His focus is on the bigger picture. With 41 years in the real estate industry, Tom is “a pretty good consultant on what brings success to people.” More than selling a product, he says, “I help them get to where they want to go.”
The Agent’s Advisor
He knows from experience “how agents run their businesses, what brings them success, and how technology is instrumental in growing their businesses.” After listening to an agent’s unique needs, he’s able to provide intelligent recommendations on “what tools would bring that agent differentiation.”
Every agent has essentially the same objective, promising sellers to “sell at the highest price, with the least inconvenience, in the shortest amount of time.” Tom knows his technology provides the “how” for those better, faster sales: when an agent presents the “multiple digital marketing solutions TourFactory offers, that becomes a powerful differentiator.”
Tom points to one client office and three branches that have adopted iGuide exclusively, where “it’s working very well for them. The beauty of using this image-rich and immersive floor-plan technology, he says, is that “their agents can go into any listing presentation and say, ‘I can provide you with a virtual open house that’s available 24/7.’” The competitors cannot.
Still photography is equally important to help agents stand out. There will always be those who are content to take their own photos and “look like everybody else.” But Tom knows “it’s the agents who invest in professional media, videography, and 3D floor plans who really set themselves apart and set a standard of excellence.”
I’ve learned if you surround yourself with great people and create those interdependent relationships, life is pretty damn good.
Customer experience that exceeds expectations
He understands the drive for agents to be on the cutting edge, or as he calls it, “the bleeding edge, since you keep spending money thinking you’re going to find a magic elixir.” But the real magic, from his perspective, comes from “consistency, repetitiveness, and doing things your customers had no expectation you would do.” Customer service is a given, Tom says. “It’s customer experience that brings you repeat business.”
For Tom, the best customer experience is highly personalized. He seeks to ask questions and hear his agents’ deeper goals. Everyone wants to sell fast, but “once I understand their next level of desired success — whether that’s for more revenue or better work-life balance or a different market niche — I can propose the technology that would help realize those objectives.”
Customer experience factored strongly into Tom’s decision to join TourFactory. He took about a week to shop TourFactory from an agent’s perspective, calling in and getting user support from the Customer Service Team. With self-effacing humor, he admits, “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so the questions were really pretty valid!”
By the week’s end, he was convinced. “I thought, If I build a business wrapped around the level of customer service offered here, I will get to where I want to get.” He signed on, recognizing the “remarkable opportunity to bring the TourFactory features and benefits to a number of different people, the first being real estate agents.”
Finding abundance in interdependence
A secondary aim in starting his TourFactory business was to “provide a platform for creative photographers that allowed them to grow their business.”
He currently oversees a team of four photographers in Montana’s largest markets. Tom hired each for their business acumen as well as their skill with a camera. He avoids the “wonderful photographer that cannot communicate and would rather spend all their time editing photos” in favor of service-minded professionals who make sure their “customer experience is of the highest quality.”
He also cares about “where a photographer’s passion is and what they want their lives to look like. That’s probably a little airy-fairy,” he says, “but it’s important.” He sees his role as empowering and supporting them as they build their business and create their own success, which in turn meets his goals for growth.
“I always look at things from abundance versus scarcity,” he says. A model of “the greed that says ‘I’m going to get as much as I can from you until I don’t need you anymore,’ represents scarcity” and the assumption that everyone is in competition for the same finite resources. Tom prefers pooling those resources to create an “interdependent relationship, where I can help you grow your business and you can help me grow mine.”
Together, he and his team take a proactive approach to customer service, keeping in close contact with their newest customers and following up on any issues, even if the agent has already addressed it through TourFactory’s corporate Customer Service department. “If you go beyond the expected and have customers say, ‘I never would’ve dreamed you would do that,’ then that’s a home run.”
Tom insists he doesn’t have a “secret sauce.” His service philosophy is deceptively simple: “I just make sure that my client knows they’re the most valuable person to me at that moment. I don’t see a revenue model; I see a person.”
Making people feel valuable, in Tom’s experience, starts with respect. “People are more willing to help you if you appreciate what they do and what they go through. Not taking advantage,” he’s quick to clarify, but imagining himself in their shoes. When he starts from a place of gratitude — “saying thank you before I ever ask, ‘Can you help me?'” — the effect is powerful. Once that baseline of respect is established, he says, “I’ve not been told no.”
What the good LIFE looks like
It’s this kind of thoughtful pragmatism that’s endeared him to the Montana agents, who in turn have impressed him as “hardworking, smart, high-quality people.”
His admiration for Montana developed early. Starting when he was nine years old, he would travel from his home in Ohio to spend summers on his aunt’s ranch in Livingston. When it came time to choose a college, “Montana State was where my heart wanted to go, and it was a phenomenal decision.”
After college, he started his real estate career in Montana. His work with Keller Williams then took him to Phoenix for almost 28 years, where he and his wife Charlyn raised sons Shea and Sean, before Montana and TourFactory called him home.
Tom’s humility means that he’s more likely to portray himself as a learner than a teacher, but his years in real estate have given him valuable lessons to share about succeeding in business and achieving your goals. In Tom’s mind, there’s a common thread to all of them: “It all boils down to personal relationships and building that level of trust” — the kind of trust he builds daily with his agents, brokers, photographers, and everyone else he encounters.
“I’ve learned if you surround yourself with great people and create those interdependent relationships, life is pretty damn good.”