Christian Ross, Managing Broker of Engel & Völkers, is not your everyday Realtor.
A former media sales executive, Christian has gone from selling radio shows to one of Atlanta's top brokers. Today, Christian serves an international client base that expands throughout Europe, South America, Israel, Canada, the Middle East, and Australia.
You could say, this team leader is a global thinker. But when it comes to her nurturing her agents, Christian fosters an agile, close-knit culture that keeps her team ready for anything.
In this interview, we sat down with the multi-coastal broker to discuss her unconventional real estate journey, her approach to building a future-ready team culture, and the tools and tactics that have helped her get where she is today.
Table of Contents
- Jumping the Divide: From Corporate Rockstar to Tech-Bullish Broker
- From a Single Squinty-Eyed Video to a Stellar Roster of International Clients
- Building a Customer-Obsessed Team: Train to Win
- What's Next?
Ready to watch the full interview? Sit back, grab a beverage and check it out below!
Jumping the Divide: From Corporate Rockstar to Tech-Bullish Broker
At 23, Christian Ross was doing well for herself. Despite the fact that it was 2011 and most companies were in the midst of a hiring freeze, she had landed herself a glam job as a media sales rep.
Only problem was, she was getting pretty tired of the constant battles that come with the media sales. “Selling Howard Stern and then defending Howard Stern got really old, really fast,” laughs Christian.
So, when a friend mentioned there was an opening in a boutique real estate brokerage specializing in condo conversions, she jumped at the opportunity.
"You know my mother gave me her, 'You have a corporate Amex and benefits. Why would you do this?’ And, I'm like, ‘If not now, when?’”
Despite the fact that she wasn’t licensed her first year, Christian's initial foray into the industry was a mini-MBA in all things real estate. "I learned the finance side, the marketing side, the sales side. It was the best training I could have ever gotten," she explains.
"My CEO was like, ‘Oh, you don't have an answer? Well, go sit there until you have an answer for me.' I think that was so helpful in really understanding the diligence of real estate and just how expansive real estate is.”
That expansive mindset would prove to be an essential element of Christian’s future success.
A New Beginning
After a couple of years of learning, building great relationships, and working at the nexus of residential and commercial real estate, Christian decided it was time to get her license.
She and her now-husband (who was also an agent on the team) put their arms around their CEO and said, "We're leaving.”
It was time to strike out on her own.
Still, Christian wasn't thinking of becoming a broker. She wanted to get her license, then see where the business would take her. But when a call came from a mutual friend about a brokerage opportunity, Christian decided to give it a try.
"A mutual friend called me at Atlanta Tech Village and said, 'Hey, I've gotten your name. We have an online brokerage, we want to move it to brick-and-mortar, we've opened this great tech incubator. We’d love for you to come to take a look.' And I'm like, ‘Okay.’"
So far in her career, Christian’s go-with-the-flow philosophy had landed her some pretty awesome opportunities—and the tech incubator had “new and exciting” written all over it.
"Just being in that specific environment of a tech incubator, it was something different. And then mixing that with real estate was huge. I think if a traditional brokerage would've called me, I would've never gone the broker route," she says.
But even with the help of super smart technology, starting a new brokerage is never easy.
Today, Christian and her growing team sell jaw-dropping properties to real estate buyers from all across the globe.
From a Single Squinty-Eyed Video to a Stellar Roster of International Clients
Christian established Engel & Völkers Atlanta and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Christian has two agents (and is in the process of hiring two more) plus a roster of repeat clients from Honduras to Australia. According to Christian, she owes most of her success to her background in media sales and her ability to think on her feet.
"When you think about video and these things that are now exploding, video is what helped me maintain through past downturns. If I hadn't made a video and said, 'Atlanta is on sale’ I never would have been introduced to international buyers that are still my clients many years later, like ten years plus later," laughs Christian.
In a surprising twist of fate, that one super lo-fi video would set Christian on a path to become the President of the Atlanta Southeast Council for FIABCI International Real Estate Federation, an association of Realtors, bankers, interior designers and diverse experts from all across the world.
"For anyone afraid of video, when I did those first videos back in 2009, 2010, I had one eye that looked like it was shut because the sun was coming in. I had taped something up to a wall. I looked crazy, but I received at least ten clients from that, and from those ten clients, they've bought two to five properties a piece," says Christian.
By driving sales on channels that were accessible from anywhere in the world, Christian began to expand her business and her approach to real estate.
"Expanding my business to really focus on people who are here, people who are relocating here, but definitely the people who are looking for investments abroad, whatever the currency situation is in their country, that's become another passion of mine."
This passion for international business has brought Christian to exciting new places all across the world. “I think a lot of people are thinking of the quality of life, opportunities, options. Now's the time to introduce people even more,” she explains.
But it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and trips to the Dominican Republic. Christian must stay laser-focused on the right tasks and priorities in order to keep her global rocketship soaring.
Building a Customer-Obsessed Team: Train to Win
To ensure she has time to focus on growing her business, Christian outsources the tasks she doesn’t want to do (cough, cough: accounting), so she can focus on the things that actually move the business forward.
"I use a local company called Tax In-House, that only works with agents. I have been with them for probably six years now, and to me, they are so instrumental to my business. I'm able to look at my P&L every month. It's one of those things where you have to see what is worth your time," she explains.
And for Christian, client experience is always worth the time.
"We always have to remember, we're in the service industry. We have to give even more than what we expect," she says.
Christian trains her agents to be the best by ensuring they stick to a quality service model, no matter what. Her preferred method? Practice, practice, practice.
"I love training. I realized that it's something that's just in me," she says. Christian believes a proper training schedule is really just about answering the following questions for your team members:
- What's holding them back from doing what they need to do?
- What are they scared of?
- How can we solve that, then hold them accountable?
- What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?
Christian keeps a laundry list of all the issues and unforeseen scenarios she and the team have come across while working on a deal.
"I have a Google sheet that is so long, but if I go in and I search the word ‘lake’, or I search the word ‘screens’—screens that weren't in the house and I ended up paying for, anything that I ended up paying for, or that was just a good lesson learned, I put it in this a Google doc for reference, and those are things that I try to talk from when I'm training."
And it’s surprising just how often the unexpected pops up.
"Just the other day, I'm dealing with a million-dollar lake house. I am not a lakehouse specialist. I have called every agent. I have called the Army Corps Engineers. I have called everyone just to make sure I'm protecting my client accordingly. Now, I have put all my lake house and negotiation notes in that doc," she explains.
By building a readiness list of things to do (and not to do) and curating the knowledge gained from each deal, Christian is creating a culture of agents primed not just to make deals– but to stay ahead of the industry.
What If You Could Hit Rewind?
Despite all the magic she’s created in her career, Christian admits there were plenty of mistakes made along the way.
"The first thing I tell people right now is, get your database together, and make it a part of your business every single day. When I think of the clients, it hurts when you see someone else with someone else. But guess what? I didn't touch them enough."
Most Realtors and solo agents underestimate the power of their sphere of influence. They get carried away by the idea of mining new leads without realizing that they often know hundreds of people that are already willing to take their calls.
"We have someone who just got their license, a closing coordinator, and she's like, what should I be doing first? And I'm like, your Excel, your Google Sheet of your people, their names, their addresses, all of that, get it together," Christian says.
Christian’s second gem of knowledge involves client appreciation and following up with the people who already like you.
"I think, for any agent who's been in the business any length of time, they can attest to the fact that they have definitely wasted at least $25,000 easily. The reality is, if they had taken that money, put it into client appreciation events, put it into mailers to the people that they love, sent random gifts, sent tickets to events,it would have had exponential ROI," she explains.
For Christian, 2021 is about becoming more structured.
"I would love to work weekends barely. That's going to be the goal for 2021. It's like maybe one weekend a month. That's my goal to work one weekend a month in 2021."
That doesn’t mean, however, that she plans to take her foot off the gas when it comes to boosting international clientele and opportunities. Not only is this global work good for her business, it also parlays into her dream of aligning her quality of life with her business goals.
"My big goal is to be back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Atlanta. I've helped clients there, but I would like to help clients there and in Mexico.”
Considering Christian's journey so far, one thing’s for sure: she’s ready to keep crushing it from wherever life lands her.