Springfield Business Journal: What has been key to your recent growth?
Travis Lathrop: We follow the model of Keller Williams International, and we call that the growth initiative. If we focus on the right leading indicators, then the results show up in the end. That’s what we’ve been able to do – the right metrics on the front end. The second piece of that is having the right people.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Lathrop: We’re always continually reviewing systems and processes, and as you grow and add more people, you have to be willing to revamp. The second thing is our culture, you can’t let the culture get diluted. When you’re small, everybody gets it and then when you bring more people on, you have to explain it. They don’t just naturally get it.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Lathrop: First and foremost, we’re a profit-sharing company, and we share almost half of our profits with our agents. You look back 10 years ago, we profit shared maybe $60,000 with our agents and last year we profit shared almost half a million dollars with our agents. Those are life-changing stories for our agents. The second thing is we’re able to raise more funds and change people’s lives. The third thing is, when we’re as large as we are now, it allows us to bring in some of the top trainers in the nation, right here in Springfield, for our agents.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Lathrop: The percentages won’t always be at the same level. There are two numbers you always look at in businesses. You look at percentages and dollar amounts. If you look at percentages, no, I don’t think it will always be as big as it has been. But I tell people that percentages are not checks you can cash, dollars are. Our dollar growth will continue to be big.
SBJ: How is technology at play?
Lathrop: Some companies, such as Zillow, are trying to build platforms that drive customers to those platforms and their long-term play is to cut out the agent. We believe that an agent is the best fiduciary. Keller Williams is 100% behind agents, and we’re building technology that rivals those big companies as well as keeps the agent as the fiduciary.
SBJ: Is there such a thing as growing too fast?
Lathrop: My initial reaction would be no. I would put a caveat that if you compromise your values and your culture for the sake of growth, I would say yes. But we don’t do that.
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Lathrop: In our business, if we said we will be in business with anybody, from an agent standpoint, regardless of how they transact real estate for growth, then that would not be true to who we are. Our agents are all 1099s, so we have to provide value for them to stay. But we also have to provide guidance to say that we want them to be in business with us.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Lathrop: I think you’re always refining your goals every single year. We continually focus on keeping our agents and customers on the front end of our focus. Our filter that we have for goals is “Does this help our agents?” Have our numbers grown? Yes, they have. But have our guiding principles changed? Absolutely not.
On track to be open for the 2024-25 school year, an Ozark High School activities center is under construction near Tiger Stadium.