In the film, Meet the Parents, Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) experiences a series of service nightmares when he travels to Long Island to meet his fiancé’s family. One of the most hilarious moments is when he tries to board the plane back to Chicago on a late night flight. Having arrived at the gate, the ticket agent informs Greg that he must wait given they are boarding rows nine and higher. Greg stands in front of the ticket counter in utter shock since there is absolutely no one else in the airport at such an early hour. This scene is so relatable because these types of experiences are becoming more and more commonplace as the level of basic customer service seems to be falling exponentially.
Service industries now account for more than 68% of the US GDP and eight out of every ten jobs. The manufacturing sector manufactures. The agricultural sector engages in agriculture. You would think that the service sector would serve, but we all know that is largely not the case. One incredible exception is Jonathan Keyser, Founder of Keyser, a commercial real estate company.
I recently, received a prerelease copy of Jonathan’s new book Disruptive: Creating Extraordinary Success and Wealth Through Service, in which Jonathan shares the secrets of how he and his team are transforming their industry through a passionate pursuit of selfless service.
Jonathan Keyser did not start out life with such a love of service. In fact, he started his commercial real estate career just like most people, scratching and clawing his way to the top. And Jonathan was good, but he confesses, “It was standard practice for me to try to manipulate clients into choosing options that were the best solution for me financially instead of the best solution for them.” Jonathan began to wonder if there was another way to do business. He asked tough questions, but most every one in the industry seemed to accept the status quo. That all changed when Jonathan attended a conference in Miami and heard about Dave Marino, a broker in San Diego who was pioneering a helping-others-first model.
Jonathan tracked down Dave Marino, eager to hear about his unique approach to real estate. After a half-day of sharing his secrets, Dave gave Jonathan a warning:
No one had ever actually replicated what he had built. ‘The reason’ he said ‘is because how hard it is to do so. You’ll have to start all over’ he said…’financially you will be in the hole for at least four years, maybe five, before you start making any kind of profit,’ he emphasized. ‘And that’s if you work at this relentlessly. People will criticize and question you, and it’s going to be frustrating and hard. But if you stick with it and don’t give up, eventually you will start reaping the benefits.’
That day, Jonathan Keyser vowed to approach his business through the lens of service. Instead of focusing his time on standard sales activities, Jonathan began to get involved in the community and to earnestly search for ways to add value to the people with whom he interacted, no strings attached. It is indeed a bit shocking to hear an utter stranger ask, “How can I be of service to you?”
Jonathan learned the difference between pleasing and serving. While both may look identical on the outside, they feel different. “People pleasing” typically results from insecurity or a desire to bank a personal debt, while true service contains no ulterior motives. Keyser mentions, “If I’ve truly served someone, what do I need patience for? The reward is contained in the act.”
On January 2, 2013, Jonathan Keyser took all the hard-won lessons from his quest to transform commercial real estate into a true service business and launched Keyser with a mission to “change the business world through selfless service.” You quickly learn by speaking to Jonathan that he is not one to aim small. Keyser is growing incredibly fast, expecting 35 people by year end and over 60 by the end of next year. They are currently making expansion plans for Dallas and Silicon Valley.
The secret to Keyser’s success are 15 Operating Principles: Selfless Service, Tireless Work Ethic, Bold Action, Excellence, Be the Best, Team Player, Give, Follow Through, Fun, Self-Improvement, Loyalty, 100% Coachability, Be Present, Disruption, and Fitness (Click here to read the full explanation of the principles). These principles don’t just live on a plaque on the wall, but they reside on the hearts and in the minds of each team member. Every Monday morning, the members of Keyser & Co. recite the principles and discuss examples of wins and misses in living up to their common standard. The Keyser principles define how business is conducted. They describe the ideal new hires. They embody the culture that makes Keyser so successful.
While the service sector is notorious for not serving, it is encouraging to find companies like Keyser that are proving that service is not only a good operating principle but that it is also extremely lucrative. Jonathan Keyser’s book, Disruptive: Creating Extraordinary Success and Wealth Through Service will be out later this year.
Jonathan Keyser is the founder and thought leader behind Keyser. With more than 18 years of experience in the Commercial Real Estate Industry, Jonathan represents companies both domestically and internationally across a broad range of industries. Jonathan is particularly good at identifying creative strategies to align real estate with business requirements, designing and implementing unique solutions to complex real estate challenges, and solving Landlord / Tenant conflicts where negotiations have deteriorated in the face of rising hostilities.
Prior to founding Keyser, Jonathan was Principal of Cresa’s Phoenix office, which is an international commercial real estate advisory firm. Jonathan is an author, a national speaker on real estate related topics, a regular contributor to The Business Journal and other publications, and was recognized years ago as one of the Nation’s Top Rising Stars in the commercial real estate industry. Prior to joining Cresa, Jonathan was a Director with Grubb & Ellis Company.