Kris Lindahl is a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, recently ranked by Real Trends as the #1 team-owned real estate brokerage in Minnesota by volume, and #12 in the country. Kris’s original career goal was teaching. But after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in education, a friend suggested getting his real estate license, and the rest is history.
Kris quickly become the #1 agent in Minnesota. He then formed a team at a national brokerage and become the #1 team in Minnesota and one of the top-producing in the nation. Kris then declared his “Innovation Independence” and started Kris Lindahl Real Estate (KLRE) in May 2018. In just over two years, KLRE has more than tripled in size and become one of the fastest-growing residential real estate companies in America.
Apart from real estate, Kris wears many hats as an entrepreneur. He’s a bestselling author (Sold!), a top-rated national speaker, a Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner, host of the top-performing podcast The Kris Lindahl Show, and a sought-after subject matter expert on TV and online. He’s most proud of founding the Be Generous Movement, which encourages people and businesses to give back to their communities through skills sharing, financial resources and volunteering, or “Time, Talents and Treasures.” Outside of work, Kris is an avid fisherman and loves nothing more than spending time with his daughter, Victoria.
Where did the idea for Kris Lindahl Real Estate come from?
If I really think about it, it probably started when I lost my father while I was in high school. That tragedy changed the trajectory of my life and gave me that spark of figuring things out on my own and being an almost obsessive self-starter. I was interested in education, but I was also a natural entrepreneur who was always thinking of new ideas and starting new ventures. Once I dipped my toe in real estate, there was no looking back. I loved helping people with the most significant investment in their lives, and I couldn’t stop thinking of ways to make the experience better for them. Real estate seemed stuck in the dark ages in many ways. I wanted to bring it up to date and deliver the same convenience and customer experience you get when you buy something on Amazon. Over time, I realized that the best way for me to shape the industry was to start my own company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I don’t know if I have a typical day, but the most consistent element is communicating with my team. We talk constantly to go over wins, challenges and new ideas. They’re on the front lines, and they’re always thinking of ways to serve people better. I do the same from a bigger vision standpoint. Productivity has never been a challenge for me. People tell me I have enough energy to power a small city, and I don’t even drink coffee.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s definitely a team effort. I have the best agents, leadership team and strategic partners in the business. When I get a new idea, I run it through them to see how viable it is, and they make it even better. I do the same for ideas not related to real estate. Once I latch onto a new idea, look out. I’m relentless until it’s done and I can see it live and in the world. Basically, I bring ideas to life by knowing the right people, cultivating positive relationships and bringing teams together to execute quickly.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one. What excites me is the trend we’re leading toward giving people more options and convenience in the real estate experience. Like our Guaranteed Offer program. Some people don’t want to go through the hassles of cleaning, decluttering, open houses, packing up the family before dinner because there’s a last-minute showing. They just want a competitive offer that doesn’t require them to do anything or let a bunch of people into their home. And they want the control of being able to pick their closing date so they can time it better with buying another house. All of that is possible now, and it’s a huge improvement over the traditional world of sticking a sign in the yard and dealing with multiple showings and open houses.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Two things that are closely related: 1) I make sure that I know what it’s like on the front lines. I’ve actually done almost every job in real estate that I hire for. 2) I know what I don’t know, and I hire people who can do things better than I can. Those two things help me be way more productive as an entrepreneur and a leader. I can empathize with people no matter what their job is, and I can help them get better at it. But at the same time, I know how to get out of my own way. And when I hire experts at what they do, it allows me to keep learning.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d say, “Pursue your passions, but don’t chase things you’ll never catch.” So many entrepreneurs and highly driven people fall into the trap of always wanting more without enjoying the moment or asking if their success is truly bringing them meaning and fulfillment. I experienced that early in my career as a Realtor®. I was a maniac, and while I achieved high levels of success, one day when I was supposedly on vacation (but still working), I realized that what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. That was a great gift in a way, because it led me to adopt the team approach that Kris Lindahl Real Estate has now taken to the next level.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The days of the individual real estate agent are over. People misunderstand me when I say that. I think Realtors® are more important than ever. Technology is a huge disruptor in real estate and every other industry, but real estate agents will always play a critical role. When I say that individual real estate agents are becoming obsolete, what I mean is that the old model of one agent trying to wear 15 different hats and do everything themselves is rapidly being replaced by the team model. With the competition and technology tools out there right now, you can’t do it all yourself. You can’t have one person getting leads, answering calls and inquiries on social media, doing their own marketing, handling multiple transactions, taking their own photos, etc. You need specialists in each area. The consumer demands it, and it also has the benefit of giving agents a much more consistent and fulfilling lifestyle. At KLRE, our agents don’t have to deal with securing their own leads, doing their marketing, struggling with seasonality or feeling like they can never take a vacation. They get to focus on what they do best, and they always know that someone has their back.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly work on my personal and professional development. It’s the single most important thing I do, because every entrepreneur has to be both a student and a teacher. You can always get better. You can always learn from other people. I’ve invested a tremendous amount of time and money into making myself a better leader, and as a company, we believe in doing that for everyone on our team. Once you think you know everything, you’re toast. You have to stay hungry and stay curious. It’s better for your survival, and it’s also a lot more fun!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Have a purpose. Stand for something more than profits. Our company once had a long list of core values that I copied and pasted from all over the internet. Over time, we got behind one in particular: Be Generous. It was a huge a-ha moment for me, because I’ve always cared about more than “business.” I’ve always coached and taught and volunteered, because I believe that being generous is the most important thing in life. Once we adopted that as a primary core value and started the Be Generous movement, I noticed that more and more people we interviewed would say, “I want to work here because I see on social media all the amazing things you’re doing in the community. I love your Be Generous mantra.” I don’t think there’s an MBA program in the country that would talk about generosity as a growth strategy, but I can tell you: That part of our culture has had the biggest impact on attracting and retaining great talent. That’s not why we do it, but that’s the effect it has had. Coincidentally, “Be Generous” led us to start our Real Estate Scholarship Program, and that has also been a huge catalyst in our growth. We help people pay for the schooling to get their real estate license, and even though there’s no obligation to work for us when they’re done, dozens of people already have, and some have already turned into top producers!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, I think my biggest failure was not starting my own brokerage before I did. I should have known earlier that the only way I could truly build exactly what I wanted was outside the traditional real estate model. Instead, I tried to work within the system, pushing the boundaries whenever possible. At some point, you’ve got to realize that you have to take on all the risk yourself to build what you want. That’s hard to do. It’s a lot easier to want rewards with minimal risk. But once I took that leap and saw how fulfilling it was to take on that risk and do things my own way, I kicked myself for not doing it sooner. There’s nothing really to “overcome” in that respect. It just gave me the confidence to trust my instincts even more.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here’s one I just thought of: An ad agency called “Write Brain Marketing.” It would specialize in writing copy designed to appeal to human emotions. So much ad copy and other marketing writing is salesy and functional: features and benefits. People forget how almost every purchase—especially a home—is emotional. Imagine you’re searching online for a home to buy. One description says, “Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, great location.” The other one says, “Three bedrooms, two bathrooms. You can practically smell the cookies when you walk in the kitchen and see the kids’ lemonade stand on the corner in summertime. The kind of tightknit, throwback neighborhood where everyone knows your name and people look out for each other.” Which one hits your emotions more? Which one are you more likely to want to visit? There’s so much opportunity for right-brain marketing. People don’t do it because it’s harder. But harder is always better in the long run.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We’ve been huge supporters of small businesses during the pandemic, and I recently spent $100 on a gift card for a local restaurant based on a recommendation on our Facebook page. As soon as the lockdowns started, we launched into a massive “buy local” campaign, including a contest around people nominating neighborhood businesses that they love and want us to support. This is an ongoing effort, because no one knows how long restaurants and other small businesses are going to be under stress. We’re a local business ourselves, so we know how important it is to the economy—and to people’s lives and livelihoods—to support these establishments as much as you possibly can.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Like most people, I use Zoom a lot. It’s been indispensable in keeping our team connected, sharing knowledge and helping me stay as communicative and transparent as possible as a leader. I would also give a shoutout to Google Trends. Seeing what people are Googling when it comes to your business specifically or your industry in general is an amazing tool. I recently saw how “sell my home” was trending way up, and sure enough, we’re starting to see sellers flood back into the market after staying on the sidelines for the past five months.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Traction by Gino Wickman. Gino started EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, which has been a total game-changer for our business and so many others. Most real estate agents don’t learn how to run a business. Reading Traction taught me how to do that, as well as how to be a better leader. That in turn has helped our entire company stay focused on building a business around creating the best possible consumer experience. That’s our key differentiator.
What is your favorite quote?
I have too many favorite quotes to list here, but I’ll go with this one: “Our mission is to rehumanize the planet.” —Darin Dawson, co-founder and COO of BombBomb. I just love that quote. Darrin is a friend who thinks big and always in the frame of “purpose.” His mission to rehumanize the planet was one of the inspirations for our Be Generous Project. You might think someone who says that must lead a nonprofit. Darrin runs a video email company. That’s what makes it so great. His product helps to humanize sales, but the bigger picture is a mission to rehumanize the planet by tackling abuse and injustice around the world. I wish every business operated that way.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.