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Meet Billy and Karen Ekofo

Billy and Karen Ekofo are Undisruptable


 

“It’s to know that change will happen regardless of the situation.”  

 

 

Billy and Karen Ekofo are a dynamic duo. Both are intimately involved in the real estate industry. Karen is committed to serving agents and their clients as a local title Attorney, and Billy is committed to serving members at LeadingRE. Their relentless quest to provide value and to help make things better for the industry is the driving force in all they touch.

 

“Our mission in everything we do is: How do we make them (independent brokerages) continuously better? So this idea is present in our events, in the tools and services we provide. It’s how can I make my members continuously better? Better than yesterday and better through the future.”

 

Even though this husband and wife power couple both work in real estate, it’s not every day they get to sit side by side in an interview since they have both earned their chops separately. But it’s their love for excellence and understanding of the importance of bringing humanity forward in every transaction that unites them. This is what makes them undisruptable.

 

 

Read more from our conversation here:

Billy Ekofo: Okay. I’m Billy Ekofo. I am with LeadingRE. And you are? Karen D. Ekofo: Karen Daley Ekofo I’m with Ekko Title.

Molly McKinley: Awesome. Tell me what the word undisruptable means to you.

Billy Ekofo: Oh, undisruptable.

Karen D. Ekofo: Undisruptable?

Karen D. Ekofo: Undisruptable.

Billy Ekofo: Yes. Karen D. Ekofo: Is that a new word?

Billy Ekofo: No, it’s been around. It’s something that cannot be disrupted. Right? It’s lasting. It’s…

Karen D. Ekofo: Continuous like a stream.

Billy Ekofo: Yes. All the above.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yes.

Billy Ekofo: But yeah, I just think of it as something that’s been tested, tried and true and remains the same. So yeah.

Karen D. Ekofo: I think it can’t be moved. I like that. Cannot be moved.

Billy Ekofo: Unshakable.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: Grounded.

Karen D. Ekofo: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Firm.

Billy Ekofo: Yes.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yeah.

Billy Ekofo: You’re the English speaker. Come on.

Molly McKinley:That’s cute. Okay. With all of the noise in the industry coming from agents and the industry from all different angles. What are some of the things that you’re doing to safeguard? Or what are you seeing others do that will never be displaced?

Billy Ekofo: So I’m going to let you start with this because I think the way you describe what you do at Ekko Title is very key. And this is based on the phrase you use, your mantra as an organization.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right? So our slogan is “We Make it Happen”. There are many cases, and I’ve already had two this year, where deals have come to us because other title companies could close the deal. And sometimes it’s knowing the right questions to ask to get down to the heart of the matter. And sometimes it’s a very simple question. Sometimes it’s reaching out. A couple of times I’ve had to use the attorney for our underwriter that underwrites our title insurance to go, “Here’s the problem, this is what I think.” And we work together and come up with the solution. Then I go back and I go, “Okay, here’s what we need to do.” But we really strive to make it a good experience for the consumer, but also to make sure that it’s a smooth experience to communicate with everybody, to really give good customer service. Because we recognize that at the end of the day, the consumer is sitting at the table with the agent, that’s the last impression that they have. And we want it to be a good impression because that will result in more referrals for the agent, which then makes them successful, and in turn, everyone else is successful.

Billy Ekofo: So in our case, at LeadingRE, one of the fundamental things that we strive to do is to make the best brokerages better. Right? So LeadingRE is a consortium of independently owned brokerages from around the world. Each with different cultures and different ways of doing the business, all really top real companies. So we see that and our mission in everything we do is: How do we make them continuously better? So that way they don’t see their spots. Right? The number one place to some other entity or they fear that is no longer relevant. Right? As an organization, that’s what we strive to do. So it’s present in our events, in the tools and services we provide. So every single day, why do you come into work? And this is literally what you’re going into. It’s how can I make my member continuously better? Better than yesterday and better through the future.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Molly McKinley: Perfect. Is there a story or a moment that you have? Or even watch seeing it in someone else that was just so way above and beyond, that you kind of were like, “This is the industry that people need to know about. This is what real estate looks like.”

Billy Ekofo: Oh wow, we can talk about 2016.

Billy Ekofo: Well it was for both of us really. So to give a background here, obviously the accent betrays me. It’s not English, although some people will think it is, it’s not. It’s French. So I’m originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, immigrated to the United States in 1998 due to the war. And at some point I met this lovely creature here. We got married. But there was a period of time where I didn’t see my parents. So fast forward to 2016- Brand Inman asked me to kind of share my story at Inman Connect in San Francisco. And I didn’t know this was happening. You just shared with one of our good friends, Peter Brewer, that it would be amazing, after I present, if I could be reunited with my family again. And without even batting an eyelash Peter Brewer just said, “Let’s do it.”

Karen D. Ekofo: Yep.

Billy Ekofo: So he reached out to Brad and to my former boss at the time, Eddie Berenbaum and connections were made. And somehow they raised the money to fly in my family from The Congo all the way to San Francisco to be reunited with me. And so I think that’s the industry, right? A lot of us, us included sometimes we get caught up into the compressing of the commissions, whatever issues agents are facing.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: But there’s another side to them. There are people here who will literally do anything and everything they can to make sure that you’re okay. Right? And we have witnessed, I mean you can share too. Because you were in the deep of it. So I didn’t know this was happening, you were actually the one on the phone and making sure the visa.

Karen D. Ekofo: I have to coordinate with your brother Johnny because when you write your letters to get a visa to come to the US there has to be an invitation letter to show that you’re legitimately coming for legitimate reasons and that you intend to return back. And then the plane tickets. Oh man, that was another, Eddie had ordered the plane tickets for your parents and one of the names got messed up. It wasn’t correct. And they said either he had to go to Congo to fix it or some other way. So literally he was in his car, he was on the phone, escalating it. And then finally figured out a way where he could go into a location and say, “Okay this is the name.” Correct it so that they could get their tickets. I mean we were all just…And then, your parents and everyone getting the interviewBilly Ekofo: Yeah.

Karen D. Ekofo: …they didn’t have a slot open until after the conference was over. So your parents had to reach out to their connections to work away so that they could literally get in. I mean it was literally, I think three days before the conference they got the approval letter and then immediately were boarding the plane because

Billy Ekofo: And then flew.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yeah. Flying.

Billy Ekofo: Flew across the, yeah.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yeah. Flying. Yeah. Because that was a two day trip to fly from Congo all the way to San Francisco.

Billy Ekofo: Well and then that’s just one example. Right?

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: And the other one, I guess for me personally, happened in 2018. I was attending CEO Connect and Mum and Dad are already back in The Congo. And then they had to be evacuated. And right there at CEO Connect that was the call from the UN. And I didn’t know at the time but in that very room were people, now that I obviously, Paul Boomsma was actually in the room there. Now I work at LeadingRE, I didn’t know at the time. And then Eddie sort of helped us as well too during the transition before I came on LeadingRE. So I guess what I’m trying to say or what we’re trying to say really is that real estate is not just about competition, margins, profits. It’s about an industry, we benefited from it from the personal connections as well. And I really wish people will put people before profit first. Right?

Karen D. Ekofo: It’s all about people. It’s a people industry. At the end of the day you’re dealing with people and their lives being affected one way or another. It just has that way of bringing that element to everything altogether.

Billy Ekofo: We wouldn’t be where we are …professionally if it wasn’t for you on the title side.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: And me on the real estate side, we wouldn’t be where we are today career wise if people didn’t see that we were worth their time and investment.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right and if they took took that risk and said, “Okay. I’ll give you a chance.”

Billy Ekofo: Yep.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yeah.

Billy Ekofo: That’s literally it.

Molly McKinley: Perfect. The last question I’m going to ask you is if you were to be sitting at a table with a bunch of agents and industry people who are worried about being relevant and there’s talking about all the IVI and the commissions going. What do you want to say to them? Speak some wisdom into that conversation.

Billy Ekofo: So I wish this was me speaking to them, but it’s the great philosopher called Denzel Washington, actually that says this. So let me set this up for you.

Karen D. Ekofo: Okay.

Billy Ekofo: So he’s had an interview with Jamie Foxx.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right?

Karen D. Ekofo: I think I remember this.

Billy Ekofo: Yeah, Jamie Foxx, Grey Goose has a show where he’s making, it’s an internet show where he brings in actors. It’s all in marketing, So he brings in Denzel and they are having this exchange, really quick, really funny. And then there’s a conversation about an actor and Jamie Foxx is asking Denzel, “Well what do you think of actors they’re always out there promoting themselves and their work and their new movies coming out. And Denzel just kind of looked at him, “You know, I don’t think you need to do that.” Jamie Foxx is basically like, “Well why would you say that?” What he said after that sort of, I latched onto it because branding for an actor is not to be known, it’s to be good. Right? So think about it for a second. How many times have you seen Denzel Washington in the tabloids? Or even in the news? It’s really rare, you could be doing a small interview somewhere. But it’s not in public, But it movie with Denzel Washington comes out and now people are interested. Right? And so his point was, he was saying basically to Jamie Foxx that that’s my brand., You want to keep people interested in you and long term so that they always anticipate where you are going to show up next. Now apply this to real estate and even title.

Karen D. Ekofo: Yes, yes.

Billy Ekofo:What’s the brand of an agent? We made it so that it’s all about the transactions. Right? But are they actually good? You could be well known and you could do a lot of volume as an agent, but you could be the crappiest agent and nobody likes you. That’s worse, right? Be good at what you do. The rest, it just follows. I think that’s my, perhaps for myself and for agents who hopefully will watch this. Focus on just being good. And being good it’s not that you do it, same amount of volume. It’s just good one step at a time. What happens after that? People know you’re good at helping them and helping them through the transaction. They will trust you and then transactions will come, recognition will come. Right? Chased after being good. So what would you say?

Karen D. Ekofo: Know who you are and know what you bring to the table.

Karen D. Ekofo: …lawyer. We struggle with some of the same issues that I see realtors struggle with. We have to have the answers because we’re lawyers. Right? You know the law, you come to me with the legal question, what’s the answer? Sometimes it’s a bright line, sometimes it’s not. And when I teach agents at classes and I say, “I know we all like to have a bright line fair. Housing is a great example, Right?” We like these bright line rules. What is discrimination? What is okay to do? But there really isn’t a bright line. We find ourselves in the gray areas, even with contracts, Right? They try to write up the contracts and we have lawyers who have gotten together and they have a standard form contract realtors use. We try to cover all the bases possible. But the thing is when you put something into a contract to cover a particular issue, then you raise another issue. So there’s no real bright lines. So you have to know who you are, be comfortable with who you are, and stay in your lane, Right? You will always be relevant if you’re studying the information, if you know what’s out there. If you’re able to articulate to the consumer, these are your options, ultimately it’s your decision. Right? So if you’re able to do that, then you won’t have to worry about all the noise, all the various changes. Change is inevitable. It’s going to happen. We have to recognize that change happens and we have to move with it and see, “Okay, how can I now incorporate this change into my business?”

Billy Ekofo: Yeah. The focus has never been not to go through change.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: It’s to know that change will happen irrelevant of the situation.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right.

Billy Ekofo: It’s, do I feel comfortable that I can navigate through it? which I think requires another skillset, another sort of mental state. Right? To know, to feel confident that I have the tools, the training and the services provided to me so that I can navigate through those changes and be okay.

Karen D. Ekofo: Right. Right.

Billy Ekofo: So anyways.


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