IAM930- CEO Runs a Tech-enabled Real Estate Brokerage

Podcast Interview with Tyler Forte

Tyler Forte is the CEO of Felix Homes, a tech-enabled real estate brokerage based in Nashville, TN. Tyler started Felix Homes after experiencing how broken the traditional real estate process is, especially the high commission fee structure. Before starting Felix, Tyler worked as a Venture Capital investor in New York City where he was tasked with sourcing and analyzing early-stage tech startups.

  • CEO Hack: Persistence
  • CEO Nugget: Be in the geographical area you're launching in
  • CEO Defined: Being a reliable rock to lean on

Website: https://www.felixhomes.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FelixHomesRealty
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/felixhomesrealty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealFelixHomes

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[00:00:00.00] – Intro

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

[00:00:52.89] – Gresham Harkless

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gretch from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today, Tyler Forte of Felix Holmes. Tyler, it's awesome to have you on the show.

[00:01:02.79] – Tyler Forte

Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:04.70] – Gresham Harkless

No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jump in, I want to read a little bit more about Tyler so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. And Tyler is the CEO of Felix Holmes, a tech-enabled real estate brokerage based in Nashville, Tennessee. Tyler started Felix Holmes after experiencing how broken the traditional real estate process is, especially the high commission fee structure.

Before starting Fee Felix, Tyler worked as a venture capital investor in New York City where he was tasked with sourcing and analyzing early-stage tech startups. Tyler, are you ready to speak to the IMCO community? Absolutely. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, to kinda kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit here a little bit more on what I call your CEO story. We'll let you get started with the business.

[00:01:43.79] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. So, you know, growing up, always been super entre entrepreneurial. I was back in the neighborhood that had, you know, the lemonade stand, and then that transitioned to having, like, a power washing business growing up. And then it just kind of snowballed, and, I ended up studying finance in college, and always really loved investing, loved entrepreneurship. And so, the opportunity presented itself right after graduating to work for an early-stage venture capital firm, and that was just a blessing because it allowed me to combine my two loves of entrepreneurship and, finance and investing. So that was cool. Did that for about two years, and then, you know, I got, just the entrepreneurship bug once again, and decided to, you know, start Felix Holmes with the goal of how can we make the most financially responsible way to buy or sell a home.

[00:02:34.09] – Gresham Harkless

Nice. I appreciate that. And I can imagine just by getting the opportunity to work with all those early-stage tech start-ups, I can imagine the amount of information and knowledge you probably took in and just being able to see all those different businesses, see what's helped them succeed, what didn't, and you're you being able to kinda implement that into your business.

[00:02:50.30] – Tyler Forte

Absolutely. And just kinda being on the other side, you know, of the table, as the investor kind of, you know, researching startups and doing my due diligence there. It was really helpful in knowing what kind of milestones the startup need to reach, how to position the startup, and, also, you know, how to tell that story to investors and get them excited about the company.

[00:03:09.19] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. And that story is definitely everything. I always feel it's a great way to connect, and I love yours. And so I know that led you to start Felix Holmes. Could you take us through a little bit more about that and how exactly you serve the clients you work with?

[00:03:21.00] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. Exactly. So, you know, we realized was, you know, this whole six percent commission model, that traditional realtors charge, that's been around forever. And it's just a little bit mind-boggling because only have real estate values gone up in many major cities, around the country. I mean, we're here in Nashville and could easily buy a home in Nashville, even twenty years ago for around a hundred, hundred fifty thousand. And now for that same home, you're talking maybe, you know, six, seven hundred thousand dollars.

So, as real estate values become, more expensive, and as the job of a realtor, in all honesty, becomes, maybe not easier, that's the wrong word, but more tech-enabled. You know, I'm not driving across town to get a signature from my client. I don't have a big booklet of all the homes listed for sale.

All that stuff is online. So what we wanted to say was, okay. Now that technology has made the job of a realtor a little bit, more streamlined, you know, why aren't we passing those savings back onto the customer? If you think about it, most people, kind of use their home as their biggest source of wealth. And so if, you know, kind of, let's say you're, trading a stock or an ETF, you know, you might go with a Robinhood or all the major online brokerages have come down in in commission. And so why isn't the same happening with real estate?

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[00:04:37.30] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. That makes so much sense. And I love you know, I'm really big into it, like, any innovation or way that people look at things differently. So to hear that and think about it as the way you phrased it, understanding that there's been, I guess, more efficiencies in all industries, but, as we're talking about in real estate, why not, you know, pass those, I guess, the benefits of that onto the people that are in potentially serving. And I think that it will drive more people to be able to invest more, to be able to put more into their real estate, and to create more wealth and opportunity and create those win-win opportune opportunities for everybody.

[00:05:08.30] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. Not only that but, you know, if you were to sell your home or buy a home with Felix, you know, our average customer saves over eight thousand dollars. And so, you know, while some folks decide to use that money and take a nice vacation or, you know, maybe put it towards their next home that they're gonna buy, I mean, just think about what type of compounding effect that's going to have if you put it in an ETF or, you know, put it in the stock market. I mean, heck, you know, that eight thousand dollars in ten years could be worth eighty. So it really does add up.

[00:05:35.30] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. Sounds like you get that opportunity to to be more empowered because you get that, you know, that still savings, and you get to do what you, hope to do to create and generate potentially more wealth.

[00:05:46.19] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. Absolutely.

[00:05:47.89] – Gresham Harkless

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So, I know we might have already touched on this a little bit. What would you consider to be what I call your secret sauce? This could be for yourself or your business or a combination of both, but what do you feel kinda sets you apart and makes you unique?

[00:05:58.19] – Tyler Forte

You know, I think when people first hear about Felix Homes or the discount brokerage model, you know, immediately they may think, oh, your secret sauce is just saving people money. Right? And that's not true. You know, we really wanna brand ourselves and we are a financially responsible real estate brokerage. If people just wanna save money on commissions, there are other opportunities to do that. You could do it for sale by the owner. You could do a flat fee MLS.

And we're that, you know, the middle ground between using a realtor and listing for sale by the owner. The reason I bring that up is because what it means to me to be financially responsible is not just saving the much money as I can. It is trying to optimize that upside, and get the very highest amount you can for the home, while also minimizing your cost. Right?

So that's important. The way we do that is not by not cutting any corners. So a lot of people when they think of a discount real estate brokerage, may think, oh, am I going to have a realtor that I can call up, you know, any time of day and and get my questions answered? Or, are the photos gonna come out, you know, subpar because they're trying to cut costs there? And that's just not the case, you know. The way we make up for it is, just by volume. So your traditional real estate, agent, works for an independently owned franchise. Right?

And this business model is, you know, not the best in real estate. So when you have an independently owned franchise and then you have independent contractor agents working for that franchise, that agent is doing everything. Right? Everything under, the transaction they're responsible for, and they're, you know, a master of nothing. With us, we specialize in different parts of the transaction.

So, you know, we have a marketing team and a social media team that will actively market the property. You know, we have a photographer on staff who will take the most amazing listing photos. We have a team of editors and graphic designers who will make sure that the photos come out their very best. And that leaves me as the agent and any of our agents, the ability to just be that customer relationship, a resource for for our customers. You know, so really when it comes down to it, yeah, we offer, you know, the ability to save on realtor commissions, but we do a lot more than that. You know, we're making sure that people walk away from the transaction with the most money they possibly can, and with just superb customer service as well.

[00:08:11.50] – Gresham Harkless

Nice. I appreciate that. And, you know, I think so many times, you know, what was coming to mind is this phrase, you know, you get what you pay for. But Yep. I think a lot of times we think that, okay. Because I pay this, then I'm gonna get that back. Or if I don't pay this, I'm not gonna get this. But I love how it allows you and your team to be able to lean into the things that you do to provide even more value. So it's not so much you get what you pay for, you get what you invest in, I guess, to some degree, and what the company invests in. So if you wanna have that way, for a team, to be able to lean into their strengths, and those strengths happen to be those technological tools. It allows you to get, if not better, at least equal to what you would have gotten if you had kinda done it differently.

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[00:08:52.60] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. And the other thing just to note is that, again, if you kind of look back to that traditional model, right, the way it's set up, a lot of realtors out there are kind of part-time. You know, and that's great. You kind of have a side hustle. You know, maybe you're, you know, a teacher or, you know, you're a fireman and you kind of get your real estate license to make some extra money on the side, and that's perfectly fine. But all of the real estate agents that we hire, you know, they do it full-time. And one of the issues with kind of doing it part-time is, you know, one, you may only do one or two transactions, every month, if not every year. And so the way that we're able to make up for it because people always ask, oh, you know, you're charging about a third less than all these other realtors are. You know, how are you guys making any money?

And the way we do it is by making up for it in volume. So while the, you know, an average realtor may do one transaction per month roughly, all of ours are doing between three to five. Not only is that better, because we can then charge less than and justify that lower fee, but for me, experience is always measured in the number of times you do something, not really the number of years you do something. So every real estate transaction is a little bit different. There's always a couple of hiccups along the way. And by having, our agents see more transactions than pretty much anyone else out there, you know, they're able to navigate the process in a way where we make fewer mistakes, and and we can avoid maybe some of those common pitfalls that a lot of other agents get stuck up on.

[00:10:09.50] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Appreciate that. I think so many times we forget about that, you know, how to become an expert, how to become successful, is in the number of times you do. And the reason that you know, so so and so can hit a, a free throw without looking is that they've done it over and over again. And when you start to have that repetition where we're talking about, you know, shooting a free throw or talking about real estate, it's only gonna make you a better agent. It's only gonna allow you to be able to go through that process better and to be a better service to your clients. So I love to know, how that translates and how that benefits, you know, the clients that you all are working with. And so, I wanted to switch gears a little bit Yeah. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an Apple book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

[00:10:50.50] – Tyler Forte

You know, I think one of the biggest things is persistence. For anyone who is looking to start a company, that's my number one tip. You know, it's going to be difficult. There's going to be ups and downs. It is a roller coaster ride so you have to strap in and, just be prepared for it. You know, during those low points, you may wanna give up, you know, you may not wanna move forward, but being persistent as a founder is that number one quality that I think is important.

[00:11:16.20] – Gresham Harkless

You might have already touched on this, but I want to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

[00:11:26.39] – Tyler Forte

I mean, the first and and the the biggest mistake that we made starting this company was, not being in the actual geographic area that we're launching in. So we're here in Nashville. And for probably about the first six months of starting this company, I was living in New York, where you know, where I'm from. My cofounders were in LA, and, we were trying to tackle this thing just by hiring someone in the Nashville market to kind of run our operations. And that was just a huge failure.

You know, no one, especially this early on in the company, is going to have as much passion for the company as you do as a founder. So, again, this may not apply to all companies out there, really just those that do have some type of geographic footprint. But, man, if you do, you need to be in that market, you know, that you're operating in.

[00:12:10.29] – Gresham Harkless

Awesome. So I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping our different quote-unquote CEOs on the show. So Tyler, what does being a CEO mean to you?

[00:12:21.10] – Tyler Forte

You know, being a CEO to me, it comes down to leadership and that's so cliche and I'll dive a little bit deeper into that. It's about making sure that the other team members, the people that rely on you, you know, one have a reliable kind of rock to lean on, but also you're the source of motivation. Right? You are kind of that glue that holds the company together. And whether that means, you know, continually motivating your employees. And motivation is not always how much you can pay them or what benefits you can pay them, you know, especially a lot of times with, startups, you know, we're strapped for cash and, yeah, maybe giving out some equity is a good way to make up for that, but there's a lot of other ways you can motivate people besides monetarily.

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So, you know, getting people excited about what the future of your company looks like, getting people excited about the change that you're bringing about to the market is important. And then again, making sure that, you know, they can count on you. You know, making sure that if they do have a question, or maybe they don't think that the company is being run the right way. Right? Maybe they have some constructive criticism, and a good CEO knows how to take that constructive criticism, internalize it, and, you know, use it to empower them to change. You know, if you're a CEO where your employees are afraid to give you that constructive criticism, then you're doing something wrong.

[00:13:35.39] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. I love it and appreciate that. And I think that leadership piece that you kinda touched on, I think it's founded upon, you know, so much is huge. And I think that so many times we think leadership is this way, but as you talked about, you know, being that rock for people to be able to lean on or being able to kinda tap into and understand exactly what motivates them, what is their drive, and how that aligns with what it is that you're doing, It just kinda having that consistency and understanding of, where you want the organization to go, where they want to go themselves as individuals is so huge. And I think that's, you know, the balance beam, I guess, of being a leader, being a quote-unquote CEO, is understanding that and being able to kinda tap into that to get people excited about what you're doing.

[00:14:13.60] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. And on that note, I just read on Twitter. I think it was yesterday. I forget exactly who tweeted it out, but, you know, a tweet about if you're a manager, right, the employees that report to you, you know, they don't work for you. You as a manager are working from them for them. You know what I mean? So, you know, if you're in a managerial position, if you're, you know, the founder or the CEO of the company, you know, you don't have employees that work for you. You have to work for them. Right? You have to make sure that all of your employees have what they're what they need to do the best job and the most efficient job they can.

[00:14:46.70] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. Servant leadership is real, and I think that's something that, you know, we have to kinda tap into and understand that we're working for our team members. We're working for our clients, and those are the people. And the overall mission itself is also, you know, a big thing that we're working for. And if we understand that, we put that in perspective, it helps us, increase the likelihood of us being successful. So, Tyler, truly appreciate that definition, and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know and, of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

[00:15:17.89] – Tyler Forte

Yeah. So, you know, I guess the the last little piece of advice that I'll leave off on, in addition to being persistent, is just always be learning. You know, this kinda goes hand in hand with trying to master, you know, a certain part of your business and then pass it off to someone else. If you're not curious, if you're not always trying to learn a new topic, whether it's related to, you know, your company or not, you know, that's just an important, you know, thing to have is that curiosity and always be learning. Now if folks wanna get in touch with me, you can do so by emailing me. My email is Tyler at Felix Homes dot com. If you're ever in Nashville, you know, feel free to, send me a message. Would love to kinda show you around. It is such a great place and we have a lot of people moving here because it just has so much going for it.

[00:16:02.39] – Gresham Harkless

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, we'll have the links and information in the show notes and take Tyler up on that. Before we hopped on, we were talking about all the great things in in in Tennessee to kinda take account of, but I love, that curiosity and that always-be learning piece that you left us off with because I think so many times, we forget that a lot of the innovations come about as we hear in this interview is by asking, you know, why is it done this way and creating something different. So appreciate you for for telling us that, being that, and, I hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:16:30.00] – Outro


Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


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