Desmond Graham spent seven years working for his family’s real estate firm outside of Austin, TX before joining Watters International Realty. During the final few of those years, Graham had grown unsatisfied with the traditional brokerage model, where, in his words, “agent is everything,” and he began searching for a more progressive model that might provide the support and infrastructure of full-service businesses in other industries.
Graham’s search for a team-oriented real estate model led him to The Million Dollar Real Estate Team, Chris Watters’s book about building a team in the industry, and Graham said the discovery felt like destiny. “It was exactly the idea I had been thinking about,” he said. “It was like a blueprint for everything I wanted to do.”
Chris Watters founded his firm, Watters International Realty, in 2010 with the express intent of creating a new kind of brokerage model, one that used a team structure to expedite the growth that most firms spend years chipping away at their market to achieve.
Watters’s model proved successful, quickly seizing an outsized market share for the firm and establishing a formidable brand throughout Texas. In 2017, Watters International Realty made the decision to continue expanding their brand with a team-based model, and the company will take on its first batch of team owners this year.
Those first team owners will be taking on an operational model that has already been tried and tested by a number of licensees—independent operators who signed on to run to run Watters International-branded realty offices in 2016 and 2017. Desmond Graham was one of those early licensees, and we spoke with him about why he decided to join Watters International Realty.
How did you learn about Watters International Realty (WIR)?
Graham: I’d been thinking about different styles of brokerage models, and in my research, I’d come across Chris’s book. It really struck a chord with me, because I wanted to own a business and not just be a realtor, and that’s exactly what the book is about. My parents own their business, but they are the brokerage; if they take a day off, the entire business takes a day off.
I ordered the book through Facebook, so Chris had my info, and he called me just as I was finishing up the book. He asked me to come check out their concept in Austin. I spent a day there seeing how everything worked, and I came back and gave it a lot of thought. I loved it, but it was tough to leave my parents’ business and jump into something brand new, so Chris invited me up again to spend two more days there and learn more about where they planned to take the brand. Everything I saw was exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to take the leap.
What about WIR’s model appealed to you?
Graham: I was drawn to the team aspect because, with the traditional model, you are the business, and I didn’t like that. I wanted to build something that could run without me. I’ve always wanted to be a business owner, and WIR is an opportunity to own a business where you don’t have to personally be responsible for every single daily process.
After I met Chris, I explored a couple other real estate brands to see what else was out there, and there was nothing like WIR, nothing that focused on a team model.
How does WIR’s team model differ from other real estate brands?
Graham: For most brokerages, the idea is to hire as many agents as possible so that they can each be out getting business, but they don’t get much support. At WIR, we’re more focused on hiring a small number of the best agents and giving them everything they need to do great work. Chris always says, ‘find the who,’ meaning find the right people that fit your team.
How has your WIR business grown since you started?
Graham: We started with zero business and built a portfolio from the ground up. That was back in January. Now we’ve got 19 listing agreements signed. We have four agents on the team, and we’re looking to bring on four more. I’ve also just hired an assistant.
I had a couple of goals in the beginning that we surpassed very quickly. I never imagined I could secure so many listings in such a short period of time.
How has WIR helped you meet and surpass those goals?
Graham: More than anything it’s the experience that Chris and his team have brought to the business. He’s made all the mistakes already and learned from them, so we can take those lessons and avoid the mistakes that most new brokerages run into. That allows us to grow much faster than we could on our own.
We have owner calls every Thursday, where we discuss any issues we may be having, and Chris gives us specific advice on how to deal with them. There is so much support from people who have already gone through any situation you may encounter. It really helps you navigate the business in a much smarter and more efficient way than you’d be able to otherwise.
What are your goals for your business now?
Graham: We’re going to continue growing. We’re moving into a new office soon because we are bursting at the seams right now. In the next two-to-three years, I’m hoping to net $1 million dollars. In the next five years, I want to be the number-one agent in the Fort Hood area, which would be about 770 homes sold total and about 30 percent of the market share.