At Keller Williams, keeping the spirit in the housing market

Bryan Brainard, broker and assistant team leader at Keller Williams Real Estate's Exton office, entertains 2-month-old Macy as she is cradled by her mother, Annemarie Hinds, who also is a broker there.

As the housing downturn grinds agonizingly into its fifth year, it is difficult to imagine that anyone working in real estate would be positively giddy about the job.

The people who work for Keller Williams Real Estate, if not giddy, say they are really happy working at the real estate franchise company, which has 23 offices and 2,122 employees in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, according to information supplied by the company.

Based on the responses to The Inquirer, Daily News, and Top Workplaces 2011 survey, Keller Williams, with 78,000 employees in the United States and Canada, headed the list of top large companies.

"Keller Williams is a great place to work because it focuses not only on growing successful businesses, but also on personal growth," said Amanda Nettles, the Exton office manager.

"Realtors are attracted to Keller Williams because of our training. We have the best in the industry, and it shows," Nettles said.

Nettles' exact title is "market center administrator," because that is what Keller Williams calls each of its 695 offices, making it, according to information provided by the company, the second-largest residential real estate firm in the United States.

The company says that in 2009, it was the only major real estate franchise company in North America to experience positive growth.

Each office is independently owned and operated.

The Austin, Texas-based Keller Williams has a corporate model that differs from that of many other real estate firms. In founding the company in 1983, Gary Keller and Joe Williams began a "mission to build careers worth having, businesses worth owning, and lives worth living."

Chris LaGarde is an agent and a member of the Exton center's leadership council.

"I hate salespeople, and I never thought I would ever do this," he said, adding that he has had "tremendous success in a very short time."

It is due, LaGarde said, to Keller Williams' "culture and training."

Nettles said that managers "encourage our employees and Realtors to be the best they can be in all aspects of their lives."

"For this reason, the energy is contagious," she said. "It is great to get up and go to work with people who are excited and passionate about what they do."

Remember that agents are independent contractors and not employees. Still, the comments by both employees and agents in the survey endorse what Nettles has said:

"I get to make a positive change in the world every day," one respondent said.

Another commented: "I have an opportunity to share my experience with newer agents and help them build their business through the classes I teach."

Still another said: "It is not a job. It is an opportunity that empowers me every day to invest my very best into whatever I am doing. It excites and motivates me to know that I am making an impact in the lives of others."

Nettles said Keller Williams has a national charity, KW Cares, called WeKare at KW locally. Agents have raised more than $10,000 in 2010 - giving "back to the community that feeds our own families."

Acknowledging that it is "easy to brag about KW," Nettles said that one of the best parts of working for Keller Williams "is the feeling that you're a part of something bigger."

"Exton is currently incubating a brand-new office in Devon, opening this spring, and it is awesome to watch the office start from nothing and grow to be an inevitably successful market center," she said.

"We call it our family, and it truly feels that way," Nettles said.

In response, agent Cindy Dickerman told Nettles: "You are one of the reasons we are a wonderful place to work."


Contact real estate writer Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, or Twitter: @alheavens.