Krista Hopkins Featured on The Real Look Podcast

Northern Lights: Krista Hopkins on Adaptive Leadership, Hiring Capacity Talent, and Following the Model

Exciting News: Our very own managing broker, Krista Hopkins, has been featured on the latest episode of The Real Look PodcastIn this captivating episode, she opens up about her journey in the world of real estate, starting as a self-proclaimed “irritating sponge” eager to learn from seasoned agents around her. Fast forward to today, and Krista leads our thriving real estate team, built on the strong foundation of effective systems and proven models.

But it’s not all smooth sailing; Krista candidly shares the challenges she has faced as a leader, proving that even the most successful among us encounter obstacles.

Her valuable advice, “Be hungry, be humble, be smart,” resonates deeply and is sure to inspire both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the real estate industry.

Join us as we delve into the incredible insights and wisdom of Krista Hopkins on The Real Look Podcast. It’s an episode you won’t want to miss! 

What’s your story?

Like most people, it wasn’t my first career. I was actually going to go to law school, and so I was a paralegal for several years. Worked in the prosecuting office for Benton County, as well as worked at a couple of private law firms. Then I decided in doing so that I didn’t want to be an attorney after all. I ended up leaving my paralegal position when we adopted our older daughter, who is now 24. I started teaching art at that point. I had created a business around that called Tumbleweed Art Studio and I had 80 students that I taught weekly, and I had 2 licensed teachers who worked for me. One of whom was my very first real estate client. I ended up getting so busy with real estate that I needed to close that business.


What was the thought process of the decision making to actually choose real estate?

I was leasing a commercial space from a local broker in our market and he suggested that I might be good at it, and then I ended up moving. And I know of a lot of people in the industry, it happens when you move, it is something that peaks your interest, right? Going through that process, I think, just put that back in my mind. I had had a career in the art world for 14 years and I think I was just ready to get out of that. I actually was going to be a stager, a home stager. I decided half way through the real estate course “wow this is really interesting”, and I think it reminded me a lot of when I was a paralegal, the contracts, the legal aspects of the course. “Maybe I’ll be an agent instead of being a stager.” I don’t know why I decided that I needed a real estate license to be a home stager. I think that maybe it came from coming from a home where degrees are highly encouraged for everything. It’s really ironic because as we all know what that the course  prepares you for is really taking the test and it’s not the day to day aspect of being an agent.


What did that first year in real estate look like? What did the start of your journey into this business look like?

I was one of two rookies at the brokerage where I started, and teams weren’t really a thing. Especially not in Southeastern Washington. I really just was a sponge. And I was a very irritating sponge I think. I’ve actually thanked over the years the people who have helped me and guided me as a new agent. I’m sure I was obnoxious, right? I asked all the questions. I didn’t know anything. I just was really eager to learn. That really healed me I think, was having that attitude. And that’s what my first year looked like. I did well. There are rookies now who are doing way better than I ever did. I did 12 homes my first year. I was lucky enough that I had somebody that was like “We want you to sell our house and we want to buy.” before I even had my course done. So they were really ready and they waited, kind of, for me to get licensed. It was a nice price point at the time, and I really do have a lot of gratitude for those other agents who helped me but also those clients who helped me get started.


What does your business look like today?  You have a team now. What is the makeup of that team and what do you focus on primarily?

I really consider myself the CEO. I am still a producer, especially in this shifting market, I’m back into full production. There’s six other agents on the team. We just onboarded another brand new one. Super excited. We also have four support staff, and I’m very proud of our investment into having the support staff necessary to help our agents be successful, and make sure our client experience is where it should be. We have a full time Marketing Director. We have a Director of Operations. We have a full time Transaction Coordinator who I hired as part time but there’s no way to have him do anything but full time work because we are so busy. And then I have a part time Client Care Coordinator, who is really our boots on the ground person just making sure everything is really wrapped with a bright cherry bow for our clients every step of the way.


Your mix of real estate agents to administrative support staff is actually heavier on the administrative support staff than we would sometimes see teams of your size, and I have the feeling that’s with a lot of intentionality, but walk us through why that’s important when running your business.

Just as a person I am very process driven, which is kind of funny because I have ADD and I am a little scattered. But I think part of that is why I like a good process, right? It helps keep me in line. Coming from a legal profession where everything is very process driven, and in fact the support staff are doing a lot of the legal work, right? You know, I think that helped me too. I was a little surprised when I came into real estate that it was so chaotic. You know we’re doing such an important job for our clients and I really wanted that process. I got a little flack when I started from a couple people because I had an operations manual when I was a solo agent. So I think just wanting that structure was always really important to me, and it’s necessary. It’s a heavy investment. I have a business that is sustainable. I am building a legacy. I am creating something that is going to exist past me. That requires having the infrastructure set up to do so. It’s a long term vision.


At what point did you make the decision to get leverage in your world in the form of people? 

I would say I started about 3 years in. Being with Keller Williams I know there’s support for solo agents. At the beginning I utilized a transaction coordinator that I shared with two other agents. Then eventually I was like I’m going to hire my own part time person. So I started with a part time assistant and then it just evolved.


How did you choose to go down the path to get administrative support help first? Because we see a lot of real estate agents make the mistake of going and hiring buyers agents to work with all the leads that they’re generating and then of course they become the assistant, but what you actually did it the right way. How did you know how to do that?

I listened to someone who was smarter than me. And somebody who had been there that had done it before. I can’t even tell you where I learned it exactly but somebody said “This is the smart way to build a real estate business. If you start with a buyers agent, you’re going to be the assistant.” and I really didn’t want to do that. I’m really really grateful that I did it that way. You know, as a REALTOR® we have all of these conflicting messages sent our way. It’s so easy for you to think that I want to have this instant team of buyers agents, I want to make all of this money, and I’m going to leverage that way. But if you leverage with infrastructure in the right way it really will help. So it’s one of the things I did that was smart. I made a lot of mistakes. I did a lot of things that were not smart things but that was one of the things that I did that was smart.


What are some of the challenges that you have experienced in succeeding in others as you have kind of built this amazing team?

Oh wow, I don’t know how much time we have but, I have had a lot of challenges. I mean I think real estate is an interesting profession because it’s very complex, it’s ever-changing. I mean the nature of real estate and the laws we have, and the technology is constantly changing, so you have to adapt and you have to grow yourself. So my biggest challenges, when I look back on it, most of them were made because I was not an effective leader. You know, I’ve learned how to communicate better, I’m still learning. I like to say that real estate would be really easy if we weren’t dealing with people. I know that sounds horrible to say but it’s just true in that people are complex. We are dealing with our clients and they’re going through one of the most emotional things they can ever experience and sometimes it’s through something traumatic that’s going on in their lives. So we’ve got their stress, and their emotion. And when you have employees, or independent contractor agents on your team, they have their own problems. So I had a team, and noone on my current team was on that team except for my Director of Operations, and she has stuck with me for probably about six or seven years. She started as a part time marketing person, and has evolved into her role that she is in now. She has had every single position on the team except for being a full time agent. She’s a licensed administrative assistant. She’s amazing. But I had great people. Everybody who has gone through my team, Krista Hopkins Homes, at some point has been a great person but the people who didn’t work out it was usually was back to either the wrong hire, I was too quick to make a decision, I was too quick to put them in a role that wasn’t fitting for them, or the team wasn’t a fit for them. There are some successful agents out there in our market, who started on my team but our team wasn’t a fit, and that’s okay. I think the biggest thing that I have learned when you are leveraging through people, as we all are when we are growing businesses, you’re going to make some leadership decisions that you’re going to learn from, and I think the biggest thing is to learn from those. 

My existing team that I formed through 2020, so we’re adapting to a shifting market. You know I started when it was a buyers market in 2012 and I’ve been through market cycle changes. but they haven’t. And so being able to lead through that is challenging as well. Even though we are doing well, we have had our own set of challenges adjusting to that market.

What do you guys do to generate the number of leads you need to close 113 units a year? 

Well they’re not coming from a large syndicated site that sells advertising to REALTORS®. I really feel that the best business is a referral based, repeat business. So what we do is we offer a client experience with a very high bar so that we can earn that repeat business but we also work very hard on referrals. Keller Williams is great network for agent referrals and we have been very blessed to receive lots of those. Even though I made that joke about real estate being easy if it wasn’t for people, we of course value people so much. We take care of them and make sure they know how to send us business and support us as well.


How do you purposefully drive agent referrals to you?

I connect with a lot of agents across the country. I’m a member of Tom Ferry coaching. We also have also been involved with MAPS coaching, which I love. The Keller Williams network of agents across the country is amazing. So we utilize those tools, and connections, and resources. And it’s different than just going through a database and finding someone in Omaha, Nebraska and calling them up to send them a referral. It’s really building those relationships that you would with a potential buyer or seller in your database. I’m good at nurturing those connections. I’m really interested in other markets. I love to travel, so I go to conferences if I can as much as possible. I love to meet other agents. I love to learn about their market. I love to learn about them. I might have three to four in a specific market that I know like and trust that way if I find a client, I can find them someone who is tailored to their needs.

Another agent on my team, their success is through BNI, Business Networking International. One former agent on my team who is still with Keller Williams, she serves a really small market in Northeastern Oregon, and she created one. I have two other agents on our team who have joined BNI groups.

We do VIP events quarterly. We really like to take care of the people who are supporting us, and it’s not a past client event because some of them have never bought or sold with us. They’re just advocates for us, and they’re like “If I ever buy or sell, I’ll use you. But in the meantime I’m going to refer you to everyone I know.” So we do events and we really take care of them.

You made a comment about the client experience. What have you done to go and build this incredible client experience that causes people to work with you again or refer you?

I’m big on communication. You know, NAR (National Association of REALTORS®) says it’s the number one complaint that people have about the real estate process, is that they weren’t communicated with adequately. And that can vary with each person. But what we do is what you mentioned earlier is that if you’ve done it once, then you should have a process for that. I am the same way. We have a process for everything. It’s so easy to set up things within Command and create processes and workflows. So we have a process for every single thing. We have lots of checklists, and we are constantly improving that. It’s a living document.

We do a little it’s time to pack gift as a little touch when they are through the inspection process. It’s packing tape, a little bottle of sparkling cider, a sharpie, wrapped up with cellophane with a little note that reminds them to pack. Which of course as agents we always want people to pack early and often, but it’s also just a nice touch to say “Hey, we’re thinking of you.”

It’s everything from that to just making sure we are writing down that preferred method of communication. Is it text? Is it email? Is it phone call? We are not assuming anything. 

We have a very detailed buyer questionnaire that we have developed. Where we have wants, needs, and desirable aspects on there. 

We really make sure that the process, and I think that’s why we’ve leverage our support staff as well, because we want the agents to be out there doing what they do best. Negotiating, lead gen, writing offers, going on listing appointments, and then we want our support staff to be assisting in any way that they can to make that process smoothe. 

My clientele is heavily consisted of engineers and scientists. We have a lot of those in Tri-Cities, Washington. I do really really well with that market and they’re very detail oriented. So, that has flown over to the rest of the team as well. But everyone likes a good process, Even if you don’t realize that’s what’s happening, everybody wants to feel taken care of and communicated with.


What are you most excited about now as you look forward to the future of your career?

Being with Keller Williams, moving our team over there, one of the things I love is just the MREA model, just being able to see what can happen. You can’t believe in something if you can’t envision it. So to be able to look at that and go ” I can see us expanding. I can see us expanding into another market.” You know, we are in three MLSs so that’s pretty exciting. That’s something that I never would have envisioned four or five years ago. We have two bilingual agents on our team, so we are growing and expanding. I have a ten year plan to not be working in the business, but to be working on the business. I love the fact that now that our team is expanding that I am providing growth opportunities to those people on our team. So I have a Director of Sales. So she wasn’t listed as support staff when I discussed our team make up with you, but Alessandra Dearing is our Director of Sales and she is stepping into that role and growing into that. Eventually she will take over what I am doing day to do, and then we will have another person in Director of Sales. And probably our support staff will shift, and I’m thinking we will have a larger listing division and buyer division. I have some great org charts in my brain and I will sometimes jot them down, but having those models and the MREA has been very very helpful to me to be able to see what is possible. And to be able to create something like this, it’s such a great framework to do so, being with Keller Williams.

Based off of what you know today, if you were to go back and talk to your younger self, getting into real estate, what advice would you give?

That’s a great question. Most of the agents that I recruit, my avatar for an agent, is a brand new to business person, because I really like to have people that have that excitement. I always say I’m looking for Hungry, Humble, and Smart. I would have really focused on that as brand new to business, because there are so many distractions. You know, be hungry, be gritty, be determined, be stubborn, be brave. That’s what I mean by being hungry. Be humble, you don’t know what you don’t know. Know that other people that have gone before you know more than you do, and be open, and have a growth mindset. And then finally, be smart. That’s the easiest one I think for most agents to get, because most people aren’t smart. But you have to be continually learning, you have to stay up to date on technology, on marketing, and on the laws that are affecting our industry. So hungry, humble, and smart is what I would tell people. Focus on that and ignore all of the shiny objects if you can.