Using the Keller Williams Models to Innovate and Expand

Keller Williams Associate Ben Kinney standing at a metro station


Investing in Innovation

Home4Investment’s Ben Kinney uses the Keller Williams models to innovate and expand.

When Ben Kinney decided to launch a couple of startup technology companies, he turned to the Keller Williams models and systems that had helped him create one of the nation’s top producing real estate teams. If it ain’t broke, he reasoned, don’t fix it.

“From the first day I started my career in real estate at Keller Williams, I knew I was going to learn how to follow the models from The Millionaire Real Estate Agent (MREA) and build a successful team,” Kinney says. “What I never realized was that, from the beginning, Gary Keller meant to teach us not just that, but really how to build a business of our own.”


Kinney came from humble roots and was selling and installing cable television when a real estate agent passed along Keller’s bestselling book. A decade later, Kinney’s a mega agent. He owns and operates seven Keller Williams franchises and the Home4Investment Real Estate Team in Bellingham, Wash. Kinney’s real estate empire is home to more than 700 agents in six different counties.  Kinney’s 2014 closed sales volume has surpassed $75.6 million with several months to go.

“The models I have learned along the way from Keller Williams apply to my real estate business, but really the economic, budget, lead generation and organizational models are the foundations of  every successful business,” he says. “After building my team, the other businesses have been a piece of cake.”

Leverage Allows Time to Innovate

In 2014, Inman News named Kinney its Innovator of the Year, primarily for launching several successful technology startups that have the potential to transform the real estate industry. Two of his technology companies are Brivity and  Blossor. Brivity is a “transparency tool” that blends customer relationship management, marketing and task management into one platform that fosters stronger communication between agents and clients. Blossor, a long-tail listing portal,  provides a consumer-friendly platform that includes state-of-the-art search capabilities. The industry buzz Brivity and Blossor have generated makes a powerful case that Kinney was innovating at the right time and with the right tools.

“I believe we all earn the right to innovate,” he says. “Innovation before you have earned the right can cause business failure and financial stress, and in the end, it will affect your health and your relationships. This is why KW teaches going  from entrepreneurial to purposeful. Do the ‘P’ first, and then add some ‘E’ when you have earned the right.”

For real estate entrepreneurs who are considering taking the leap into innovation, Kinney stresses going back to basics.

“In order for you to innovate, first make sure you have succeeded in following a proven model like building a real estate team following the MREA,” he says. “The MREA models and systems do not require innovation because they are already  tested and proven. John Maxwell says that systems make the ordinary extraordinary. That is what growth is really about – creating and sharing systems that have the ability to empower others to have successful careers and amazing lives.”

Kinney has done just that through his teams. He follows the Recruit-Select model when adding members to his team with the aim of training them to become future leaders in the much larger organization into which he hopes his businesses  will evolve. One specific goal he’s committed to is making 10 people in his organization into millionaires. With a goal like that, it’s no wonder that Kinney devotes fully half of his time to recruiting the strongest cache of team members possible.

“Your most valuable asset will always be your time,” he says. “I split 50 percent of my time evenly between managing my sales teams, running my brokerages, leading my software companies and training agents. The remaining 50 percent of  my time is committed to my ONE Thing – finding and hiring talent for all of my companies. I believe that, when you resolve to make your life about the ‘who’ instead of the ‘what,’ your life potential becomes truly unlimited.”

The time to focus on the who is one of Kinney’s biggest keys to productivity in both his real estate business and his tech companies.

“When you focus on the who, you’re only one great hire away from any goal you ever want to achieve,” he says. “That might be an employee, a company or a coach. If one of my businesses is struggling, I know it has everything to do with the  people I have in place. Either I have the wrong person, they are not being held accountable or they need more training. It’s why I have taken Recruit-Select more than 10 times and have a collection of AVAs that look like the Encyclopedia  Britannica.”

Time Management and Prioritization

The other two keys to productivity that Kinney relies on are time management and prioritization.


“I have taken time management to a new level for my own life. I have eliminated all alerts, vibrations and rings on my phone. I deleted social media accounts, I share an office with others so I can’t hide when I am being unproductive, and I  try to only do what is written on my calendar.

“Priority is another key. In The ONE Thing, Gary (Keller) and Jay (Papasan), they say that every yes must be validated by one thousand no’s. If you’re not being productive, start saying no to a lot more things. Every dollar I have made has  been because of a few important no’s.”

Throughout his decade-long journey from cable guy to Innovator of the Year, Kinney has faced innumerable bumps in the road. Along the way, he uncovered the following advice for others seeking to become mega agents or innovators – or  both.

“Slow down!” he implores. “Make sure your business right now is making a solid net income and that you have reserves for your business and your personal life. Expansion expands your opportunity to levels agents have never imagined. At the same time, it also expands the inefficiencies, mistakes and lack of systems. If I could share one thing, it would be don’t model yourself after agents who sacrifice health and relationships for success in the workplace.”

Image and short story about Ben Kinney's childhood and his dedication to giving to others