From Food Stamps To Six Figures
In less than 18 months, Ryan and Heather Bigger of the Fort Mill (S.C.) market center went from food stamps to six figures by taking a leap of faith.
With $9.75 million in production and just one year in the industry, Ryan and Heather Bigger of the Fort Mill, S.C., market center are making a splash. But it’s a far cry from where they were two years ago.
At that time, as their family grew to include three children, the Biggers opted for Heather to stay home, while Ryan left his sales job for a better-paying opportunity driving a truck. Ryan later suffered a shoulder injury that left him unable to work, and one month after returning to that driving job following surgery, he was let go, meaning the Biggers went from having a single income to no income at all.
“Being a one-income family for three-plus years, we were cutting things tight as it was,” Ryan says. “What I didn’t realize before I took a job driving a truck is that no one wants to hire a truck driver for a sales job, even though I had a very good career in sales before.”
With more money going out than was coming in, the Biggers were forced to take drastic action – depleting their savings and 401(k), selling things online, borrowing money from family, and eventually requiring government assistance.
“I was out of work for about a year, and we were at a point where we were pretty close to putting our kids on free and reduced lunches,” Ryan says. “I was taking classes and trying to make opportunities happen, and nothing was happening.”
An Unexpected Opportunity
Coincidentally, some friends were on the hunt for their first home, and Ryan, born and raised in Rock Hill, S.C., would send them home listings he found online in between job searches – Heather did as well. After complimenting Heather and Ryan at how great of a job they were doing, the friends asked if the Biggers had ever thought about getting into real estate, and a lightbulb turned on – real estate would be a meaningful career that would help them live the life they wanted. Plus, they had been wanting to enter into a business together for years.
“From the moment we started dating almost nine years ago, we have been inseparable, so starting a business together was a no-brainer,” says Heather. “We had always really enjoyed touring open houses and viewing homes together, but starting a real estate business had never dawned on us.”
So, they decided to take a leap of faith and borrowed money from Ryan’s parents to go to real estate school, knocking out the classes in eight days. When they finished, they reached out to several brokerages, many of which weren’t returning their calls. Another friend had recently joined Keller Williams and connected them with his assistant team leader.
“The moment we walked in the door, we were welcomed with Keller Williams culture,” Heather says. “It was very warm and inviting, with everybody smiling and saying hello. It was just a feeling. Mind you, we didn’t know anything at that point about real estate, but our decision was made up the minute we walked in.”
The Biggers joined Keller Williams in September 2016 and enrolled immediately in Ignite – an action-focused, results-driven course that teaches lead generation, lead conversion, and contract negotiations.
Sticking to the Plan
“We were beyond blessed to join the market center at the same time as our productivity coach, Jake Dixon,” Ryan says. “We plugged in, doing everything they told us to do.” Yet, one month in, the Biggers were concerned. Ryan continues, “We looked around a month or so in, and others were getting appointments and contracts.”
So we asked Jake, ‘What are we doing wrong?’ He assured us that we were on the right track, saying, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Look at the weekly scorecards. You’re leading in trainings and contacts. When we look back in 90 days, you’re going to start seeing the results from the hard work you’re doing today.’”
The Biggers continued performing the activities they were taught: contacting everyone they knew, hosting open houses, door-knocking, and calling expireds and for sale by owners.
“We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel,” Heather says. “When we did those basic lead generation steps, like door-knocking, we didn’t have any budget for fancy-color paper fliers, so we put three black-and-white fliers on one piece of paper. That’s three fliers for a nickel.”
Ryan adds, “It goes to show you that it’s just about doing the activity. It doesn’t have to be fancy or flashy. It’s about getting out in front of people. Gary Keller tells us to lead with revenue. That first six months, there was no revenue to lead with. It was going out and knocking on doors, sending text messages, and talking to friends and family. The important lesson from that is, as a new agent, it’s more about how many people you talk to and not at all about how much money you spend to talk to people.”
Building a Business without Business
When they weren’t lead generating, the Biggers invested all of their spare time into education, taking every course offered.
“We weren’t busy with business, so we made ourselves productive by going and learning all that we could,” Ryan says. “We didn’t know anything about real estate or how to build a business, so we were just sponges. We would take people out to lunch or go get coffee and try to absorb everything they would tell us.”
They also made an effort to come into the market center every single day so they could avoid the distractions of home. Without offices, they would sit in common spaces, the kitchen, or training rooms.
“We would lead generate and, in between, listen to the conversations these agents we looked up to were having,” Ryan says. “I think it’s so important for newer agents to be present and to surround themselves with people that are where they want to go.”
The Biggers also knew that to get business, they needed to look like they had business.
“In the beginning, when we would go on appointments, we didn’t have numbers to refer back to, so we used the Language of Real Estate (LORE) and the market center numbers, because that’s volume,” Heather says. “When we got into social media and made our Bigger Group Facebook page, we didn’t have listings and weren’t closing deals, so we would share our market center’s listings, and it started to look like we were successful and busy.”
Fruits of Their Labor
In November, the Biggers secured their first listings. Then, days before their annual dues to the National Association of REALTORS® were due, with nothing in the bank, they had their first closings on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.
“Those two closings in 2016 were the only income we had for the year – just shy of $10,000,” Ryan says. “In 2017, with GCI, profit share, and the amount of money we made off of referrals, we made over $300,000 and sold 40 units.”
“We maintained our level of lead gen and narrowed our focus,” shares Heather. “When we first started, we were literally trying everything: open houses, door- knocking, calling FSBOs and expired listings, social media, and of course prospecting through our sphere of influence. We realized fairly quickly that our biggest return was going to come from our sphere. So, for all of 2017, we focused on consistently touching our SOI and being consistent on social media.”
They began posting about how they would go above and beyond for clients on social media, and, as a result, have built a core group of raving fans.
“We go to great lengths to help our friends and clients because that is what we love to do. Ryan has been known to cut the grass at listings before pictures, trim bushes, clean out gutters, and he once even ripped up the flooring for a first-time homeowner. By doing these things, we are growing our sphere with fans who love sending us leads. They don’t want their friends and family to work with anyone else.”
At the core of their business is a commitment to sticking to the activities, says Ryan. “We just did what we were supposed to do. If you follow what your coaches and the MREA and your mentors say, you can drastically change your life in a very short amount of time.”
The Biggers’ success comes with a “big why” driving it – their three children.
“As parents, there are times when you have to say no to your kids, and you don’t want to have to say no because you can’t afford something,” Ryan says. “That’s an awful feeling, and one that we’ll never have again.”
Heather adds, “We got to take our kids to the beach for the first time, the first family vacation we’ve ever had. One of the most eye-opening things was not having to look at our bank account when we took our kids back-to-school shopping. Keller Williams gave us the opportunity, and our lives truly did change.”
RYAN & HEATHER’S WORDS OF WISDOM FOR NEW AGENTS
It’s more about how many people you talk to and not at all about how much money you spend to talk to people.
When you go on appointments and don’t have numbers to refer to, use the Language of Real Estate (LORE) and the market center numbers, because that’s volume.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see your business grow right away. Stick to the activities. It takes 90 days to see the results of your hard work.
COMMIT TO LEARNING
When you aren’t busy with business, make yourself productive by going to your market center, enrolling in classes, and learning all you can.
Words by Shelby O’Neill
Photography by Ryan Kelly