Suzanne Koller – Stay the Course

Suzanne Koller sits high in the rankings as one of the Top 1% of agents in MA. As a listing agent, she is #1 in Bedford and has been since 2013. She has built a team of highly successful Buyer Agents, who are also claiming the top spots.

Of critical importance to Suzanne and her team is her work within the community, advocating for and supporting local schools and charities, and sponsoring numerous community-building events. Click here to read more about Suzanne.

Show Notes

Welcome to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast where you’ll hear the good, the bad and the ugly of how real estate agents overcame challenges and grew their business. Check out the Episode Notes at CrushItinRE.com/podcast. Here’s your host, Lindsay Favazza.

Lindsay Favazza: Welcome back to the Agents Who Crush It in Real Estate podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Favazza. Our guest for this episode is Suzanne Koller of Suzanne & Company with Compass, a distinguished realtor with a heart of service and a knack for making dreams come true. With over two decades of experience representing buyers and sellers in historic towns northwest of Boston, Suzanne has honed her expertise in handling unique properties, some of which built prior to 1945. 

A skilled communicator, researcher, and networker, she’s dedicated to not only meeting but surpassing her clients’ expectations and is also a firm believer in real estate as a long-term investment. With a background in restaurant management and an education from the Disney College program, which we’re going to have to talk about, she’s perfected a blend of extraordinary customer service and practical experience that we can’t wait to explore in today’s episode. Welcome, finally, to the podcast, Suzanne. 

Suzanne Koller: Yay, Lindsay, thank you so much. I know it’s been a few hits and misses with us trying to get together, but good things come to those who wait, right? Thanks for having me. 

Lindsay Favazza: Say. Absolutely agree. I’ve known you for a few years now, and I knew that this was going to be an episode that people would want to hear. I did not care that you and I both had to move around schedules to get this to happen, but I’m super excited that it’s finally here. Let’s dive right into it. Tell me about your Disney experience, because that was something I was surprised to hear about. 

Suzanne Koller: That’s funny. Thank you. Yes. When I was going to UMass Amherst for the hotel and restaurant management major that I was in, a lot of my friends were doing the Disney College internship program. This was over 20 years ago, so at the time, it was super competitive to get into it. A lot of people would apply and not get in, but I got in. I was very happy about that and I had an awesome experience. Instead of a semester abroad, it was a semester at Disney. My job was a lifeguard. I was a lifeguard at the Yacht and Beach Club Hotel, but you would take classes, I had to bring a suit, I got to shadow the manager of the hotel because that’s what I wanted to get into. They really honed into us what makes Disney so special and what– to make those customer experiences. I had a blast, but I also learned a ton. 

Lindsay Favazza: So much. 

Suzanne Koller: So much. 

Lindsay Favazza: It’s the customer experience. Must have been pretty incredible. 

Suzanne Koller: Yes, it really was. To see behind the scenes and all the things that it takes, when you’re a guest there, you have no idea all the chaos and mess that’s happening behind the scenes. I always joke with my team, but it’s the same thing, like with a restaurant, the back of the house, the front of the house, the kitchen out to the dining room, and it’s the same thing with real estate. It’s like there’s a lot that’s going on behind the scenes, but you want your clients to walk into a beautiful open house, or you want your clients to have a great experience and they don’t need to know all the stuff that’s going on in the kitchen. 

Lindsay Favazza: No. Keep that behind closed curtains. 

Suzanne Koller: Totally. 

Lindsay Favazza: Tell me about your start in real estate. It’s been a little while because you started a little while back. Tell me about your experience getting into the business. 

Suzanne Koller: Funny, actually. I got back from the Disney internship, and I had been working in some restaurants and things. I was still at UMass, and I had the epiphany again, seeing my friends graduating, and they were moving all over the world for hotel or country club management jobs and the restaurant business. I love it, but it’s so brutal, so many hours, holidays. If your dishwasher calls in, you’re the dishwasher. Probably worst of all is I can’t cook so I was like, “I’m going to be in trouble here.” I needed to pivot much to my parents’ chagrin, because I was getting ready to finish this degree, but half of my classes at the time at UMass were in business, so marketing management facilities. I had a good business background, and I always loved real estate. 

I’m doing this podcast from Cape Cod right now. As a kid come down here with my parents, we had a house, and literally, even when I was eight years old, I would get those little real estate books and I would circle the houses. I would ride my bike literally to open houses. I played real estate agent. I had a pink phone and a briefcase. I would study that designs and the architecture. I literally always loved real estate and architecture, but I didn’t think of it as a career. There wasn’t a major in college at the time to go become a real estate agent. 

Lindsay Favazza: They don’t tell you in high school, “Hey, if you want to get into selling real estate, here’s the course. Here’s what you have to do.” They don’t do any of that. 

Suzanne Koller: Exactly right. It’s like uncharted territory. I didn’t know many young people in it either that I could talk to, but I convinced my parents to let me get my license. I was 21 when I got my license. Full disclosure, because I think it’s a fun little fact, but my grandfather from New Jersey had a brokerage, my maiden name’s Schmuhl, and it was Schmuhl Real Estate on Main Street in New Jersey, but he sold it the year I was born. I didn’t grow up in the business, but overall [crosstalk]. I was very close to him and he was a very self-made man. I had a lot of respect for him. It’s in my blood truly. I got my license and this wonderful woman named Linda from Coldwell Banker called me and was like, “I see you got your license and you’re so young. I want to talk with you.” 

Long story short, I did fast start while I was still in college. Sometimes I get very lucky. When I was about to graduate, Linda called me and she’s like, “I left Coldwell. I’m going to the very first startup company ever called Zip Realty out in San Francisco, and I want to be one of our very first field agents,” they called it, “Back on the ground in Boston.” As a kid graduating college, I had a salary, benefits, a car, a cell phone- 

Lindsay Favazza: Ideal. 

Suzanne Koller: -and leads. I hit the ground running, I was all over the state, like Worcester, Plymouth, Beverly. I was all over the place for two years. I just left, and that’s how I got my start. I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks because Linda was helping me, but I didn’t really have somebody that was mentoring me. 

Lindsay Favazza: You were on your own. For sure. 

Suzanne Koller: Yes. It was a great way to learn. I just hit the ground running. Again, that is– 

Lindsay Favazza: You had to learn how to hustle for sure. 

Suzanne Koller: Amen. Yes, totally. 

Lindsay Favazza: How long before you– I know I’m fast-forwarding through your career here, but how long before you started a team? Because in this intro, I didn’t really truly mention your team other than the name of your group, but I know you have a really strong team of some amazing people. You have such a great group of people with you. Talk to me about that transition and when you decided you needed to have a team and all of that. 

Suzanne Koller: Another pivotal moment, there’s always these pivotal moments in our careers. I was about two years in and I had– Again, working, working and making not a lot because it would give a rebate back. I was doing okay, but I was seeing what other agents were making that were on their own or whatever. I did a wonderful deal with my longtime friend, Jennifer Giuliano, at the time Keller Williams, and then she’s like, “Oh, you should really look into this.” Bottom line is I started looking into Keller Williams and they’re so much into being an entrepreneur and having your own business and having a team and all that. That’s when I left Zip and went to Keller Williams, but I was in an office in Westboro. I was far away trying to get back to my hometown of Bedford and trying to break back in, but I have a little plaque that says Suzanne & Company established early 2000s, because bottom line is even before there was an end company, I knew I wanted the end company. Put it out there. 

Lindsay Favazza: Take that ahead. 

Suzanne Koller: Then it’ll grow. That’s how it started. I really did follow the model of– I’m not with Keller Williams anymore, but it was a great company when I was there. I followed that model. I know you guys do a lot of that and your agents who’ve

Lindsay Favazza: Yes. Training, getting people up to speed. Absolutely. Well, that’s awesome. Then what were some of the challenges that you had transitioning into this team? I have a general idea what those challenges are because we’ve obviously had some of those things that we’ve worked through here, too, but what were some of the things that you had to deal with as far as starting the team up? Did you run into any bumps in the road? I’m sure many. Talk to us about those. 

Suzanne Koller: Challenges with creating the team. Yes. I’m always very like, tell the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I think one of my biggest mistakes, it’s always very scary to have leverage, so all of a sudden I’m responsible for my clients, but now I’m responsible for other people on my team. Am I going to make enough to– That’s probably, to me, one of the scariest transition points to go from me to we. I made some mistakes because again, I was financially scared. I would hire somebody that I was like, “You’re going to be a buyer agent and an assistant.” Now you know, it’s like those are two very, very different personalities, so that didn’t really work. Lesson learned. Have somebody that’s just in one seat that loves that seat, that’s really good at it. That’s was one of my first challenges. 

Lindsay Favazza: Then as far as marketing yourself now as a team, marketing your business, getting yourself leads, things like that, what were some of the things that worked for you then that still work for you now that you would never give up on? What are some of the things that you do to market yourself? 

Suzanne Koller: It’s a great question, Lindsay. I think just being such a community connector, again, I always wanted to get back to Bedford and become a top realtor there and it’s my hometown. I think that’s a thing that’s helped us stand out too is we just genuinely care about the community. We’re very, very involved. We do a lot of events. Somebody the other day was like, “I can’t ever move away from Bedford because you make Christmas so magical and–“ 

Lindsay Favazza: Oh, that’s so cute. 

Suzanne Koller: It’s fun. I think that’s where I tie in the hospitality too doing these events or trying to create these memories and things for people that’s way beyond the real estate. I think that’s been key. I started off by just farming certain neighborhoods and really trying to get my presence there and be a resource too. It’s way beyond the house. It’s like, “You need a babysitter, dog walker, a plumber,” just being that resource for people. I think that’s always been a hallmark of what we’ve done and luckily now it’s just grown and grown. That’s been awesome. Like when we do an open house trying to really invite the neighbors and get people engaged and letting people know what’s happening in real estate. The other day I was saying to some of my agents, we all have financial planners and they check in with us multiple times a year, like “Hey your portfolio is worth this,” or “You might want to change this.” 

I think we should be doing the same thing as realtors for our clients. Like, “Hey, it’s been a year, did you know that your house is worth this?” Letting them know where they stand because it’s most people’s biggest asset. Just really treating it with that level of respect. 

Lindsay Favazza: I think that that really does tie back to your Disney experience, your restaurant experience, and that original training that you had. I love when I talk to people on here and they’ve weaved their background into the– There’s a lot of teachers in real estate that were teachers and now they’re this. I just think it’s such a cool thing that you’ve done. I think that I can honestly say that, yes, you have the community aspect down. Even if that was one of the only things that someone did to grow their real estate business, I feel like it’s so powerful that it really helps really strongly within a community. As long as you’re, like you said, bridging the gap between different businesses and different community members, I think that that’s so cool. 

Suzanne Koller: Thank you. 

Lindsay Favazza: Way to go, Suzanne & Company. 

Suzanne Koller: Thank you. I appreciate that. 

Lindsay Favazza: Talk to me a little bit about training your team, getting your team up to speed. I know as the main person for the team, the leader of the team, you wear a lot of hats. How is it that you manage to train people on your team, get them the information they need, answer their questions, but still do your job? 

Suzanne Koller: Oh, another very great question, and something that honestly, it’s a challenge right now. I’m not going to lie. 

Lindsay Favazza: Yes, absolutely. 

Suzanne Koller: I’ve been doing between 60 and 80 listings a year myself, and I have a great team behind me that helps me. It’s not just me. It’s a team, but it is a challenge because I want to make sure that I can be there to answer all my clients’ questions and make sure they’re good, but yes, also be a resource for my team. That, again, comes from strengthened people and having other people that also love the training. We’re actually looking for a director of sales to fill in another big leadership role on our team. That person would be solely focused on the training because we do a lot. We’re working on a proven– I call it the blueprint for success, but we’re working on– It’s like all the things that we do, but we want to just make sure that it’s documented, there’s a process for everything, and that everybody’s path might be a little bit different, but that every agent that comes on the team can clearly see, “Okay, I’m here, this is where I’m going to start.” It’s so hard these days. This business has hardened up, but the past couple of years have just been really, especially grueling. To give the newer agents a path and not have them get frustrated or burnt out and then, I call it the sophomore agent that’s then having some success, but now they want to go to that next level.  Exactly. Just having it all clearly spelled out. I think, I’m actually talking because I’m still very close with my old broker at KW. We talk all the time, just like I talk to Anthony all the time. 

Lindsay Favazza: Yes, absolutely. 

Suzanne Koller: All my people, we all help each other out. We’re so lucky, but we’re saying it’s so important to just have things happen organically too. Some people are just in the office on a Monday morning. Let’s brainstorm, what happened? Somebody had an incident over the weekend or a frustration or a situation, and that’s where that wisdom, 24 years of me doing this, I can say, “Okay, I’ve seen that. This is what we should do.” Just trying to let people be learning and growing on their own, but while having that safety and the foundation and the knowledge behind it. That’s what we’re working on. 

Lindsay Favazza: I love it. Tell me what would be your biggest piece of advice? You’ve had many years in the business. You’re a seasoned vet. You’ve been through the ups and downs of the market. You’ve been in the market long enough to have gone through some of those ebbs and flows. Now we’re going back through another little ebb if that’s the right wording. We’re going back through a little bit of that dip and we’re hoping to come out of it quicker this time, hopefully, but what is your biggest piece of advice for realtors out there that are either in the business for a couple of years or just getting into the business? What would be something you’d want to impart on them? 

Suzanne Koller: You said something about me, which was so kind earlier, but that servant part. I think that’s just a huge thing because sometimes we all get ourselves into a corner or we’re having a tough time and it’s like you have to always just remember first and foremost, what the client’s going through. We’re seeing people at some of their worst, most stressful times. I was talking to a friend that’s a wedding planner and we were both saying, you see people at a moment in time, but it’s such an important moment in time for them, and it’s very, very stressful. Just don’t take things personally is so much easier said than done, but just don’t take it personally. Stay the course and always do the right thing. Just know don’t ever burn a bridge. 

This world gets so small and you might have a bad situation with another agent or somebody in the world, and then you’re going to be on another deal with them. It’s like just try to take the high road and be patient and all that because it’s a long game. This is a really long game, and I think that’s why some agents get burned out fast. It’s like you’re really churning for a couple of years before it starts to click enough. Just be patient and give yourself a break too, because I do think we all burn ourselves out in this business. 

Lindsay Favazza: We’re hard on ourselves for sure. 

Suzanne Koller: Word. Yes. 

Lindsay Favazza: Last question I’m going to ask you, because I know we both have a tight schedule today, but last question I want to ask you, and it’s a fun one. Tell me your craziest real estate story that you can share on the podcast. 

Suzanne Koller: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I literally have so many. I always say I want

Lindsay Favazza: So many. Well, give me one or two then. We’ve got three or four minutes left, so give me one or two. 

Suzanne Koller: Two, I can picture one that I was probably at Zip and I was showing a condo in Arlington and knocke on the door, nobody’s there. The buyer and I go in and we’re looking around and we’re like, “Oh my God.” The bathroom door’s closed and the shower’s running, and we’re like, “Oh my God, get out, get out, get out,” because we knocked on the door, but he didn’t hear us because they were in the shower. 

Lindsay Favazza: Oh, in the shower? 

Suzanne Koller: Right. We go back in the hall, we’re waiting there and it was just so awkward because he comes out in a towel and I didn’t tell him we’re already inside. I was like, “Dude, I almost just saw you naked.” That was one that just goes back. 

Lindsay Favazza: When you did see him in the towel, was it– 

Suzanne Koller: It was pretty good. 

Lindsay Favazza: What’s the other one that you got? 

Suzanne Koller: Oh my gosh. I had an elderly seller that was unhappy with something that the buyers had done and I’m not going to say the word, but we’re at a closing, the most calm little demure woman comes into the closing and says to the buyers, “F you and the horse you rode in on,” and stormed out. 

Lindsay Favazza: You’re a little girl? 

Suzanne Koller: Yes. We’ve all these little things now around closings, we’re like, “Oh, I hope they’re not going to come on the horse.” Oh my God. If I think of more, I’ll let you know, but we all see so many weird things in this business but those are the few that stick out because I think it was pretty early in my career and I was like, “Oh boy.” 

Lindsay Favazza: “What am I getting myself into?” Well, I have to say that I wanted to ask you that question for sure because I have to say that one of the biggest things is you did our Crush It event a couple of years back and I came to your office to just film a video with you and I had so much fun with you guys. You guys are just such a fun group and so I knew that this question would just be a fun way to end it. Suzanne, I’m so glad we finally got to do this. [crosstalk] I’m so glad we got the chance to chat and hopefully we can have you on again. We’ll have to start planning it now so it can happen within the next year, but I love it so much. [crosstalk] Thank you so much. We’ll put all of our links and everything into the show notes so you guys can talk to her or send a message to her and find out more about her and her business. Again, thanks Suzanne for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you guys for you all listening. 

Suzanne Koller: [crosstalk] I love talking about building a team and all that. Please have people reach out and I’ll think of more awesome, better, juicy story. Next time we’ll have a whole half hour for that. 

Lindsay Favazza: We’ll have a whole thing. I love it. Thank you so much, Suzanne. [crosstalk] Thank you to our listeners. I appreciate you all, and we will see you guys on the next episode of The Agents Who Crush It in Real Estate. 

Speaker 1: As a real estate agent, you know that the industry can be tough to navigate with constant challenges and obstacles to overcome. That’s why we created The Agents Who Crush It in Real Estate podcast where top-performing agents share their insights and strategies for success. Join us as we dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of growing a thriving real estate business. Your host, Lindsay Favazza, will be your guide on this journey. So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn from the best in the business. 

 

Thanks for joining us on the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast. We hope you’ve learned some valuable takeaways. Be sure to take action and grow your business. You can check out the Episode Notes and more content from the show at CrushitinRE.com/podcast. And if you’d like this episode, and you’d like to hear more stories, please share with others, post on social media or leave a rating or review. To catch all the latest from Anthony you can follow him on Instagram at Crush It In Real Estate on Facebook and YouTube. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time.