IAM1703 – CEO Runs a Tech-enabled Real Estate Brokerage

Podcast Interview with Tyler Forte

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: Tyler has a really awesome disruptive approach to the real estate industry. Hearing his story and how he always was entrepreneurial. One of the things that really stuck out was that entrepreneurs have the tendency to take every experience they have and use them for their next venture and the venture after that and after that… Tyler and his team asked “why” which is such a powerful question of why traditional industries can't be disrupted.

I AM CEO Handbook Volume 3 is HERE and it's FREE. Get your copy here: http://cbnation.co/iamceo3. Get the 100+ things that you can learn from 1600 business podcasts we recorded. Hear Gresh's story, learn the 16 business pillars from the podcast, find out about CBNation Architects and why you might be one and so much more. Did we mention it was FREE? Download it today! 

Previous Episode: https://iamceo.co/2021/03/01/iam930-ceo-runs-a-tech-enabled-real-estate-brokerage/


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Tyler Forte Teaser 00:00

The first, and really 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 I'm from, my co-founders were in L.A. We were trying to tackle this thing just by hiring someone in the Nashville market to run our operations and that was just a huge failure.

Intro 00:24

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders, without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:51

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, and what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on technology. We're a technology company that does dot, dot, dot. Technology is no longer an afterthought or something that you might do and is actually a core part of your business. If you are a real estate investor, you're using it. If you're a financial firm. If you're a cleaning company, author, or speaker, you are using technology. If you are in any business, you are using technology, and if you're not, then you're probably going to be disrupted by an organization that is.

So this month we are going to look into purposing episodes that are around technology, whether that be firms or organizations that are actually using and investing in technology as a core part of their products and services or potentially those individuals that are using and leveraging CEO Hacks and CEO nuggets that center around technology and sharing ways that we can leverage it as well. Remember that you are a technology company that does dot, dot dot. Sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I am CEO podcast.

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

Tyler Forte 02:21

Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 02:22

No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I wanted to read a little bit more about Tyler so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. Tyler is the CEO of Felix Homes, a tech-enabled real estate brokerage based in Nashville, Tennessee. 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.

Tyler, are you ready to speak to the I am CEO community?

Tyler Forte 02:53


[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:54

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on what I call your CEO story. What led you to get started with your business?

Tyler Forte 03:01

Yeah. So, growing up I've always been super entrepreneurial. I was that kid in the neighborhood that had the lemonade stand and then that transitioned to having a power washing business growing up. And then it just 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 early-stage venture capital.

And that was just a blessing because it really allowed me to combine my two loves of entrepreneurship and finance and investing. So that was really, really cool. Did that for about two years and then I got just the entrepreneurship bug once again and really decided to start Felix Homes with the goal of how can we make the most financially responsible way to buy or sell our homes.

Gresham Harkless 03:43

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Nice. I definitely appreciate that. And I can imagine just by getting the opportunity to work with all those early-stage tech startups, 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 helped them succeed, what didn't, and you being able to implement that into your business.

Tyler Forte 03:59

Absolutely. And just being on the other side of the table. As the investor 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 really get them excited about the company.

Gresham Harkless 04:15

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 Homes. Could you take us through a little bit more about that and how exactly you serve the clients you work with?

Tyler Forte 04:26

Yeah, exactly. So, what we realized was this whole 6% commission model that traditional realtors charged, that's been around forever, basically. And it's just a little bit mind-boggling because not only have real estate values gone up in many major cities around the country mean we're here in Nashville and could easily buy a home in Nashville even 20 years ago for around hundred, 150,000, and now for that same home, you're talking maybe, six, $700,000.

So, as real estate values become more expensive and as the job of a realtor, in all honesty, becomes maybe not easier, maybe that's the wrong word, but definitely more tech-enabled. 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 available. So what we really wanted to say was, okay, now that technology has made the job of a realtor a little bit more streamlined, why aren't we passing those savings back onto the customer? If you think about it, most people use their homes as their biggest source of wealth.

And so if, Let's say you're trading stock or an ETF you might go with a Robinhood or really all the major online brokerages have come down in commission, and so why isn't the same happening with real estate?

Gresham Harkless 05:27

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? And this could be for yourself or your business, or a combination of both, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Tyler Forte 05:36

I think when people first hear about Felix home or really the discount brokerage model immediately they may think, oh, your secret sauce is just saving people money, right? And that's not really true. 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 like a flat fee MLS and we're really middle ground between using a realtor and listing for sale by owner. And the reason I bring that up is that what it means to me to be financially responsible is not just saving the much money as I can. It really 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 really important.

The way we do that is really not, by not cutting any corners. So a lot of people, when they think of a discount real estate brokerage, they may think am I going to have a realtor that I can call up, any time of the day and get my questions answered? Or are the photos gonna come out, subpar because they're trying to cut costs there and that's just not the case, really the way we make up for it is just by volume. So your traditional real estate agent, work for an independently owned franchise. This business model is really 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 really doing everything, everything under the transaction they're responsible for. And they're really, a master of nothing. With us, we specialize in different parts of the transaction, so, we have a marketing team and a social media team that will actively market the property.

We have a photographer on staff who will take the most amazing listing photos. We have a team of editors and graphic designers that 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 resource for our customers. So really when it comes down to it, yeah, we offer the ability to save on realtor commissions, but we do a lot more than that. 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.

Gresham Harkless 07:30

Nice. I absolutely appreciate that. And I think so many times, you know what was coming to mind is this phrase, you get what you pay for, but 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.

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But I love how it allows you and your team to be able to lean into the things that you do stronger to provide even more value. So it's not so much you get what you pay for, you get what you invest in, 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've gotten if you had done it in a different way.

Tyler Forte 08:08

Yeah. And the other thing just to note is that again, if you look back to that traditional model, the way it's set up. A lot of realtors out there are kind of part-time, and that's great. You have a side hustle, maybe you're a teacher or you're a fireman and you 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, do it full-time. And one of the issues with doing it part-time is, 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're charging about a third less than all these other realtors are, how are you guys making any money?

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

Gresham Harkless 09:14

Yeah, absolutely appreciate that. I think so many times we forget about that how to become an expert, how to become successful, is in the number of times you do that, the reason that you know so-and-so can hit 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, shooting a free throw or talking about real estate, it's only gonna make you a better agent. And 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 absolutely love, how that translates and how that benefits, know, the clients you're working with.

And so, I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I wanted to ask you about what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Tyler Forte 09:52

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. It's going to be difficult. There are going to be ups and downs. It really is a rollercoaster ride. So you really have to strap in and just be prepared. During those low points, you may wanna give up, and you may not wanna move forward, but being persistent as a founder is really the number one quality that I think is important.

Gresham Harkless 10:15

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.

Tyler Forte 10:24

The first, and really 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 I'm from. My co-founders were in LA and we were trying to tackle this thing just by hiring someone in the Nashville market to run our operations and that was just a huge failure.

No one, especially this early on in a 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 really need to be in that market that you're operating in.

Gresham Harkless 11:03

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 to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show. So, Tyler, what is being a CEO mean to you?

Tyler Forte 11:13

Being a CEO to me, it really comes down to leadership and that's so cliché 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, have a reliable kind of rock to lean on. But also you're the source of motivation, right? You really are that glue that holds the company together. And whether that means continually motivating your employee's motivation is not always how much you can pay them or what benefits you can pay them, especially a lot of times with startups.

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We're strapped for cash and yeah, maybe giving out some equity is a good way to make up for that, but there are a lot of other ways you can motivate people besides monetarily. So, getting people excited about what the future of your company looks like, and getting people excited about the change that you're bringing about to the market is something that's really important.

And then again, make sure that they can count on you. 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 really use it to empower them to change. If you're a CEO where your employees are afraid to give you that constructive criticism, then you're doing something wrong.

Gresham Harkless 12:16

Yeah, I absolutely love and appreciate that. And I think that leadership piece that you touched on and expanded upon so much is huge. And I think that so many times we think leadership is this way, but as you talked about, being that rock for people to be able to lean on or being able to tap into and understand exactly what motivates them, what's their drive and how that aligns with what it is that you're doing.

And just having that consistency and understanding of where you want the organization to go and where they want to go themselves as individuals are so huge. And I think that's definitely the balance beam, I guess of being a leader, being a quote and quote CEO is understanding that and being able to tap into that to get people excited about what you're doing.

Tyler Forte 12:50

Yeah. And on that note, I actually, just read on Twitter, I think it was yesterday. I forget exactly who tweeted it out, but it was a tweet about if you're a manager right? Your employees that report to you, they don't work for you. You as the manager are working from them, for them. You know what I mean?

So, if you're in a managerial position, if you're the founder or the CEO of a company. You don't have employees that work for you. You really have to work for them, right? You have to make sure that all of your employees have what they need to do the best job and the most efficient job they can possibly.

Gresham Harkless 13:18

Yeah, absolutely. Servant leadership is real. And I think that's something that we have to tap into and understand that we're working for our team members, we're working for our clients, and those are the people in the overall mission itself is also, 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 was 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 ahold of you and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Tyler Forte 13:47

Yeah. So, I guess the last little piece of advice that I'll leave off on in addition to being persistent is just always be learning. This kind of goes hand in hand with trying to master, 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 your company or not that's just a really important thing to have that curiosity and always be learning. Now folks wanna get in touch with me? You can do so by emailing me. My email is tyler@felixhome.com.

If you're ever in Nashville, feel free to send me a message. We would love to show you around. It really is such a great place and we have a lot of people moving here because it just has so much bone for it.

Gresham Harkless 14:22

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well definitely have the links and information in the show notes, and definitely take Tyler up on that. Before we hopped on, we were talking about all the great things in Tennessee to 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, why is it done this way and creating something different.

So appreciate you for telling us that, being that, and I hope you have a great rest of the day.

Outro 14:47

Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and 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. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at blue16media.com.

This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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