By Holly Dutton
Eric Barron is looking for a few a good men (and women).
The CEO of Keller Williams (KW) New York is focused wholeheartedly on the people of his business as the franchise looks to expand further in Manhattan.
“I feel that it is my job to bring focus and structure to the chaotic world of real estate,” said Barron. “And I think we owe that to the agent.”
He came on board at KWNY late last year, after Adina Azarian left the role to become the company’s executive director of new business development and amidst some finger pointing that the bold move to break into Manahttan might not be panning out as planned for chairman Ilan Bracha, the former PDE powerhouse broker who owns the franchise.
But Barron pooh-poohed the naysayers. “August, September and through October have been our best three months ever,” he said, adding that 16 agents have joined the firm within the past week. He declined to discuss specific listing or transactional volume at the company.
Barron, a native of Midwood, Brooklyn, has a perpetually upbeat attitude and a quick wit, which he once used as an amateur stand-up comic, testing out material at early shows in West Village clubs like Caroline’s with an act he described as “raunchy.”
Co-workers constantly knock on the door of his office at KWNY’s Park Avenue headquarters, and he takes time to exchange a few words with all of them.
His early professional career was in number crunching and he spent 12 years in the mortgage industry, rising to executive vice president of NY Mortgage. He founded his own Barron Mortgage Group and ran a mortgage training school for three years before he said he had an “aha moment” in the late 1990’s.
“For the past 10 years, I’ve wanted to put my face on a real estate company,” he said.
After spending a year mastering the DiSC assessment method — a Myers-Briggs type personality test, which stands for dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness — he became a distributor of the popular program for businesses.
“It was a life changer,” he said of the method. “The premise is that relationships aren’t about you, it’s always about giving people what they want.”
As a consultant helping managers train employees, Barron completed personality sessions with more than 5,000 agents, including associates from REBNY, LIBOR, Halstead, Prudential Douglas Elliman and Corcoran.
“You know when you find your calling teaching and educating? That was it,” he said.
He joined Keller Williams after visiting the company’s headquarters in Austin, TX. He said he had been approached by the real estate giant in the summer of 2011 about getting involved with the company. At first, he said, he was skeptical of a real estate franchise coming to Manhattan.
“A chain? In New York?” he said. His mind immediately went to the companies that have tried and failed here, including Coldwell Banker and ReMax.
“If I was going to do this, I had to be 100 percent sure their business model would work in Manhattan,” he said.
But KW had something different. Keller Williams allows agents to keep 70 percent of their commission up to $50,000, and all earnings from that point forward. It also has a shareholder plan. After visiting Austin and witnessing how the company functioned, Barron said he didn’t see it as a franchise anymore. “It’s a different business model,” he said. “It lets agents be agents.”
And business is going well, he said. The company is preparing to add more than 10,000 s/f to its current 25,000 s/f of space at 425 Park. It will be the third expansion since Keller Williams NY launched with a 1,000 s/f office in Trump Tower nearly two years ago.
It already has over 200 agents and is planning to have 1,000 within the next two years at “four or five” satellite offices around the city.
Describing the company as energetic, glass half-full, and forward-looking with a board of directors made up of its own agents, Barron said he is striving to put agents first and to prioritize training.
“I’m not afraid to give my agents power,” he said. “I really believe other firms are afraid to give agents power. There’s no substitute for intelligence, no substitute for belly hunger.”
He said he’s looking for people that are “open, rather than closed.”
“They definitely need to be entrepreneurial, focused, that this is their career,” he said. “They look at themselves more as a real estate advisor, not just an agent or broker.
“If I strictly focus on [working ] with super bright, fully committed real estate professionals, all the numbers will take care of themselves,” he said.