The Real Estate Dish: 15 Minutes with Matthew Whitehead, VP of RealtyUSA, a Howard Hanna Company
Join QuantumDigital’s EVP and CMO Eric Cosway as he spends 15 minutes with Matthew Whitehead, VP of RealtyUSA, a Howard Hanna Company. Matthew is a licensed broker who has been involved in real estate for the past 12 years. While expressing his passion for training and professional development, Matthew Whitehead explains how identifying his "why" has impacted his motivation and success in his career in real estate.
Eric: My first question to you is, prior to joining real estate, you spent some years in the auto industry. Tell me more about that.
Matthew: First off, Eric, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity. A little bit of the background—I went to college, and studied psychology and human behavior. After getting my degree, I didn’t love the city or state that I was living in, so I moved back home to Buffalo. And there were no real good psychology jobs, so I became a janitor at a car dealership. By the end of that first year, I had worked my up into management and had a couple of management positions. After a few years, I kind of decided I was going to rewrite the structure of their company. And it was from the girls answering the phone, and what they should do, and how they should answer it, to the president and CEO, and what he should do every day. The only problem was, nobody asked me to. I thought it was a good idea at the time. And that’s when I gave a copy to my father, who’s also a broker. And after he read it, he said “Maybe we should take about real estate.” And that’s how it started.
Eric: So, were you able to take what you had authored and apply it to RealtyUSA?
Matthew: It was interesting, you know. I like the process of breaking everything down. And that’s when Merle (Whitehead) and I sat down. I had to get a psychological evaluation to see if I’d be a good fit. So, luckily, I passed that. And then I had to get an interview by him, and pass that. So, I started off as an agent… marketing position, next to the toilet in our marketing department. So, I had a nice little chair in the marketing department, next to the bathroom. I learned a lot about people, and was able to take that time to break some things down and figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted it to look like. So, a lot of reflection.
Eric: That’s a great story. It’s actually a humbling story. You start from the ground floor, but I’m sure that’s what it took to probably gain their respect. To be where you are now on the leadership team.
Matthew: Well, we hope we got it.
Eric: In real estate, there’s a lot going on. We’re going to talk about the training you do. Because you do a lot of training with “ninja training.” What about, right now in the industry, that's keeping you really engaged and interested… really loving what you’re doing in real estate?
Matthew: Real estate impacts everyone. It’s one of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs—everyone needs safety and shelter. And it’s just something that impacts everybody. It’s also a great profession, to be able to help a large amount of people. So, that’s really what keeps me engaged and interested.
Eric: What would someone who doesn’t really know you be surprised to learn about you today?
Matthew: People that meet me now, people that know me, would probably be surprised to know that I am a reformed knucklehead, and that I’m naturally an introvert.
Eric: Do you use your psychology background at all in business?
Matthew: Every day.
Eric: When I first met you years ago, you were telling me about your real estate black-belt training. What exactly is that? Can you explain that?
Matthew: The Ninja Selling System—created by Larry Kendall and Don Tennyson from The Group, Inc. out in Fort Collins, Colorado. Just a great system that can help any agent from any level; brand new agent, experienced agent, team member, team leader. It’s a phenomenal program that really helps people.
Eric: When you and I sat down, I saw that passion in you about the training and helping others be successful. How did you become so passionate about the training angles? Is it part of you, and part of your history?
Matthew: I believe in human potential. You know, there are so many instances that people are reactive to, and we believe it to be circumstance of reality, when it really boils down to perceptions—how people interpret their worlds, in essence, creates their worlds. So, it’s interesting. If things can happen to us, and we can have these reactions and these feelings, then we can certainly be in control of it. I just think that’s fascinating. Going back to Ninja, one of the things that I really love about that, they follow these 3 steps, or these 3 keys to success, which is: mindset, skill set and action. And I truly believe that everything starts in the mind. And everything in the outer world first has to happen in the inner world. So, it’s just amazing that, with that philosophy, they have this entire system. And that’s what draws me to that the most. It’s kind of Henry Ford or Confucius, whoever we want to give credit to, said “Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you're right.”
Eric: When you look at training, and the agents that you’re recruiting into the business today, are there generational differences in how the training will be developed, deployed and absorbed by the different segments of Realtors?
Matthew: This is where, I think as an industry, we need to be a little bit careful. Because I keep hearing a great deal about millennials And as an industry, we keep putting people in demographics, into boxes, and we’re trying to speak to them differently. If we took a step back, and just looked at people—simply people—we know scientifically that people have dominant learning modalities. So, if we can find a way to determine the modalities, and incorporate them all together, I think, in essence, we could create environments conducive to everyone, and not create separation.
Eric: So, pretend I’m a new agent. What would you recommend to me if I had just gotten into this industry? If I was a newbie, and I was coming to you, and you were giving me some training or some coaching—what would be your recommendation?
Matthew: Again, I think the biggest thing for somebody brand new, is to understand their “why.” Not their goal, but their why. The why—that’s the thing that’s going to help them go and get it. Even when it gets really tough, even when they don’t want to, it’s their driving factor. It’s going to help people determine “Why am I going to get up and do this?” It’s in the “want to” that you figure out how to do it. If you can tap into that why, that’s what’s really going to help people. That’s the most important thing, I think.
Eric: How do you stay current with your training? You’re in the business, you're a licensed broker, you have staff. So, what’s your technique to stay current?
Matthew: Well, it’s interesting. I think our leadership team is very invested in the real estate industry. I think one thing that’s different about our leadership is that they’re invested in the profession of real estate as a whole. So, they believe in real estate, they believe in the value of real estate professionals. They want to work very hard to create longevity in this country to keep that going strong. And I think through all of those avenues that our leadership is trying to be invested, we get a bunch of great perspective.
Eric: How are you recruiting today? Is there a magic formula to recruiting? I know you guys have actively done that, and you’re obviously part of an acquisition by Howard Hanna. Is it still vogue to go after new agents… new “green” agents? Is that still a pathway to growth in the marketplace?
Matthew: It’s certainly one of the aspects. It’s hard to determine, to look at something and say, “That’s going to be a winner.” But I do think that if we believe in potential—we believe we have great tools, great resources, believe in people—we can coach them to be successful.
Eric: One question I’ve had is around coaching. I see, just being at industry events and tradeshows, more and more folks offering coaching services. Tell me more about that. Do think agents need personal coaches today?
Matthew: I like the concept. I don’t really care if it’s “a coach”, but I do believe that people need to consistently invest in themselves to learn, to get new perspectives, to have accountability, and to really be invested in their own success and their own growth. Anything that’s going to help you do more, be more, have more, I think is very important.
Eric: In terms of coaches, or otherwise conferences, or training sessions, what would you recommend to our audience that would be places where they can learn?
Matthew: I think conferences are great. I think when you go, there just has to be that perspective of “I’m a sponge.” I’m going to take something out of this seminar, out of this person I’m speaking to. You know, we have this interesting perspective of what is a mentor, what is a coach. You know, I have a 5-year old and a 4-year old, and they’re huge mentors to me. They don’t know it, I don’t say, “Hey you’re my mentor.” But when I look at them, I learn so much and get new perspective, that it help me in my business and dealing with people. I think that if people just keep investing, and going, and learning new perspectives… but, for conferences that are specific, I do say—and you didn’t expect this plug—I did go to the QuantumDigital Ignite conference, and I got a tremendous amount of value from that. And what I loved about it was that it wasn’t really, “Hey, this is just real estate related and we’re going to kind of jam it down your throat.” It was a bunch of great, like-minded people trying to become better, and it organically grew. And I thought that was a really special way to do that. So, little plug for you!
Eric: In terms of the internal process you have with the company, what would a RealtyUSA agent expect from a scheduled set of activities, a scheduled set of training, once they join the company?
Matthew: That certainly exists. We have that. But more importantly, each individual person has a different “why.” Each person has a different goal of how long it’s going to take them to get there. So, our managers really take the time to understand each person—what their goals are, what their whys are, what’s important to their families—and help build those activities based around that.
Eric: If you look at your experience—from your coaching days, and helping people be successful—what other things would come to mind to help them to really understand this is the career for them?
Matthew: People have got to realize that you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And that’s where the growth happens. A great consultant friend of mine, Joe Gianni has got a great company called 2logical in Rochester. I was talking to him, and he was talking about that growth happens when you feel uncomfortable, and when you’re in that point, and you feel the butterflies in your stomach, like “Oh, my God!”—that’s amazing, because it just means you’re about to grow and learn something fantastic. I could kind of look at it from that perspective.
Eric: When I first met you, you talked about training, you talked about perspective of the company, of the why. And you certainly brought a family perspective to it as well. That’s why I think you folks are unique, just the culture of RealtyUSA. It really does feel like there’s something unique happening there. Is that your dad? Is that just the way you want to set the business up, or… how did that come to fruition?
Matthew: I was raised that you work for everything in your life. There are no handouts. I’ve been working since I was 13, and it was about… you make sure that it’s big person, bigger. So again, for me to be smart, somebody else doesn’t have to be stupid. If we’re having conversations, I can be smart and they can be smart. We can have different perceptions and different perspectives of everything. It’s just about respecting people to be people, and understanding that everybody… if I look at your life for example, Eric, as a book, you might be on a different chapter than I am. And that’s okay, and I can’t judge you by the chapter that you’re on. I’ve read phenomenal books that have had a bad chapter here or a bad chapter there. Sometimes we have have this tendency to judge people by the chapter of their story that we walk in on. I was always raised to never do that. You never know what somebody’s going through or what’s happened in their day. So if you can be empathetic and take time to understand people, you can really help them. And that’s really our goal, and that’s kind of how I was raised. And I don't know if that goes into the company, but I would hope that would be the message.
Eric: As one of your vendors, certainly, you see that. You feel that with you. There’s an intensity about your culture. There’s a real passion. What a pleasure getting to know you a bit better today, Matthew. The passion you have for serving others, for finding your “why” in coaching. Certainly, it’s just there. It’s very bright. It obviously makes you a great leader within the company. I really enjoyed our discussion today, and I hope you did as well.
Matthew: I did. Thank you very much.
Eric: I want to thank you for your time. And also, good luck under the new Howard Hanna company brand.
Matthew: They’re fantastic. It’s going to be a great adventure.