Redbrick Conversation with Kevin Lim, Chief Agency Director, ERA

Redbrick Mortgage Advisory is honoured to interview Mr. Kevin Lim from the PREEMINENT Group of ERA. Kevin is the Chief Agency Director who leads the largest group within ERA and has received numerous accolades and awards during his career. With almost 20 years of experience, Kevin shares about how he started his real estate journey. As a well-respected leader in this field, Kevin is also a charming leader who walks his talk and shares tips on how to make time more efficient.

Q: Tell us about how you began your journey in real estate.

Kevin: I began my journey in 2003 in ERA to be a real estate salesperson. One of the reasons why I decided to enter real estate industry over other areas was because I wanted to learn more about the skillsets surrounding investing. This was something I was not exposed to when I was young because my parents did not invest, and they believed in simply having a roof over their head. To them, property investments were only reserved for the ultra-rich. That is what encouraged me to join a business where I could earn and learn.

One of the difficulties I faced initially was the disconnection – I am trying to help people purchase real estate when I had never even purchased one of my own. As a 23 year-old, I lacked maturity in my investments and felt that I was blindly doing the work, often relying on what I felt was natural salesmanship. I daringly purchased my first property at 26, a landed property at Bukit Timah at about $1.7m for an approximate 3,600sqft property. It was in 2006 where property flipping was more common, and it marked my first real estate investment.

I was single at that time and spent a lot of time at work. Alongside that, since regulations surrounding the residential real estate market were slightly more relaxed than they are today, I engaged more in speculative investments. Despite being a diploma holder, I managed to excel within my sales teams consistently, and that gave me the opportunity to support these investment activities, and I became very interested ever since.

Q: What keeps you motivated in the real estate business?

Kevin: I’m always looking to the future for perspective, and that is what keeps me excited especially in building up my team. I adopt a growth mindset – I treat my management of 2,800 agents as though I have 5,000 agents, give them the training, support and motivation. This helps the team to attract people who share similar goals. This team was built with the support of Zac, Alex and Bjorn – my 3 pillars and co-founders.

Source: Kevin Lim

Q: Was a career in real estate the first thing on your mind?

Kevin: No, I almost signed on as a Commando in the Army. At the beginning of NS, I went for the pilot selection course because it was my dream at the time. After 3 months, I was informed that I did not make the cut, and because of this time delay, I was unable to join the Commandos. 6-months before I ORD-ed, I started to consider my career options.

After my NS, all I was certain of was that I wanted to do sales. It was difficult in the beginning because I was young in the industry and had not gained my credibility yet and did not manage to secure a single sale in my initial 10 months.

Results only started to show in the 11th and 12th month, and that was when the switch flipped for me. I started to shift my mindset from being solely an employee reporting to work every day, to someone who started to take responsibility for his decisions.

Q: How did you begin building your team?

Kevin: Creating the Preeminent Group was difficult back in 2008. I would like to believe that we revolutionised how teams can brand themselves. It began with me and my first agent, and today we have 100 division directors with 2,800 agents. We earned $126M for 2020 and we surpassed $220M in 2021.

Q: What are some personal values or guiding principles that you have kept throughout your whole career?

Kevin: Within the Preeminent Group, we have this hashtag #WINTOGETHER. I strive for 2 goals – firstly, to empower my agents to earn commissions, and secondly, to help them in building up their teams. If these two can be met, then I believe we embody the spirit of winning together.

There are people who say that Preeminent Group is “cult-like”, but this is hard to understand for an outsider. I have 2,800 salespeople to whom I do not pay a salary. I do not have a corporate background and we do not have the same ranking structure that you experience in the army. We can only influence and motivate our members, and hence I place a greater emphasis on company culture and branding. Our people are up to date with media and marketing trends, and that is something I am willing to spend on. 

Q: You mentioned earlier that your initial 10 months debut was without sales. How do you stay motivated through a difficult time like that?

Kevin: I have a firm belief that in an industry with so many successful agents, my poor performance is not the fault of the industry, but a fault with myself. That prompted me to improve myself as a salesperson in my hard and soft skills.

Q: You have achieved numerous awards throughout your career. Which of these are you most proud of?

Kevin: In 2019, I was given the one and only ERA Honorary Award in the real estate industry – a special award recognising my outstanding achievements, exceptional contributions and selfless service to the agency.

What empowers me is helping our clients find ways to increase their wealth through property. I believe that as a boss, I have to be the one with the biggest dream in order to inspire my team so that we may succeed together. I’m proud of building the platforms and systems to support my team.

Q: On a personal note, how did you build your wealth in real estate?

Kevin: I used to buy and trade property on my own when I first started out in this industry. I purchased my first house with my fiancé at 30 years old for my personal occupancy. I had purchased it at $1.3m and sold for $1.8m after living there for 8 years. During this period, I circumvented the ABSDs which were then newly introduced, by investing in 3 commercial units.

I’m a firm believer of real estate and while public equities can make you money, my specialty is in real estate. Personally, I believe real estate is a strong tool for wealth accumulation.

My personal mantra is to buy as young as you can as I believe strongly in the power of leverage. Buying at a younger age allows you to stretch out the loan tenure for as long as possible, as compared to when you are older. The best time to purchase property is always today – you will never be able to time the market and get everything to align.

Source: Kevin Lim

Q: Was there any client that left a deep impression with you?

Kevin: I have a Taiwanese client who entrusted his whole portfolio of almost $60M with me for about a decade. This reminds me of the importance of trust – he trusts my purchase recommendations wholeheartedly.

Q: Have you encountered clients who are currently staying in a HDB and are interested in upgrading to a landed property? What would you advise them?

Kevin: The down payment is entirely based on their ability. However, going for viewings allows you to get hooked onto the idea of pursuing that property that you want. Naturally, you will find a way to obtain the money required to achieve your goals. Speaking to real estate agents helps you gain clarity regarding your real estate goals, and sometimes, we can advise on unlocking some wealth from your real estate portfolio if possible.

From the clients that I have, regardless of the success they see in their jobs, the key distinguishing factor between their levels of wealth is their active participation in real estate investments. This drives passive income for them over a long term.

Q: You are currently training new agents, while still being an active agent yourself. How do you find the time to do so many things?

Kevin: I work on improving my skill sets to be more efficient with my tasks and work on being demanding with my scheduling. I often agree to tasks first to avoid getting caught up in the details and getting stressed before anything takes place.

Q: Who do you look up to for inspiration?

Kevin: There isno one in particular, but I do learn and get inspirations from YouTube! For example, for my venture into wines, I took about 3 months of acquiring knowledge from YouTube! I enjoy listening to audiobooks and YouTube provides a lot of resources on leadership as well.

Q: Is there an important attribute that you believe a successful leader needs to have?

Kevin: Courage, but balanced against recklessness and stupidity. This goes hand in hand with creativity, otherwise you will be perpetually copying people. Creativity is what drives invention and innovation in the way you run and grow your business. You have to also accept that you are a public figure who needs to stand up to criticism. Altogether, this means having conviction in your thoughts so that you can resonate with the people and influence them in the right way.

Q: How do you keep your passion for real estate going after so many years?

Kevin: People always ask me if ERA is what made me what I am today. I believe that it was a conscious decision on my part to try to be the best that I could be, and ERA had enabled that.

Success is just the outcome of the decision to be the best that you can be, everything else is just a natural progression from that.

Source: Kevin Lim

Q: What is one achievement that you are most proud of?

Kevin: Preeminent Group has always been what I have been most proud of. Back then, it was not easy, even as a top producer in 2008. I am quite patient about success and will always find a way to make my goals come alive. Preeminent Group is the culmination of my life’s pursuit for success and a sense of purpose.

Q: Was there a guiding principle or structure that you had when you started Preeminent Group?

Kevin: Before starting Preeminent Group, I wanted to build a big team. To that end, I stopped engaging in sales for 3 years to start this group. I was at Potong Pasir McDonald’s when I planned out the inception of this group, written on the back of a McDonald’s placemat which I have kept till this day.

When I was 23, I planned my 20s, 30s, and 40s, giving each decade a theme. For my 20s, it was “Working hard”, 30s was “Building Systems” and 40s was “Never Work Again”. For my 20s, my goal was to earn $1m before purchasing any luxury items.

When I was in my 20s, I focused on work and avoided spending time and money on leisure activities. Although I had lost some friends in the process, I did manage to achieve my goal of earning $1m by the time I was 26 years old.

Since I was ahead of my schedule, I decided to start building a team when I was 28. At that age, my goal was to have 1,000 agents. Back then, I would not have thought that I will have a group of almost 3,000 agents – it was simply unimaginable during that time!

By the time I was 35, I had achieved my goal ahead of my own schedule. I did not like resting on my laurels and thought of ways to forge ahead with the extra years.

My theme for my 40s was to “Never Work Again”, but that did not mean I was going to stop working immediately. Instead, it transitioned into “working because I want to” as opposed to “working because I have to”. Through that, I have achieved self-actualization and that gave me a greater sense of purpose.

This three-decade plan that was written then, is still with me. This guiding structure has been with me all my life, modified and tweaked along the way, and has faced multiple setbacks. Having this guiding structure allows me to be prepared for challenges and to always have my sights on the future.

The Redbrick Team
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