you can make a decision. That’s something you can control there, right? And if you do that and other people see your work ethic and respect your work ethic, they’ll be like, “Hey, come here, man. You’re hitting yourself in the head with a sledgehammer doing this, man. Let me save you some pain. Try this.” And that’s kind of what, you know, if I had to sum it down how I got to where I was at because I was willing to do what nobody else was willing to do, right?
Yeah. That’s the definition. I’ve heard that as a definition between – I’m probably going to butcher this really bad, but definition, the difference between winners and losers. And winners just keep getting punched in the face and keep learning the lessons and just keep going. They don’t allow that to just cripple them and let them lay on the floor in the fetal position. You got to keep working your face off and keep going for it. And you’re going to get knocked down. You’re going to have to reinvent some things. You’re going to have to try different things. But you just got to keep going and not give up on yourself.
Yeah. And there’s so much truth to that. It’s like, look, this world by design is built to knock you down, right? I mean, there’s a reason it’s called an uphill battle because it’s going uphill. But you get to make a choice. You get to lay down or are you going to get back up. And guess what? It’s hard to get back up. Are there days that I wake up and I go, man, I really don’t want to do anything today? 100% there is, right? Or man, I’m tired of doing this, right? And I tell people you’re going to get there, but you know what? You can overcome it because when you’re on the verge of greatness is when it’s really at its hardest. Because that is the world and the universe and call it Satan or whoever else out there that is going against you. And this is their final stand before you hit that tipping point and go right over it, right?
And most people are not willing to do that. It doesn’t make them bad people, right? It just most people aren’t willing to do that. If you’re willing to do it, you’ve got to be hungry. You got to be obsessed. You can’t listen to what all the naysayers are going to say. Because why is a naysayer a naysayer? Because they envy you. They’re jealous. They know they’re not going to get up and go do it. So they’re going to be haters. So I have a saying: Hustle till haters ask if you’re hiring, right?
And then they will because at some point – like when I decided to leave the police department, right? And when I left, I had met a fellow alumni at TCU Executive MBA program. He’s a retired colonel. I thought this guy hung the star and the moon and I followed him. And it ended badly. It ended badly like SCC getting involved and indicting him and the COO. I mean, not good, right? A lot of people lost a lot of money. I lost a lot of money. I never made money they promised they were going to pay me. And I was sitting here August 2016 in my big fancy house with my fancy cars and looking at a $300 electric bill wondering how I was going to pay it. I got a kid in private school. I mean, I had to let everybody down. I’d let investors down. I didn’t know what was going on, but you know what, doesn’t make an excuse, right? I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to ask the right questions.
But if I can’t pay a $300 electric bill, that’s really the least of my problems. But I had a choice. I make a joke. I got an MBA at TCU. I got a PhD working for those fools over there in business because the world could be nasty. Greed can set in in people. But I took what I learned out of that. And I said, “What questions could I have asked?” I don’t know that it would have ever anything from happening by asking the right questions, but I could have excused myself out of the business sooner by going, “Hey, listen, if y’all aren’t going to make adjustments, then I’m going to leave.” And a lot of people got hurt and I live with that, right? I mean, that’s my cross to bear because I believed in it. But what I will say is there was people that lost millions of dollars, man. They lost millions. And oh, by the way, I think it’s kind of funny. So everything in my office has a meaning from every book.
I’ve got a whole wall I write everything on. It’s dry erase. I even keep the two pins right here. So these are the two pins of which I thought when I was signing documents in that company, that that was a milestone because I was going to be considered a partner and partners had to put their names on things. Well, here’s what they did. They had me sign it and I was left holding the bag for $4 million worth of stuff. Lost everything I had. Yeah. You want to go home and have an uncomfortable conversation with your wife, go, “Hey, not only have I lost all our money, but we also owe $4 million.” Yeah. Would you want me to open a bottle of wine for you?
But here’s the thing. And this is why my wife is single-handedly one of the most important people in my life. In that moment, I would’ve left me. I would’ve done it. Not even blinking an eye. And I tell people that I would look at me and had been like, “Nope, deuces, I’m out. Dude, you ruined everything.” She looked at me and said, “We should be in business together. Get a real estate license.” And I was like, “Man, you always say that I lost my hearing in the Marines and I should go down to the VA and get some hearing aids. Did you hear anything that I just told you? Did you hear anything? Lost it all. No money in the bank. Owe $4 million. Shit’s not looking good, man.” And she was just like, “Yeah. But you know what?” She goes, “Your decisions were wrong, but your heart was always in the right place.” And she goes, “And if there’s anything I know about being married to you is that you’re going to learn from that and you’re going to apply that to our business to make sure that never happens to anybody.”
And that was the essence of it. So for me, trust is everything. I’ve got it written on a wall that says I get to create opportunities of trust so I can fight to win for my friends, family and clients. Because that is my passion. It’s delivering trust. The worst thing somebody could say in this world is ‘I don’t trust you’. And I’m like, what? All right. Let’s peel back the layers of the onion on that. What happened here? Where was the disconnect? Because if there was anything, I was never going to let anybody down on – I might not be the smartest guy. I might not be able to have a crystal ball. I might not be able to predict the future. But I guarantee I’m not going to fail you based on the trust that we have together. And that was what my wife had in me. And then now we’re paying cash for our kid to go to college. She’s still up in Colorado. Getting her come back is like being waterboarded in Guantanamo Bay. She just ain’t going to do it. She’s loving it up there. And we have a very charmed life and we hire the right people. And we have people that care about us and we care about them. And you know what, if you’re doing the right thing, it’s going to pay off. And that’s something you can control, it’s how you treat others.
That’s true. That’s so good. Man, that’s so good. We could go on for another hour or two or three. I’d love to do that. Unfortunately, I think we are definitely running on a tail end of our time and I just want to thank you. Seriously, thanks. Thank you for spending some time. Enjoyed doing the conversations. Great to get connect with you again. And yeah, we definitely got to do this again.
Yeah. 100%, man. Yeah. Would absolutely love that.
Cool. Well, hey, man, thanks a lot.
Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate it.