[Note: This article originally appeared on RealEstate.com
There are small towns and then there are really teeny, tiny, dinky towns. The latter is the type in which Matt Kellam, owner-broker of Help-U-Sell Keystone Realty in Chambersburg, Pa., grew up.
In 2000, Cheriton, Va. was home to 499 happy small-town folks. A decade later, the population was 487. It’s safe to say there isn’t a lot of real estate action going on in Cheriton, which is most likely why Kellam didn’t go home to start his career.
Instead, he worked for about four years at a retail computer store and attended Shepherd University in West Virginia. He majored in speech and drama with a minor in mass communications, which propelled him into a 20-year broadcasting career.
Getting Fired Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
For many agents, all it took was getting fed up with having someone else in control of their professional destinies to push them into self-employment and the real estate industry. Kellam is among them.
When he moved to Chambersburg to take a sales manager job at a local radio station, he rented a place in the Penn National Golf Course community, a move that would pave the way for his real estate career.
“The developer/owner was in real estate herself. She actually approached my wife and told her she wanted to hire me.” At the time, Kellam was enjoying his career so he turned her down.
Fast forward a few months and he finds himself no longer wearing the sales manager hat but retained by the AM/FM combo as a salesperson. “Yeah, it was awkward,” he explained. He took the job at Penn National, becoming their resale coordinator.
Over the next three and a half years, Kellam eventually worked his way up to sales manager and builder liaison.
As resale coordinator, however, Kellam met a homeowner who had listed his home with Help-U-Sell. “I had never heard of them before, so I started doing a little research,” he recalled. They sent him a whole package of information, including a video. After viewing it, he and his wife were convinced that if he ever decided to go out on his own, it would be with a Help-U-Sell franchise.
“It made sense,” he explained. “It was something completely different from traditional real estate. It offered something to the consumer, and it just felt good,” he concluded.
One thing led to another with the job at Penn National. “There were certain events that took place that kind of led us to say, ‘OK, we need to do this on our own,’” he recalled. So, he handed in his resignation.
A Business is Born
After a whirlwind trip to San Francisco to attend the Help-U-Sell national convention and then a builder’s convention when he returned to Pennsylvania, Kellam was ready. In three months, from start to finish, Help-U-Sell Keystone Realty was born.
Like starting a real estate salesperson practice, starting a brokerage can be quite challenging. Aside from the day-to-day operations, there’s that little fact that you need clients if you hope to keep the doors open.
Remember the builder’s convention? Some of his first phone calls came from leads he picked up at that event. Combined with bandit signs all over town, a couple of newspaper ads and some mailers to get their name out, Kellam was off and running in the world of the real estate brokerage.
Some Kids Don’t Play Nice
I asked Kellam about some of the challenges he faced in starting the business. “Getting others to play nice,” he responded. “Because I had been in business in the area for a number of years prior to opening Help-U-Sell, I knew a lot of the other Realtors® in the area. Still, it took a few phone calls to other brokers to say, ‘OK, cut it out.’”
Eight years later he gets along swimmingly with folks at Chambersberg’s other real estate companies. “They like doing business with us,” he said. “They may not like what we do because we have somewhat of a competitive advantage, but they accept that.”
In case you’re wondering who the “we” is that Kellam refers to, it’s his lovely wife who does the marketing and administrative tasks, one buyer’s agent and two part-time agents. “We’re set up to be lean,” Kellam said. “I do most of the transactions.”
When he’s not running his thriving real estate concern, Kellam enjoys golf, gardening and his beloved Nationals and Orioles. He and his wife enjoy time with their 2-year old grandson. Most of all, at the end of a hard day, you can find him hanging out on the front porch with a cold beer.
What’s to Like About Real Estate?
Actually, what’s not to like, right? We all know that a real estate career, although demanding, offers unlimited potential.
Kellam likes the freedom.
“It’s one of the reasons I got into it. Being able to call my own shots and be my own boss – work my own schedule. I do work a lot, but it’s nice to not have to punch a clock. Every day is a little bit different – that’s the other great thing about it,” he explains.
He also marvels at how life plays out. “Obviously, because of broadcasting, I’m not afraid to stand up and speak in front of people; I’m not afraid to be involved in things that are media-related. The computer store experience taught me about technology and the Web. It’s like everything I’ve done along the way helped me move toward what I’m doing today.”