Figure out what sets you apart, and brand it! I was the first agent in Augusta who used billboards to market my services. Now, most agents are doing it. Having those billboards led to my first big sale in the business after a visiting man called me to help him buy property close to where they hold the Master’s tournament. He paid me $100,000 if I could get seven homeowners on a particular street to sell to him. I did.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Venus Morris Griffin.
Venus Morris Griffin is a mom of 7 children, an award-winning real estate agent, motivational speaker, and author of an upcoming 2021 book. In 2011, her life was forever changed when a phone call in the middle of the night unraveled her husband’s wrongdoings. It eventually led to him being sentenced to jail for 45 years and Venus becoming the sole provider for their 6 young kids. Through hard work and determination, and against the expectations of many, Venus has been able to successfully grow her real estate business to achieve the career of her dreams and provide her family with the security and stability she always craved.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
I was a stay at home mom to five kids with my sixth on the way. As you can imagine, finances were tight for our large family. My husband would bark at me to help make money, and I felt like if I did, maybe it would take some stress off of him. I was tired of never having enough money.
I was college educated, but I didn’t have much work experience other than the waitressing I did in college. I knew I would be limited in what work options would be available to me, especially since I needed something that was part time and flexible. Being a mom was my top priority.
One day, I noticed a sign stuck in the ground on the side of the road. It said, “Do you want to make money and be your own boss? Become a real estate agent!” There was a lady I went to church with who was a successful real estate agent while also being a mom to five kids. I thought if she could do it, maybe I could too. I signed up for classes, and never looked back.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Last year I received a phone call from two investors inquiring about a very high-end residential property that I had listed. I went and met with them the next day, and showed the property to them. We developed a business friendship over the next few months, and I ended up doing a lot of real estate transactions with one of them. Six months later, my client confessed to me that they originally called me because they had a bet between the two of them about my signs they saw. The guy from Germany wagered that my photo on my sign was at least 30 years old, and the investor from France bet the photo was only 20 years old. When I showed up in my black business suit radiating confidence, they quickly figured out that I had not misrepresented myself on that little piece of cardboard.
I found it funny, because often when I met other realtors, they don’t resemble any of their marketing photos, because they were taken so long ago.
I always want to meet and exceed expectations my clients have of me, and that starts with the proper marketing and branding of myself before I actually meet my clients. I have never understood why someone would want to start a professional relationship with a potential let down.
The lesson to be learned in my opinion is never use a photo older than 5 years. Be the best you can be at every stage in your life. Don’t ever shy away from your age; let it give you an edge over your younger competitors.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my memoir titled, “Validated: Learning to Matter Through Breaking the Cycle of Abuse”. It focuses on the lessons I learned along the way to becoming the person I am today.
I’m thrilled to get to share my story with others. You will learn step by step how I built my real estate empire.
I’m already hearing from women who have heard me talk about my life how they felt inspired to be more courageous and make their own life changes.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
“Meybohm Real Estate Company stands out because that is where Venus Morris Griffin works,” says John Chambers, Meybohm Senior Vice-President.
I chose my brokerage because they dominated in market share, and 25% of the top 100 agents in Augusta worked for them. Meybohm agents averaged just under 20 transactions per year, almost doubling the national average. They offered full-time, non-competing broker support, and a fully staffed marketing department for assisting agents in building their individual brand. I also knew that Meybohm was affiliated with “Fine Luxury Properties,” and they were a member of Leading RE, which is a global referral network that would help me as I worked my way up the ladder.
I could start my own brokerage firm tomorrow, but the reality is I have the best broker in town, and I value his support. He has earned my loyalty. In 2020, I grossed over 60 million dollars in sales.
My success has come through being good at branding who I am. Always being honest with clients, so they have great trust in me. I’m good at building relationships. I see the value in developing relationships with my clients. It brings me a lot of repeat business and referrals.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was blessed to have a great broker who truly wanted to see his team of agents succeed. He helped me to get the training I needed to get my start in the industry.
However, a dear friend named Rhonda, came on as my assistant. Even when I was making very little, she knew I needed the help so I could also be home to have dinner with my children. This became very important after their father was sent to prison. I was a single mother barely able to keep up with our expenses and the vast debt my ex-husband left us in. Rhonda stepped in and continued to help me for free. She believed in me and knew I would catch her up with pay as soon as I could afford to. She wanted me to succeed without slacking on my role as a mother during a time my children greatly needed me. I am most grateful to her for her kind and selfless act of service as I got more entrenched and successful in the industry.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
I believe women are more focused on their families. I entered real estate, because I thought it would give me the flexibility I needed to also be a mother. My children always came first.
I have also experienced sexism in the industry. I had to get help from my company to quash a rumor about how I must have slept my way to the top to get the top producer award so quickly. Very few were willing to accept it was my hard work alone that led to my success. Yes, the rumor was started by a man who was behind me in sales.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
Don’t overlook women who put their children/families first for leadership positions. You’d be surprised how successfully women can multi-task.
Companies should look to diversify their leadership departments. Do they have women who could adequately fill a role? Having a woman’s opinion in thought leadership discussions will help to broaden your ability to achieve success as a company.
I would like to see society become even more accepting of women wanting to hold dual roles as both mothers and business women. We have come a long way, but it would be nice to see even more flexibility and help for women who are making money for your company, but who also need to be there for their children.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenge that sets women apart is balancing their work life and expectations with also being mothers and meeting the needs of their children.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
- The competitiveness of the market is thrilling to me, because I love the challenge. I like to win for my clients. I’m very competitive, so this industry suits me.
- It forces me to be very creative in my marketing. I like to see how I can come up with ideas that help me edge out my competitors. Recently, I put up a billboard featuring a diverse group of women who are my clients, and the billboard has people talking about these successful women.
- I love that this industry helps me to change people’s lives. I help them either buy or sell their largest asset.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- The lack of morals in other agents. I hate seeing people lose thousands to those who just want to make a quick commission any way they can.
- I see agents take listings they know will not appraise for the value their sellers want. They are not forthright with their sellers, and it ends up falling through.
- Real estate agents aren’t well trained. They take a 12-week course and they are set free to potentially ruin people’s lives. The bar to entry is very low.
- Require agents to take “how to build a business” courses. They need more training.
- Require listings amounts to match appraisals unless dealing with all cash buyers
- Raise the bar of entry
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
You have to have good systems in place to ensure you are working smarter rather than harder. Do you have a system for follow-up? You don’t want any potential client to slip through the cracks.
Make sure you have a good database to catch all of your leads. Never fail to enter contacts info into your database.
You have to laugh through the absurdity with your team. Have fun. It can be a very stressful business, especially working at the speed we are working in 2021.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- You have to love talking to people. This is a “people” business. Early on in my career, I put on two big billboards in Augusta with my face on it. This made talking with strangers easier as they began to recognize me in places like the grocery store. Those conversations sometimes led to new clients.
- Get good at mastering scripts so you can let your dialogue flow in a conversational way. I will never drive by a “for sale by owner” sign without either calling the number or knocking on their door. I knew what I had to say to convince them to allow me to sell their home for them. I worked hard to never come over as salesy. Instead, I focused on how hard I would work to get their home sold. I let them know what I could do for them.
- Be the best you, you can be! I get up every morning at 5 am to workout. I am in the office by 8 am, dressed in a business suit, even when I don’t have any appointments on my calendar. You have to be willing to stay consistent in your daily life to be successful in real estate. As I become more successful, I still do open houses every Sunday. I stay consistent through the daily grind of maintaining and adding to my sales pipeline of customers.
- Don’t discriminate. I treat my $50,000 buyer like I treat my million-dollar buyer. They both will walk away feeling respected. I will never forget how hard I worked, or how great it felt when I helped an elderly man sell his $50,000 trailer. He needed the money, and I loved being the one who helped him get it.
- Figure out what sets you apart, and brand it! I was the first agent in Augusta who used billboards to market my services. Now, most agents are doing it. Having those billboards led to my first big sale in the business after a visiting man called me to help him buy property close to where they hold the Master’s tournament. He paid me $100,000 if I could get seven homeowners on a particular street to sell to him. I did.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Don’t ever let how others see you or treat you, dictate how you feel about you. I want to empower women to know their worth. You can be a mother, and you can also be a successful business woman. Don’t ever let anyone put you in a box they think you belong in.
Basically, I want to help women master their mindset.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can find me on my website, www.venusmorrisgriffin.com. They can also find me on Twitter @Venus_M_Griffin and on all other social media platforms @venusmorrisgriffin!
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!