873: The Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurship with Jeff Cohn of Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group

January 15, 2020

Real estate agents like to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, but just closing deals doesn’t make you an entrepreneur and likely won’t make you wealthy. On today’s podcast with Jeff Cohn of Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group, we discuss what entrepreneurship really means and steps for traditional agents to take toward becoming true entrepreneurs. Jeff also shares the process he used personally to start and scale several ancillary real estate businesses, his secrets for sustained success in this industry, and how to expand without taking unnecessary risks.

Listen to today’s show and learn:

  • The ultimate agent of the future [4:52]
  • The Elite team’s transition to Keller Williams [5:31]
  • Secrets for sustained success in real estate [7:43]
  • The components tomorrow’s real estate businesses need [8:24]
  • A proven process for building ancillary businesses [11:36]
  • KW Elite’s property flips [16:00]
  • How to become a successful entrepreneur [18:41]
  • The value in making mistakes [22:03]
  • What agents must do before expanding [24:19]
  • Jeff’s final thoughts [26:59]
  • How to break through your goals.
  • Plus so much more.

Jeff Cohn

As Nebraska’s #1 Team the last six years running, Jeff’s group has sold over $1 billion dollars in real estate in the metro Omaha area, helping about 5,000 families buy and sell their next home. Jeff and crew were also recognized as the #1 selling team in all of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices nationwide in 2018 with over $100 million in home sales.

Jeff works as the Owner and Team Leader and is engaged in team development, coaching and recruiting. He believes in saving client’s time and money by implementing the most advanced marketing techniques available while applying the latest negotiating strategies. He also hosts a weekly Podcast designed to help others in real estate provide the same level of Elite service to their clients around the country. Find out more at EliteRealEstateSystems.com.

Jeff grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with his course of study including classes in real estate.

Jeff is fluent in Portuguese and adept at conversational Spanish. He enjoys volunteering as a children’s Sunday School Teacher at his church and within the Boy Scouts of America scouting organization. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and three children, as well as, working out, playing golf or squash, and planning his next vacation.

Related Links and Resources:

Thanks for Rocking Out

Thank you for tuning in to Pat Hiban Interviews Real Estate Rockstars, we appreciate you! To get more Rockstar content sent directly to your device as it becomes available, subscribe on iTunes or StitcherReviews on iTunes are extremely helpful and appreciated! We read each and every one of them, please feel free to leave your email so that we can personally reach out and say thanks! Have any questions? Tweet meFacebook me and ask Pat anything. Don’t forget to head on over to Bare Naked Agent for Pat’s answers, and advice. Thank you Rockstar Nation, and keep rockin!

Read the Full Interview

Aaron: Hey Real-Estate Rockstars, this is Aaron Amuchastegui. I am so excited to be able to share this next show with you, we just got done recording. I got to talk to Jeff Cohn who was the biggest agent in the world for Berkshire Hathaway. Recently just switched over to Keller Williams. He talks on here about going from being an agent and working super hard for six years doing all the door-knocking signs, all that hard work, and how now he has tons of different ancillary businesses, has done a billion dollars in sales, and really now the sky is the limit.

He wants to make sure that every agent goes to being an agent to becoming an entrepreneur, becomes the mean of a business owner, he ain’t going to walk you through, how to do that, lots of great stuff in there. We had so much fun just unpacking some different ideas for how to succeed and it was just fun getting to catch up with him. I hope you really love this podcast, be sure to go give us a review, reach out to me and Jeff on Instagram let us know that you enjoyed listening to it and here we go.

Aaron: Welcome back Real Estate Rockstars, I’m so pumped today to get to catch up with my good friend Jeff Cohn. Jeff has been on the Real Estate Rockstars Podcast several times. If you sign up for Rebus University he’s in there teaching some of the courses that are in there, runs the biggest Real Estate office in Omaha. Much has changed since the last time we’ve had him on here, Jeff and I we got to meet several years ago and talk about Real Estate and house flipping and things like that. I just want to jump right into it. Jeff tell us what’s new since the last time you were on Real Estate rockstars and maybe catch everybody a little bit about your business.

Jeff: Cool man, thank you so much first off to having me on, I’m really excited to be here again. I know I’ve been on with Pat a few times in the past. The first thing is we were awarded last year the number one team in the world within the Berkshire Hathaway Network, so that was really exciting news. With that, Gary Keller was heavily recruiting our Berkshire team to come over to Keller Williams and we just officially announced the month of December at a future con in Las Vegas that we are starting a market center in West Omaha for Keller Williams called kw ELITE.

The interesting thing, Aron, and what I want to get in today is I’m not interested in getting into the Real Estate business. kw ELITE will not be necessarily just a Real Estate company, it’s a technology company that happens to focus on business consulting, coaching, and training to help entrepreneurs scale their business. I would like to talk to the next 15 or 20 minutes with you today about the different ways a residential agent should choose to be an entrepreneur to scale their business because too often I feel like as agents, we’re just looking at, “Where do I get my next listing, where’s the next buyer coming from.” The ultimate agent of the future the agent that’s going to last the next 5 to 10 years and be able to feed out the big-box shops like your Zillow’s and your Amazon’s, they’re going to have to make sure that the consumer has a virtual option and a physical option comes to meeting with their agent and all of the other ancillary businesses that run parallel to the Real Estate transaction. That’s what I’d like to get into a little bit today.

Aaron: That is so awesome. Well, that is what we get to talk about today. I saw it was funny because I was just scrolling through the news and it said, “Berkshire Hathaway biggest office switch over to Keller Williams.” I see it that’s Jeff? So I texted you right after and said [crosstalk] we got to talk about it.

Jeff: One is funny man because it got politicized to a little bit. Warren Buffett, I just lost out on $5 billion acquisition and someone writes this article as if me leaving was as bad as $5 billion acquisition not going together and everyone’s comments are hilarious because my team had done like $120 million in 2019 and they’re like, $5 billion acquisition?” Losing a team that does $120 million which all of us know, that doesn’t mean we only capture through 2.8% of $120 million. We’re talking like $2.8 million GCI of which Berkshire only keeps 6% royalties, they’re trying to compare the two to use it as a plot to politicize the story. I didn’t argue because it ended up making Fox Business News.

Aaron: Yes, I see my buddy Jeff on Fox Business News, I’m like, “Let’s be honest, this is freaking awesome.” Kw ELITE, new system technology, what does that mean? One of the things that happened to me when I first was flipping 2009 first job, made a whole bunch of money but didn’t really set that aside for entrepreneur, it was like as soon as I stopped working I stopped flipping, I ran out of money. You’re talking about becoming an entrepreneur, you’re setting other things down. What does kw ELITE mean and then what’s that strategy to get to entrepreneur?

Jeff: Yes, so there’s several things there with your comment and I find this happen to me a lot in the past as well. If you’re the one, anyone listening is the one who keeps the plate spinning and you stop spinning the plate, of course, the plate it’s going to fall. The focus is to find someone else to spin the plate. If you don’t have someone else spinning your plates, then you will always spin them. People always wonder, “Well, how does Aaron travel the country and buy these properties and get into all these investments and run a podcast? How does Jeff Cohn have all these different businesses? Jeff Cohn and Aaron aren’t doing all of these guys. Newsflash, there’s a lot of other people, hundreds. I have hundreds of people and maybe thousands if you start bringing in all my virtual callers and affiliate partners that are helping spin all these plates.

Kw ELITE is the hub it lives in Omaha Nebraska. From the hub, there is a myriad of services. First, we will call them hub services. Every business in real estate and outside real estate needs several components. One, quant-ratio management software. Two, analytics that tracks all the sales for you so you know your KPIs or ROIs are achieved on time and all the other analytics one would use to choose how to deploy their capital in the best place. Essentially the hub will offer two hundred different services to businesses in Omaha and acro the country in real estate and outside of real estate. An example could be a virtual caller. Show me a business the couldn’t use the virtual to try and drive more business?

Our hub will provide a virtual caller solution to any business in Omaha, Nebraska, or across the world. We will outsource those virtual calls to Mycall centers in Philippines or several different call centers that we have located within the United States depending n the consumers’ needs. I can go on but we’ll not go through all the examples, regeneration, again the CRM marketing materials, and so on. The second thing would be all the ancillary businesses. Within my office at kw ELITE, we will have mortgage, title, insurance and I own all those third-party ancillary businesses that were created to better serve the consumer and give them a one-stop-shop solution. I don’t end at just Omaha. The world is so small today because of the way that technology connects us and so I’m looking for partners and this goes out to anyone listening today, if you can control over $10 million or more in volume on the buy side, meaning you can direct it to your mortgage lender and or our mortgage lender located in Omaha, you would be a great candidate for launching your own mortgage business. One could partner with us in mortgage and in insurance anywhere in the country. We source all the deals here in Omaha and then you get to keep a percentage of the revenue through the operating agreement.

Aaron: Man you are just absolutely crushing it. People when they are first starting, say, “All right, that’s a great goal to get to.” Somebody goes, “No, I want to be able to own my construction company.” You’re talking about you own a call canter, a construction company, a mortgage company, do you have a title company?

Jeff: Yes, we have everything.

Aaron: That is freaking awesome.

Jeff: Property management, we have our coaching arm, Elite Real Estate Systems, which is the shirt I’m rocking for all those who are watching. We launched four years ago where we offer essentially virtual coaching, modern coaching for the modern agent where we put people into groups of 100, 150 and that’s 12 hours of content a month. You can find info on that online at eliterealestatesystems.com. We have our investment company, Aaron, that you helped Clint and I get off the ground. We buy over 100 houses a year in Omaha. All of these live in one location but we are now– This is what I announced a month ago, expanding all of these businesses all across the country with the right expansion partners.

Aaron: Dude, I want to talk about that for a second. One of the things we want to maybe teach some people in the few minutes that we have is how do they go from being an agent to launching their first ancillary or their second ancillary? Four years ago, Jeff reached out to me, and him and his partner, they had a big real estate company and they said they wanted to start a flipping company. The stages and the processes– I’d love to hear more about that process. He reached out to a couple of people they knew were flippers, I was one, there were some other friends out in California and maybe all over the US. He went and he spent a few days to study different people’s businesses, go through how they work, and then he took all those different businesses, formed his own, and then started that. Jeff, what did you do in that process?

Jeff: Yes, real quick.

Aaron: How many houses did you flip in the first year?

Jeff: Aaron, let’s capture the process you outlined. Only 1% of people would ever do what Clint and I did. I know you would be in that 1% and hopefully a lot of our podcast listeners today are in that 1%. We physically traveled from Nebraska, we took an airplane to California, we met with several top investors all around your area, Maddie Hutchison was another one of them, Daniel Ramsey, yourself, and a handful of others. Our number one goal was to learn from the top investors in the country. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes that the other investors were making but, of course, every market’s different, everyone’s strategy is different so our goal was to obtain as much knowledge as possible. You see this bookshelf behind me, I’ve read 100s of books, listened to 1000s of podcasts, and met with, most importantly, a lot of the top people in all the industries that I now own. I know all the top players and what they are doing.

All it is is looking for patterns from people that have already gone before you and being willing to take the time to educate yourself and then systematically deploy different strategies but track everything so that you know with each and every step where you’re going wrong and what’s going right. Double down on the things that go right and get rid of the things that go wrong or tweak them so that they go right.

Aaron: How many flips did you do in the first year and how many flips did you do last year?

Jeff: The first year we started we maybe did three or four and then it bounced up to like 12 or 13 and then it went to about 30 or 40. Last year we were at 75, this year we’re on track, we’ll do over 100. When we say flip, there’s actually six different options when we get into a property and there’s a whole podcast I do on this with Clint Bartlett, my business partner. Number one is pass on the deal, number two is list it traditionally. 70% of the appointments we go to decide to list traditionally. They are not even flipping, they don’t even want to sell it at a discounted price.

Three is wholesaling it, four is whole tailing it where we close and we put 1000 bucks in, and then five would be a traditional flip. Six is hold it as an investment. Our goal is to hold everything but not everything makes for a great hold. The interesting thing we learned from this that I’d love the audience to listen to is that we found that we made the same margin whole tailing as we did flipping.

What I mean by that is, if we’ve been acquiring for about 25-40% below market value in the Omaha area and we found that we could make $22,500. Just putting it on the market close, put 1000 bucks in, clean it up, empty the house at whatever, put it on the MLS at a not-show-ready amazing condition just selling it as is, we made the same margin as going in and putting in $50000 into the house, marketing it the right way, staging it, making it look beautiful, we’d make $22,500. If we’re making the same net dollar amount, why not go the route where it doesn’t cost us $50,000 and it doesn’t take us three additional months. We’ve been doing a ton of those whole tails.

Aaron: That sounds like the course we need to get you to come back on Rebus Uni, how to whole tail a deal.

Jeff: Done.

Aaron: That sounds very cool.

Jeff: All day.

Aaron: That is super awesome when you’re talking about– The goal is to hold everything but not everything works out to be a hold. That is so smart. The first few years of real estate I just flipped and then when I lost all my money I was like, “Why didn’t I keep some of these?” Now I buy hold, now I’ve got 300 rentals, now I feel like, “Oh, I’ve done it right.” I love that as a metric. Hold everything unless you can’t then you flip and you make your money on those. That’s perfect.

Jeff: The wealth is not created in printing money. Wealth is created in holding assets that create residual revenue. This is like economics 101. You read Rich Dad Poor Dad and Kiyosaki obviously talked about debits and credits. Is that a debit or is it credit? Agents, we’re notorious, residential agents, to just printing money. “Oh, I made $100000, I made $200000. I made $300000.” I don’t care how much money you made, how much did you earn in assets that create residual revenue? That’s the conversation that you should be having. If you’re not having that, you’re never going to be the rich dad.

Aaron: What’s on that networth sheet. If somebody joins kw ELITE and they call you or somebody is interested, what’s that first thing that you’re going to teach them, or what’s that first step of transitioning from an agent to an entrepreneur?

Jeff: Number one we take them through what we call agent launch. Agent launch is kind of that entrepreneurial download where we say to them, “Hey, welcome to our organization. You’re no longer a real estate agent, you’re a business person. You’re an entrepreneur. You need to focus on today never selling another house again.” Now we know– You asked about my evolution of visiting you to now we’re at about 70 doors and then, of course, the evolution. I started selling as an individual agent, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, had a brand new baby girl, Joseline who’s now 14, got my real estate license in 2007, started from scratch, $50,000 in student loan debt. My plan was to use credit cards until I had to file bankruptcy or make real estate work. I’ve come in 14 years quite a long way and there’s obviously a step-by-step process.

If anyone wants to download that, I have a few little links I’m going to send you guys to go to jeffsbusinessplan.com. It’s a PDF download of exactly the steps I took to take my real estate team from 70 to over 700 unit sales in six years which I believe made us the fastest growing residential real estate team in history. 70 to 700 sales in six years. Where I continue to grow, Aaron, and this is now getting more into your question was always looking at who are the best people around me to do certain activities. You got to meet my business partner Clint Bartlett, he’s also my best friend, he was working an 8-5 at ConAgra Foods and they were in the process of laying a lot of people off. He didn’t think he’d laid off but he was done working inside of that corporate arena where there’s a glass ceiling getting 3% raises every year and small little bonuses.

I said, “Dude,” I was like, “We could be millionaires in a very short time just in that one business venture. Let’s try it out.” In the beginning, it was like testing it part-time, nights and weekends and then he quit his job and we went full-time a couple of years ago. The progression is simple, in any business venture that you’re getting into, it could be selling flowers, it could be running a Jimmy John’s It can be flipping houses. It can be a hold whatever it is. You have to start small and then track everything and scale. Everything you do if you can– people talk about the 10x factor, I say push that to the side. It’s the 100x factor. If the business venture you’re getting into can’t grow 100 times the first year’s sales earnings whatever you want to look at then you shouldn’t get into that business in my opinion. And so, most everything I’ve had someone come to me with is scalable. You might have to think outside your city to be able to accomplish it. To me, the effort you put in, what I’ve experienced with my real estate team as an example going from 70 to 700, the effort it takes to do 70 deals, it’s not 10 times harder to do 700. It’s three times harder. Where a lot of people get lost is that final last step.

Have you ever seen the meme? I’ve seen it on Instagram a lot with this like miner, hitting a rock and there’s a tiny little thin piece of rock and right behind it is diamonds. He turns around all hunched over and sad [crosstalk] and only had to do swing it one more time. Yes, exactly. “Dude, just a little bit further.” That’s been my experiences as I push through then I can break into that next echelon of success.

Aaron: Yes. We take a step back to– a lot of our listeners are newer agents and figuring out that. Now as they can set up their vivid vision and say eventually. “I want to have a company where I do this, this, and this. My first step is going to be to expand into this or this.” How about before that as they’re trying to figure out how to get their listings, what’s the best trick to get listing? What’s the best trick they could be a buyer’s agent?

Jeff: The difference between you and me are the books that we read, the people we meet, and the podcasts we listen to. Number one, if you want to be a stronger leader, become a stronger leader. You become a stronger leader through learning and growing and applying and reading. You have to be willing to fail. I lived for two years down in Brazil as a missionary and had to learn to speak fluent Portuguese and felt like a complete idiot for six months, talking with five-year-olds, trying to piece together sentences in Portuguese.

Today I’m fluent in Portuguese. It just took me six months and I was speaking fluent Portuguese but I had to be willing to look stupid a lot. Too often we want to look cool, for whatever reason, we’re socialized to not make mistakes. We don’t want to look like idiots. We’re always scared of what people around us are going to think. I posted a video, go to my Facebook page. I posted a video of myself falling on my hot tub deck last year.

Aaron: Yes. I love that.

Jeff: I was black eyes, because it’s hilarious, right? We have to do [crosstalk] that ourselves. Thank you, that’s what everyone tells me. It’s pretty ridiculous. It looks like a cartoon character I throw my water. My point is, calm down. Everybody needs to just calm down. Be the best version of yourself. You don’t need to prove anything to your dad. You don’t need to prove anything to the boss that didn’t hire you or fired you. All you have to do every single day is wake up and ask yourself, how am I going to become better today than I was yesterday? How am I going to impact somebody else’s life? How am I going to change my own life? Just work a little harder and don’t be hard on yourself. It’s a journey, it takes a long time and you might never be like me when you grow up. I might never be like Tony Robbins when I grow up and that’s okay. All that matters is that you’re the very best version of yourself.

Aaron: I love that as an advice and yes I love to be able to watch your video where you totally fell down on the ice on your hot tub and you shared it with the world to say like look at this. I like to tell people when they’re getting started like, “Hey just be honest, it’s okay to tell people like it’s my first deal. This is my first– or I’ve only done a few.” You don’t have to– it’s the same thing like we were doing. I had sent one of my employees to go to an eviction hearing. I said, “Tell the judge it’s your first time.” Tell everybody honestly I haven’t done this before.

Jeff: Yes.

Aaron: I’m not quite–

Jeff: Own it.

Aaron: People will help you. Agents will help you. You tell people like, “Hey, I’m new at this what advice you give me.” People will reach out.

Jeff: Sure.

Aaron: Go ahead.

Jeff: I know we’re at closing but I want to answer your question. I only answered a little piece of it. You asked me for those newer agents that are listening. Guys and gals, I was one of those newer agents. In 2006, I received my real estate license, 2007 was my first full year. I sold for five straight years. I made that my number one goal, my number one focus, and poured 80 hours a week into selling residential real estate. Going on listings, knocking doors, calling experts, calling Facebook, putting signs in yards, printing flyers, putting up the lockboxes, getting the keys, going to closings, going to walkthroughs, going to home inspections for six years actually, it was more than five. That’s all I did.

The reason I’m sharing that is, you have to become an expert in your field before you can lead others. Too often a millennial mindset is, I deserve it because I’ve done ten transactions. Ten transactions is nothing, don’t even think about leading anyone until you’ve done over 100. Then you’re not tenured in real estate until you’ve done 1,000. Today, I’m at 5,000 unit sales and billion dollars in sales. You don’t have to be that far along to start a team. I’d say at 100 deals, you’re at a point now where you could probably start leading others. At 1,000 deals you probably have it figured out. Don’t rush into all these ancillaries and this idea of expansion teams. I’ve had people come to my team-building workshop which is in Omaha every other month and we do an investment workshop as well.

If anyone wants more information about that just look up, I think it’s jeffsworkshop.com. You can find all the stuff events at eliterealestatesystems.com. People have come out to my workshop before, Aaron, and said, “I want to build expansion teams.” I’m like, “Oh that’s awesome how many sales do you have in your own marketplace?” “I’ve never sold a house, I’m getting my license.” What, you’re already talking about expanding something that you’ve never created? You should only expand something that’s proven itself in one place before you copy and paste it and put it in another.

Aaron: Yes. The same advice I get people and they go hey who should I hire or how should I hire? When I started in real estate, I did every single part of that job. Listen carefully that you’re rewinding that part that Jeff’s just talked about. He said he did the signs, he did everything. When I first started buying house at auction, I drove the houses myself. I wouldn’t bid on the houses I did the title work I did the clomping. I would go drill out the locks, I would do the tight– you have to do every part of that job so you know who to hire. Also when they come [crosstalk] you know how to do it.

Jeff: It creates clarity. You know what it means, you know what it looks like, you know what to expect. When people come in and ask that my partner used to do construction all through high school and college. When we have a contractor come in and bid out a floor, we know if they’re taking advantage of us. We know what the margin is. We know what the product is. We know what the process is, of everything.

For every business venture I told you that I’ve been in, I know exactly what to expect within each one, and/or I partner with people that know. That’s a smart business. For anyone listening, it’s overwhelming. If I listen to someone where I am right when I got started, it would be overwhelming. I’d say I want to do that but what’s my next step so that’s the perfect question, Aaron.

My answer is what I would say and I’m going to say it again. Read more books. Become a stronger leader. Do more transactions. Be focused on helping other people be the best versions of themselves. Don’t make the focus money. Money comes and goes. Aaron’s made a lot I’ve made a lot and a lot of it’s gone. It’s just is money, it’s ones and zeros in a bank account. It’s the way you live your life every day that defines your life. It’s not the money in your bank account. That would be my final thought to anyone listening is, go change the lives of others and by doing so you’ll change your own.

Aaron: That is the biggest, biggest part right there. We’re out of time so Jeff, two best books, and where to find you.

Jeff: Yes. The One Thing by Gary Keller. Focusing on that one thing in every aspect of your life is going to be a big one. For residential real estate agents, I think learning How to Engage Your Sphere of Influence is huge and I really like The Seven Levels of Communication by Michael Maher for that.

Aaron: Awesome and then what put your–

Jeff: You could follow–

Aaron: Go ahead.

Jeff: Follow me on Instagram. I’m out of Facebook friends. I think it only give you like 5,000 so I’m just Jeff M. Cohn on Insta just follow me there. You can follow our coaching website. We post tons of content every day. For example, I was at the Zillow headquarters all day yesterday and I took like hundred pictures of Zillow. If you want to check that out it’s really cool. They have amazing rooms like music room, video game room, yoga rooms.

I took pictures of all the stuff. The day before, I was in the top virtual reality center in North America up in London, Ontario, Canada and I posted a bunch of pictures of virtual reality. It’s the future of six degrees of freedom so we’re putting a ton of research into that technology and incorporating 20/20 Holodeck in our new office build-out of this fall. I call it a Holodeck for fun for those Trekkies out there. It’s just a virtual reality room but it’s pretty cool stuff.

Aaron: That is awesome. All right, we’re going to put all the links in the show notes all of those different things like the business plan for the free gift. We’ll get you back on Rebus to teach people out the whole tale. Jeff, so awesome catching up with you. We’re going to have you on again in a few months. We never have enough time to tell people enough and there’s so much you could teach them out there. Thanks for coming on Real Estate Rockstars.

Jeff: Thanks for having me on man, I really appreciate it. Hope I could change somebody’s life in some way.

Aaron: Yes. Help others and you’ll succeed.


Comments are closed.