An Interview with Casey Rutherford, Realtor & CEO of The Rutherford Group
Hi Casey! Tell us your story! Why did you decide to become a Realtor in the first place? What made you want to get into the Real Estate industry?
In a previous life, I spent my days as a Management Consultant (think suits, skymiles, and lots of CEOs to keep happy). I thought I'd do that forever, but in the back of my mind I’d always had the desire to build something for myself and not for someone else. In 2017, I got my real estate license and created an opportunity to combine my data driven approach to consulting and client service, with my love for all things home, relationships, and entrepreneurship. I took the leap, never looked back, and am now a Top 5% Atlanta Realtor & Team Leader.
What inspired you to start The Rutherford Group and how do you decide which Realtors you will bring on board along side of you?
I was a solo Realtor for a long time, but eventually I learned that I could serve my clients better & simultaneously grow my business if I could leverage my time and grow a team. Added bonus, it’s a whole lot more fun to grow together, too! I searched for my first team agent for six months before I hired her; it is and always has been so important to me that my team is able to deliver the same level of service that I can to anyone who works with us. I use the same approach when hiring now, always looking for agents who are willing to put their head down and grind, but who also love this business and are willing and ready to grow and serve at a high level!
Who has been your greatest role model or the greatest influence on you within the Real Estate Industry? (Can you share why?)
On a larger scale, I really respect Barbara Corcoran. I love hearing the stories of how she took the good ole’ boys clubs by storm and built an empire. On a personal level, my mentor Stacey Wyatt has shown me the definition of collaboration over competition, and has taught me not just how to sell houses, but how to build wealth and build an actual business.
Do you believe there are any advantages to being a woman in the real estate industry?
Absolutely! I think women are more intuitive, and being able to quickly read clients and situations is extremely advantageous.
What has been the biggest challenge for you within your career and how have you overcome it?
I think I’m often my own biggest obstacle. Isn’t that true of us all sometimes? It’s really easy for me to get in my own way, caring too much about what other people think of me, comparing myself to people who are years ahead of me in their own journey, and measuring my progress against theirs. I’ve been working on celebrating my own victories and focusing on “why” I’m doing what I’m doing, and ultimately that makes it all worthwhile.
What has contributed to your success in this business so far?
Honestly, I think I’m a realist and I have a lot of grit and determination once I set my mind towards doing something. A lot of people get into real estate expecting it to look like an episode of Selling Sunset or a flip show on HGTV, or think they can post pretty houses on IG from time to time and the business will fall in their lap, but that’s just not the reality. Real Estate agents who want to build an actual business have to put in the time on task over time in order to build sustainable revenue, and that can be hard when we don’t see the fruits of our labor right away.
How do you keep emotions in check and overcome the highs and lows that are inevitable within this business?
Oh gosh. Are you reading my mind this week? The highs and lows are truly inevitable - and they come in waves. We have to celebrate our wins (and celebrate the people who helped us get them!) so that when the lows come, we can move through them. Honestly, my people are what help me through the lows, too. Going through all the highs and lows, with our people, is what keeps me in check.
You literally do it all! Mother + Wife, Top producing Realtor, CEO + Mentor! How do you find such a great balance between work-life and family-life?
I don’t know that I even believe in balance any more. A lender friend the other day said it perfectly when she said, “Real Estate is the most flexible job with the least amount of freedom.” How true is that? We have flexibility, but we always have to be ON. To make sure that we’re not just blazing through life and missing the little moments, my husband and I are intentional about penciling in trips and family time at the beginning of the year so that we make sure they happen. Monthly, we carve out one-on-one time both with our kids and with each other as well, and prioritize quality over quantity time.
I’ve also learned that I don’t have to be the one to do it all, because no one can truly do it all and keep their sanity.
While I was busy working 80 hours a week and cramming in time with my kids in the margin, the last thing I wanted to do on a Sunday was sit and fold laundry for 3 hours when I could be outside playing with my family. So, we outsourced that, and other things in our lives that took time away from our kids. Leverage and asking for help is key to making it all work!
Choosing a brokerage and surrounding yourself with the right team is so imperative in this industry - what advice would you give to agents looking to join a brokerage or team?
This is so important, and definitely a two part answer. First, the brokerage an agent chooses is so important. Do they need an office they can go in to every day and have their hand held through each transaction? Are they a self-starter who can plug in to trainings in the cloud? Aside from the standard fees/splits questions, make sure to ask a broker 1) What is the sales volume/units sold of the top five individual agents and teams in the brokerage? 2) What training resources are available to me and are they in person? 3) Are there additional revenue streams through this brokerage outside of just your transactional business? 4) What is the average sales volume/units of all agents in the brokerage?
Even for a brand new agent, I think it’s so important for agents to surround themselves with people who are further down the road in their real estate journeys than themselves, so that they have the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with their peers. When I hear of brokerages that have 5 top teams, 400 agents, and average production is low, that tells me that a select few are keeping the lights on, and I’m probably not in an “iron sharpens iron” type of environment.
Wanting to join a team? 1) What are the expectations of the team leader for your daily activities and monthly production? 2) What resources are they providing to you, aside from leads, to help you grow your own business within the team? 3) What lead sources do they provide agents and what is the agent’s responsibility to capture the lead?
Agents oftentimes think that joining a team means that they will show up, and leads will be handed to them on a silver platter, when actually the best team environments are ones that teach the agents how to not just rely on the team leads but to build their own as well. Is the team leader guaranteeing you X amount of business? I actually don’t think that’s sustainable, because no one can guarantee that. The only thing a leader can guarantee is that they will provide the resources to teach the agent to be productive on their own. Teach a (wo)man to fish... ya know?
As a leader in the industry, what advice would you give to others who are ready to build their own team?
Be willing to work on the airplane while it’s in the air. Building a team is hard. Hiring is hard. Setting expectations and building systems is hard. But, as much as our mentors can tell us how to do it, we ultimately just learn by doing. So if you’re considering taking the leap, go for it, and give yourself lots of grace in the process. You’ll refine your systems and build something bigger and better than you could have ever imagined.
What has been your best avenue for generating leads and building your clientele?
Most of my clients come from my sphere of influence or social media, actually!
What would you say is your #1 tip for others to start thriving in their careers?
Timeblock and schedule in time every day to do revenue generating tasks to grow your business. The whole, “show me your calendar and I’ll show you your future,” phrase is so true. Don’t get so caught up making business cards and decorating social media posts that you miss out on actually getting out there, connecting with your people, and prospecting.
What’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself on day one as a licensed Realtor?
I wish I could have told myself then to start diversifying my lead strategies and building a database from day one. I relied for too long on one lead source, and while it was profitable and has served my business well over time, it’s not scalable. I like to think of lead generation as a three legged stool. All of your leads can’t come from one source. We all need to diversify and find balance. For example, if open houses are one of your lead strategies but listings are low and you’re not hosting any, how are you supposed to get more leads? You have to have other lead channels queued up so your lead flow continues to come through.
What advice would you give to empower other women within their real estate careers?
Bet on yourself. Truly. If you’re going to bet on anyone, BET ON YOURSELF. Take a risk. Do things differently. You can build massive opportunities for yourself through Real Estate, but nothing that’s worth having comes easy. Be ready to do the work, do the right thing, and the rest will follow.
Lastly, “The secret to success is...." not defined by the numbers in your bank account, but by the number of people you’ve helped find their own success along your journey.
Such fantastic advice! Thank you so much for sharing your story and your words of wisdom with us Casey!