This week we sit down with a local business owner that has been on quite the journey to get where he is today. From teaching special education students in a trailer that required two holding cells in the classroom to prospecting clients in other countries for a well known real estate brokerage to owning his own real estate brokerage with his wife. If that doesn't intrigue you... We're not sure what would. Now let's hear the story of how Jason Will became the owner of JWRE.
Jason: Hey, I'm Jason Will. I'm the owner of JWRE. We are an independent real estate brokerage on the Alabama Gulf Coast and expanding throughout the state of Alabama.
Marcus: Awesome. Jason, welcome to the podcast. You and I have known each other for a couple years now since you moved back to Fairhope. I'm actually really excited to get a chance to share you with the audience here.
Jason: Me too. I'm a big fan of your podcast. It's a pleasure to be here.
Marcus: Tell us the story of Jason Will. Where you from, where'd you go to high school and college, are you married? Give us some of your backstory.
Jason: Born and raised Fairhope, Alabama. Went to Bayside Academy. Graduated from Bayside, went to Spring Hill College for a year. Got sucked into the party scene at Auburn and went up there and finished up a degree in political science from Auburn. From there, bounced around, really lost. I did go to DC and work for our congressman out of Mobile for a while. Really didn't know what I wanted to do. Came back home after graduation, I was waiting tables, just totally lost. It seemed like I had plenty of ambition, but just no direction. My parents had thought after all this money and investment, that something would have come along. It just really didn't, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I remember having a meeting with my dad and he was like, we were just trying to figure out at 22, we got to go somewhere. We got to figure this out. The two things that were on the table were real estate and teaching.
Marcus: Which are two totally different.
Jason: Yeah. I'm a son of a teacher. My mom's a career school teacher, my dad's a career salesman. I didn't know anything about real estate at the time. So I said, let's break down the pros and cons. We did for teaching first. He was like, it's not very much salary but you get a lot of time off. I said, well how much does realtors make. He said, well it's 100% commission. So I said, let's go with this teaching thing. I immediately came over here to South and enrolled in graduate school. They have a two-year program to get your teacher certificate. Was going through my first semester of that and enjoying it. I ended up meeting my wife during that time period.
Marcus: And her name is?
Jason: Diana Will. The beautiful and talented Diana Will.
Marcus: Better get that out, man.
Jason: She's the foundation of my entire ... She runs my entire life. I had a buddy call me that I went to Auburn with. He said there's a teaching shortage in Tampa, Florida. Forget this graduate school thing, all this money you're investing, come down here, they'll put you in a classroom right away. Diana and I had been dating, gosh I don't know, just a few months let's say. No more than four-five months.
Marcus: Was she also in the teaching program as well?
Jason: She's much younger than I am. She's five years younger.
Marcus: She was just an undergraduate.
Jason: She was 19 when I met her. She ended up packing up and coming with me and going to school down there. Transferring to a college down in Tampa. Taught for a year and realized very, very quickly that teaching is a calling. Teachers, God bless them. It takes a lot more patience I guess, is the easiest thing to say. I don't have the patience for it. We were really stressed financially. Diana was going to school, waiting tables. I was teaching. But if ... We had a scenario where one of our cars needed four tires. That was a huge expense. I had all this time off as a teacher but I didn't have any money to do anything during that time off. Our relationship continued and it came time, I wanted to ... Before Diana wised up and realize she needed to probably find a different male, with a more direct path in life with goals. I needed to put a ring on her finger, so my dad said, listen, instead of a big wedding ... My wife's family's not well off so they couldn't afford a wedding. My parents, fortunately, could but they said, wouldn't you rather have a house? And we were like, yeah, we'll take the down payment on the house. The realtor I hired changed my life. She was-
Marcus: How long ago was this?
Jason: This was in the 2003 time frame.
Marcus: So not that long ago.
Jason: Yeah. Ended up buying a house and getting my real estate license in 2004. April of 2004. Our realtor was really well-to-do, very successful realtor in the Tampa Bay area. She was very patient because there was not a lot of properties in my price range. My max was 120, under 20 thousand. It took a lot of work for her. But we got to know each other very, very well and she said, you should get your real estate license. I looked at her and she had this entourage of people. She was driving a BMW. We ended up buying a fixer-upper house and we were stressed out over our bills. So I thought, you know what, I think I'd like to pursue this and maybe have a chance for a better life. There was an accelerated program at Tampa. I took it during my spring break. I got licensed to sell real estate in the State of Florida in 10 days. Didn't do anything with it until summer, just continued teaching school and researching local companies. Ended up going to the company where my realtor worked. It was Smith & Associates. It was still a very prominent firm down in Tampa Florida. Was all excited to sign up with them and get started. They didn't have a single agent there that had worked in the business less than 15 or 20 years. She said, Jason, we're not the place for you. All along the way, there's all these life-changing steps. She said, there's this new company that's opened up on Davis Island, you should go check them out. It's Keller Williams, they'll take anybody, and they've got a great training program. I just immediately left that office and went to Davis Island to the Keller Williams, and it was like, they welcomed me in like they'd known me forever. Sold $8,000 that summer.
Marcus: Which is probably a significant percentage of what you were making as a teacher.
Jason: Yes. I went back to school and it was very difficult for me to focus. I got transferred ... During that first year of teaching, I got transferred twice, because I wasn't a tenure teacher. I didn't have the clout. They bounced me around wherever they needed me. I went from a very public school in an affluent area to one that was very diverse and didn't have near as much fun. I was out in a trailer.
Marcus: What were you teaching, by the way?
Jason: I was teaching Special Ed. ESE students. We were out in a trailer-type setting because the school had outgrown itself. Over the summer, I got transferred to a school out in New Tampa, which was quite a bit a long drive, to begin with. Then I was working with severely emotionally disturbed.
Marcus: That will try your patience.
Jason: Yeah, I had kids getting in my face, taunting me that they were going to whip my butt, and they were threatening me every day. We had two holding cells in the classroom that were padded. All I had was a teaching assistant who was beautiful young woman. She was married, had kids, but she had their respect. She controlled the classroom. I had no control over the classroom. She protected me. She would tell me stories about how she had gotten in the middle of a couple fights with them and had her nose busted up. I just kept thinking to myself-
Marcus: This isn't what I signed up for.
Jason: I can't believe, one thing, I couldn't believe her husband would let her work there. But she, like we talked about earlier in the podcast, she had that calling. She had a heart for these inner-city kids. One day, I can't remember what the circumstance was, but I think her husband finally had enough. I came report to school and she was gone. The principal called me in his office and said, she's gone, she's not coming back. I said, when am I getting another assistant, and he said, I can't answer that question. It wasn't too long after that, that I just quit. I didn't do it of my own free will.
Jason: When I didn't do it of my own free will, I basically got fired. He just said, "Listen, I need you to turn in your resignation because ..." He goes, "I need you to pick real estate or teaching."
Jason: I said if you don't give me an assistant or somebody that can help me handle these kids, then-
Marcus: It's going to be real estate.
Jason: Yeah, it's going to be real estate. I just remember walking out to the parking lot. It was a scary thing because that 100% commission aspect of real estate scared me to death. But he was right. I didn't have the calling. He saw it in my eyes. I was milking the system for the money and I didn't have control over this classroom. It was probably just a matter of time before I wound up on the front page of the Tampa Bay Tribune for getting in this tussle.
Marcus: Having beaten up high school kids.
Jason: Because literally, they're in your face threatening you every second of every class. You can imagine just, it was walking on egg shells every minute of every day. That put me in a sink or swim environment. I had to make it in real estate. But I was just fortunate. It was 2004. You could sell real estate. It was very easy to sell real estate. I would sell real estate by putting signs in the ground. Somebody would see me put an Open House sign in the ground. They'd go, "Hey, where's that open house?" and then they'd go, "Take us right there." Then they'd buy it on the spot.
Jason: It was just nuts. So just blessed. We had a bunch of good things happen to us. Ended up selling through my wife got her real estate license and worked on-site in new construction sales. She was working for a condo development and Mr. Lykes of Lykes Hot Dogs came in and bought up so many units in that development. They said, "Well, you can't buy any more units." Diana sent him to me and said, "Hey, just go ... Jason will take you to other developments and you can go buy some other properties." He ended up buying in one day two properties worth $6.2 million. That was a huge payday for me. They paid-
Marcus: I'm doing the math in my head because [inaudible 00:12:17]-
Jason: It was a couple hundred grand.
Marcus: So yeah. A significant amount of money that landed in your pocket from [inaudible 00:12:22].
Jason: Back then, they don't do this anymore, but back then, once he reached, had put down his deposit on those two properties, they paid me.
Marcus: Oh, wow.
Jason: Within two months, I had the money, but it was a trying time for us because my brother ended up getting cancer. He had a rare type of bone cancer, sarcoma. He died October of 2006 and then my wife and I had our first son, Cooper, that same month. He was born several weeks premature. He was three lbs., one ounce.
Jason: We were down in Tampa. Tampa's a very transient area. It's not very friendly. When we bought our house down there, we didn't have neighbors coming and knocking on our door and saying, "Hey, nice to meet you."
Marcus: Well, and you weren't from the area, so it wasn't like you had a group of people that you could fall back other than maybe coworkers or something, right?
Jason: Yeah. We really never connected with anybody. It's just a different ... Down there, the people that we had kind of met in the real estate business, granted, we had people in their late twenties who were making ridiculous amounts of money, were already investing in properties. $200,000, $300,000 a year was nothing to them. We had people that were working for the new construction home builders that were making $500,000, $700,000 a year and driving Maseratis. I don't know, it was just slicked back hair and nice clothes and I'm just very ... I don't have any style. I just never fit into that going in with my shirt opened up and working out and all that stuff. I don't know, it just wasn't our scene and we just never connected with anybody. We had all this tragedy going on in our family and had this child who was in the NICU for two months. After that was all cleared, we just said we're coming back home to Alabama. We were Alabama residents again in January of 2007. Ended up buying a house, paying way too much for it because soon after that, the-
Marcus: The market dropped like crazy.
Jason: The market crashed. So I should have saved my money and bought up a lot of foreclosures, but hindsight's 20/20. Diana was in real estate at that time, but I took a break and worked for my family business for a while. I don't know if any of y'all ever worked in a family business, but it's just like being under your parents' roof again. That wasn't a whole lot of fun and I just loved the freedom of real estate. I just always, I love working for myself and being an entrepreneur. Ended up getting back into real estate at the worst possible time. It was August of 2008.
Marcus: Yeah. That was pretty much ground zero for the real estate market.
Jason: Yes. I remember right after I activated, not too long after I activated, all the news came out that it was basically ...
Marcus: The bubble had just burst?
Jason: It was frightening, to say the least. I think I activated in June of that summer, but by August, September of that year that everything had hit the fan. The world was coming to an end and the real estate market just stopped dead in its tracks.
Marcus: Yeah, so for those of you that are listening that aren't keeping up with dates, so 2004 was Ivan. 2005 or 6 was Katrina. We had a large influx of people that were moving to this area, so it drove prices up way high and then when they were already overinflated as far as the pricing goes. Then in 2008 when the market crashed everywhere, not just here, it hit pretty hard in this area and I think we're still trying, we're maybe a little bit above where we were back in the 2006, 2007 range. Prices took forever to get back to ... it was a decade before they were really back to where they were.
Jason: Right. Your wife actually represented us on that sale of that house in '07 and we still have that house. We still cannot sell it. I think we are finally getting to a place. We've tried to sell it I think at least three times, but we've kept it rented. It's been a great rental property for us. It's cash flowed. That just goes to show you ... The subdivision that we bought in, the prices went down in some cases 40 to 50%.
Jason: It was a big, big hit. We just have fought to unload it, but I think this year or the next time the tenants move out, we'll probably be able to sell it. I had to start my business from the ground up at the worst possible time. I had made it to the top. I had gotten recognized in Tampa as a top 1% of agents in the Greater Tampa Bay Association of Realtors and was kind of thinking I was hot stuff and from this area and that I'd be able to get some things going. A couple months after reactivating, the whole economy crashes and I was just scared to death. Luckily, my parents kept me afloat. A lot of people don't have that luxury, but they gave me the capital to keep going. I still just couldn't really get my business off the ground.
Marcus: When you say your business because, at that time, JWRE didn't ... you're just talking about your business as a realtor selling homes?
Jason: Yes. I went back with Keller Williams in this area when I reactivated.
Marcus: When did JWRE come into existence?
Jason: Not til 2013.
Marcus: Okay, so it was, yeah, significantly, what, four years or so after that?
Jason: Yeah. This is a big part though of who ... my evolution was the financial crisis because it made me a learning base real estate agent. That was really the foundation of JWRE is training and education and mentorship. I went to my team leader at the time, all these life-changing people and all these steps along the way. I said, "Listen." I'd been in real estate I think it was October at this point, so I had my real estate license active for four or so months. I was saying, "Well, I gave it a good run. I think I'm going to have to go get a real job." At this point, I had one child, another one on the way. I'm freaking out. My parents are like, "Hey, we're not going to foot the bill forever." You got to keep in mind I had come back. I still had quite a bit of money from Tampa, but we put $100,000 down on the house we bought in [inaudible 00:19:34]. We were living large. I was burning through that money now living off my parents' dime. My team leader said, "Well, let's sit down and look at the top 100 in the MLS, see what they're doing." We looked it up, top 100, 200 agents. There were still quite a bit of sales going on there. They weren't record-breaking amounts. A lot of them were investment properties, but things were still-
Jason: ... record-breaking amounts, you know, a lot more investment properties, but things were still happening. So she just said very point-blank, she said, "Jason, what's the difference between you and these other agents?" I said, "I have no idea but I wish you would tell me."
Marcus: "Because obviously, I'm not getting it."
Jason: Yeah, so she said, "You're not learning-based. You're not in the office. You're a 'fly by the seat of your pants' guy. We never see you at any of the trainings, you don't go to any of the trainings at the board. So you're not the office, you're not the board, and you don't go out of town to any of these conferences. You don't participate in the office." She said, "I think if you became a learning-based agent, at least started reading books, watching webinars, going to YouTube and doing some research, you might figure some things out." So that was a huge turning point for me. We had a guy in our company ... still a part of [inaudible 00:21:00], I say "our company" but [inaudible 00:21:02] was just part of my life for a decade or more ... but Ben [Kenney 00:21:06] is a real estate agent out of Washington State, and at that time he was running a big team and it was heavy tech-based, and he was generating a lot of online leads. So ended up jumping on ... started jumping on webinars that he was teaching, he was giving back and doing a lot of stuff. Ben Kenney now is like a mega ... he owns part of this and that. He's just a real estate mogul, but at that time he was teaching people how to generate online leads. So I just started doing that, I got my own website and started generating online leads, started converting some of those leads. Before too long I had more leads than I could handle. Back in that time period, you could embed videos and hotlinks and all kind of things into the Craigslist, so I think the biggest month we had on record for leads per month was about 700 leads in a month.
Jason: From Craigslist alone, so I was snatching people up. They were just sitting there at the office doing nothing, like surfing news websites all day. I was like, "Hey, come call some of these leads." Of course very few if any of those agents worked out, but it got me into the team-building mode.
Marcus: Right. That's important to know because I think a lot of people, when they think about that, there's a sense of overwhelm that comes along with that, because they think that they're the ones that have to handle all of the leads that might be coming in, and the truth is the role of the business owner is to quickly figure out the areas where he needs to replace himself with someone else and have the responsibilities for that person ... just hand it off to him.
Marcus: And that's how you build ... that's really how businesses are built, right? But you learned that lesson fairly quickly than when you got that many leads come in and have to-
Jason: Yeah, so the term for it in our industry is 'rainmaker', so I basically became ... I was the listing agent, the primary listing agent, but we were only listing ... we had a running inventory of eight to ten listings. We were heavy buyer-side, we just had so many buyer leads, so I was on Craigslist constantly creating new ads, renewing old ads, while still getting on every webinar, watching every video, books, anything I could get my hands on, going to seminars. I started making some money, so I could afford to go out of town. I started traveling, I still ... we spend, my wife and I spend fifty-plus thousand dollars a year to travel. I'm going to California this month. Then I turn right around and go to Miami, and then I'm back to California and LA in February, back to California in March. So I'm constantly either in Vegas or California or New York State doing these conferences, but all that gave me more innovation to keep implementing. So before too long, that's all I could do. I needed people to handle the rest, and that's when I got into coaching because I didn't know what I was doing. It's taken me ... some people get into the real estate business ... I've got a buddy in San Diego who started in January of 2017 and closed out the year with a team of 12 people.
Jason: Where I'm at right now, he will be there in two years. God knows where he'll be in three years, he'll probably be expanding in three years. I had a much longer learning curve than some of these other people in the industry, but I didn't get ... it took me a while to buy into what the coaches were saying, really.
Marcus: Let me put a point there. Let's answer this question. Talk to the real estate agent that says in their mind, "But I don't have time to go and do those things because I'm too busy doing ... I'm too busy showing houses", or "I'm too busy getting through the paperwork", "I'm too busy doing X, Y, and Z." Why do you think that it's extremely important to get out and get to those conferences, like what are the things that you would say to somebody in that situation?
Jason: I would say ... I'd tell this. I think one of the reasons we're so successful is that I relate to exactly where they are, where their mindset is. I fell victim to that abyss of busy, and there are so many things we can get busy doing, but if you want to see real change in your life, you need to change yourself. That's where the change needs to happen, and the person who is standing in the way of your success and really reaching your true potential is yourself. So if you're not investing in yourself ... I consider myself right now a student, and I feel like I will be a student forever. There is never a ... I will never get to the finish line. Enough will never be enough, I will never know enough. I've got to constantly be learning or I'm going to get passed by, and I think that's what you're going to start seeing in a lot of real estate companies, especially here in our area. They're not innovating, "It's the tried and true, it's how we've always done it, it's how we're always going to do it."
Marcus: And they're fading fast.
Jason: And they're fading, and we're going to fly right past them and they know it. They're scared to death, they hear it all the time. But I would just tell the agent, "You've got to make time. You have to make time becoming a learning-based agent and just go research. Don't take my word for it. Find somebody that you trust, whether that's an author, a TV personality." You used to see this, the most successful people, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, these people all say the same thing.
Jason: That they are consummate learners, they just absorb it like sponges.
Marcus: Even Grant Cardone says before you have ... what ... a hundred thousand dollars, all of your investment should be on yourself, right? So he feels that strongly about it and of course, he does have some products that he's trying to sell, but he doesn't just say his products, he's talking about just a mindset of education and learning and stuff like that.
Jason: I think most people ... you mentioned the investment, I think most people don't realize ... they don't think of themselves as business owners, especially in the real estate business. And a lot of them are, a lot of them are just salespeople.
Jason: They are not running their business like a business, they are not treating it like a business, they're treating it like a hobby. I am constantly telling people to get out of town and go just rub elbows with people from other markets, and learn how they think, see how big they think. That's the big thing to me, it's like, "Wow, I went to these conferences, and there were agents here making over a million dollars net profit." I didn't think that was possible in real estate.
Jason: I didn't think it was possible to have buyer's agents and showing assistants and listing assistants and inside sales associates. A lot of these things ... we brought the 'coming soon', nobody was doing 'coming soon' in our area till we brought it here, so we've done a lot of things that we've infused in this market because we've gone to other places. Now I've started to see some of our competitors say, "Well, maybe we should go to Inman this year, maybe we should go to Tom Ferry's Summit and learn some of these innovations, because it's incredible, the ideas."
Marcus: The thing that I was surprised ... because as was mentioned before, my wife is a realtor here, but I went to NAR conference I think last year, and we also ... Bluefish does some consulting work with some realtors out in California. The one thing that I was impressed by with NAR is that you have a floor, the convention floor, that is just absolutely slam-packed of people that are offering tools, and then sometimes services but most of the time its tools, that can streamline the amount of time that it takes to do your business. I recognize that there is a learning curve that comes along with some of those things, but I think once you start seeing ... because we have this in our own business, like we use tools that allow us to ... A good example is we use a tool that basically deploys files to whatever server we tell it to deploy to, so instead of having to connect to that server and then navigate to the place where those-
Marcus: having to connect to that server, and then, navigate to the place where those files are supposed to go. We literally, just from our local machine, check those files in and those files automatically go where they're supposed to go. Oftentimes, it's multiple servers. It's just such a small fee. I mean it's like 10 dollars a month, and we get the servers. Well, realtors have BoomTown and they have all these ... You can even buy leads from realtor.com, I mean, all these things. Then I guess it's surprising to me how many realtors just don't take advantage of those types of tools, or lead generation systems, or even the information that's out there. I guess they're just so focused on what they're doing, or maybe they don't feel like it would work in their market, which I don't necessarily agree with. I think maybe there's some way of changing it a little bit so that it works a little bit better, but I think those truths will work in any market.
Jason: Well, we've got, I mean, we've got agents that work here locally that don't have their website on their business card.
Marcus: What are their names?
Jason: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:31:03] On their business card. It's their brokerage website. You know it's ...
Marcus: Yeah, that's not good.
Jason: Theircompany.com. When people go there, they've got a host of agents to choose from. They register. Maybe there's not even a registration process.
Jason: It just amazes me that they're not taking control over it. I remember when I was still at KW and ended up getting my own website. I did. I went with a very cheap option. I'm trying to think.
Marcus: Was it Top Producer or ...
Jason: No, it wasn't Top Producer. I'll think of it in a second or maybe I won't. It was very inexpensive, but you had to get the idea, your separate IDX feed from the board. I think it was 40 or 50 bucks a month. I got agents that I was trying to tell people. They were, like, "How do you get these leads?" I said, "Well, I got my own website, and it has a registration, a forced registration that funnels them into a database, and then, you've got all these contact management tools." I said, "You guys should get this." They would be, like, "Well, I'm not paying 40 or 50 bucks a month for a feed from the board." 40 or 50 bucks a month.
Marcus: 50 dollars. Well, the thing that gets me, too, is I still hear stories about agents that don't have the keys to get into houses cause I guess now in this area, down at the beach, I guess a lot of agents don't use them. There's combo boxes and stuff like that. When you come north of say, Foley, then the Eastern Shore is very prevalent on using ... I forget what they're called. The little systems that allow you ...
Jason: Central lock, or ...
Marcus: Yeah, central lock ...
Marcus: that allow you to get in. Again, it's like a 40 dollar a month fee or something like that. I mean like that would seem to me like if you're going to be a realtor, just the simple basics like that are just requirements for doing your job ...
Jason: Yeah, it's ...
Marcus: that they just don't invest in.
Jason: It's crazy. It's crazy the mindset.
Marcus: Yeah. Anyway, I don't want to belabor that. What did starting JWRE look like? I mean, how did that come to be? Was there ...
Jason: Well, yeah we got fired from Keller Williams, so we had no choice. I started going to every Keller Williams event. I was very much drinking the Keller Williams Kool-Aide. I had several mentors inside the organization. At the top of that food chain, was Gary Keller. Whenever he said, I needed to do, or told an audience to do ...
Marcus: You did it.
Jason: I did.
Jason: Whatever he said was important, it was immediately important to me. The other lower level people, under him, it was all important to them too. It's like, they're all buying into it. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Whatever super successful agents, whatever level they were in the company were doing, I just adapted to whatever they were doing. Gary Keller ... It started out ... Keller Williams is a team building company. My thought process was, as soon as possible, I'm building a team. I didn't have any systems in place, wasn't organized. My learning curve for team building has been much longer than say, the friend I mentioned in San Diego, who is much more, started much more put together. Team building and then it was an expansion team. Went out and got an expansion team here in Mobile, from, you know, had Fairhope, Mobile then went to New Orleans, and was going to all these other places. And then Keller Williams International rolled out. The leadership at Keller Williams was saying, "Get in touch with anybody you know in other countries, and startup ..." You know, Keller Williams has a profit share, system. A recruiting incentive ... Essentially, you could build a network. There's agents in Keller Williams that make, you know, gobs of money, monthly and annually, just off of their profit share system. My wife and I were in a place where she was kind of getting burned out. We thought, "Well, let's go to another country, and see if we can meet some people and do real estate down there. Maybe just take a year off of life in the states, and expose our kids to a different culture." Started exploring the idea. I really honestly didn't think it was gonna happen, but I would start coming home from work, and things would be missing. An armoire, a couch, clothes. I mean, my wife just started unloading, using Snag it and Tag it and all these things on Facebook to unload our entire house.
Marcus: She's like, "Oh no. This is happening."
Jason: Yeah. I would come home and be like, "Well, where are we gonna sit?"
Marcus: Well, we can't take it with us.
Jason: She sold everything down to ... We had 13 or 14 suitcases and a dog. We were moving. We ended up settling on-
Marcus: The dog's looking around like, er?
Jason: What's going on here? We ended up going to Panama.
Marcus: Oh, very cool.
Jason: To Bocas Del Toro, Panama, and made a bunch of contacts. The first contact I ever made there actually, is a part of Keller Williams now, which is crazy to think about. It's like the regional director and it all happened for him. Happy for him. Could have been a part of it, but, things just really started unraveling very, very quickly, within the first two weeks we were down there. On a micro level, I had agents on our team that I didn't really have strong relationships with. I may have thought they had my back. Our team right now is super successful. We're like a family.
Jason: There's not a person on my team, that I wouldn't want to, you know, eat Christmas dinner with, or wouldn't want to go to their wedding, or support them in any way. We really think of each other as family. These agents, it was not the case. They were there for leads and leverage. It was just a financial thing. What can they get from the team environment? When we left and went down there, school got out at noon.
Marcus: Oh wow.
Jason: The kids would come home from school at noon and go, "All right, what we gonna do?" We lived on an island. We'd go, "All right. Let's hop in a water taxi and go snorkeling. Let's go zip lining." And so, I'm very social on Facebook, too much so, some people might say. I put it all out there and some of our agents got pissed off. They're like, "We're home doing all this work. He's down there zip lining. He's on this big vacation." At the same time, I was working and making contacts, and getting things going, and was meeting developers. Met a developer in Destin, who wanted to work with me, so some big things were about to happen. I had boarded a water taxi. It was going over to shoot a hostel. The lady wanted to sell it. It was gonna be like a two million dollar deal. I brought my drone with me down there, so I was gonna take some drone photos. Got a call from the CEO of our business at that time, [inaudible 00:38:30]. She said, "You know, you guys. I need to talk to you right away. Both of your licenses have been sent back. You've been fired." We had a Vonage phone line through the internet system. We went back to our condo and called. We had been terminated from KW. There's a lot of reasons why, but basically the ownership group that we had, the owner sold out to a different ownership group. I didn't jive, with them. They put a lady in charge, who had very little experience, I don't think any experience brokering an office. She and I tangled up on a phone conversation. When I hung up that phone conversation, I, you know ...
Marcus: You knew.
Jason: I knew. I said, "You know, I ..."
Marcus: My days are numbered.
Jason: Diana was in bed about to go to sleep. I got in bed. She's like, "What was that all about?" I said, "It's not good." I said, "Something's gonna happen from this. I think I just screwed up." Back then, I was arrogant. I was not nice. I had a reputation of just being ... I don't know what words we can say here, but basically a prick.
Jason: I was an A-hole. I would just reach the riot act. I was just ugly to people. I just wasn't a nice guy. I was still fun to be around, but if you did something to piss me off, I would let you hear about it.
Jason: If you did something to piss me off I would let you hear about it.
Jason: I mean I was the number two team owner at Keller Williams. I remember when I got off the phone with the broker that time I told her, was like "What can you do to me? I pay the light bill. You know you need to recognize that I'm kind of untouchable." Was the basis of the conversation.
Jason: And she was like "Oh. I'll show you." And she did but in the process of all that instead of just ... If they just sent our licenses back we might never have come back from Tampa because we had money in savings, I was making all of these contacts, things were starting to roll in a very short time period. I had been working remotely making contacts, and emailing people, and sending people samples from our marketing, but I'd only been in country three weeks and was already about to go to the Pacific side of the country to meet with a developer on a project where I was going to be the salesman.
Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason: It was a big opportunity. So if they had just done that we might not be sitting here talking today but when I started calling other brokers because I had a team, we still had business, and we couldn't do business because our licenses were inactive.
Marcus: Yeah. Right.
Jason: Nobody would touch us. Nobody would take us. And I thought "What is going on here?" There were so many rumors that they had spread about us. Tax evasion, that we had went to Panama because we were running from the mob.
Marcus: The Fairhope mob?
Jason: Yeah. The rumors were that I was going to probably be in jail for federal fraud and [RESPA 00:41:52] violations. I mean just the list goes on and on. And we still combat these rumors today. I still have conversations with agents where I have to defend myself and they want to know "Hey. Is this true?" I shook the hand of an agent, I'll never forget this. This was this past year. And she looked at me and she goes "I'm shaking the hand of the devil himself." Because that's how I had been portrayed to her. And so we had really no other choice than to open [JW 00:42:27] already. Nobody would take us.
Jason: So that's how it started. And there was a lot of pain, and poison, and a lot of issues that we went through. My wife and I were both ready to fight. I wanted to come back to Alabama to ... I'm from this area. I just felt like I needed to defend my reputation.
Jason: I just was like "I got to go do something about this."
Jason: So I ended up-
Marcus: I think there's something about them, and forgive me for interrupting, I think there's something about a lot of men that if you feel like your reputation is at stake that it's like "No. I need to clear this up." Because I've always been raised like your word is your word. And, yeah. There may be some instances where you do something and there's really not a whole lot of control that you have over how that goes, but yeah. I mean if there's anything that can be done, you certainly want to try and clear that up.
Jason: Yeah. I think my wife was pretty content. I mean our kids were picking up the language. The island we were on, it was like the 70s with WiFi.
Jason: You know kids ran around the island.
Jason: Nobody wore seat belts. Nobody wore bike helmets. Kids just ran all over the island at will. You didn't want to be outside after 9:00 or 10:00.
Jason: But during daylight hours it was just like you were when you and I were growing up.
Jason: I mean we got on our bikes, we pedaled around, there were no rules and all that stuff. So it was a really interesting life and they were picking up the language. We put them in classrooms that had dirt floors and the teachers didn't speak a lick of English.
Jason: And so I don't know. Just like here you go. And so their little brains started picking it up.
Marcus: They've got to. Sink or swim.
Jason: Yeah. So it was an interesting situation but fateful.
Marcus: Well I know you have another meeting after this so I want to be conscious of your time but I have a few more questions that I wanted to get through.
Jason: Fire away.
Marcus: If you were talking to someone that wanted to get started running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Jason: So the real estate business? Or any business?
Marcus: Business in general.
Jason: The lessons that I've had to learn along the way is that no matter what business you're in, so you're in the website building business, the tech business, whatever business or industry you're in, if you're running a business that is more than just you then you're in the people business.
Jason: So I had to learn that. I mean that was critical and it still is critical today because our team and our brokerages are only going to grow and be successful if we bring the right people in. And it's just been critical. It's all about talent and so I'm a constant recruiter. Constant looking to transfer skills into the people we already have. And then rescue agents from other companies. We have a no agent left behind mantra. So we've got agents that literally, they don't know who to ask, of their brokers, if they have a question. And so we're trying to revolutionize the industry in how we deal with agents because we feel like a lot of agents are getting out of the business. But if anybody is looking to get in any business whether it's a restaurant business or anything else, they've got to put their people first. And so I believe if you become centered on your people, so you treat your employees as your clients, so the business owner treats his or her employees as their clients, then they're going to treat everybody else how you would like for them to be treated. They're going to follow whatever standard you set with them. That golden rule will transfer out to the clientele. And that was the biggest piece for me. I have since been fired from the hiring process. They won't let me hire anybody because I'll take anybody in. And they're like "Yeah. You probably [crosstalk 00:46:40]."
Marcus: Let's have some standards.
Jason: You need to go find something else to do. But it's just so key. Checking references and looking in somebody's job history, are they a jumper? Are they a bouncer? Do they stick at a job for more than a couple of years because you can look at that and find a pattern and it will probably become reality?
Jason: So the hiring process is key. So bringing the right people in and then training them to be successful.
Marcus: Are there any books, podcasts, or any other resources that have been helpful to you over the course of, maybe say, the last year?
Jason: Absolutely. I mean podcast is my new obsession. Obviously, I'm on your podcast right now. I have my own podcast. Constantly listen to podcasts. I love The ONE Thing podcast, which is Gary Keller and Jay Papasan's podcast they have.
Marcus: I'm looking it up right now.
Jason: Geoff Woods runs it. So Gary and Jay come on periodically. So Gary Keller, I still consider him a mentor. Would not be where I am today without him but The ONE Thing podcast is for real estate agents, business owners, people. It's just about the order of priority in your life and in your business. And The ONE Thing concept is that multitasking is a myth. And if you are a multitasker, you're kind of the jack of all trades and the master of nothing.
Jason: So if you want to be successful in every area of your life, your spiritual life needs to be one focus. So if you're trying to improve your relationship with God, maybe you just need to pray. And just stick with that, not be just trying to water everything [crosstalk 00:48:30].
Marcus: Not pray, and read, and go to bible study.
Jason: And so it grows from there.
Jason: You get a habit built of prayer and you build off of that.
Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason: So in our business, the one thing is prospecting. If you want to be a successful real estate agent you need to focus on prospect and that needs to be your one thing. And once you develop that habit then you can get another one thing. And you start building these power habits. So The ONE Thing podcast is really big. I love Gary V. Love going to hear him speak.
Marcus: Gary Vaynerchuk for those of you that are listening that have not heard of him but he is easily the social media mastermind of our generation.
Jason: Yeah. A lot of people are turned off by the F-word that he drops.
Jason: And Tony Robbins does too.
Jason: And so some people, I would say maybe the majority of people, are just like "I don't want to deal with him because of his language."
Marcus: Look past that because there's-
Jason: Look past that.
Marcus: So much information there that if you can just get past that the truth bombs, as we would call it, they're everywhere. I mean and he's really just not interested in sugar coating things and I think that's why drops the F-bomb so much. And I mean he's a New Yorker. I mean come on.
Marcus: New Yorkers talk like that.
Jason: But he's really become the premise of my whole strategy in business right now because he talks about ... The last time I heard him speak live he talked about giving abundantly more than you'd ever expect in return. And if you really want to take it to the next level and reach your full potential, give without any expectation of any return.
Jason: So I was like "Wow. This has really nothing to do with social media or anything like that."
Marcus: It's a life truth. It actually is a biblical truth. So the tithing and offerings. So the tithe is obviously, everybody knows, 10% but the love offerings is supposed to be like "I have nothing. I'm not doing this out of any expectation other than I just love God and I want to give to him."
Jason: Yeah. So Gary V, Tony Robbins. I love Grant Cardone.
Jason: I think everybody should dive right into some Grant Cardone but there is Six Steps to Seven Figures. There's Rebus University. Our industry there is such a high level of sharing and giving back that if I had to name one resource I would just simply say YouTube.
Jason: Go to YouTube, type in anything you want to learn about, and you will find it.
Marcus: Yeah. No, that's good information. So one last question and then we'll kind of wrap up. So what's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business? You mentioned people earlier. Is there anything else that you would add to do that?
Jason: Yeah. I mean I've learned so many lessons this past year but you know the success is not going to be based on you. It's going to be based on the people and the people you surround yourself with. Our pastor said it a couple Sundays ago. He's like "Show me your friends and they'll show me your future."
Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason: "Show me your friends, you'll see your income." But I would just say the most important thing with running a business, we've covered people, but you got to have systems in place. You got to have standards. So one of the biggest things for us is coming up with our core values, our core beliefs, what are our standards? What do we want and expect out of our people? But our core values, which are our legs is to learn, earn, give, and serve. And so my business plan, I'm going to go deliver that here in just a minute to our folks out of our Fairhope office, but the simplest business plan I can give anybody in any business is to take the gift of our core values, take it and apply it to your business because if you just make it your mission to learn more, earn more, give more, serve more in 2018, you're going to crush your goals.
Jason: So the core values has just been a blessing to our company. And I've had other companies call and say "Hey, can we use that?" And I'm like "Sure. Use it."
Marcus: We're going to totally steal that from you.
Jason: Yeah. I'm like, yeah. Steal it. Listen, let's end on that because rip off and duplicate. I've stolen every good idea I've ever had.
Jason: Don't reinvent the wheel.
Jason: Just take an idea and make it your own.
Jason: But rip off and duplicate's the motto to live by.
Marcus: Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Jason: I'll tell you what, if you are a real estate agent and you want a free business plan, we have a website. It's realestateagentevolution.com. So just go to that and check that out. And soon launching my personal blog with Blue Fish. It's going to be jasonwill.com.
Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason: So visit that here in the future. That's going to be more just my personal writings and things that I am experiencing along the way through podcasts, and books, and blogs that I'm reading.
Marcus: And also on Facebook.
Jason: Facebook.com/jasonmcguirewill. You can find me on Facebook. I'm really easy to find.
Marcus: Just type in Jason Will. Yeah.
Jason: Google Jason Will or Jason Will Realtor and I'm all over the place.
Marcus: Yeah. You'll pop up all over the place. So, well, Jason I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you man.
Jason: Awesome. Thanks for having me.