Behind the Billboard
(0:00:01) KL: Have you ever had moments in your career where you thought it was all over? Hey, it’s Kris Lindahl and welcome back to the Behind the Billboard Podcast. I am super excited today to be with one of my great friends and amazing mentor, Justin Havre who runs Justin Havre & Associates in Calgary, which is number two in all of Canada for RE/MAX and number one in western Canada. Welcome, Justin.
(0:00:35) JH: Hey, Kris. Thanks for having me here today. I am super excited to dive into this.
(0:00:40) KL: I am super, super excited. One of the things about Justin that I absolutely love, and some of you that are listening may know who he is. He is a real genuine and a really good person. As we talk to business leaders throughout the country on this Podcast, one of the things that it really important to me… it’s why we titled it “Behind The Billboard” is to take a step back from behind the marketing and get to the real deep meaning of why we are doing this emotionally. So, I’ve got some questions for you, Justin. One of them, I am always fascinated with, especially with yours being one of the most successful real estate companies in the county. Where you are today is not where you were a couple of years ago, or five years ago. Take me back to the beginning of your real estate career. What did that look like?
(0:01:28) JH: Ha. Well, you know what. I never, ever thought I would get into real estate at all. At the time somebody asked me, back in 2005… or, I think it was late 2004, actually, if I wanted to get into real estate and get my real estate license. At the time I never thought of myself as a sales person, to this day I don’t think of myself as a sales person. I decided to take the course and I still remember today sitting in that class. Our teacher, he said, “Look around this room. In two years time, there will only be two of you guys left in this business. “
(0:02:11) KL: Yeah, it’s amazing. It was the same thing when I was in my real estate class. It is not a comforting feeling.
(0:02:16) JH: I’m like, what the heck am I getting myself into? You know, with that big of a failure rate, am I doing the right thing? So, I got into that, got licensed, and was very fortunate that my friend, who was also my agent at the time, brought me into a brokerage and brought me in under his wings and I started up a website and started generating some leads. Believe it or not, I used to advertise the website in the back a newspaper.
(0:02:45) KL: What’s a newspaper?
(0:02:47) JH: Today, we ask that, right? Back in 2005 in Calgary we had very low inventory. I had a website that would get listings updated every hour. Back then, MLS.CA, which is now Realtor.CA they would get the listings 24-hours later. So, I was advertising in the back of the newspaper saying MLS updated every hour, get them before they hit the MLS, essentially. I started generating a lot of leads. I went to my buddy and I was like, what the heck do we do with all of these leads? I started working with him under his wings, or together with him for a few years. At that time, he would do a lot of golf and hunting and fishing and we had kind of different drive at the time. So, we kind of went our separate ways and I was still heavily focused on the online game and always investing minimum 25% of my earnings back into the business. I came from an IT background and you know, I figured the web is where things were at. Sure, I dabbled in a little bit of print media and that kind of stuff, but I was focused on online I was obsessing about Google and online rankings. It was a daily obsession. So, I kept beginning up a couple other websites and started to obviously generate a ton of leads and I started referring those leads out to a few people in the office. At that time I was at an independent brokerage. In 2009, it was a pretty challenging year personally, as I was going through a divorce at the time. January of 2010, our brokerage announced I was the number one agent in the company, and I still remember sitting there in an empty house, as I had gone through the domestic restructuring process alone and they announced I was the number one agent. It was such an empty feeling. I cried. I was like, wow, this was what success is? It was weird, because you don’t have anybody to share it with. Looking back today, I probably should have focused a little more on personal development at that time than to focus on the business because I think it was what I was doing at that time to escape the pain of what I was going through at that time.
(0:05:43) KL: One of the things you mention is personal development, and I think a lot of people listening… we have been fortunate enough in our lives that have impacted us, but you are in that moment and you mentioned you don’t have anyone to talk to or to celebrate that success with. You mentioned you didn’t have any personal development, and you recognize that from where you are today. In that moment, how did you decide you needed help, or you needed personal development? And when did you actually make the decision? There are people that are listening here that are going through struggles that don’t know where to go or what to do or what steps to take, so maybe if you could offer some advise on what you did.
(0:06:24) JH: Well, you know, back then my mentality was completely different than what it is today. I thought that all I had left was just my job, so I went all in on that and that was a way I was escaping from, like I said, what I was going through. We are all going to be faced with challenges during our entire lives. It is how we approach it. If we sit there and are actually willing to look in the mirror at ourselves and not be a victim of our circumstances, because essentially, we created that circumstance ourselves, and take responsibility for where you are in that moment. What I would encourage anyone today if they are in a tough spot, is face yourself in the mirror and be accepting of the situation you are in and the lessons that the situation is bringing to you for you to learn and grow. Life is about constantly growing and developing into a better person if you are willing to do that. You have to find the right fit for you. I did talk therapy for many years, almost on a weekly basis and sure it did some stuff, but it was just scratching the surface. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started working with someone you know, Darryl Linn, our coach and guide in many levels business and personal where things really started to click. I think that you have to be willing to do the work. It’s almost like an addict. We all know, in order for you to help an addict, they have to be willing to do the work and they have to hit rock bottom. You have to be willing to do the work and you have to want to change.
(0:08:32) KL: What I have seen, it’s like there is a mascot, and they are scared to show their real self. I’m not saying I wasn’t there at one point as well. But to your point, you have to be willing to get better. No one externally is going to make that decision for you; you have to really want it. Justin and I have businesses that are very similar, and our paths. A lot of the growth we have had is because not only because of the investment in ourselves all the willing and wanting to get better, but also investing in other people. If you look at, like you said, you were at the independent brokerage and you become number one. I’m sure there is a point where it is like overwhelm of how am I going to handle all of these leads I am generating. How did you start to hire, or start to scale your team?
(0:09:26) JH: In 2009/2010, when it was announced I was the number one agent, there were some rumblings within that brokerage that some of the senior agents were not necessarily happy that I was the number one agent because I was handing over leads to other agents in the brokerage. That brokerage at that time demanded that I form a team. In 2010, I formed a team. It was just myself and we worked up to five agents and had no admin or anything, and I was actively selling myself as well. It wasn’t until 2012 when I met a mutual friend of ours at a conference down in Florida and it was about online lead generation for the real estate industry. We sat there and we were talking about leads and how many we were generating. I was sitting at that table, and I told them how many I was generating per day, and they all just kind of looked at me like, how many agents do you got? And I’m like, five.
(0:10:39) KL: Just roughly, back then how many leads were you generating a month with five agents?
(0:10:46) JH: This is kind of embarrassing. Well, thousands of leads a month. And the thing is, I was not doing anything with the leads that were coming in on a daily basis. I am taking about when they registered and signed up on the website. We were only managing and handling the people that requested to view a house. So, when I was sitting at that table and telling them how many leads I was generating, they were like, well, you need one hundred agents. I was like, what are you smoking? Right? That is where I had this big epiphany where I was l like, oh, man. I am doing it all wrong. I went home and hired an admin in September. We started working on systems and processes and in December of 2012 to January 2013, we went from five agents to twenty-eight agents. It was a gongshow. No doubt. We had a hiring process, and you know what, we attracted a lot of people. We hired them. Also, in January 2013, we generated over 4,200 internet leads organically.
(0:12:10) KL: Wow. One of the things that I want to add for those of you that are business leaders but are not in real estate or maybe do not sell the same types of products, like houses and things that we do. Leads are essentially someone that went to a website or called in and gave us their information. They either wanted to look at properties, or request a showing, or to request our services. When Justin mentioned 4,200 leads, that 4,200 people that are looking and wanting some type of real estate assistance from their company. He is a phenomenal marketer and has created an amazing brand. I share that with you, because there are a lot of people who will never be in a level of business where they are generating 4,200 opportunities a month. Which is a completed rare skill set, but also a challenge at the same time. We have learning opportunities and failures all the time in our business. I almost know the answer to some of the questions I am going to ask you because I have lived them. But, when you scaled that quick to that many agents, what type of problems started to show up?
(0:13:27) JH: Lots. Well, first of all, you know what? A lot of lessons in hiring and making sure you hire the right people.
(0:13:40) KL: When you were hiring then, what did your hiring process look like?
(0:13:42) JH: We were just hiring on gut instinct, really.
(0:13:50) KL: Like fog and mirror, you’re in?
(0:13:52) JH: Not necessarily welcome here, but we would meet with them, chat with them, and if we liked them, then yeah, we would pretty much hire them on the spot. I remember one girl we hired, I went to close the door behind us in the interview room, and she just reached in for a hug because she thought I was hugging her. I was actually, just reaching for the door. She got hired. Not for the hugging. She was also a great person. We learned that certain demographics are not necessarily very tech friendly, because it is a high paced tech system that we were running. It wasn’t too high tech back then. I mean, 4,200 leads in a month.
(0:14:46) KL: I mean there was some tech going on because 4,200 leads a month. I think for our businesses, we were also a little bit ahead of our times, right. We had a lot of marketing and a lot of opportunities but we didn’t necessarily know how to lead people or quite honestly how take care of ourselves. Our businesses were so similar because we grew the front end way faster than we did the back end.
(0:15:04) JH: You know what? Sometimes it is out of your control. You are investing into building your online platform, but if you are doing the right thing and Google gives you the love essentially, and you get a higher organic ranking, you are going to have a ton of people, and you don’t have a way to scale that back unless there is an algorithm update, which is also hell. I would assign the leads manually, and I would have people that would have a busy Saturday.
(0:15:34) KL: 4,200 in a month?
(0:15:37) JH: In a month. So, I was assigning them manually, and I remember the stories of people that were on my team at the time where they would almost have anxiety and wake up with leads at three in the morning, or they would wake up on Saturday morning to fifty-five new leads in their hopper. And they were like, I’m not able to reach those today because I have a busy day of showings and open houses and all that stuff. Over time, things have obviously progressed. We built a lot of automation and added inside sales agents to help with all of it. It is constant learning and growing and tweaking. Making small little tweaks here and there. Get feedback from your team members and collaborate on the ways you can improve the system.
(0:16:30) KL: We hear the same thing in the circle we are in, but the small hinges that swing the big doors. It’s just what Justin said, it’s just these small little tweaks. If you are in an environment where there are a lot of opportunities coming in, or maybe you are generating them as the leader, overwhelm is an issue as well. Sometimes we are so trained that we more opportunities, we need more opportunities, we need more opportunities, and we forget that we actually already have enough opportunities in front of us, we might just not be working them efficiently. One thing we are really focused on now we are more focused on that customer service experience, when early on we didn’t even know what customer service meant. We were ahead of our time when it came to marketing. We talk about the hiring process and what you did, but I know there are more challenges that show up when you scale people that fast. What other challenges were showing up other than like overwhelm on leads and things like that? When I say challenges that were showing up, there are obviously people challenges. What challenges were showing up personally when you stepped into that more leadership role that you have never been in before?
(0:17:49) JH: Well, I didn’t go to school to be a leader. I don’t know if anyone ever did.
(0:17:56) KL: No, I don’t think anyone did. I think you just have to do your best.
(0:18:02) JH: You know, it’s definitely a learning experience in working with so many different personalities and then you have yourself as well. I think looking back and what I know today. I have to make sure I am showing up as the best version of myself each and every day for my team. There is a lot of obviously fear that is lingering as well. You are generating all of these leads, are these clients being taken care of. If they are not being taken care of, is that the agent’s fault? That’s perhaps what most people would say. Oh, it’s my agent’s fault. They dropped the ball. If you are a true leader that responsibility falls on the leader because you did not train your staff or your agent to ensure they have the client experience you expect or the client expects. We have to meet our clients where they are at. A lot of times, companies don’t tend to do that because they may be stuck in their own way. Perhaps looking back, at that time, I was part of the challenge as well. In not being able to provide the best training and the best systems. I might have also been stuck in my own way. When you grow that fast, you can easily also have a lot of negativity that grows within your culture because a lot of people they get scared to miss out on opportunities. The scarcity mentality that more is better. Well, that is not the case because you are not able to serve all of your clients at the highest level because you are taking too much. Trying to teach people that less is more in many instances because then you can ensure you can serve your clients at the highest level to ensure they do get the Nordstrom experience or whatever the experience is you want to have for your clients.
(0:20:23) KL: One thing for those of you that are listening, and this is just like why Justin at the core is such a great person. As I am listening here, you talk about the agents that are having trouble with leads, or too many leads, or systems or trainers. He mentions the leadership starts and stops at me. He is taking full accountability for those challenges. I would quite honestly challenge anyone who is listening right now; you have probably been in an environment where challenges have shown up, either personally or professionally. How many times have you actually held yourself accountable for that versus blaming someone else? I know for me, early on, I blamed someone else every single time. I think the real growth as me as a person, but also as a leader was the minute that I realized everything was my fault. I think that is one thing that is very difficult in growth of leadership. To realize everything is really our fault and we have to own it and fix it. I love talking about the beginning of an organization and how things start because I think too often we are always focused on what that person or what that business looks like today. We don’t look at what happened, and we don’t peel back the layers from the last ten years or five years or however long. The important stuff is in the past, and not in the present. I have another question for you that I am always interested in. As you are growing this fast, different things are showing up. If you look back in that time, how were you personally feeling back then? Was it like, I have all of these leads, and now I have all of these people? There’s obviously this huge overwhelm. You have a good problem to have, but there are big issues. Are you in a good spot personally? Are you frustrated? Are you scared? How did you feel in that moment where I am number one, I am empty. I need help. I hired all of these agents. Now I’ve got leads, and now I’ve got agents. I was hiring agents based on just meeting with them and now I have all of these sets of problems. So what were you doing to support yourself?
(0:22:40) JH: I was doing nothing to support myself. I was solely focused on providing opportunities for everyone on the team. I still am to this day. Back then, when you’re all in for your business and you are giving it your all, this is essentially your life and your livelihood. Everything you’ve got is in this organization or the company that you have built, and then you have people within the organization that have entitlement and they want more, more, more out of you. And you’re like; I don’t have anymore to give. I’m also trying to survive. Personally, during that time, it was hell. Internal hell. I remember from 2009 for like five years, I went without taking a one-week vacation. It was anxiety and chest pain. You can probably hear my voice change here a little bit too here, because it wasn’t fun. The best way to describe it is, is that it was hell. Going through those moments, yes, there are tons of lessons, but I was probably not ready to face myself. Even switching brokerage. In 2014 we went from the independent to RE/MAX. We had 20 agents at that time. 18 of us moved over to RE/MAX because we wanted to go to a bigger brand, and we had some challenges with the independent brokerage that we were at. When we scaled up from 6 to 28 agents, we were told by the leadership team at the brokerage, that because of the fact that your team is so big now, we won’t be able to have a top producer dinner or lunch with you guys because of the shared cost. We were like oh, yeah whatever. A year goes by, and we get recognized as a top team, and then they are like, “you can only invite three people to the top producer lunch and one to the dinner.” We are at a brokerage striving on treating everyone equal and everyone the same. We had no different splits than anybody else. Everyone agent on the team paid the same as any individual agent. So, we went back to them, and said we felt like everyone on the team should be recognized.
(0:25:42) KL: You also were not getting any other opportunities. I mean, not only you were also on the same compensation model, but there were no other opportunities for your organization. You were responsible for generating all of that. Right?
(0:25:50) JH: Correct. So, I essentially had a conversation with the owner of the company and he asked me when was that last time I reviewed my contract with the brokerage? And I said, “Well, back in 2005.” And, you know, he said, “There is nothing in there that says we have to buy your lunch or dinner. It is a gift from us to you. Have you heard the saying, ‘Don’t stare a gift horse in the mouth?’” That was a moment when we knew we had to go somewhere else. So, I ended up interviewing several brokerages in the city, and we actually went to RE/MAX first, which was Canada’s very, very first RE/MAX brokerage.
(0:26:42) KL: I did not know that.
(0:26:44) JH: No. So, pretty cool. Rick Campos is an incredible broker owner. He is all about the we. He cares about each and every one of his agents.
(0:26:55) KL: Yes, just real quick. I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but I have had an opportunity to meet Rick multiple times, and he in an incredible person. Really an incredible person.
(0:27:04) JH: He is just an incredible human being. He cares about each of his agents and staff. Just recently, he brought in a business partner, Cliff Stevenson, who sits on sits on the Career Board. He has been the President of the Calgary Real Estate Board. Really forward thinking businessman and an incredible mind. We just super excited to be where we are at today. It is an honor to be at RE/MAX First. For us, going over to an international brand, it is just kind of fun to measure our success within such a big organization as RE/MAX. Sure, there are challenges in every brokerage model out there. But, we welcome those and we carry on. Even looking at where we are today and where we were two or three years ago. Huge difference. About a year and a bit ago, I thought my whole business was imploding. It was, again, a moment for me to look in the mirror and focus more on myself as a leader and what I can provide to the organization and you know, a lot of my team members walked alongside me with my personal growth.
(0:28:42) KL: It’s amazing. We have had some of those same pivotal moments in our company, and those people that stick with us… I am so connected to them and I want the best of them forever, because, you are right. I think a lot of times people see the success of an organization and they think that everything looks amazing, when we have battles all of the time. You know, in those pivotal moments, because there are some people who are listening right know who are in their business and maybe they have the wrong people or maybe they don’t have the marketing. Maybe there are different challenges. Maybe they are out of capital. There are all kinds of problems that can happen in business. When you are in those pivotal moments… when you are out of them and they are past, it is easy for us to talk about how that moment looked back then. But, when you are in that moment… I mean, I am very familiar with what happened within your organization, how were you feeling, and when those moments came up, what did you do? What type of steps did you take? No only you personally, but also your business through those times?
(0:29:57) JH: Well, you know what? I think it was survival mode that kicked in. Right? You have your business imploding because you made some poor decisions yourself. I made some poor decisions on mixing personal and business and at the same time, the way that I was as a leader, and the way that I communicated to the team. I find that you find that in those moments, you find, “Hey, I don’t want to keep running like this. I have got to change.” That started with myself. I dove deep into personal development and I shared all of that with the people that were on the team. Looking to where we are today and where we were then, if I were to do it over again? Bring it. There was so much fulfillment and growth from going through that. It is really interesting because you have people when you start to change yourself… I remember a conversation I was having with our coach, and he was like, “You know what, there are times when, if you are going to go through this process and do the development, there are going to be people that are going to stick with you and people that are going to get uncomfortable and they are going to leave.” We basically lost close to 80% of our team in a year’s time. I remember sitting in Los Angles at a conference, or a Mastermind, and I thought that my business was done. I was like, holy cow, what is happening? But, you know what? You roll up your sleeves and you face it. There have been many moments where you basically open up. I was open and vulnerable and transparent with my entire team. When you have to open up and cry in front a room full of people, you’re open. I have no problems doing that today if I am faced with any challenges. It is uncomfortable in the moment, but the support you get from your team members is astonishing.
(0:32:42) KL: Those moments if your business, whether they are personal or profession are some of the greatest growth moments that I have had in my career, and I have watched yours as well. One common theme that I absolutely love about Justin, and I think that anyone listening that is striving to be a business leader or a better business leader, is the self-responsibility. There has been a common theme through this entire Podcast. Everything that Justin talks about, it starts with him. That was his mistake, or whatever that may be. I think owning that is a really big thing. I think as a leader we can really fall into that trap of blaming someone else. There is that whole surface level type conversations that we have with others. If we truly want to lead others at the highest level, we have to be willing to get deep and get emotional just like Justin had said. I love that story about getting in front of your team and getting emotional because that is the transparency. As a leader, transparency is so key in success. That is why I love being around Justin and I love everything that he stands for. One thing that I want to share with you is that every time I call, the first thing Justin always asks is, “How are you doing?” And I answer, and he goes, “No, how are you doing?” You can’t fake that real, deep care for people. That is what, in those moments, and we have had them in our organization, too, that is where people come together. When there is a true sense of a deep connection that is emotional, and everyone that sticks together… you power through it. People rise up and are willing to help us. In times where you are down, there are people in your organization that stepped up, and in a moment where you were struggling to step up. That is the thing about leadership, if you really invest in people, and you show them that you are responsible, and you are willing to go deep and not surface level, beautiful things show up. I have another question for you. We all deal with fear in business and whether it is on the personal side, or the profession side, or the doubt. What is your biggest fear in where you are today with your business?
(0:35:12) JH: I think that we all have fears that we face each and every day. It is whether we want to admit it or not. I would say that some of my fears are failure. Right? Fear to fail my team members, because essentially I am responsible for providing them with opportunities, systems, growth, support. All of that. You know, I am a natural introvert.
(0:35:44) KL: I’m working on changing that.
(0:35:50) JH: I mean, even sitting behind this mic. It is, for me, always uncomfortable. Even with some of the marketing stuff that we do. We do very similar marketing stuff.
(0:36:01) KL: You are all over the place. You are exposed to the community everywhere.
(0:36:06) JH: That is a fear to me, because it is the fear that everyone is always watching you. I will give you an example. Coming down here to Vegas, I was driving in Uber to the airport. As we are pulling up to the airport, my Uber driver is like, “Hey, you’re that guy on the billboard.” So, I was like, “Yeah. Hey. Nice to meet you.” Then the security guard, where they drop you off at departures, he is like, “Hey, you are the billboard guy. Can I have your card?” Then, I’m going to the check-in counter to check in, and a lady is like, “Hey, I see you everywhere.” And I was like, oh, man, this is awkward. So, there are a lot of inner fears that show up each and every day. Myself, as a leader, I have to keep facing them and welcome them as a challenge. Rather than being like, oh, I hate it. Which I say I do, but I have to start to embrace it. I have to learn to do that, and continue to learn to do that. It is the same as being in TV commercials and in front of the camera and speaking on a mic or even public speaking. Those are huge fears of mine, because I did move to Canada in 1988. English is not my first language and my inner dialogue around speaking is very challenging because I am afraid that I could perhaps use the wrong words, pronounce it wrong, all of that. So, a ton of fears. A swimming pool full of it. Basically. Right?
(0:37:50) KL: The reason I bring that up is I think a lot of times other business leaders or other people that are listening and go through life and go other business leaders and brands on a pedestal. I think a lot of people think we don’t have fears. I think people think we were naturally born to be a leader, be a business leader and do those things. The reason I bring fear up is I have the same fears everyday. There are things that I struggle with. It is okay to struggle with those things. One of the things Justin mentioned is he has learned to embrace it. I have watched you grow so much over the last couple of years with being on video and being in commercials like you said, being on radio and doing those thing. I have a question around that. You have made so much progress. What changed? What was the moment where you were like, I am going to embrace this instead of run away from it?
(0:38:51) JH: You know, essentially, I think it was part of my business imploding. It made me shift my mindset around it. Essentially, I have a responsibility to my people. I have the same fears that they do and I am actually no different than they are, except I have the responsibility of providing for forty families. You obviously have a much greater number than that, but it is all on me. But, as uncomfortable as it is to put my name out there… because that is part of our business model, but that is also my responsibility to do that to continue to build the brand and generate opportunities and connect our brand with the community for the people that I work with because it changes their lives. They are able to put food on the table for their families. Take their family on a vacation. Treat their parents to a holiday, or whatever it is, you know. That is on me. The thing is, if you would ask me back in 2005 what I wanted to do in real estate. Well, I wanted to have a family. I wanted to bust my butt for a few years to kind of get financially set so we could have children and not work as much and kind of be financial set to raise that child. Well, curve balls happened. But, today, where I am… I never imagined it. It is really weird to sit there where people put you on a pedestal. They think, oh, man. Your life must be amazing. You are so great. You are so successful. You are this and that. I am no different.
(0:41:01) KL: I love that you say that because you mentioned your people are no different than you. A lot of times I see leaders where all of the sudden their name gets in the lights and it creates this huge ego. Those organizations that have top-down leadership, they start to have big of challenges because they have someone at the top that is pretending or that thinks they are a really big deal because they have had some success. That non-ego and that humble type of person like Justin is, you can hear it and feel it as you listen to this Podcast. The success of organizations that have been the most successful that I have seen, is that bottom-up type leadership. Like Justin just said, they are no different than me. I love that about him. I think that is what humanizes us as business leaders. One of the things that comes up with bottom-up type leadership is the culture. You hear culture all of the time. You hear, “Oh they have amazing culture.” One of the things that stuck out to me that I was told recently is, good culture is not something that is talked about. You feel it. What steps have you taken? Obviously you have had some pivotal moments and some challenges over the years in your business. You had some of the wrong people. You had some people leave. What types of things are you doing today in your organization? When I say you, I mean the organization because the culture starts to take a life of its own. It is less about Justin. What types of things are happening in your culture that are getting and elevating that company to the next level?
(0:42:46) JH: Well, it’s like I said, I am just a small piece of my organization. The people in the organization are what make the organization and the culture. Perhaps we have had some input it that by selecting the right people. It gets to a point where the organization and the culture will start to police itself. If you get a negative little cancer in the organization it gets ousted pretty quickly because they pick up on it. What we are seeing in the organization now is it is a space where everybody feels safe because there is no threat to their business. They can be open and vulnerable. We have people sharing experiences that are like mind blowing. Some of the challenges that people are walking through in their lives and they are coming into a room where they just open up to that I am not going to get into the details about it, but it will put you in tears. I get to be a witness to see this organization do these special things for each other and then they go out and do special things for our clients. I’m trying not to mention any names or certain situations, but there are so many things that are just so truly special. It does take a life of it’s own like you said. They are the ones that created it and it essentially becomes a second family. People enjoy each other. They support each other. They celebrate success together. They encourage each other. They face challenges together. Sometimes they cry together. It is a very uplifting environment and a supportive environment. We all crave that in life. We crave to be recognized. We crave to be supported, loved and cared for.
(0:45:00) KL: It is amazing the culture that Justin Havre & Associates has and I can see why you have so much success. Just listening to Justin is amazing. Obviously we have talked about the leadership and the deeper stuff, but there are some other things too. The foundation of who you are has obviously helped create the culture, but we also have to be fun. There has to be joy involved, not just for us personally, but also our organization. What types of things are you doing to bring joy not only to yourself but to your organization?
(0:45:45) JH: I think it is just creating memorable moments for everyone in the organization together. As an organization, we try to do a team event every single month. We have done white water rafting. Even when we were white water rafting, we had to pull someone out of level five rapids.
(0:46:04) KL: Oh my gosh. That is a team building.
(0:46:06) JH: Well, it wasn’t a team member. It was a tourist on another boat that fell out and actually went under our raft. Actually, our broker was with us at the time and he reached out and pulled the guy into the boat. I hauled him into the boat. The guy was in pure shock. But, yeah, we have done white water rafting and paintball. We do golf. We have bowling and all sorts of team events.
(0:46:34) KL: Do they have bowling in Canada? Way up north, eh?
(0:46:43) JH: Yes, but they are big ice cubes.
(0:46:39) KL: So the joy piece is, for me, and the reason I ask this is it can’t be all about business. Just like you talked about earlier, you had all of this success on the business level yet you were so empty at the same time. That is why I bring that up for those of you listening. Maybe you are struggling or maybe you are having success on the business side but you are feeling empty. I think when you are in those moments where you feel empty and you don’t feel like there is anyone there for us, bringing that joy out is so critical. The thing that I have learned is bringing out the joy in yourself is great, but you also have to bring out the joy in others. You can’t be having a great time is the rest of your organization is having a terrible time. We are all in this together. We are all equal. I know your organization is the same as ours. That’s why I said in the beginning, our organizations are very similar. So, one of the things that people always ask is why are we doing all of this? What is the bigger purpose to our organization and what do we want to be remembered for?
(0:48:05) JH: That is a great question because I think we may be in a moment at one point where we think this is why I am doing it.
(0:48:14) KL: And it constantly changes.
(0:48:18) JH: I mean sure, when anyone goes to pick a career, they are like, “I want to make money.” Anyone that gets into the real estate industry, I would say 99% of them get into the industry because they want to earn a good living. But, for myself, it has grown into so much more. We are changing people’s lives. And yeah, we get to do real estate, sure. That is great. That is amazing. But, we actually get impact people’s lives to the point where it is changing their lives when it comes to their family, them as people taking better care of their health. Mentally. Emotionally. They are growing as people themselves. It has become a thing where we basically, for myself, it’s hard not to get tears in your eyes when you see people grow and change when they come within our organization. People are spreading their wings and blossoming and loving life and their purpose. That in itself is… the culture within our team is what facilitates that. They get welcomed in and they feel loved and cared for. And then some of the stuff we do in our organization based around personal development. I mean you saw the video a couple of days ago, and the impact it has had on their lives and improving their business, improving their family life, the quality time they spend with their children and the quality time they spend with their wife or spouse. You know, that is what is special to me.
(0:50:24) KL: I love that. You mentioned watching people spread their wings and blossom. I have been fortunate enough to actually watch you do that as well. It has been very fun to watch that. There is one thing that comes up quite often. A question that I have seen is with business leaders and morning routine. What types of things do you do in the morning to get ready for the day? Or what steps do you take? Or what advise could you give to business leaders aspiring to get to that next level? The morning is everything. So what do you do?
(0:51:09) JH: Morning for me is still a challenge because I struggle a lot with sleep. That is something I have struggled with for many years now, but it is starting to get a little better. I try to go to the gym first thing in the morning. I find that it is the best time for me whether it is to go and do some cardio or going to list some weights. I try to do that five to seven days a week. I go first thing. Six, seven, eight-ish in the morning.
(0:51:44) KL: Six, seven, eight-ish.
(0:51:49) JH: Well, it kind of depends on the sleep I have had the night before.
(0:51:52) KL: Absolutely. But one of the things I love about what you said though is what you have found works best for you because it is not what is best for everyone.
(0:51:57) JH: Correct. And you know what? I want to be at the gym at six every morning. That is what I want to do, but it all depends on how my sleep was the night before. Sometimes I only sleep two or three hours and I toss and turn all night and I am pretty tired. Maybe I toss and turn because of all of the stress I carry. Part of what I still need to do is learn to get better at managing stress and that is working out more regularly and eating better and that kind of stuff. So, gym first thing in the morning, then get home, have a shake, grab a coffee, a shower obviously, get ready and head to the office. Spend some time at the office so I can get dialed in there.
(0:52:42) KL: So, you mentioned this and I hope it is okay that we go there because I live the same way. We do have a lot of stress in our businesses so you mention sleep. What types of things keep you up at night? Like obviously you have had some challenges with sleeping, but what things are going through your mind at night that involve your organization?
(0:53:10) JH: There are lots of things that can keep me up at night. It can be a client not being happy with their experience when using our organization during their buying or selling process, and what could I have done differently to ensure that client would have had a positive experience? Same thing goes if there is an agent that is not happy within the organization. What could I have done differently to ensure that didn’t happen and it didn’t grow into what it grew into? Or, if an agent leaves a team. I am responsible for that as well. What did I do facilitate that environment where they wanted to leave? Again, lots of stress around our marketing. I don’t like being out there, but I have to have my face plastered all over the city and TV, radio, billboard… all of that stuff. There are also some huge expenditures in marketing. I can sign a huge marketing contract in November to try to see some positive signs in the market place and generate one-hits, and then sales go down by 20%. We all need the sales to fuel the machine. When you have several hundred thousand dollars a month you are spending on marketing it gets a little stressful to say the least. We all stress about bills.
(0:54:57) KL: For sure. Those don’t go away. That is a great point. Even as you have grown your business, the challenges are still there and the stressors might be different, but it doesn’t go away. I think people think it goes away. There is something I have really, really been fascinated with, with your organization. It has to do with your economy. Obviously, Calgary is very dependent on the oil, and that hasn’t been great for you in a while. Tell me a little bit about how are you having so much success, in what I would perceive on the outside as a pretty challenging economy.
(0:55:42) JH: It is a very challenging economy and it has had a negative impact on all the people that live in Alberta. In 2014, we all know about the price of oil crashing. That had a huge impact on our economy. There were so many job losses in our marketplace. It was nuts. And sure, a lot of them got severance packages. I heard that it was essentially the equivalent to five billion dollars a year in salary that got wiped out in Calgary.
(0:56:19) KL: In one year?
(0:56:21) JH: Right now we are sitting with about 30% office vacancy in downtown Calvary. Calvary is the energy capital of all of Canada. So, the price of oil changes. We got a new political party running our province, which increased our taxes. Both corporate tax and we also got carbon tax. We have no access to other markets for our oil, so we ship our oil down south to the U.S., but we would like to get pipelines out to the east coast and west coast, but that is still not happening. We actually have to discount our oil. As of the end of September, we are discounting our oil by $40.00 a barrel. It is a very challenging business climate on top of that with your changing business climate down here in the U.S., it has made it much more appealing for large international corporations to invest down here. So, we have had multi-national oil companies selling all of their assets in our province and investing elsewhere because it is hard for them to make economic sense of investing into our province. Obviously, having no investment does not create jobs. There are times that we meet with clients and it is a sad story. It is a challenging story where they need to sell because they cannot afford, and then they are also facing the fact that they can’t get for their property what they need to pay off their debt. It is very sad, and it is very challenging. When this started happening, I made a commitment to double down on our marketing to ensure that we can provide the best platform for our clients to get the right exposure and get the best dollar in the current marketplace. It is not like some markets in Canada where people are selling properties for ten thousand, or in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars over list price like in Toronto. But we are getting their houses sold if they follow our system and process. We have become a source where people perhaps come to us to get out of a bind.
(0:59:09) KL: One of the things that stuck out for me there is in a down economy, you made the decision to double down on marketing. One thing you didn’t mention, I know it is probably even more significant, is the amount you decided to invest in personal development for your company. Tell me a little bit about what types of things you are doing to really invest in your people.
(0:59:37) JH: We have really invested into the leadership team with coaching and personal development. That kind of has a ripple effect into the team and into the organization. We are spending well over six figures a year just on personal development within the organization because it is about the people. That is part of the investment as well. The people that I am so very fortunate to be surrounded with, they are all willing and capable and able to take on take on that challenge and then they spread that to the people they are surrounded by. The beautiful thing about personal development is the people around you notice that you are growing and changing and a lot of people want to be a part of that. Then, you get the amazing opportunity to share your experience and also help them facilitate change. That is one of the most fulfilling things, ever.
(1:00:46) KL: It is. If you haven’t experienced it yet, it is. It is amazing.
(1:00:51) JH: It is just really neat how the universe works because they just magically appear. There was a time when I was actually going through my divorce and stuff and then for several years after that, I would have all of these people reach out to me going through divorce themselves, and I was like, why is everyone coming to me when they are getting divorced because it was like, to me, one of my greatest pains was going through that divorce. I later learned that it really wasn’t my divorce, it was really more pain from my childhood that I had to get a resolution to. It is really incredible when you open up to change and you start applying it and how it all appears in front of you.
(1:01:49) KL: For those of you listening that haven’t taken that journey into becoming a better person and really focusing on that personal development. Justin just mentioned that his company has spent well into the six-figure category for their company and it shows. I had the opportunity to be with a couple other members of your organization this week and you can feel it. You have some amazing people and a really awesome organization. Here is what I am thinking. As I look at my business and I look at your business, there is one area where most people don’t know some of the other challenges we go through. It is the doubters and the naysayers, and some people call them the haters. How do you respond or handle that? You have obviously had a lot of success in a down economy, and anytime there is success there are people that have an opinion of you whether they like you, love you or hate you. How do you respond to that, or do you not respond or do you not respond, or what things do you do to get to that next level? I think there are some business leaders here that are probably doing some disruptive stuff in their organization and they are probably catching some heat as well. So, if there is any advice you could provide for how you prepare and respond to that.
(1:03:07) JH: Well, you know what. That in itself is still an ongoing journey of learning. The more I learn about human behavior and projection, because usually, if someone is hating on you it is normally something they are not happy with about themselves or they are jealous. You have to be able to set some good healthy boundaries for yourself. Myself, I try not to take the bait.
(1:03:40) KL: It is sometimes hard, too.
(1:03:43) JH: It is hard, because it is essentially an attack on you. I mean, when you are in real estate, for me and also for you, your name is your brand. When somebody is attacking your name, it can feel like an attack. It is incredible how hurtful and how judgmental some people can be when they don’t even know you. They have no idea who you are or what you do. I mean, they may know who you are and what you do, but not at the core. They can say whatever crap about you, and I hope that makes the feel better because they can also have a negative impact on somebody else. I’ll give you an example. I used to do some video marketing. This was a couple of years ago. I was doing some email marketing to our database. First of all, I am afraid of being in front of a camera and I was sending out these emails to about 30,000 people at the time. I got one response from a person who said, “What are you, a grade 6 level educated person?” Or something along those lines. I was just like, “Fuck. Screw this.” Pardon my language. But I stopped doing it. Right there. I let that one person get to me. The more success you have the more people are going to talk about you, and you become a target. Is it challenging? For sure. Is it fun? No. It is essentially people that are trying to bully you, and hate on you and say awful things. I guess embrace it because if they are talking about you… I mean, if they stop talking about you, I guess you are doing something wrong.
(1:05:46) KL: That is right. I love that and I bring it up because if you want to take your leadership to the next level, there are going to be people that doubt you and naysayers and the one thing that I have found is that I worry more about them when they respond or post those comments or say things about us, because they are the ones that need the personal development. For me, when I started experiencing that at a very high level, it was very difficult but as I continue to take this journey in personal development and becoming a better person, I am more interesting in helping them. It has less of an effect on me today than it did before, but that is why personal development is just so important for everyone, right. You mentioned bullying. The way that social media works, it can be very great for our business but it can also be very damaging as well. Dealing with cyber bullying and things like that has been a challenge for me. We get negative comments, and to your point, they don’t know who we are. They don’t know who we are at the core. For those of you who are listening, if you have ever participated in any kind of cyber bullying, really start to think about why you are acting out and why you are doing that because together if we can stick together and put a more positive message out on the internet, I think it is better for all of us and we can rise up together. We all have an opportunity in this world to become better and there is not a better time in the world to lead than right now. The world needs more positive and better leaders and role models. I would just challenge you that if you are aspiring to be a business leader to step up if you are in an environment where those things are happening either remove yourself or try to help that person get better so we don’t have so much of that in the future. Just to wrap up here, if you love this Podcast, I would be so grateful if you share this with others who are aspiring to be business leaders. This is an incredible interview. Justin Havre is an amazing person. Share this on social for others that you think might find it helpful. Also, subscribe to this Podcast. We are committed to really going out there and interviewing other business leaders and really try to help business leaders emerge and become better people. It is why we created this Podcast called Behind The Billboard because it is more than just the brand. It is deeper than that. If you would be so willing to subscribe to our Podcast, I would be so happy if you gave us a five star review. Please share the Podcast. I just want to finish with one last question for Justin. If you had one piece of advise that you could share from where you are today that you would give your old self, what would it be?
(1:08:46) JH: Look in the mirror. That is your biggest competition.
(1:08:55) KL: I love it. Thanks for being on here and also, thank you for being an amazing friend.
(1:08:59) JH: Thank you, Kris. Thank you for having me on here. If you ever want to do this again, I will face the mic and face my fear. Thanks again. It is an honor.
(1:09:08) KL: Yes, it is. Thanks again.