For these three top producers, time away only solidified the RE/MAX advantage and the decision to realign with the No. 1 brand
By Rebecca L. Olgeirson
Back where he belongs
Patrick Wilkins was the No. 1 individual producer in the entire RE/MAX network in 2005 and a perennial Top 10 star for multiple years before and after. But following a life-threatening bout with cancer and a change in Broker/Owners, the 18-year RE/MAX veteran moved to Keller Williams in 2010.
“After you’ve seen your maker, you make decisions differently,” Wilkins says of his mindset at the time of the change.
News of Wilkins’ move shocked the real estate community throughout South Florida. RE/MAX Affiliates were amazed Wilkins would leave the Balloon behind.
“It was a real blow to us all,” says RE/MAX Affinity Plus Broker/Owner Debra Meredith-Peters, who owns several RE/MAX brokerages in that part of the state, along with partner Rocky Farhat. “You don’t want the brand to lose its top guy.”
That guy became even more relevant to Meredith-Peters and Farhat when they purchased Wilkins’ former RE/MAX brokerage on Marco Island. And during a visit with Wilkins, Meredith-Peters realized just how meaningful the star’s connection to RE/MAX still was. His office was filled with the RE/MAX awards he had earned.
“Patrick is a RE/MAX legend, and I told him right there, ‘You need to be back where you belong,’” Meredith-Peters says.
Wilkins’ return, however, took some time. During his four years at Keller Williams, his cancer returned with a vengeance. He was eligible for a clinical trial and was given a miracle combination of drugs that had him pain-free in 24 hours. Now he’s cancer-free.
The health scare changed his perspective on business and on RE/MAX.
“I missed RE/MAX. I was here for 18 years, and it was a tremendously successful and satisfying time,” Wilkins says.
He also saw similarities between his illness and the health crisis of Dave Liniger, who chronicled his story in the 2013 New York Times best-seller My Next Step. Wilkins reached out to the RE/MAX Chairman and Co-Founder and was able to spend some time with him in Denver.
“Dave and I connected over our health issues,” Wilkins says. “Our talk solidified my decision to return.”
Reinvigorated and back up to full speed, Wilkins joined Meredith-Peters and Farhat at RE/MAX Affinity Plus in September. He now has eyes on a prize that didn’t exist when he departed – the Luminary of Distinction Award, which honors superstars who earn more than $20 million during a RE/MAX career of 20 years or more.
Meredith-Peters is betting on Wilkins earning it. “There’s no question in my mind that he’ll get there. He’s back where he ought to be – and ready to kick some butt.”
Nothing Beats the Buzz
For Lana Cordier Shelton, moving to a new market and leaving RE/MAX meant starting from scratch – including joining a new brokerage. But Shelton soon discovered there’s no substitute for the buzz that comes from an office filled with like-minded pros.
“At RE/MAX, I would text with another Associate at 5:30 in the morning to talk about our goals,” Shelton says. “Let me tell you, not every office is like that. I missed it when I relocated.”
Shelton began her career at a title company in a Colorado ski town. She quickly moved through the ranks of escrow, and learned all the details of closing. When Intrawest Resorts readied its plans for a massive new development in Copper Mountain, a ski resort in the mountains west of Denver, the company brought Shelton on as their contract coordinator.
“I joke that I started at the end – with closings,” Shelton says. But she learned the business – contracts, transactions, marketing. She also learned what to do when a market tanks, as it did in 2001, which led to her being laid off in 2003.
“I took what I’d learned and started my own real estate business,” she says.
Dedicated to the details, Shelton excelled in her new career. Jeff Angell, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Properties of the Summit in Breckenridge, Colo., took notice. He recruited her in 2006, and Shelton found the brokerage was a perfect fit.
“It was an office of top producers; everyone was committed to being the best,” she says. “I was the youngest agent, but just being in that environment and around that work ethic was perfect for me.”
That is, until the market tanked again. That’s when Shelton, the mother of a school-aged son at that point, decided to relocate to Denver in 2012. New to the area, she landed at a boutique brokerage headed by a managing broker she connected with immediately. Although this person generously shared her expertise, Shelton soon discovered she was missing something: that buzz.
“I missed the camaraderie,” she says, “and being with other agents all feeding off of each other – I missed being around people looking for professional development.”
Enter Natasha Korobeynikov of RE/MAX Uptown, who recruited Shelton last February. With nearly 20 closed sales in the few months Shelton’s been back, she has already outproduced both years she spent at the boutique firm. A member of the 100 Percent Club, she’s also developing her own team and taking advantage of all the RE/MAX tools she missed during those years away.
“I let the brand work for me,” she says.
The Right Kind of Change
For Cindy Eckols, change is a good thing. Even when it comes to changing real estate offices.
“I think it’s like coloring your hair,” Eckols says. “You switch colors a few times and then you go back to the one that suits you best. Change is good – that’s how you grow as a professional.”
Eckols, a former schoolteacher, ultimately chose to follow in her Realtor mother’s footsteps, and the payoff has been substantial. She hit $5 million in sales in her first year. The year after that, she started showing land, a decision that led her to develop a 28-lot subdivision. Some 20 years later, her early commitment to results has helped Eckols become a leader in her county and hometown.
A lifelong resident of the Bloomington, Ill., area, Eckols first joined RE/MAX Choice five years ago, drawn by the RE/MAX brand.
“It was a wonderful office filled with great, hardworking people,” she says. When she decided to leave for a competing Prudential office, Eckols says the decision was a personal one, although she left on good terms.
When Berkshire Hathaway purchased Prudential, Eckols learned how much her clients wanted her to be with a well-known brokerage. No one had heard of Berkshire, she says, and they were skeptical of the lack of name recognition. It was the perfect time to change to RE/MAX.
“It was like I never left,” Eckols says. “I was greeted with open arms and friendship. You always think the grass is greener, but now I know it’s red, white and blue. It’s always RE/MAX.”
Ultimately, it’s that supportive office environment that the 100 Percent Club member missed most – from starting meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance to ringing a bell to celebrate a sale.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed that bell,” Eckols says.
Eckols is very happy to be back with RE/MAX, especially now that daughter Cally has joined her team.
“We put in long hours,” Eckols says. “Seeing friendly faces in the office and spending time with people who inspire us is a big plus.”