Really nice profile of Chris Kelly in DCEO Magazine this month, which you can of course read online any time you want. The article, by former People Newspapers Deputy Editor Bianca R. Montes, REALLY captures the personality and polish of Kelly, who was named CEO of the Ebby Halliday Companies in October 2018, taking the helm of the largest independent real estate brokerage in Texas from Mary Frances Burleson. As we wrote at the time:
Longtime Ebby Halliday Companies president and CEO Mary Frances Burleson, an icon in the organization hired by founder Ebby Halliday in 1958, has stepped down from her position to focus on the firm’s eponymous nonprofit — the Ebby Halliday Foundation. In her place, Chris Kelly has been named CEO. Kelly, recently the senior counsel of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, is expected to mold the company’s strategy and direct operations with the aim of shaping the venerable North Texas brokerage’s brand while preserving the legacy of the company’s highly regarded founder, Ebby Halliday Acers.
I’m glad they did the profile which, albeit a year and two months later, was incredibly well-written and fleshed out Kelly’s background nicely: how he, a Kansas City native, became an attorney, but got into real estate after a trip to Cabo with his sister and her colleagues at ReeceNichols Real Estate led to an in-house position there. (I am always fascinated to learn how people got into real estate.) He was corporate legal counsel and chief administrative officer at ReeceNichols, a home grown firm started by two agent powerhouses much like Ebby. ReeceNichols also happened to be a HomeServices affiliate. His road to Dallas came about, of course, when Ebby Halliday Companies was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices — a company owned by Warren Buffet — in July of 2018.
Bianca didn’t ask about the competition of having two BHHS companies in one city, nor did she ask for a reaction to the company agents have dubbed “the beast” — Compass — because of the accelerated way the disruptive and highly tech-oriented North Texas brokerage has been gobbling up high producing agents.
But that’s okay, we covered it here.
I asked about Allie Beth Allman & Associates, another Berkshire Hathaway brand also selling luxury homes in the Dallas market. (HomeServices is a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate.) Are the two brands ever going to merge?
“We will continue to look at our market closely,” said Chris. “But HSA owns multiple brands in many markets — two in Atlanta, four in Omaha, and three in the Lexington region. So owning multiple brands in one market is not uncommon.”
There is, he told me, no immediate plan to merge the two brands, but there are many opportunities to see where the two brands can work together to thrive and succeed.
I like how the interview picked up on Kelly’s energy, humor and humility:
The move followed Warren Buffett’s HomeServices of America’s rumored $100 million acquisition of the company, which operates the Ebby Halliday Realtors, Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, and Williams Trew Real Estate brands. A year later, Kelly jokes that when his wife asks about his day, he responds, “Well, we didn’t burn it down today.”
And the groundwork was laid as he hinted at future change coming to the Ebby Halliday Companies. Kelly pointed out that Ebby herself did not get into real estate to keep things the same — “She shook it up. She changed it.”
“If we took the attitude that we shouldn’t change, we should just rest on who we are right now, that would be a disservice to Ebby’s legacy.”
In talking to the many Ebby agents I know, I have not heard anything but heaps of praise for Kelly, who has earned the respect of Ebby agents from Fort Worth to Rockwall, from top producers like Cindy O’Gorman to newcomers still enrolled in Ebby School, which is undergoing a name change, too. Ebby School will be renamed The Edge (short for Education, Discipline, Growth and Excellence) in 2020.
Kelly says he is accelerating the growth of the state’s largest independent brokerage in much the same way one builds a race car:
“You have to focus on the engine first, and then you get to the racing stripes,” he says.
I sure do like racing stripes, you?