Long-time, old school realty champion, Gary Keller, “air guitar-ed” to AC/DC as he announced his company’s farewell tour at KW’s recent annual event. Many believed it was important to Keller to don the brave face and appear as though he could hold serve against the onslaught of the inevitable. Clearly, he owes this to his fans. After all, their loyalty has been very good to Mr. Keller.
When most people retire, they simply turn in their keys and badge. But, when you single-handedly build an empire over decades, your exit strategy is much more complex. Most concede the national franchise business model hit its peak many years ago. Given that, how attractive are franchises to forward looking investors? Sure, Beeper technology can be bought for a song, doesn’t make it a good investment.
So, with no potential buyers and the IPO window long closed, what is to become of the behemoth that is KW? Blockbuster comes to mind. But, no one believes Gary Keller would stand idly by while watching his empire slowly erode. He will forever be selling. For Keller to successfully land the plane that is KW, he is going to need a few years to prepare and a few million dollars for landing gear.
Going Blockbuster isn’t an option. Merging with franchise competitors wouldn’t change anything. One way for KW to realize a graceful ending is for it to be merged into something much larger than itself. Remember the goal, as always, is to create a successful sales story. The final, multi-year KW tour, is basically the beginning of that story. The beginning to the end.
KW’s ending chapter began last year when it announced it had become a data company that will begin developing software, employing Artificial Intelligence, to create a new transcendent technology. OK? To that end, Keller recently announced a KW victory in the real estate tech platform race. If you were unaware there was a platform race, don’t feel lonely.
But, is what KW built something the industry has been asking for? Who said, “If only I had an, end-to-end technology platform compatible across all 50 states that can scale to support thousands of offices and tens of thousands of agents, I could get more leads”? The assumption is this new KW platform is meant to be some sort of Zillow killer? But, that makes little sense.
The attraction of Zillow is a user experience WITHOUT a sales agent. What market research indicates Millennials are likely embrace this monolithic future-vision that Gary Keller is seeing? Why would consumers readily sign up to be pawns in Gary’s, “big data” AI pipe dream?
There are a lot of articles that question the validity of the KW vision. So, does that make it an incredible waste of money? Not really, it’s landing gear. Over the next couple of years KW will build “something”. Will it transform the real estate industry? No. But, with a few million from Gary, could they create something that would have utility? Sure.
KW is building the technology that will be used as a springboard to the successful end of their sales story. The technology is the key to the, “merge to nowhere”, that will successfully tie a bow around the KW legacy.
The only potential turd in the pool: ego
Long time Keller watchers have expressed concern. The KW strategy is, “a line in the sand”, us against the world. They refer to themselves as an island. Keller has started hostility and petty attacks against vendors and others who don’t agree with him. He has trashed the industry press. Continually asks agents for loyalty. And, has injected paranoia and fear in NAR and the realty Boards.
He is acting very reminiscent of another famous Realtor with a dying brand!
Please, don’t be that guy Gary.