Lauren: Good afternoon everybody. This is Lauren Cohen, International Lawyer and Real Estate expert. I am here on my amazing podcast Investing Across Borders with my most amazing guest Meghan Kelly. Meghan and I met a couple months ago, after she joined this incredible company that I’m part of EXP Realty, and literally she and her business partner and colleague, Michael Valdez have changed the face of real estate forever, changed my life in many ways because of this amazing international company, and brought five countries into the company in the past two months. Now I had Michael on the show the other day, but Meghan is the female face of the international growth, and of course for me that resonates in an amazing way and Meghan and I’ve since we first connected, I remember we had we started chatting and it was like the meeting was over and we hadn’t even discussed the business, and we just started chatting, which tends to happen when you have somebody that’s a like-minded driven female entrepreneur who likes making a difference. Meghan welcome to the show, please tell us just a little bit about you and what brings you to EXP.
Meghan: Okay, great, thank you and yes, I enjoyed all of our conversations even when we have to reschedule six times because how many times, it was always something crazy, but we are here. And so I came to EXP, about four months ago, I was with a company with Realogy for 18 years and I had experience with working in a brand new utility, working with Michael, I also worked for the CEO of a realty franchise group for a couple of years and then I was working on recruiting and retention for the six brands and I saw this position posted and I tell everyone It was like a trifecta, you know, I was working with Michael or working for Michael again and I learned something from him every time I had a conversation. It was, you know, being able to be part of something new and big and help grow something.
Lauren: I get goosebumps.
Meghan: I love this is like my, this is my dream job I sent a description and I was like; I wrote that in my dreams.
Lauren: And being remote of course, which was even more amazing not just right now, but in general because you can do anything you want from anywhere.
Meghan: Exactly, and it’s the international piece of it too so when we can start traveling again, that I have worked with, you know, when Mike was opening countries I helped to team with Philippines Japan, Brazil, Panama, Belize, this is my favorite place, and to get that experience again and be able to get out there, that was the third piece that I was just like if I can get this job, I have found my home for life, because I love EXP and I love the people and all of those things just made it perfect.
Lauren: It’s amazing. As somebody who had been a realtor for 12 years and never been involved in the real estate industry, or the brokerages that I had, basically I just hung my license with the brokerage that was the extent of it. And this company is so collaborative, and so all about the whole like it’s a holistic approach which matches my approach in business, and I think that that’s what drives me every single day. I can’t even help I was telling Meghan before we started. There’s a woman that said to me, I will never get my real estate license ever and then I showed her the model and she’s like, I am getting my real estate license and she’s just signed up a couple of hours ago. So it’s an incredible story because it is so new and so unique, and, we’re getting a lot of people, like yesterday we’ve been talking to this one guy just outside of Toronto for almost a year Meghan and he was kind of like, “Ahh I don’t need it, it’s not my thing I do very well buying and selling real estate”. You know that story. Yesterday he said, “I’m signing up January 1”. I’m like, great. We’re just as excited. So, it’s a story that must be told the stock
has gone crazy. And that’s a story. You know somebody told me to buy the stock when it was $8 back in March, and I didn’t, I did buy it but it wasn’t $8, when I bought it and now yesterday I think it was like $82. It’s a crazy story. So Meghan, in your experience, you’ve had a lot of experience opening real estate companies internationally, what is the one thing that you’ve noticed to be the most differentiating factor for EXP in in that opening, other than, of course, the fact that you’re not there.
Meghan: For EXP most of the countries that you go into with a real estate model, you’re going to be the first site right we’re going to have a master franchise, they’re going to run the business as they see fit, because they’ve purchased that rights from you. So, with EXP we’re the only brokerage that is operating in each country, so we have our legal entity set up, we have our business setup, we have banking. We are the EXP NVR or EXP Portugal. So, that is a huge differentiator to me because it’s still connected to the business but we have those in country teams that know the local markets that can run the business there, versus having, you know, kind of that disconnect or middleman where you don’t have that control so much over how they run, and how things are going. So that to me is a huge differentiator.
Lauren: Oh cool. Yeah, I mean obviously I’m very familiar with franchise brands because I’ve franchised many brands, but I’m not familiar with franchises, or I wasn’t familiar with franchises within the real estate industry. As a matter of fact, when I joined EXP, I didn’t even hear about some of the brands like the KW brand for example that, you know, people are coming over in droves. I’ve never even heard of it, but it wasn’t like a topic of daily conversation, you know I’m a lawyer, and now it is a topic of daily conversation because you just can’t help it. I mean it’s so exciting. Michael posted yesterday, I’m sure you’re familiar with the video of the nine countries now that we’re in. And just like that, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg because I know we talked about double digits next year January 7, we’re going to hear about the first quarter, and you know I can’t even get this out of you privately where we’re going into, but it’s exciting stuff, and having this totally global business is super, super exciting. Tell us a little bit about in the past, you’ve obviously seen a lot of international investors and international realtors, what would you say is the one thing that you’ve seen as a faux pa, that has been corrected and maybe that EXP is doing right, the franchise brand is probably one of them according to what you’re saying right, but what else?
Meghan: Yes, I think that is a big piece of it just having that control, that ability to work with the broker in country and make sure that whatever we’re doing it’s actually a truly a localized business, because we know people are going to leave us as soon as they feel like it’s a US business operating in their country. No way. They’re out, you know, and you can’t recover from that very easily. It takes years and you know being in this industry for so long I know that, and rightfully so, agents need to be confident and comfortable with their company and if you lose that confidence right from day one. It’s going to be four or five years before you get that back, so making sure that we have that local localization and then also all the support that they need at the onboarding stage. So, I think if you don’t onboard the agents correctly, you’re not giving them all the information they need. It’s frustrating. You know, I onboarded locally at EXP from the US perspective and it was great because I got all the emails, I had a personal concierge. So those are the types of things that we need to make sure we’re doing in each country but in their own language, to make sure that the agents feel welcome and stay, and want to be with us and understand why, why we’re the best.
Lauren: Even the US experience has changed drastically since I came in and I’ve been with the company about a year. And when I came in, I didn’t even know there was a concierge. Now, it may have just been that I thought I was a blip because I was supposed to know. You know, because I’ve had my license so long I wasn’t assigned to a mentor which is fine, but it’s just an interesting thing because as the company morphs and grows, so do the systems obviously, and the way that everything is approached and, as you said, now you’ve got a team under you, that’s implementing various things so it’s not all on you and Michael, and that’s what’s happening. You know as the company matures, so do the systems and the systems are going to drive, ultimately, a lot of the success because without those systems, you’re not going to flourish you’re going to be unsuccessful. So, when obviously you’ve seen people from all other countries that have joined US, real estate businesses, and what have you seen is the biggest difference between non US, real estate industry people and US real estate people, could you identify, is there a huge cultural difference? Or even in the countries that we’ve just expanded into, obviously one of them is licensing, like we just talked about in Canada, the licensing process is much more arduous than here, but then again you go to India and you pay some money and you basically have a license to practice real estate. So, what else?
So licensing is huge. That’s one of the things that always fascinates me. I think it was Ireland where you must have a four-year degree to sell real estate, and then like you said, you could be in Mexico and if you’re a resident, you’re good to go, so that’s always fascinating to me. The different types of markets are interesting, and dividends and markets, so there’s open markets where people can just sell any listings, there’s no listing agreements you just grab what you want. Working with our brokers or agents to figure out how to accommodate that, and make sure that they’re not getting taken advantage of and see how we can operate a little bit differently to avoid any of those issues is quite interesting. You’ll see a lot of watermarks on our photos. And then you have the different markets and how they operate, like if you look at Portugal and Lisbon, there’s a real estate office almost every floor, and it’s small teams similar in India, there’s a lot of small teams but then if you go to another area like Mexico or somewhere else, you have these mega teams. Right, so the market kind of dictates how you form your business you’re tuned as an agent in a lot of these different countries so learning all those nuances is quite interesting too. One of the things I found cool was with the UK, speaking to a Broker there, Agents there are paid a salary, but in the UK and similar in other countries, so to get them to come over to our business model, they’re giving up a salary. And, you know, they’re starting, we’ve built a good base there, and there people are starting to talk, but to get over that hurdle of people who don’t agree with that approach and the salary going to, you know, the revenue sharing, having commissions and things like that, that’s a whole different conversation that you’re having with somebody than you thought you would in the US to try to recruit them to EXP.
Lauren: Yeah, I think maybe the analogy might be dealing with a broker here that thinks that they have it all, to go, “I’m not giving them my brokerage because I’m in control”, and versus well now I don’t have to have all that liability. That’s the discussion I still have, now I can still operate independently, under the EXP brand like one of our one of our companies, or one of our downlines is Cardio Real Estate a division of EXP Realty. So that’s how it works and the plan with them was to go was to develop their own brokerage. So, in this modern company let’s talk about some of the female representation, because, obviously it’s a little different, being a female at a generally male table which I deal with every single day. And how have you noticed reactions, different reactions from these different countries, like for example in India, you’re going to have a very different cultural approach to women. I would think, and I don’t know if you’ve experienced it as much. then you would in South Africa, for example, or in the UK or for sure in Canada, but that’s neither here nor there, you know, but what would you say, have you noticed a lot of those differences within the company and obviously can identify, obviously they’re into diversity and everything, but have you seen that and what about in terms of the countries and the cultures?
Meghan: So I would say within EXP I definitely feel more of a family that I’ve ever felt, I don’t feel those the restrictions that you can feel when you’re in meetings, and you’re the only woman which I’ve lived most of my life with. So, you know, I started working at 19, so you start to believe things, you start to keep quiet. I’ve had male bosses tell me in the past, You know, but you should speak more in meetings, or you should talk louder you know, when I did then they would shut me down and dismiss what I was saying, and then repeat the same thing I just said in a different way. So, I you know I’ve gotten out of my shell which is why I love working with Michael, just seems like if you look at Michael, his whole organization I think we’re 90% women.
Lauren: He’s smart.
Meghan: Because he’s smart, yes, he’s got a great team. But he is not like that so it’s just been such a breath of fresh air to be in an environment where I can speak, speak my mind and not feel like I’m talking out of turn in any way with any meetings, you know, being in meetings with any of the leadership or anybody else. It’s been such a great experience. I’m just so happy here I came in fresh enough from an international perspective and working with different countries. I have a positive experience. You know, we were looking for a broker in India and we were working with a woman who has quite an extensive resume in India, and she was so impressed with the fact that the Director of Operations, that was my goal, was a woman, that was like part of the reason she was talking to us, because she just said you know we need to have this representation, and it’s just amazing that you know Michael has chosen you. And you know this was such a cool thing to hear, that you don’t think about, I just, I’m heads down, I do my job I’m happy, I’m not trying to cause any waves. I just want to do a good job and, do some good things for people out there. And so, for somebody to say that to me, it gave me pause, wow, this is kind of cool. I like to share a positive experience about that.
Lauren: And I wouldn’t have expected that to be the case but, I mean certainly the world is changing but it’s not changing as quickly as we would like. For sure. And, you know, in my industry, certainly, especially in when I was dealing with EB5 and raising foreign capital and dealing with all these humongous projects all over the country. Nine out of 10 people at the table, every single time, women. And, nine out of 10 real estate investors, on a big scale are men. And we as women, I think, Instead of feeling like for me, well they’re lucky to have me here, instead of being intimidated in any way. And maybe that’s just based on you know our own upbringing, and how we show up in the world. I’m a single mom and I have a son and it’s important for me, that he, “he’s like mommy, all you ever do is work”, and well, that’s true. But on the other hand, you know, he unfortunately doesn’t get the home cooked meals and cookies and all of that, but he sees somebody that is making an impact, and working with people that want to be changemakers like you guys are, you came in and took this company by a storm and have opened five countries in two months, and lots more to come and that’s just crazy. There’s no time to sleep when you’re building an empire, literally, and that’s what we’re all doing. And one of the beautiful parts about that is that we all have a vested interest, part of the family aspect is also that we are all owners, and that is something so different in the EXP model that every single one of us as soon as we do our first deal or our first transaction or whatever the case may be, that we own shares. And if you, if you had that opportunity, there are so many millionaires that have been made in this past few months with the stock going crazy and people that knew, years ago they have, I mean, they have gifted stock that’s worth millions of dollars and it’s just because they’ve been doing what they do that’s and that’s an amazing story, whether a woman, whether you’re a man whatever, but we all are sharing and I find that when I have a prospective agent to recruit in another city that we’re not in, particularly like in Toronto, which is my hometown, we have people that we can go to every day of the week that will always, always participate in the call. And that’s true for anywhere you reach out to, someone in Chicago. You rarely get somebody say, “Why do you need me”? Well, because you’re there, you know the lay of the land it’s different than here in Boca Raton, Florida, or in New Jersey or Philly or wherever, and that’s such a unique model in the EXP.
Meghan: It’s amazing and even looking at me and we’re talking about this amazing network. I’m looking to move, so, well I’m going use the EXP agent and I found this woman who is amazing, Carosone, she lives in New Jersey. With EXP I don’t know if I’m allowed to endorse anybody but just from my experience, she’s been fantastic. So, we were talking when we were looking at some of the places she was sending me to about the stock, the people that were in it $8, and I came over in August I think we were at $34 and I bought some, you know, so I’m going to buy some stock. And that was $34 I feel like I’m getting paid out, I can throw a party. You know, it’s just that that network though of being able to reach out, even for myself to be able to find an agent to work with, and find a strong woman like us and introduce you to her, she’s great, to have that here, there’s so many levels of network. They have people that can be vocal. You know that.
Lauren: They just talk to people in a couple of countries every day because it’s just so funny, don’t you think about the fact that you’re; today I’ve been on with China, Hong Kong, America imagine that, I’m going to have a call later with India, Israel, like, it’s a crazy world we live in.
Meghan: And, if you want to know it’s kind of funny. Today, before this I’ve been on the phone with the UK, and what do we say a country to be named at a later date. Mexico, Portugal twice. And then this call. So yeah, it’s kind of weird. You feel like it starts to be normal, but then every once in a while, you’re like, wait, I just spoke to six different countries this morning and it’s 10 o’clock.
Lauren: Meghan, I so appreciate you, I so appreciate your friendship and your kindness and your generosity and you showing up to join my show. We’re going to have another podcast, we’re going to start doing this regularly and we’ll bring you on after the countries are named on the 7th of January, which I’ll be waiting for with bated breath as I always do. And we’ll be working on a lot of exciting things together. Thank you so much I wish you a very Merry, Merry Christmas and if anybody wants to reach you, what is the best way to reach you?
Meghan: Workplace cat or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren: So corporate people that work for corporate get dotnet and those of us that are just plain realtors get .com. But anyway, not beyond we are making a difference. Thank you for being a strong woman, thank you for being an impactful woman, and thank you for your international drive and success and I’m so excited to be part of your world and, again, happy holidays.
Meghan: Thank you. have a good one.
Lauren: Thank you. Bye.