Kathleen Black: “Focus on your Non-Negotiables”

Leadership isn’t a title or position that is held to one person when you’re a part of a team or a company. In these businesses, you have many moving parts, and each one of those parts are their own leaders. I’m grateful for our team, I have an amazing group of people who support me and […]

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Leadership isn’t a title or position that is held to one person when you’re a part of a team or a company. In these businesses, you have many moving parts, and each one of those parts are their own leaders.

I’m grateful for our team, I have an amazing group of people who support me and there’s no way I would be able to do what I do without them.

We have a collaborative leadership team who are very entrepreneurial, and who take ownership over what needs to happen. It’s very collaborative without a director style delegation, everyone owns their portion of the business. That is how we thrive.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Black.

Kathleen Black is one of North America’s leading team coaches and trainers, delivering her proven success techniques to agents and teams around the world. That growth is worth billions in additional sales volume annually across her client network with 80% of her clients being national top 1% producers. Kathleen, the best-selling author of “The Top 1% Life”, will help you to expand your business, at a fraction of the time and cost, using the tried, tested, and true “KBCC Ultimate Expansion Strategy” that has powered her client growth into the most efficient, productive, and profitable teams in the world, powered by performance cultures.

The success of KBCC centers around integrity, honesty, and results-driven measures, the very things that represent Kathleen. Kathleen has been named twice Top 100 Elite Women Driving the Future of Real Estate by REP Magazine and Top 20 Emerging Leaders by T3 Sixty’s Swanepoel Report. She was recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in the Toronto Real Estate Board, has ten plus years, over 20,000 hours personally, of agent development experience, and hundreds of teams attribute their growth and success to Kathleen’s leadership.

Kathleen is also the driving-force behind the Ultimate Team Summit, the largest team specific Real Estate summit in North America and the Ultimate Mastermind Series of events, including the 100 Deal + Ultimate Mastermind. Recently recognized as a Global Leader Making the World a Better Place by the Women’s Economic Forum.

Kathleen lives in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada with her two free spirited, independent, and very loved children Ethan and Ella, and their cat Ethel.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Beginning my career as a RE/MAX Real Estate Agent and working my way to being recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in both the Durham Region and on the Toronto Real Estate Board, many would agree that this level of success is the pinnacle achievement amongst their peers; but for me it was only the beginning.

Identifying the need, I set out to work on further developing the systems and platform of educational programs and coaching methods to which I attributed her own professional and personal success.

With the launch of KBCC in 2015 and building upon my 10+ years of Team and Agent development and guidance, hundreds of teams (80% of which are top 1% producers) have attributed their growth and success to my integrity, honesty and results driven leadership directly or through one of my coaching programs.

I was selling real estate as a busy single mom of two children and I had done a lot of content and systems development with a look to creating better work life balance.

The team I worked with was creating a coaching company and I had a background in psychology, so it just seemed like a natural fit to try to become involved.

That coaching company found itself in some challenging territory in its early days and there were differing opinions within the ownership as to how it should be resolved.

This ultimately resulted in the departure of the director of coaching and I was given the opportunity to step into that role within 18 months of the company going live. I had been a coach for just under one year at that point.

It was really a chain of complicated events that led to a great opportunity for me.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I moved on from Director of Coaching to Director of Operations in a relatively short time and became half owner of the company with access and full decision-making authority. At that time the books were opened to me and it was instantly evident that the company was in quite a bit of financial difficulty. I played a significant role in turning the company around. I led the clearing of about 180k dollars in debt and revamped the majority of the content which led to considerably stronger client retention.

As things were turning around, my (largely silent) partner decided they wanted to go in a different direction professionally. I was presented with some difficult questions; ‘Is this who I am, can I look at my children in the face with integrity if I don’t stand up and defend what I have built, what will I do if I don’t do this’. I remember fear. I remember the reality of having bills to pay. I also remembered some great advice I had been given; ‘If you really believe in it, bet your house on it’.

Ultimately, I went all in. I stood up for myself. The result of that pivotal moment saw my shares bought out, half of the client base following me to the new company based on the content I owned, and within a month and a half my client roster was full. Within three months, head down and determined, I had a client roster that occupied a second coach as well. Necessity and focus were the defining factors in my early success.

When I get tired or frustrated, I’m a typical entrepreneur. Instead of thinking ‘take a day off’ or ‘take a week off’ i think ‘okay maybe I’m done’ or ‘maybe I’m not meant to do this business’. But the reality of it is, I get a good night sleep and I know that this business for me, is not about money, it isn’t about a business, it’s about a purpose in my life and I believe that I’m destined to be doing what I’m doing.

This mentality has dragged me to the future, even when I feel exhausted and burnt out. To build this business, I had to run and jump off of a cliff. There was no ability to hesitate or play it safe, I think for me I had to believe it was my destiny to do it, or I wouldn’t have been able to take the risks that I did.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

An example that I give often is I used to mentor, coach and train while I was relatively new to selling, so I often had someone shadowing me.

I ended up realizing a couple of years into it when I left a buyer presentation, which I would sign 98 per cent of, with one of my mentees, when she told me that she had seen me present my buyer consultations many times, and that she had learned so much, but the logo on the powerpoint said ‘Your Team Name Here”.

I didn’t even realize that for two years I had been using my coaching company’s version of my buyer consultation and it didn’t even have our team logo on it, and yet I was still signing 98 per cent of all consultations I sat down in front of and attended.

When building a business it’s really easy to say you need the perfect brand, but in reality what you need are the clients.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company stands out because we build strong businesses, in an industry that is often still relying on old methods and models, which are increasingly less and less effective.

We stand out because we actually track, and have a strategy that works to expand, where teams are making much more money than traditional brokerages and offering superior value, where team members are able to sell much more and have more time.

I think in an industry where we have all male top thought leaders, we stand out in being a female led team, but also a team that is committed to efficiency, productivity, and profitability, without looking at it as if it’s a bad name.

We bring a systematic, process driven approach which allows us to be more agile and to lean into technology changes, instead of fearing them.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Long days at the office along with constant work-related emails after hours can all contribute to workplace burnout.

But even without a physical office to go to, burnout can happen working from home, and it feels like it’s even more likely now due to the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to not feel the burnout, I recommend following these four key steps.

  1. Get Strategic

If you start out strategically, with a strategic model, you will consider future needs for more time, relief, or somebody who can oversee parts of your business as you grow.

A strategic model will give you clarity and strategy. Once you get those two components, you need to be able to take your existing business to create a business structured to grow.

A strong strategic model will allow you to reinvest in the business in the right places to offer the top client experience to the public, while also reinvesting in your business platform.

2. Create your ‘Perfect Week’

We’re all living in a different reality right now, we’re not leaving the house, we have different people pulling on our time, and some people may have their kids at home with them, along with other distractions.

So how do you find the element to work this other aspect of life into your day to day when everything was running smoothly before?

You have to sit down and create your perfect week, not because you want to, but because you absolutely have to. You need to grab control of your life again, to do yourself and your business the ultimate favor, succeeding.

If we make every effort to live each week and begin each day trying to have the perfect day, it just might happen.

Life isn’t perfect, but the perfect week gives us a game plan to follow and guide us through our days.

3. Focus on your Non-Negotiables

When planning your days or weeks, make sure you take your non-negotiables into consideration. These are the things that no matter what is in your day’s plan, won’t change.

Now that we’re in a day and age where we’re having issues in regard to the many things that are being thrown at us on the daily, we will go into overwhelm.

Overwhelm can mean we’re snapping at our loved one’s, having skin reactions, feeling anxious, and more. Overwhelm makes us want to surrender, and take shelter, but unfortunately we cannot do that. We have to operate in this new normal.

By ensuring you’ve covered your non-negotiables, you’re ensuring that you can make sure your cup is filled and that you’re okay. When you’re okay, you will not be overwhelmed, you will be at 110% for your clients, loved ones and family.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

A lot of Real Estate agents overlook practicing the key steps in their sales process, like scripting and presentations, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with agents who are consistently practicing their materials.

It’s crucial to have a daily or weekly allotted time, where you can ensure the conversations you have with your clients are seamless and professional in every aspect.

Mastery is nuanced. To understand nuance, you must live among it, bathe in it, and breathe it. Mastery becomes the essence of us. We practice mastery without thinking.

This is when you successfully turn something that you consciously knew you didn’t know into something you know and, finally, into something you know unconsciously.

This is where you can present a presentation while focusing 100% on your client. The presentation no longer requires any mental bandwidth or conscious focus. Your body knows to have your finger click next on the laptop to move the slides without needing to look at the screen or visually assess which slide is next.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I don’t think there has ever been one person. A lot of my opportunities actually came from overcoming challenges, so some of the people who gave me some of the opportunities I had are also people who presented massive challenges for me and my career.

At the end of the day, it’s relying on great mentorship, there’s not only one person I can name.

There were definitely brokers who gave me great advice and now we’ve built programs in place that we’ve created together, like Paul Baron from The #1 Century 21 Brokerage for the country, C21 Leading Edge in Canada.

I’m grateful for our team, I have an amazing group of people who support me and there’s no way I would be able to do what I do without them.

We have a collaborative leadership team who are very entrepreneurial, and who take ownership over what needs to happen. It’s very collaborative without a director style delegation, everyone owns their portion of the business. That is how we thrive.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company sells their products, makes conversions, and succeeds. A great company exceeds in selling their products, making conversions and building relationships. A great company doesn’t stop when they’ve met their goal, they keep going, and persevering to make as many sales to best benefit their clients.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Leadership

Leadership isn’t a title or position that is held to one person when you’re a part of a team or a company. In these businesses, you have many moving parts, and each one of those parts are their own leaders.

I’m grateful for our team, I have an amazing group of people who support me and there’s no way I would be able to do what I do without them.

We have a collaborative leadership team who are very entrepreneurial, and who take ownership over what needs to happen. It’s very collaborative without a director style delegation, everyone owns their portion of the business. That is how we thrive.

2. Have a Clear but Adaptable Vision

Know where you’re going, but allow yourself to be agile and update your plan as needed. Always let your team know in advance.

Don’t lose your power. Realize that you can’t change everything, but you can change some things. Spending this time, whether it’s two weeks or twelve months, waiting around for the market to get back to normal, for our lives to get back to normal, is not ideal.

You can’t fight what is, the world has changed, our circumstances have changed. The sooner that we accept that, the sooner we can make adjustments.

People are pivoting fast, using their adaptability skills. If you sit around and wait for change, you’re losing the momentum you can build now, and you won’t be prepared for the potential market change once this is all over.

Right now, it feels like it’s never going to end but it will, and it’s important to focus on the small things you can do to put your future self in the best position.

We all have the ability to change and develop right now. After this storm has blown through, we can have a better quality of life, we can have better client services, we can absorb this tension to persevere, but only if we choose to.

3. Have a Strategy

We need to have clarity on our key sources of business, how we can become more efficient, and cut through to the best use of our time and our investments, while focusing on our skillset.

During a tough market is when our skills will be forged in the fire. You will find that you’ll have people who accelerate and are much stronger in sales or service during a turbulent market because we have less opportunities and are more open to sharpening the axe.

The best leaders are not scared to set clear and straightforward expectations, even in difficult situations. They know their team is stronger when everyone is on board, and they’re not willing to have a weaker link take them out.

4. Efficiency

We believe in having an approach that works before we invest a ton of money into lead generation or marketing. If an agent were to join your team, and they were converting at the same percentages you were for a step in the client process, would you recruit them?

Would it be enough for you to invest money into that agent, if they were performing the same as you are.

This is an important awareness to have, because when you have team members come on, you want them to have the exact same eyes. These are our minimum standards and the guidelines to how you’ll be efficient.

5. Leverage

Do I know what I’m great at, and do I know the right profiles and the right expertise that I need in the other areas of my business?

Am I always aware of the next steps for my business, and how I’m going to get there?

Who’s the next hire you’ll have and are you adjusting your systems and processes to include them in it?

Leverage is very important because if you can take some things off of your plate, it is very valuable to the business overall.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

When our company started, our vision was to help busy entrepreneurs, who were largely in the sales industry, carve out a business that had the structure necessary to give them the freedom they wanted.

We found that a lot of entrepreneurs feel structure is restrictive, when in fact it gives them the path they need to give them the ability to leverage and scale so that they can have a successful business and life.

At the end of the day, what we found, was that we had to empower people in order for them to take empowered action, which is vital to create a structured business.

The purpose of our company is to power up people so they can build the businesses and lives that they are capable of leading, that they don’t choose to build until they approach it with a higher level of consciousness and confidence.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

You do not build a business and stop. This is not a matter of completion. A business is a product of evolution and refinement into the ever-expanding nuance that is mastery. It never really ends, and you would not want it to.

A business on standstill is a business with downhill momentum.

New problems are good. The same problems are not so good. Your business will get to a point where it is bigger than you, but first, you need clarity on who you are and what you want, so you want to do what it takes.

That is the key here. You will need to get to a place where your energy is high, and you want to do what it takes to get it done. You want more time. You cannot imagine living this way two years from now. What about five or ten years from now? How does that vision feel? I am guessing not so good.

So, what are you willing to do about it today and why?

In the end, I stopped giving my ear to those who did not support me. I got really picky about who I would ask for advice and whose unwarranted advice I would no longer take.

I stopped caring about vanilla solutions in a world of rainbow ice cream. I prefer salted caramel gelato and a second scoop of pistachio served in Italy, thank you very much.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Winston Churchill once said “Never waste a good crisis”, and I look at that and say “Never waste a good storm”. Tension creates focus, and if anything, you want to elongate the amount of time that you have that tension. The focus that is created from tension is invaluable to any business owner.

I like to say that if you could bottle that tension, that fear, that little bit of angst that is created in turmoil and sell it to people when the sun is out and the economy is strong, and confidence is high, you would make billions of dollars.

When the economy is stronger and our businesses are stronger, we can become a little bit lazy, we have buffets of opportunities on the table and we know we’re never going to get through all of them. When you have times of tension, it’s like a call to arms as a human or as a business to become more efficient, to become more organized.

It’s one of the best times to align a team when you lean into that tension and use it rather than waste this storm. The tension will allow you to be 10x better than you were when you came into this situation.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

In my experience, the most underestimated aspect of running a company tends to be agile focus. We need to be compassionate, we need to be connected with our teams but we also need to be hyper focused on what’s most important so we can lead people through difficult times and still bring value to the marketplace.

You need to be willingly agile and ready to adapt and evolve.

They say all boats rise with the tide, except for the ones that are tied too close to the shore. I think that when the tides rise not everyone will necessarily come with you, and that’s okay, as a leader to allow that to happen.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Team Synergy

After coaching hundreds of Real Estate teams full-time for over a decade, I have seen the power that a team can achieve within their environment by utilizing properly structured collaboration and synergy.

Through my experience coaching teams, I have learned that the power of team synergy can increase conversion, driving your team into the top 1%!

Teams thrive in the unique synergy that a hyper-focused, unified approach with a shared desired outcome or bullseye can deliver. On the other hand, inclusivity is important to grow and allow other people to penetrate the nucleus that is the in-crowd on your team. Everyone should be included in the in-crowd.

If new members cannot merge with existing members, you will cap your growth, whereas a recruit that just does not believe what you do and, even with training, does not seem to fit in will be worked out of the team with hundreds of small reminders a day of how they do not belong. You want a culture exclusive enough to give you an edge and inclusive enough to attract great people, grow, and thrive together.

Unique Client Process

Your clients cannot see what the purchase or the steps leading to the purchase look like — if they did they wouldn’t need us. Many top producers confuse personally delivering value, with the value our clients hire us to provide. Your clients are hiring you for a unique experience and results.

You are the master of sourcing the playbook to create your unique client process for your business, set to your standards, regardless of who is face to face for delivery. This unique client process is not optional to expand your business, it is a necessity we work with you to achieve.

This also happens to be one of the vital systems that safe guarded and later expanded production this year, during lockdowns, and restrictions as we entered the virtual world.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

In order to create a trusted and beloved brand, you need to begin with transparency. If you want trust, you have to be honest. Transparency will show your customers your honesty. By showing your audience this honesty, they will put more trust in your business to create a trusted reputation for your brand.

Take the humanistic approach. We’re all looking to relate to people, especially when we’re looking to a brand that we all love and trust. Instead of thinking of your business as a faceless entity, think of the humans who work there and those who interact with the brand.

Relationship build. Your audience, and your clients are some of the most important people when it comes to building your brand and getting people to entrust your brand. If you build a personal relationship with your clients, they’re going to consider your brand a friend.

Loyal customers stay for the way a company creates and delivers a product, not the product itself.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?


A leadership mindset is what we all need right now, we all need to be strategic, proactive and responsive.

It is absolutely vital for leaders to be responsive right now to what’s going on around us. When people are experiencing fear, or stress, it’s important for us to be able to adjust into an optimal mindset as soon as possible.

If you lose your power to impact an outcome in your life, you lose all power you have in the situation.

Emotional Quotient

It’s crucial now, more than ever, to establish meaningful connections with your clients, which is where “emotional quotient”, or emotional intelligence, comes in, but only if the Real Estate team can take all the unsimplified jargon out and understand it for what it is.

Using EQ to understand different personality styles is vital to creating and maintaining relationships, especially during this unprecedented period of time.⠀

It will help you identify observable behaviors associated with various personality styles and how to successfully connect with each one, by customizing your communications.

Client Process

It is crucial for you to know the client process that you and your team will be following.

If your customer experience process has changed as a result of business moving online, make sure you have internalized that new process so you are able to confidently explain next steps to your client and are able to create a chain of commitment that will lead you into your next meeting and start you and your team on the right foot.


For real estate teams, clear direction on who, when, and how to connect and communicate within our business and community is key. The goal is a commitment to keep our promises and serve to the best of our ability together.

With so much happening, it’s important to keep your circle informed and proactive.

The open lines of communication are there, and it’s important to position what’s going on in the industry so people do recognize that there is a change that is occuring, but it’s not stopping you from giving them resources over email, phone or a zoom call.


It can be scary to think of putting years of contacts and experience into the cloud, but the database can serve as an extension of our brain. When your brain isn’t trying to remember each and every detail about your clients you have the free space to focus on the people who are actually buying and selling. The use of a system will outperform willpower.


Before any call, no matter how many times you’ve done them, operate test runs. Practice and record these run-throughs with your team members. Watch the practices with your team before your meeting, so they’re able to understand what the team’s expected standards are.

Know your technology, know your presentation platform, know what links, attachments or assets you may be sending or presenting to them. All of these are ways in which you can work on bringing your most prepared self to your consultation, just like you would for an in-person meeting.


Tracking ensures you can make changes faster, predict future production sooner, and keep your finger on the pulse of the business. You need to know how you’re performing from opportunity to client, client to deal, and past client to valued member of your community.

Members of your community are happy to help and recommend you and your team; they trust you, and trust you will take care of their family and friends. As a solo agent, you are risking your own time and money when you operate below the capability available for a salesperson in the industry.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Take the humanistic approach. We’re all looking to relate to people, especially when we’re looking to a brand that we all love and trust. Instead of thinking of your business as a faceless entity, think of the humans who work there and those who interact with the brand.

Relationship build. Your audience, and your clients are some of the most important people when it comes to building your brand and getting people to entrust your brand. If you build a personal relationship with your clients, they’re going to consider your brand a friend.

Loyal customers stay for the way a company creates and delivers a product, not the product itself.

There is a concern when it comes to how engaged you should be on social media, and how it can make or break your brand. But if you stay connected with you audience, and build a strong, trusting relationship with them, you will diminish your reputational risk.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The transition from top producer to team leader has its challenges. Without a proven system, your business is starting from scratch, and in today’s day and age of rapid advancement, no offence, but who starts from scratch? We are not looking to invent the electricity for our database system, we want to use that plug on your office wall!

When you are ready and have the blueprint to your model of business growth keep these things in mind:

1. Partner with someone who compliments your strengths, opposed to replicating them.

2. Ensure your business blueprints are tried, tested, true and actively used in the current market.

3. Base your growth In technology.

4. Don’t devote your time to 1.0 when version 10.5 is for sale: Your Time is Money.

No one can help you get more of that resource.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Conscious living. I think people who are conscious about who they are, their values, and what they’re bringing to the world are typically better parents, better team members, better community supporters, better people.

I find the ability to ‘do good’ is just more naturally present for people with a conscious mindset. If I can help people raise their consciousness and see their abilities and power, they will ultimately serve the world through their greater purpose with ease. If KBCC can have any influence on people leading themselves versus looking at others, that’s a win!

How can our readers further follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-black-4811a052/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenBlackCoaching/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenblackcoaching/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kbccoaching

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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