The Real Estate Dish: 20 Minutes with Georgia Perez of MoxiWorks
Join QuantumDigital’s Eric Cosway as he spends 20 minutes getting the latest dish on real estate technology with Georgia Perez of MoxiWorks.
Eric: Georgia, welcome to the podcast.
Georgia: Thank you so much. I’m sitting here with my coffee cup for The Real Estate Dish, so I guess it’s “The Real Estate Cup” this morning for me.
Eric: It is. We’re really glad you could join us this morning. Can you tell the audience, or give us a brief overview of your background and current role with MoxiWorks?
Georgia: Sure. Many, many years ago, I decided it was time to make a little bit of a change in my hectic technology life, and I became a real estate agent and managing broker for Windermere Real Estate, who’s the third largest independent real estate company in the nation. And many years into that career, that I was enjoying very much, they happened to launch a technology company. And so it was a very strange, unusual fit for my combination of very deep and personal experience as a realtor and broker, and then 25 years in technology. So, I very happily came on board to help take the company public, so to speak, and bring our first products out to the greater broker population.
Eric: So, as you’ve done that, in your current leadership role, what are some of the bigger lessons learned, or formative moments that have helped shape your career?
Georgia: I think, obviously, for my current role, just even those last 11 years in the real estate industry could not have been more helpful. Real estate is a very unusual industry. It doesn’t work quite like other businesses out there—up to and including the fact that many agents are 1099 independent contractors, yet working for a brand, and that’s not the same as if you’re a company, American Express, and have employees to manage. So, it was really helpful in understanding the structure of the industry. But also, just because I’ve had to make my living as a real estate agent before, where you’re really a blank piece of paper, you’re not paid except for when you close business—you’re commission only, what does that look like? And understanding that and how we could then take that and translate it into ways to make agents and brokers more successful, and understand the stresses and the concerns of building a sustainable business for the customers we serve.
Eric: So, knowing you a little bit, if we walk before real estate, at one time, you were a professional singer, and then you went off to Starbucks. Could you give us a little bit of background of that experience?
Georgia: Yeah, sure. When I first was in California, which is where I’m originally from, I worked in technology where some of my earliest jobs, up to and including even working at Seagate technology, and they were a manufacturer of hard drives. So, my tech career was early. But I was singing my entire life and, for a variety of reasons, I moved around the country. And when I wound up on the East Coast, decided to go from being a casual singer most of my life, to actually starting to sing professionally. And so I did, and very successfully sang seven nights a week, and worked at a recording studio, and got to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, and a lot of really exciting things as a singer… but, kind of I guess, like a real estate agent, when you don’t have somebody providing you vacation pay and health insurance and other stuff, I was just looking for a little side hustle where I could supplement my singing career with some of the basic necessities people have, like health insurance and vacation pay. So, a family member suggested I go work for this very innovative new company at the time—because Starbucks was very new when it comes to actually having storefronts. I don’t know if a lot of people know that the original Starbucks here in Seattle didn’t sell coffee beverages at all. They actually were coffee beans and tea leaves, and you would just go buy your stuff to go home and make coffee. But when Howard Schultz came on board and took over Starbucks, he then created that coffee house experience. And so it was really in their early days when I started working for them back East.
Eric: Georgia, what years were those, when you moved from professional singing into Starbucks?
Georgia: 1992. And at the time, I still sang. So, I was singing seven nights a week and working as a barista in Starbucks during the day. And, this is not super uncommon for me, when I get really passionate about something that I’m doing, I kind of go all in. I had done a couple of things in the stores for Starbucks that got picked up nationally. They came and actually turned some of what I was doing in my actual store into a national program that got rolled out for everybody—up to and including things like pre-bagging coffee, so in the morning rush hour, people didn’t have to interrupt the service of busy commuters to get coffee beans. So, we started pre-bagging. This was long before you could go into a store and just quickly buy that was already in a vacuum-sealed bag. So, I got recognized nationally and, next thing you know, I got promoted to a team that was responsible for going in and opening new markets for Starbucks, called, “The Star Team.” And that was really a critically formative part of my career life as an adult.
Eric: So, as you look back at The Star Team, are there one or two memorable experiences or “a-ha” moments that helped shape where you are today?
Georgia: Well, I think my whole Starbucks experience actually shaped a lot of where I am today. And I’ll tell you this, and maybe this is something any person that manages people could take away. Prior to that time in my life, I would honestly say, I didn’t have any mentors. I didn’t have people who were telling me that something about the way I worked or did anything was special. At Starbucks, it was really one of the first places where I started getting a lot of recognition—again, something like that bean program, where it got picked up nationally—and, just that small amount of someone saying, “Wow! What you did there is unusual.” Or, “There’s something you bring to the table that has value.” It was really a critical time in my life, where just having a boss at the time who recognized some of what I was doing and moved me forward, made me realize I had something to offer, and gave me confidence I’d never had as a young woman in business before. And I never lost that lesson, and it really propelled me to where I am today.
Eric: You often talk about your parents instilling hard work values. It sounds like you’re from a pretty traditional family, and your parents just espoused the notion of “hard work will get you the results you need.”
Georgia: Yeah, we were definitely a family of “nose to the grindstone.” And it’s funny because I admire my family very much. I’m very close to my siblings and I have some very successful people in my family. My brother, Bill, has been a very well-known and respected CFO in Silicon Valley for years, and has taken many known brands to the public. I mean, he worked for Apple and a lot of other companies. But none of us go home bragging about ourselves. We’re always looking for what we could be doing better. We’re not always very complimentary about ourselves, because we see all our flaws, or that one thing we could have done a little better. I just think that comes a little from that background, too, where you’re just always taking the rules that you’re committing to very seriously. Even here at MoxiWorks, I go home every day thinking, “How am I helping the almost one hundred people here stay employed? What am I doing to help our brokers be successful.” I take it just really seriously, and I think that comes from that work ethic that was instilled as well.
Eric: Yeah, I would describe you as humble. I would describe you as a straight shooter, real humble. And genuinely empathetic.
Georgia: Thank you. I would say the same about you.
Eric: You’re parents did a really great job raising you. Let’s bounce a little bit. You spent some time with Windermere, which is an awesome organization, and I think you were the group chairman for the Windermere Foundation for about six years. Is that correct? Can you talk about that experience?
Georgia: Sure. Windermere, first of all, has a wonderful foundation that’s given millions and millions of dollars to charities that support children and family in our area. As realtors, we sort of feel it’s really incumbent on us to support the communities and the families that, ultimately, also may have the home ownership dream that we can help them with as well. One of the things that’s a little unique about Windermere is of course they have their whole corporate entity of The Windermere Foundation, and their CEO, etc., but what they do uniquely there is they allow the different… in our case, I was part of a five office franchise, and each of us got to have our own foundation group, because every agent in Windermere contributes a certain amount of every transaction to the Windermere fund and, on top of that, many agents give more “in kind” donations. So, for example, for me, every transaction that I had, in addition to one deduction that was made automatically for the foundation, I could give any amount of money in my client’s name. And it was really lovely. My client would get a letter that would say, “Georgia made a donation from your transaction to The Windermere Foundation.” But we, as a group, then got to manage those funds. So, it wasn’t just the corporate parent organization but, in my case, I was the group chairman for those five offices, and the money that each of the agents that worked for that franchise of five offices contributed, we got to decide what local charities we wanted to be able to support. And so, we worked very closely with our own local groups, put on other fundraisers as well to drive more money into the foundation, but every agent that we represented for having given generously to the fund, we got to help make sure that where we distributed those funds represented our local community that we serviced.
Eric: Oh, very good. So, let’s talk about the combination. You’ve been an agent, you’ve been a broker, and now you’re in technology. What would be… because this is—sometimes we all talk about getting agents to adopt new technology, and get them to use it—what would be the one or two points you could articulate to help agents understand there is value in learning and adopting new technology today?
Georgia: That’s a great question. You know, it’s really funny. I was interviewed recently for a national publication, and they had presented to me a common list of words in their research that were often used about agents. Before anybody gets offended by what I’m about to say, I’ll tell you what my response was to the words, too. But, they started reading off a list of some common words that had come up every time they’d asked, especially like technology vendors, or even managing brokers, ”How would you describe, in a few words, agents?” And “lazy,” believe it or not, was one of the words used. And, having been an agent myself, I’ve never worked so hard in my entire life. It was a 24/7 job. My clients pinged me at three in the morning, when they were stressing about whether their furniture was going to fit in their new place. I’ve helped pack and move people. But, what I think a better view of what happens for agents so often is they’re overwhelmed. Like, if you have to work paycheck to paycheck, and there’s so many balls to keep in the air, it’s very overwhelming. And, when it comes to technology, as soon as something you’re trying to adopt—you may be very excited about using it—but, as soon as it becomes a net new period of time you need to commit to learn it, when you’re already overwhelmed, it’s just often the easiest thing to just say no. Like, I just don’t have time to learn something new. So, if it’s just not practically automatic, I just can’t do it. And so, I think oftentimes brokerages, and even technology vendors, misunderstand why an agent is resistant to figure out how to incorporate technology into their day-to-day. So, first of all we, as an industry, have to be better at helping them find ways to dip their toe in the water. You don’t have to dive into the deep end all at once, just dip your toe in and we’ll help you ease yourself in, and find your swim lane, and apply the things that are going to work best for you. You don’t have to adopt it all, right? So, I think we have to adapt our way of helping train and present information for very, very busy people so that they can take the little bite-size chunks on as able.
Eric: You know, it’s interesting. Last time you and I spoke, you had mentioned one of your friends is a realtor, who wasn’t using your platform, and I think with some coaching, you got her to put her toes in—dabble with it—and, lo and behold, her productivity and her year was well and above what she had done the previous year.
Georgia: Yeah, so she’s a friend that actually had transacted and done a lot of business with me when I was a realtor. And she decided to retire from her job, previously, and became a real estate agent. And she made it really clear to me, when she started, that she did not want me to tell her about how to do real estate. She’s a very self-made person, and she really does not ever like to feel like someone knows more than she does, and that’s unique to her. She’s a lovely person, by the way. But, so I just sort of backed off and said nothing. And, after her first year, just checked in and how it had gone, and she’d done about four transactions which, for most people, if you’re making your entire living on real estate, unless they were $30 million transactions, that you’re not going to survive on four transactions.
Eric: Yeah, that is tough.
Georgia: So, I asked her if she was using our product, and she said, “No, not really.” And I asked why, and she just said well it, “didn’t feel,” like her. And I’m like, “Well, two things—I can help you make it feel more like you, because our product is very configurable and customizable, so that an agent can build upon what the brokers also included for them, and make the task flows, and the reminders, and all the things really fit their personal business.” But, my question to her was, “If what you did was for transactions, then maybe what feels like you is not getting you where you need to go.” And so, she was willing to let me help a little, so I helped her get the system to feel a little bit more her, encouraged her to start doing a few of the things that were a little out of her comfort zone, but which were proven strategies that we know work in real estate. And so, she started taking on the whole coaching methodology that’s included in our system. And she did 21 transactions in her second year. So, I think that would be something I would want every agent to hear. It’s that it’s great to do business the way that you feel comfortable. You know, if I might say for a second, prior to becoming a realtor, I had been a CEO of my own company, right? So, I knew how to write a business plan. I knew how to run a business. But, when I got into real estate, I did not assume I knew how to run a real estate business. Because they’re just different. So, I signed up for ninja training. I flew myself to Ft. Collins, Colorado, and paid to learn at the feet of the master, Larry Kendall. And I formed a mastermind group in my office when I got back, so I could collaborate with other agents and share great ideas. Because, no matter what, your experience before real estate is different, and helping get encouragement, and ideas, and just trying a variety of things can help you find the right path for yourself. If you only do the things you already know, you can never have results past what you’ve been able to accomplish before. Does that make sense?
Eric: That’s very good coaching. You mentioned something, and I think I knew that… is that when you were consulting? You were CEO of Slakey & Associates?
Georgia: Slakey & Associates, yes. So, it was a management consultancy. We consulted with lots and lots of tech companies in particular. Most of my career in technology was spent helping companies either develop their market share and go to market, so helped them develop their strategy to take a product public. Or, they were a company that was struggling, either losing market share or maybe needed to pivot and go into some new direction, and would hire me to come in and help them assess and then execute on that. That was my entire career, regardless of whether it was Slakey & Associates, or other companies I’ve worked for.
Eric: I’ve got to tell you, I worked for KPMG years ago and I loved management consulting. I still look back on that experience and think highly of it. I really enjoyed working with different businesses, and having a start and end date, and being able to provide a deliverable, and then move on.
Georgia: Yeah, there’s definitely some benefits to that, both to move on but also it’s really exciting to get to touch different kinds of businesses. And, I’m sure it’s helped you, especially in your role, I mean I would love to ask you that… do you feel like it’s really helped you—because you had a variety of different businesses—to know what to do where you are now?
Eric: Yeah, you know, even small things like shaping a proposal, crafting an understanding of needs, being able to use some of the frameworks and models we use to articulate a solution, to articulate an issue. Those little tools and techniques, I think, are very valuable and I still use them today. They really teach you to try and be a clearer communicator, write well, and be able to explain things that are client-centric and can easily be absorbed by clients. So, that experience continues to serve me well. As we come to a close here, a couple more questions: So, personal passion, it sounds like you’re still singing, what else do you do when you’re not at MoxiWorks?
Georgia: I don’t sing, actually, very much anymore, which is kind of sad. Because, over the years, even after I left professional singing, I used to sing sometimes with the Seattle symphony, and I did sing with a really fantastic choir here in Seattle for 11 years. But, my job right now requires too much travel, so I’m not able to commit to the types of rehearsals and other stuff required to sing. My schedule is just too unpredictable. I hope, in the coming years, things could slow down enough that I could go back to singing a little on the side. But other stuff that I’m passionate about… I’m a very avid runner, which people, if they saw me, would not believe. But, I really am. And I run a lot of races. So, probably in the last three years, I’ve run probably 100 5Ks in three years. Some 10Ks and a handful of half-marathons. I have a set of races I’m training for right now that are in October, where I’ll run a 5K Friday, a 10K Saturday, and a half-marathon on Sunday. That’s how I try to stay sane, and at least take off some of that weight that traveling salespeople often put on.
Eric: When you travel, do you bring your shoes along and try and run wherever you go?
Georgia: I do, actually. That’s one of the things that got me started running, is that it’s very portable. And it’s funny, I have severe rheumatoid arthritis, and so my doctors are like, “What the heck are you doing? You should not be running!” But, it’s just super portable, and you can do it anywhere, and it’s a lot of fun. I recently got my husband to join me on some races. He had a heart attack last year, so he really needed to start doing some exercise. So, he’s now run several 5Ks, and it’s really wonderful that we can share that and stay healthy, because we’re not young. So, that’s one thing. And we’re also both very, very passionate about our church here in Seattle, St. Joe’s Parish. So, those are the things we sort of dial into when we’re not working.
Eric: Very good. In conclusion, one last question is, I always like to challenge our listeners to get 1% better every single day. Is there something you can challenge them to do better?
Georgia: That’s a great question and I think it kind of comes back to what I was mentioning a minute ago. I think every day, you should take a look at some success things that are happening for others around you. You know, take a peek, and see if there’s anything maybe that’s outside your comfort zone, that’s helping others succeed in your industry, that you’re willing to give a try. Like every day, take on a challenge to do something new that might help propel you in a net new direction.
Eric: Oh, very good. The goal of this was to get to know you better. And I feel I do. I know you a lot better. Georgia, I really appreciate the time you’ve given our podcast today. And it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed doing it, and hope you did as well.
Georgia: I did very much, and I feel so very grateful for even being asked. So, thank you so much, Eric. It was really a delight.
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